Zanuck sets animated ‘Boop’ coup

“Betty Boop” is about to make her film debut in a starring role in an animated feature produced for MGM by the Zanuck Co., marking veteran producer Richard D. Zanuck’s first venture in the genre.

“I never really thought about doing (animation), but the character of Betty Boop is such a historic one in terms of cartoon characters: She’s really the only one that has survived through the years,” Zanuck told Daily Variety.

“When we realized the impact of this character around the world in terms of its recognition, we found even 6-year-olds in Taiwan know who she is.”

Zanuck will exec produce with partner Lili Zanuck and Richard Fleischer, son of Betty Boop’s late inventor Max Fleischer.

Steven Paul Leiva will produce with screenwriter Jerry Rees, who will wear a third hat “supervising the direction of it,” Zanuck said. Rees will also be in charge of finding a studio space and hiring artists for the actual cell animation production.

Fleischer said the story will be a “comedy with a good love story” which will focus on the adventures of Betty and pals Koko the clown and Bimbo as they travel to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune.

In keeping with tradition, Betty will be “sexy, sassy and innocent all at the same time. She’s carried that combination for 60 years. She has an inborn innocence that stays with her, but she’s very provocative and flirtatious,” Fleischer said, noting her attitudes will be updated to appeal to contemporary audiences.

This project “took months to clear all the rights to this character; because she’s been around so long, it was very complicated,” Zanuck noted.

Fleischer and Zanuck are pleased to have animation expert Rees at the helm. Both veterans are new to the animation process.

Production is under way and pic should be ready for MGM worldwide distribution in ’94.

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