Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 31, 1930
Stars: Betty Boop
‘Barnacle Bill’ is a literal visual illustration of the folk song of the same name, made famous by Hoagy Carmichael’s 1930 recording.
Barnacle Bill (another version of early Bimbo) is visiting Betty Boop, who’s called Nancy Lee in this cartoon and who apparently is the Captain’s love. All neighbors gossip about it, and when the captain arrives, he chases Barnacle Bill into the sea, where the latter dances with some remarkably humanized mermaids.
‘Barnacle Bill’ is the second cartoon featuring Betty Boop, and it introduces the strong sexual overtones, associated with the character in her early years. One example is Betty’s dress that rolls itself up, exposing her legs. There’s also a couch that itself replaces several chairs when Betty invites Barnacle Bill inside.
‘Barnacle Bill’ uses musical dialogue almost exclusively. It contains some odd perspectives and flexible animation, but most important of all, it is wildly surrealistic, creating a completely original world of utter weirdness. For example, when Barnacle Bill threatens to bust in the door, the door shrinks and hides under the welcome mat. Later, we watch Barnacle Bill swim through the air, and dive into the couch. And when he leaves Nancy Lee’s apartment block, he sails one of the stairs. Touches like these make watching the cartoon a mind-blowing experience. I don’t think it’s considered a classic, but to me it should be.
Watch ‘Barnacle Bill’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Barnacle Bill’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’