How Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Betty Boop-Inspired Blossom Became the Breakout of ‘IF’ (2024)

John Krasinski’s “IF” presents a menagerie of celebrity-voiced imaginary friends (including Emily Blunt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and Bradley Cooper) who are in search of existential purpose after their kids grow up and forget them. Enter Ryan Reynolds, who runs a matchmaking service for the “IFs,” who live in a secluded retirement home at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park in Coney Island.

Framestore handled the audacious fusion of live-action and CG animation and VFX (800 shots) spread across their London, Montreal, and Mumbai studios. Led by animation director Arslan Elver and VFX supervisor Chris Lawrence, the team worked closely with director-actor Krasinski to get believable performances out of the IFs on set or in post. Krasinski saw them as visceral, hyper-real puppets. The techniques included stand-ins to help the voice actors deliver full performances, placing the animated characters in the shot with VR, or the use of home-shot reference footage from the animators.

There are three hero characters: Blue (Steve Carell), a sweet, furry, purple monster, Lewis (the late Louis Gossett Jr.), a wise elderly teddy bear, and standout Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), an excitable humanoid butterfly. Heavily influenced by the Fleischer Studios iconic 2D look (think Betty Boop), she’s smart and sassy and keeps the matchmaking service under control.

“We had these sketches, but it was a very detailed process to bring them together,” Lawrence told IndieWire. “And then we brought it a great 2D artist, Gary Dunn, who did these amazing turnarounds and 2D illustrations to sort of develop a model sheet. Then we turned that into a [rapid prototyping, digital] sculpt, which we did with our visual development team.

How Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Betty Boop-Inspired Blossom Became the Breakout of ‘IF’ (3)

“Blossom was a really [tough] character,” Lawrence continued, “because a lot of the early 2D stuff is very difficult to realize in three dimensions and to make sculpturally look good from all angles. And we had to do that because of the way John shoots with roaming cameras and [Steadicam]. But we got these great sculpts, and then Arslan’s animation team took over turning 2D drawings into 3D.”

With Dunn’s 2D help, they found the character’s general shape, overcoming the obstacle of having such a large head and managing to make the eyes and mouth believably expressive. “But then, like a 2D drawing, we went to a model sheet expression sheet where Blossom would be sad, pissed, or happy from different angles,” Elver told IndieWire. And we did that in 3D. And we looked at it with a 360 turntable and realized what works and what doesn’t work. Having worked on ‘Tom and Jerry’ as well, with 2D characters, you cheat a lot. You will draw the character in a three-quarter, in a different way to a profile. But if you take one of them into a completely 3D world, it won’t work from the other angle.

“So we had to come up with a rigging system where we can shape her muzzle or eyes, and she was quite sensitive to very slight changes in proportions of her facial structure. So, for example, if there is this hair fringe that you put too much up, then there was so much forehead visible that she looked too bald. So the animation team really got into keeping her on model.”

Then there was the task of finding Blossom’s performance through Waller-Bridge, including the way she breaks the fourth wall in “Fleabag.” “It was very much like we did with [Bradley Cooper’s] Rocket in ADR sessions, to pick up little things to combine in one big performance,” Elver added.

How Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Betty Boop-Inspired Blossom Became the Breakout of ‘IF’ (4)

Two important sequences with Blossom include a Busby Berkeley-esque swimming sequence with multiples of herself and a ballet dance with Fiona Shaw. She plays the grandmother of Bea (Cailey Fleming), the 12-year-old who assists the IFs while her prankster dad (Krasinski) awaits an operation in the hospital.

“We were doing the previs for this huge swimming number [with scans shot at a pool in Greenbrier, West Virginia], and John described this moment of crazy stuff that’s happening in the pool, and we both talked about paying homage to Esther Williams,” Lawrence said. “And one of the things John told us from the very beginning was tangibility. So, for us, one of the key challenges was always making [the IFs] feel real when they move and act, particularly with Blossom and not making her look weird. But underwater, you can bend physics. But what was important and challenging was the camera work and choreography to make it look nice.”

Krasinski, meanwhile, was especially helpful in providing direction for the sublime moment when Blossom observes Shaw dancing to “Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia,” which makes her glow. He knew the emotional arc of the scene and described it in great detail. “We animated that early in production because John really felt that scene on the day of the shoot, and the dance was so beautiful,” said Elver.

“We literally followed the reference of the actual dancer in terms of how we can translate that into the language of Blossom, and she had these lovely, huge wings that open up completely when the dance starts. And I remember that there was a moment where the camera literally goes behind Blossom while they’re dancing, it just goes through those two huge wings and the antennas. And even when she starts to glow, Blossom looks at her heart first. And John loved it so much. It was like we were [entering] a new stage in her life.”

How Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Betty Boop-Inspired Blossom Became the Breakout of ‘IF’ (2024)


Was Betty Boop sexualized? ›

Her popularity was drawn largely from adult audiences, and the cartoons, while seemingly surreal, contained many sexual and psychological elements, particularly in the 1932 "Talkartoon" Minnie the Moocher (1932), featuring Cab Calloway and his orchestra.

Was Betty Boop a dog before she was a human? ›

On August 9, 1930, Betty Boop made her cartoon debut in the animated short “Dizzy Dishes.” Originally appearing as an anthropomorphic French poodle, Betty Boop transitioned into a human female character a year later, trading in her floppy dog ears for flirty hoop earrings.

What is Betty Boop's personality? ›

Personality. Betty Boop has a kind, sweet and happy-go-lucky personality, being a very cheery person and is loving and caring to many who meet her. Although, she is very clumsy in her several appearances.

What does Betty Boop stream on? ›

Betty Boop - watch online: streaming, buy or rent

Currently you are able to watch "Betty Boop" streaming on IndieFlix or for free with ads on Tubi TV, Freevee.

Who is Betty Boop's boyfriend? ›

Bimbo is a fat, black and white cartoon pup created by Fleischer Studios. He is most well known for his role in the Betty Boop cartoon series, where he featured as Betty's main love interest. A precursor design of Bimbo, originally named Fitz, first appeared in the Out of the Inkwell series.

What is the dark story behind Betty Boop? ›

A Harlem club singer named Esther Jones, a.k.a. Baby Esther, came up with that line and was the inspiration behind the cartoon. Another way to tell this story? Esther Jones was a black woman who lost something she created to a lighter-complexioned star.

Who had a crush on Betty Boop? ›

Betty Boop dreams with the handsome millionaire Wando Van Lavish, for whom she is in love. The simple and honest Fred, who sells bars of ice on the streets of her neighborhood, has a crush on her. Meanwhile, Betty meets Wando in the night-club and he invites her for a date.

Who is Betty Boo married to? ›

Was Betty Boop based off a black woman? ›

Esther Jones is the name of the real Betty Boop. The iconic cartoon character Betty Boop was inspired by a Black jazz singer in Harlem. Introduced by cartoonist Max Fleischer in 1930, the caricature of the jazz age flapper was the first and most famous sex symbol in animation.

What is on Betty Boop's leg? ›

Betty Boop always wore her garter on her left leg.

What is Betty Boop's full name? ›

In her monologue, she said, “In New York during the Harlem renaissance, Black women like myself dressed up like her [motioning with pointer toward short black skirt and garter belt], 'Baby Esther' Jones, aka Betty Boop – she was Black!

Who is Betty Boop's enemy? ›

The Ringmaster is the main villain of the Betty Boop cartoon "Boop Oop A Doop". He was the owner of a circus in which a 17 year old Betty performed, upon seeing her, however, he grew lustful and decided to force himself upon her (a common theme in these early cartoons).

Was Betty Boop 16? ›

Some of the information is Boop-Oop-a-Dooping full of SPOILERS. Boop-Oop-a-Doop! Betty Boop is currently a centenarian, she's canonically a teenager age 13 to 16.

Why is Betty Boop so popular? ›

Her wide eyes and sexy looks were a hit with audiences—as was the fact that she was a clear parody of popular singer Helen Kane. The squeaky-voiced jazz singer was known for her sexy lyrics and baby-like singing, and Betty Boop delivered a spot-on imitation.

Who does Betty Boop's voice? ›

Mae Questel (/ˈmeɪ ˌkwɛˈstɛl/; born Mae Kwestel; September 13, 1908 – January 4, 1998) was an American actress. She was best known for providing the voices for the animated characters Betty Boop (from 1931), Olive Oyl (from 1933) and numerous others. The Bronx, New York City U.S. Manhattan, New York City, U.S.

Was Betty Boop risque? ›

Within a year, she stole the spotlight, becoming the star of the show, and transforming into a fully human character. Her design was based on flapper icons like Helen Kane, Esther Jones, and Clara Bow, and compared to the demure Minnie Mouse, her design was positively risque.

Why was Betty Boop controversial? ›

That year, Helen Kane, a popular jazz performer, sued Fleischer and Paramount Pictures, then known as Paramount Publix Corp., claiming Betty Boop was a “deliberate caricature” of her “baby vamp” persona. Kane, who was white, said her voice, looks, and mannerisms were uniquely hers, and copied by Betty Boop.

Did Betty Boop get assaulted? ›

In "[Boop-Oop-A-Doop," circus performer Betty had to fight off a pervy ringleader's sexual assault, but was victorious. “He couldn't take my boop-oop-a-doop away!" she says. (Oof, right?)

Was Betty Boop whitewashed? ›

Kane sued the animation company, claiming they stole her look and signature line for their Betty Boop character. But at the trial, it was clear that Kane had in turn stolen it from Esther Jones, a black singer from Harlem and who used the same presentation well before Kane did.

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