During my usual youtube surfing, I stumbled upon Betty Boop cartoons, and realized that the reason why I didn't see any of her shows was because they all played in the 1930s. Apparently she is one of the first sex symbols in animation history and appealed more to the adult audience...well that explains why I was confused about her role as a kid! It's interesting how cartoons are typically associated with children, but with Betty Boop this was not the case, at least in the beginning of her animated career.
The original Betty Boop in Dizzy Dishes
Fleischer Studios is accredited for the creation of Betty Boop, Koko the Clown, Popeye the Sailor Man, and Superman. Max Fleischer, the head of the studio, is highly respected for his technological innovations, including his frequent use of the rotoscope technique. Rotoscoping is when an animator traces over live action footage to make production a faster and easier process. This causes the characters to move in a very realistic way. This technique is used depending on what the studio wants on the show---it is usually used when a cartoon character has to perform like a professional entertainer or live actor. For instance, in the episode Minnie the Moocher, jazz singer Cab Calloway was rotoscoped and was replaced by an animated walrus. Today, motion capture is the "rotoscope on computer". In movies like Happy Feet, the dancing penguins are a result of motion capturing Savion Glover, the famous tap dancer.
The most notable voice actress for Betty was Mae Questel. Betty was based on Helen Kane and Clara Bow, celebrities of the decade. Helen Kane charged Fleischer Studios for unfairly caricaturizing her through Betty, but this charge was later disproved.
Today, Betty Boop remains a popular figure, and despite her peculiar origins, is still a lovable character to many.