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Cartoon Culture

Betty Boop Slept Here


Fleischer Studios made arguably the funniest cartoons of the 1920s and ’30s — and they made them, from 1923 through 1938, in studio space leased at 1600 Broadway, the heart of Times Square, in Manhattan.

The original building was demolished several years ago. Its replacement is ready for tenants. It’s now a modern high rise condo. Wanna live where Betty Boop was created? Where Popeye met Sindbad? Wanna sleep where Wiffle Piffle was born? It’s all yours at the new 1600 Broadway.

(Thanks, Anne D. Bernstein)

  • Jonathan Sloman

    How has Wiffle Piffle got such a wide reputation, by the way? As far as I can tell he only has four screen appearances – Whoops! I’m A Cowboy and The Hot Air Salesman from 1937, a walk-on in Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1989, and (if one can call it a screen appearance) the Who Framed Roger Rabbit bonus disc DVD menu in 2003 – yet he’s often brought up in discussions of the Fleischer Studios’ greatness. It’s not even as if he was intended to be a character with few credits in the manner of of one-shot stars like Owl Jolson or Michigan J. Frog – Piffle, regardless of how amusing one may find him, is a failed cartoon star, aborted by the studio after a mere two appearances in cartoons designed to desexualise Betty Boop. Even the useless Pudgy was more popular.

    Why is there suddenly a cult surrounding this man? How did it originate? And if teenage girls can have images of Betty Boop in biker gear on their pencil cases, then shouldn’t us Pifflites be walking around in top hats sporting bootleg images of WP, whilst flapping our arms about accordingly? Could Wiffle Piffle be the world’s best-known, most obscure cartoon star? Is it time for the inevitable revival?

  • Apparently, Wiffle is also the star of some later Screen Songs, though I haven’t seen them and thus can’t give you an exact total. I think he’s just an example of a character whom we cartoon researchers like to pull out to represent the essence of obscurity. I imagine Toby the Pup (Mintz), Waffles the Cat (Van Beuren), Marlin Mutt, Punchy (both Lantz), and Fog Horn Frog (MGM) would qualify for similar status. All were continuing characters seemingly groomed for stardom at some point.

  • if it makes anyone feel any better, two blocks up is 1633 broadway. it’s the viacom building which is home to Nickelodeon and MTV animation studios.

    Maybe not the Fleischers, but animation is alive and well in NYC.

  • LNG

    Wiffle Piffle could never afford to live at his old digs today. The doorman would toss his sorry ass out the minute he spotted that weird, all limb syncopated walk.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    eh, seems rather pricey, though I do wonder how many people do go there with the slightest thought of the location’s history? :-)

    I thought the Nick studios were still in LA? And hasn’t MTV stopped its animation studio a few years ago?

  • Danielle

    Well, Nick has studios in both NY and LA. Nick Digital (the NY studio) is where Blue’s Clues and Little Bill were made; a couple of early animated Spike TV shows were also done there. The studio is a lot quieter these days than it was during the Blue’s Clues/Little Bill years, but there’s always something going on there.

  • Inkan1969

    Why would I want to sleep there, unless Betty Boop was still there. ;-)

    I remember Leonard Maltin doing an Entertainment Tonight review of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”. He said something like that it was easy to spot Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Bugs Bunny, but it took a keen eye to spot Wiffle Piffle. That’s how I heard of the character.

  • The view from the windows of 1600 Broadway has radically changed since I attended a fly-by-night television production class there in the fall of 1977. I hadn’t yet found Leslie Carbaga’s “The Fleischer Story” so I was ignorant of the building’s history. The “school'” was on the fifth floor with a view of the Pussycat Cinema and other adult entertainment venues along the street. I think the screening room was on the third floor where the dailies of “The Wiz” were previewed at the time. Several students crashed the screening when they heard Diana Ross was present one afternoon. The building management gave the faculty a terse warning to keep their students upstairs. I wonder if the surly elevator operator in the uniform is still wandering around there.

  • Joseph Nebus

    I imagine Wiffle Piffle has a little fan clique just because he is rather recognizable and has a catchy name and has a unique enough look to stand out, but hasn’t got the personality to justify making him important. So he gets a “Boba Fett” halo of obscure-popularity around him, the way “5” in Peanuts or Mister Leslie on the original Star Trek do. I know I like Wiffle Piffle, only not in cartoons.

  • The first time I realized what the importance of the building was at a an animation art show in the mid 1990s that was conducted at the hotel across the street. I was with Myron Waldman, who along with many others, was appearing at this show and he asked me if I knew what was across the street. I was fairly gobsmacked not to have realized it before!

    I always took the time to walk past the building on my trips to NYC and when I saw it was being demolished I was sorry I had never gone in and looked around.

    Interestlingly enough, when I told my friend Dick Gordon, producer of such films as “Fiend Without a Face,” he was quite saddened. The building was one of the focal points of the NYC film industry and housed various offices and screening rooms. The removal of the buildign was another signal of the many changes seen in the film industry.

  • Andre

    I was very sad to see that building go. Not just because of the former Fleischer Studios being there but a bit of jazz history went down as well. The Cinderella Ballroom was located there in 1924. The legendary jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke and The Wolverine Orchestra made their NY debut in that club. There used to be a plaque commemorating that. I wonder what happened to it?