Countless groups tried to find a way to revive Betty Boop for modern audiences. In 1985, she starred in a prime time television special entitled THE ROMANCE OF BETTY BOOP. This half hour special was done by the team of Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, the team responsible for the highly successful PEANUTS televisions specials.
Set in 1939 New York, Betty was a shoe clerk by day and a tap dancing singer at night at the Club Bubble. Her boyfriend, Freddie, who was the neighborhood iceman had to compete for her affections with millionaire Waldo Van Lavish who later tuns out to be a cad. Betty almost loses her job at the Club when mobster Johnny Throat (voiced by CHEERS's George "Norm" Wendt) threatens the owner. After some misadventures, Betty must decide between a show business career in Hollywood or accepting a marriage proposal from Freddie. She never makes the decision.
Singer-composer Desiree Goyette (Mendelson's wife) supplied the voice of Betty Boop (even though mae Questel offered to do the voice when she heard about the production). The special was directed by Melendez and written by Ron Friedman. Originally sponsored by Peter Paul Cadbury and Nabisco Brands, the special premiered March 20, 1985. Besides tunes from the era like "I Only Have Eyes For You", the show featured new songs as well including "I'm Betty Boop" and "Boop-Ooop-A-Doop."
In 1987, "The Great Betty Boop Talent Search Pageant" was held in connection with a twenty million dollar live action movie being produced about the still popular little flapper. Edward Lozzi and Associates were involved. However, a year later, the winner complained there was no movie, no prize money and no contract with the Ron Smith lookalike agency that she was promised.
Mae Questel got to "boop-boop-a-doop" again in 1988's WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. Making fun of her plight as a black and white cartoon star, Betty appears as a waitress in the famous Ink and Paint Club sequence where she flirts with detective Eddie Valiant and later performs in the final sing-a-long.
One of the great mysteries about a Betty Boop project surrounds a prime time television special made in 1989 appropriately called BETTY BOOP'S HOLLYWOOD MYSTERY. The special was made by Colossal Pictures/Big Pictures in San Francisco for CBS. It was directed by George Evelyn and Max Fleischer's son, Richard was the creative consultant. Cels from the production were being sold on the collector's market beginning in 1990 even though the special hadn't aired.
CBS scheduled the special for airing several times during a three year period but kept cancelling it at the last minute. (It was eventually sold to the Disney Channel in 1993.) One persistent rumor was that it had been commissioned by a CBS executive who left the network before the special was finished and the executives who took his place didn't care for the finished project.
In the special, Betty, Bimbo and KoKo are fired from their jobs at Dan's Diner and get work helping a detective named Sam Slade. Slade has to protect actress Lola DaVille's jewelry at a Hollywood party. Lola is robbed and Betty is framed for the robbery. The perky little heroine must get out of jail and solve the mystery. The artwork style and attitude was very close to the original Fleischer cartoons with inanimate objects like spoons and traffic lights coming to life. A "rubber hose" style of animation along with numerous references to classic Betty Boop cartoons delighted true Boop fans.
Animation historian Karl Cohen interviewed the director who stated, "In this story, she is the classic Betty-who wears her skirts pretty short and shows a little garter, but is still very sweet and innocent. The most obvious difference between the classic Thirties' Boop cartoons and our tv special is color. In our production, the characters are rendered in wonderful, post modern candy colors, with backgrounds that are subtle pastels."
When the special was being filmed, Mae Questel was supposedly too busy in New York working on Woody Allen's segment on NEW YORK STORIES where she played Wood's mother to do the voice work for the special. Numerous auditions failed to turn up a suitable replacement. Then a casting agent walked into a Los Angeles sound studio and spoke to a receptionist named Melissa Fahn. The agent was shocked to discover that it was the voice of Betty Boop coming from this accomplished singer and with the help of a voice coach, Fahn did the Boop voice for the special. Other voices in the special included Lucille Bliss (the voice of Crusader Rabbit), Hamilton Camp, Jodi Carlise and Michael Bell. The hot jazz score was supplied by Gregory Jones.
In February 1993, it was announced that the Zanuck Company would be producing an animated Betty Boop feature for MGM. Richard Zanuck, the co-producer of JAWS and THE STING along with his wife and partner, Lili, and Richard Fleischer would share exectuive producer credits.
Jerry Rees, who was responsible for the animated feature THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER, was signed to write the screenplay and supervise the directing. (Rees was also in charge of finding studio space and hiring artists for the actual production.)
Fleischer told an interviewer that the story will be a "comedy with a good love story" which will focus on the adventures of Betty and her friends KoKo and Bimbo as they travel to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune. Fleischer added that Betty would be "sexy, sassy, and innocent all at the same time. She's carried that combination for sixty years. She has an inborn innocence that stays with her, but she's very provocative and flirtatious."
When asked why it took so long for an animated feature about Betty to be made, Fleischer replied that the project "took months to clear all the rights to this character because she's been around so long, it was very complicated." Flesicher also alluded to the fact that he hoped to update Betty's attitudes to appeal to contemporary audiences.
The film was scheduled for a late 1994 release with a big promotional push with new merchandise themed to the movie. Like so many other animated projects, this one quietly disappeared. Hopefully, the newly announced Betty Boop feature will have better luck.
Betty Boop continues to be even more popular today than at the peak of her theatrical career. Merchandise continues to keep her visible to new generations. There are few other figures, real or imaginary, who have captured the imagination of generations of audiences.