Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle
by Brenna and Megaera Lorenz
Betty Boop's 33rd cartoon begins with
live footage of the Royal Samoans performing a lively song, while up in
front, Meri (name supplied by Leslie Cabarga in his book, The Fleischer
Story) dances wearing a grass skirt and several strategically placed
leis. Meri is also wearing some kind of flowery bra, or at least a lei
tied around that part of her body.
When the animation begins, we see
Bimbo at sea in a little motorboat, playing "Twelfth Street Rag" on a ukulele.
He is accompanied by his motor, and by a fish who separates itself from
its skeleton and plays the skeleton like a washboard. After a lot of running
around, Bimbo finally comes ashore on Bamboo Isle. His boat breaks up and
forms itself into a doghouse, and the motor runs inside like a dog -- a
favorite Fleischer gag. Bimbo himself lands in Betty Boop's canoe. Betty
Boop in this cartoon is a dark-skinned Pacific Islander. Her anchor, when
she pulls it up, shakes itself like a dog -- another favorite Fleischer
Bimbo sings Betty a song in a voice
startlingly different from his speaking voice. The words appear to be a
mixture of Samoan and English, and we were not able to transcribe them.
Bimbo and Betty end up in a little
round clearing surrounded by trees, who greet them by singing a beautiful,
slow, deep, harmonized Samoan song. Bimbo is terrified. Then the "natives"
arrive. Bimbo hits himself over the head with a bone to raise a knot, sticks
the bone through the knot, pulls little circles out of the air to use as
earrings (these were the circles flying around his head from the blow),
and rubs dirt on his white cheeks to disguise himself. He sings to his
hosts in Samoan, and they treat him as an honored guest. Next we hear a
bit of a piece called "Chimes."
Next we see a Samoan clapping dance,
performed by five rotoscoped men. Then Betty performs Meri's dance, rotoscoped
over Meri's figure. It is a striking effect. Betty is more scantily clad
than Meri was; Betty has no bra and only one lei that barely covers her
Rain starts falling, washing the dirt
off Bimbo's face. The Samoans are angry to discover that Bimbo is a white
dog. Bimbo and Betty run off together, escaping in Bimbo's motorboat. The
cartoon ends with Bimbo and Betty kissing behind an umbrella that has a
big hole in it, so our view is not obstructed.
The beautiful Samoan music and the
remarkable rotoscoped dances make this an interesting cartoon. The Fleischers
were particularly fond of the rotoscoped footage of Betty Boop, and later
used it in two other cartoons.
This cartoon is available in the following collection:
Do you love the music in this cartoon? You can find a virtually identical
version of Twelfth Street Rag and Chimes on this Sol Ho'opi'i collection,
Master of the Hawaiian Guitar. Sol Ho'opi'i set the standards
for steel guitar and Hawaiian-American music in the 1920s and 1930s.
Return to the Heptune
Guide to Betty Boop Cartoons.