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Nine And A Half Questions with Leslie Cabarga

More than just a fount of Fleischer information, Leslie Cabarga reveals his many professions and talents when Will Ryan asks him slightly less than ten questions.

Leslie Cabarga.

Many people under the age of 40 who've heard of Betty Boop probably know about her because of Leslie Cabarga. While in his mid-teens, Leslie researched, wrote and designed the definitive book on the Max Fleischer Studios (The Fleischer Story, Perseus Press), which has seen two editions and has been in print for 25 years. The book helped bring about a Betty Boop revival and a marketing bonanza for the Fleischer heirs and King Features. Leslie proceeded to paint more than 50 Betty Boop greeting cards, design the first Boop ceramics lines and see his Betty Boop art become ubiquitous on various product lines. But there's much more to Leslie Cabarga than Helen Kane's cartoon look-alike, as you'll see.

At the time of our interview, Leslie Cabarga had just returned to the United States from a European tour. Coincidentally, so had I.

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Will Ryan: Haven't I seen you somewhere before?

Leslie Cabarga: Quite possibly you saw me in Munich, Prague, Nice, Cannes, Paris and Edinburgh. I was playing second ukulele with the Hollywood Cartoon Band. I only know three chords but it's enough. I mean, even Mozart never really used more than three chords.


I guess I didn't recognize you without your uke. Say, how was the tour, anyway?

LC: Well, you should know -- you were playing first uke.


Oh yeah, I thought I looked familiar.

LC: They didn't "get" us in Prague, if you know what I mean, but they loved us at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh.


You mean, they didn't throw anything?

LC: Nothing you couldn't make a decent fruit salad out of.


Thrifty, those Scots! And speaking of non-sequiturs, a few years ago I was working on the G. I. Joe animated series and met a kid who tried to tell me his name was Rudy Zamora. That ever happen to you?

LC: Yeah, I worked for Rudy too. I did the background paintings for a Froot Loops commercial he was directing in San Francisco. His father, Rudy Zamora Sr., worked for the Fleischers so for me it was like deja vu all over again!


Most animators have at least one edition of your book The Fleischer Story on their shelves, and many are aware of your illustration work (covers for Time, Business Week, Rolling Stone, etc.), but not everyone knows you're an award-winning animator.

LC: Yeah -- after researching and writing about animation for years, the first actual animation I ever did was a spot produced by Acme Filmworks. Which in fact won an award.


When you were the on-camera host for The Fabulous Fleischer Folio, were those great title cards also done by you?

LC: Of course. I also wrote and performed the theme song for the show, which ironically ran on the Disney Channel for years. I recently did title cards for the re-release of all those amazing old Columbia shorts that are in syndication around the world. And, as you might recall, I even did some title cards for Elmo Aardvark: Outer Space Detective!


Good show, old bean! There are over thirty books published with your name on the cover; written any good ones lately?

LC: The new one is called Designer's Guide to Global Color Combinations. It's a sequel to Designer's Guide to Color and comes out in October. I wrote it, designed it and even designed the fonts.


And those aren't the first fonts you've designed, are they?

LC: I've made tons of them. Check out my Website,, and you can see them. I made animated movies in Macromedia Flash to go along with them. You can also order my books off the site and gosh this sounds like an ad. Will they let you get away with this?


Say, I'll handle the questions, mister. So what's with you and that Betty Boop dame, anyway?

LC: Now, remember, I am a married man.


So you and Betty are ?

LC: Yes, we're just good friends.



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Leslie Cabarga's new book, Designer's Guide to Global Color Combinations (HOW Design Books, October 2001 release), is not only the most useful color swatch book on the market (he gives the CMYK and RGB color formulas right next to each swatch), but it's also the funniest.

Will Ryan's new book, The Laffy Giraffe Joke Book (Snappytoons Press, October 2001 release), is not only the most useful joke book on the market (he gives the punch lines in italics for easy comprehension), but it's also the funniest. For the record: Wolfgang, Leslie and Will all use more than three cords in their compositions and performance.