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Director: ?
Release Date: November 11, 1933
Stars: Willie Whopper
Rating: ★★★★

Stratos Fear © Ub IwerksNot satisfied with Flip the Frog, MGM demanded a new cartoon star from Ub Iwerks. So, the studio conceived Willie Whopper, a fat little boy telling tall tales.

Unfortunately, Willie Whopper wasn’t much of a success either, and the series was stopped after only twelve entries. Most famous among the Willie Whopper cartoons probably is ‘Stratos Fear’ in which our hero visits the dentist. When Willie gets too much laughing gas, he inflates and goes up into the air, soon leaving earth, the moon, passing Saturn and into space. When he passes an alien planet, he’s caught by some strange alien scientists.

The alien planet is by all means an odd world, and it anticipates the sheer zaniness of ‘Porky in Wackyland‘ (1938). At one point one of the evil scientists even dresses as a beautiful woman in a scene looking forward all the way to Tim Burton’s feature ‘Mars Attacks!’ (1996). Luckily in the end, it all appears to have been a dream.

‘Stratos Fear’ is an interesting cartoon, because of its early surrealism, but Willie Whopper is not much of a character, being just a bland boy, only reacting on his surroundings, without any internal motivation. The gags, too, are only mildly amusing, as things are just happening on the screen, in a pretty steady flow. Also, despite a certain horror atmosphere, and the erotic beauty, it’s one of those 1933 cartoons already moving towards the infantile world of the second half of the 1930s. The result is noteworthy cartoon, but hardly anything more than that.

Watch ‘Stratos Fear’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Stratos Fear’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: March 2, 1934
Stars: Betty Boop, Koko the Clown
Rating: ★★★★½
Still from 'Ha! Ha! Ha!' featuring Koko the Clown having a tootache and Betty Boop

‘Ha! Ha! Ha! was the last cartoon to feature Koko the Clown.

It opens with supposedly Max Fleischer’s hand drawing Betty Boop on a sheet of paper. When Max leaves the studio, Koko comes out of the inkwell for the very last time, and starts eating the candy bar Max had left on the table.

Almost immediately he develops a tootache, so Betty draws a dentist room to operate him, herself acting as the (most sexy) dentist. She first tries to pull Koko’s tooth, but when that doesn’t work, she tries laughing gas.

The laughing gas soon pervades everything, causing not only Koko and herself to laugh, but even the clock, the typewriter, and outside – in the real world – the mailbox, the cars and real people. Even a bridge and some graves join in.

This enjoyable and weird cartoon mixes animation, photographed backgrounds and live action to great results, and it forms a great finale to Koko’s long career, which had lasted fifteen years. Although Koko never had any great roles near Betty, he would be missed, for without Koko and Bimbo (who had his last screen appearance in ‘I Heard‘ from September 1933), Betty became a surprisingly inoffensive and boring character, and none of her remaining 62 films evoked the same fun as ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’.

Watch ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 26
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Red Hot Mamma
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Betty in Blunderland

‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

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