5 Classic Cartoons That Inspired ‘Cuphead’

Drew Dietsch
Indie Games Disney
Indie Games Disney TV Games

Cuphead doesn’t look like any game you’ve played before. That’s because its animated art style is so unique. But, it’s actually not. Cuphead was inspired by the surrealistic animated shorts of yesteryear. In particular, the classic cartoons from the Fleischer Brothers and Walt Disney.

If you love Cuphead, these five short toons are essential viewing. It doesn’t hurt that they’re all really fun.

Hell’s Bells (1929)

Walt Disney wasn’t always so cheery! This 1929 Silly Symphony is a horror-filled delight that takes place in Hell as Satan is throwing a wicked party.

It’s clear that this design was the inspiration for Cuphead‘s own interpretation of the devil. Plus, this is a devilishly (sorry) fun short. A good starting point for anyone interested in Cuphead‘s origins.

Swing You Sinners! (1930)

Swing You Sinners! is classic Fleischer insanity. It stars Bimbo, one of the studio’s most popular characters, as he attempts to steal a chicken. Once he escapes a policeman, he runs into a cemetery. Naturally, the ghosts and ghouls of the graveyard scold him for his sinful ways.

It doesn’t get much trippier than this. Swing You Sinners! is considered one of the craziest and spookiest of the Fleischer toons. Perfect for Halloween viewing or as a dessert after playing Cuphead for five hours.

Bimbo’s Initiation (1931)

Another Bimbo cartoon with plenty of cuckoo cartoon shenanigans to love. Bimbo is whisked away into a mysterious cult that wants him to join up. He refuses and is put through a series of death traps that would probably make for a good Cuphead level.

The surprise at the end of Bimbo’s Initiation is a cute one that involves Fleischer Studios’ most famous creation, Betty Boop. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a quick unofficial cameo from none other than Mickey Mouse!

Snow-White (1933)

If you only watch one cartoon on this list, make it Snow-White. This collects together Fleischer Studios’ biggest characters — Bimbo, Betty Boop, and Koko the Clown — in a retelling of the classic fairy tale. This is often considered the best Fleischer Studios cartoon for its superb animation and excellent musical performance from Cab Calloway.

This premiered four years before Walt Disney’s game-changing feature film and it definitely deserves your time.

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936)

This entire list could have been Popeye cartoons, but Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor is the best of the bunch. Popeye goes toe-to-toe with Sindbad to prove who is the greatest sailor of all time.

It’s an incredibly colorful romp that perfectly reflects the vibrant insanity of Cuphead and was a direct inspiration for certain enemies and levels in the game. This is also an Oscar-nominated cartoon. Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor is probably the best representation of what Cuphead is successfully emulating.

Drew Dietsch
Drew Dietsch has written for CHUD.com, the News-Press, WhatCulture, and releases a weekly film review podcast, The Drew Reviews Podcast. He'll yak your ear off about horror movies, Jaws, RoboCop, and/or Batman if you let him.
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