It’s Bimbo

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I am celebrating a somewhat forgotten character of animation via this really nice little ceramic figurine which traveled here from Texas earlier this week. It came from our Instagram pals @curiositiesantique (and getcuriosities.com – I have written about them and Sandy who is my thoughtful contact in a post that can be found here) who were very nice and sent me a photo asking me if I was interested in purchasing him – and I definitely was.

I quick check on Wikipedia this morning (which cost me a donation to them, got me at a weak moment) reminds me that Bimbo, an animated perpetual pup of sorts made his debut as KoKo the Clown’s sidekick in the Fleischer Studios Out of the Inkwell series before becoming Betty Boop’s paramour as she rose to fame in the early 1930’s. Bimbo was the first animated character to invite everyone to follow the ball and sing along in the 1926 cartoon, My Old Kentucky Home. (All cartoons mentioned here are linked to viewing on Youtube available at the time of posting.) Oddly they note that his name comes out of a reference at the time to men who like to fight which is a fact for the day.

From Bimbo’s Initiation.

A loosely designed Bimbo stars in the 1930 cartoon Hot Dog where he is nabbed for annoying women with unwanted attentions. Later Betty and Bimbo made classic cartoons they are both best known for such as Minnie the Moocher and Bimbo’s Initiation.

Bimbo is eventually overshadowed by Betty as she rose to greater prominence. It seems as she became less doggy there was eventually pause about a human being in a relationship with a quasi anthropomorphic dog. In 1934 the Hays code decided that interspecies affairs in animation were a problem and nix their onscreen relationship. Betty gets a proper puppy pet, Pudgy, instead and Bimbo is largely retired.

From Van Eaton Galleries. Not in Pams-Pictorama Collection. Slightly different Bimbo.

Some research turns up a set of Bimbo, Betty and KoKo in the box of these figures and which reveals that it was imported by George Borgfeldt which is a name I have seen in and around objects and toys of this period. The example, shown with the box is from an auction site and seems to be a slightly different incarnation of Bimbo, less well executed.

Original box, also from Van Eaton Galleries, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

There is another variation which shows three Bimbos in a musical trio. Not sure what the inspiration was for these.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection and for sale on eBay at the time of publishing.

Fleischer Studios is imprinted on Bimbo’s butt, an inventory number above and Made in Japan across his heels. He is made of ceramic, some sort of porcelain bisque. Although one ear looks like it may have been lopped off, the other image assures me that this is as he was made. He’s a good design, reasonably close to his animated self, and pleasantly sturdy. Bimbo will enjoy a place of pride in a display cabinet on the long shelf of curiosities here at Pam’s Pictorama and Deitch Studio.

Felix and Betty Boop Affair

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo found its way to us via Tom Conroy – a friend of Kim’s who has generously sent us many wonderful photos from his collection. Thank you Tom!

Many variations of this photo session abound on eBay and can be found on the internet. Interestingly, this exact image does not appear on the Google photo file. (Although I guess it will now.)  The actress is generally identified as Helen Kane, but Kim was thinking May Questel which lead to an active Google search and discussion in bed with the iPad the other night. Kim leans seriously toward May Questel. I include period photos of May and Helen and I would say it is a tough call indeed!

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The question of why Betty Boop is posing with Felix is another one. Clearly there was Betty/Felix empathy – as shown in my post, The Strangeness of French Betty and Felix. Speculation is that at some point the properties were owned by the same company and this low level promotion occurred. Still, as you know, it has long been my philosophy that Felix improves anyone’s status – and we know that Betty had a long-standing affection for dogs, so why not a clever cat?

As a point of strange symmetry (and because you can never have too much Felix) I offer this early photo postcard of a man posing with a Felix cut-out. This has a place of honor with my collection of photos of people posing with large stuffed Felix dolls. I have always guessed that this photographer could not afford a proper stuffed Felix to pose with and did his best.

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