Scary Shorties: Minnie the Moocher (1932)

Hi-de-hi-de-hi, Cartoon Creeps! Today’s Terror Toon is a real swingin’ wake from the cats at Fleischer Studios and the Hi-De-Ho Man himself, Mr. Cab Calloway! The short is Minnie the Moocher and it’s a trip! And when I say “trip,” I sure-as-heck mean it!
Released in 1932 by the aforementioned Fleischer Studios, MInnie the Moocher represents everything Fleischer was and everything Disney wasn’t, Disney made (for the most part) safe, friendly cartoons for good little boys and girls. However, Fleischer’s toons were aimed at rowdy adults with a taste for the weird. Fleischer Studios was basically a dollop of Dali for animation admirers.
Minnie the Moocher is the quintessential example of that Fleischer surrealism. A rotoscoped Cab Calloway ghost walrus(!) leads the ever-popular Betty Boop and Bimbo through a nightmare world inhabited by inebriated skeletons, death row inmates in spectral form, and grotesqueries with little use for logic and physics.  It seems like a drug-fueled nightmare, and it very well could be! You see, Minnie the Moocher is named for the Calloway song that plays throughout the short… and it is unquestionably about drugs! The word “cokey” in the song means exactly what you think it does and “kicking the gong around” here refers to smoking opium, although it was later applied to smoking marijuana.

This short was one of three shorts Fleischer Studios made with Cab Calloway. While the other two (Snow White and The Old Man of the Mountain) are fantastic in their own right, they don’t have the same whacked-out magic of Minnie the Moocher. There really is no other cartoon of the era that is a masterfully wackadoo as this grand work of weird. Even as a ghost walrus, Cab Calloway is just the coolest cat around. Cab’s radness and the exquisite insanity of the whole thing make this one of the true clas-sicks of animation. 🙂

For a bit o’ Hi-De-Ho-rror delivered the Fleischer way, check out the short below:

  • And 50 years later he was still performing it spectacularly in the Blues Brothers.