Entire television empires now exist thanks to cartoon characters cursing and taking on dark subject matter. Shock humor works best when it's coming out of a character from South Park or Family Guy because we still think of cartoons as wholesome kid stuff. After all, that's the way it was prior to, say, the 1990s. Right?
Not quite. And in fact, some of the most nightmarish cartoons predate your grandparents ...
5Bimbo's Initiation (1931) -- Torture, Sexual Insanity and Betty Boop
The only way to describe this 1931 cartoon by Fleischer Studios (Disney's biggest rival at the time, best known for stuff like Popeye and Superman) is "hell."
The story follows Bimbo the dog, a forgotten cartoon mascot of the '30s, who falls down a manhole and meets a strange race of black-faced candle-headed people, one of whom chants at Bimbo, "Wanna be a member? Wanna be a member?"
Horrified, Bimbo says "no" in what is quickly revealed to be the worst decision of his life. Bimbo gets subjected to multiple torture methods/assassination attempts, ranging from having a board of spikes slowly dropped on him as he's helplessly stuck to the floor ...
... to being forced to ride a bicycle connected to a spanking wheel that bashes his ass so hard that smoke starts emanating from it ...
... to being trapped in a spinning room, a la Inception, while a large knife coming out of the wall repeatedly pokes his butt. You know, the usual cartoon stuff.
After making it through a room where lines of axes come dangerously close to decapitating him, Bimbo is dropped into another room, where he comes face to face with the leader of the candle people, who reveals that he's actually ... Betty Boop?
Bimbo, sporting the most confused boner in history.
For a second it looks like the nightmare is finally over and the cartoon is going to have a happy ending ... but then all of the other members of the candle people reveal that they are also Betty Boop. All of them. Bimbo, beyond broken at this point, simply gives up and joins their degenerate butt-slapping ritual dance. Welcome to hell.
By the way, the guy who let Bimbo fall into this maze of horrors in the first place? You might recognize him: