Before Josie ever met the Pussycats or Jessica Rabbit lamented the fact that she "wasn't bad she was just drawn that way", Betty Boop began her screen career as an anthropomorphic dog in the Fleischer Studios cartoon "Dizzy Dishes". The cartoon was meant as a vehicle for the already established cartoon star, Bimbo. Who in this tale, was working as a waiter in a cabaret, trying to keep up with demanding customers. In the background, another dog was singing – a French poodle that later became Betty Boop. Bimbo falls in love immediately – and America would soon join him.
This was how the world first met Betty as she made her debut with her saucy scantily clad act in this Max Fleischer cartoon on August 9, 1930.
As the cartoon rendition of a jazz age flapper, Betty combined child like qualities with sophistication while exuding strong sexual innuendos. However she was toned down in 1934 as a result of the Motion Picture Production Code, to appear more demure. Even so the sassy, sexy, free spirited character became one of the best-known and popular cartoon characters in the world.
Max Fleischer originally created Betty Boop as a caricature of Helen Kane a famous jazz singer of the time. However it turns out that Kane had "borrowed" the stylings that made her and Betty so identifiable from another lesser know performer in the 1920s named Esther Jones aka "Baby Esther" who earned the nickname after her “baby” singing style, Esther performed regularly at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem
Esther was known for using phrases like “Boop-oop-a-doop” (which would later become a signature of the cartoon’s). Yet, while the Betty Boop creators have acknowledged that Baby Esther is the true original, most people still credit Helen Kane. Because Helen Kane went out of her way to take the credit. In fact in 1932 Kane doubled down and sued Max Fleischer for exploiting her personality and image. It was during this trial that the real Betty Boop was exposed. Theatrical Manager Lou Bolton testified that Helen Kane had seen Baby Esther’s act in April, 1928. An act in which Baby Esther sang the song “I Wanna Be Loved By You” with phrases like “boop-boop-a-doop” sung throughout the performance. Just a few weeks later Kane began to “boop” like Baby Esther. By the time the trial had taken place, Baby Esther had already passed — the jazz singer had nothing to gain from the revelation. However, Helen Kane’s career was on the decline, and this was an easy way to get back in the public eye. After the trial had gone on for two years, Max Fleischer managed to locate a 1928 sound film of Baby Esther’s performance “boop-a-doops” and all. The case was finally put to rest, Baby Esther’s legacy was restored and Helen Kane’s theft was exposed. Oopsy Boopsy! Apparently no one ever told Ms Kane that pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.
Not only did the judge toss the waning stars case ruling, “The plaintiff has failed to sustain either cause of action by proof of sufficient probative force,” and that in his opinion the “baby” singing style did not originate with Kane. He also found that Kane did not create Betty Boop’s appearance, as the cartoon closely resembled another star of the era named Clara Bow the original "It Girl".
In 2002, Betty Boop was voted in TV Guides 50 greatest cartoon characters of all time, ranking #17.