Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Something Not Bland: Popeye - "Can You Take It" (1934) - walks

I figure we needed a break from all the blandness so...

Here's the opposite of bland. Now I knew tons of little kids who indentified with Popeye, even though he is a bizarre looking 90 year old toothless man who eats terrible tasting spinach.

Everything about him is unique and original, even his walks and taste in women.

He has more personality that the rest of animated feature heroes combined and he's funny and charismatic.

Kids act out Popeyes antics all the time (if they've seen his cartoons). They sing the songs. Do you know any kids who sing Celine dion or Elton John cartoon songs?

If you were a kid, who would you rather be, Linguini or Popeye?


No time is wasted in these cartoons. Even getting from one place to the next is not only entertaining and musical, it further defines the characters.

Animated features could learn some editing from classic short cartoons. No filler. Loads of personality. Non-stop fun. Variety. No bullshit. Sincere entertainment.

This is all done for a fraction of what it would cost to produce even one minute of boring stock full animation today (even considering inflation). And it goes a lot farther.

Marc Deckter prepared these clips and he loves these cartoons and personally dislikes blandness himself. He gave me his review of Ratatouille the other day and it pretty much matched mine and the other cartoonists I know.

NONETHELESS, he is blandness' greatest defender!



Anonymous said...

my fav popeye walk is where he takes a couple steps, then hops and does a quick bike-peddle motion with his feet once, then a couple more steps, repeat. i remember thinking how hilarious that was when i was little. do you have any clips of that one john?

DaveX said...

For me, the attraction to Popeye cartoons was the ridiculous repetitive "actions" characters would get into-- dig Olive washing the dishes-- the animators get so many interesting things happening at once! Dishes rocking back and forth on a huge pile, Olive rolling them down her back, off her bottom, and into a rack. Totally crazy!

John said...

Popeye is definitly the best.He's Just so cool I can't beleive you never see his stuff on TV anymore!Its sickning!

mike said...

It is kind of bizarre how an old geriatric with a very left-field life could become so popular amongst kids.

Same with Mario & Luigi - 2 old Italian PLUMBERS with MOUSTACHES? Hello!

Charley Deppner said...

I read one time that during the early thirties the popularity of Popeye and Mickey Mouse was very extremely close and it was when Disney ventured into color shorts and/or feature animation, that it was only then when Mickey significantly surpassed Popeye's popularity.

Franky said...

I just got finished watching the first disc of the Popeye collection last night and I was amazed at how many gags they threw into each moment. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a couple of running commentaries on the fourth disc. ~_^

Mike said...


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Freckled Derelict said...

I LOVED popeye as a kid! Couldn't get enough of him! Everything about the character is satisfying especially the walk.

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna start copying and learning from these walk cycles right away!

Scott said...

You're completely correct about kids wanting to be Popeye!

When I was really young I would watch Popeye cartoons with my parents, and then afterwards I would ask my Dad to wrap towels around my arms to create the big muscle effect (which I would then throw a shirt over) and it looked hilarious!

Man, makes me long for fun cartoons again. Guess I'll have to go get the DVD set. ;)

Carlos Mal Pacheco said...

Come on, the name!!!

Here in Mexico if you're a kid and you don't know English, you have no idea that his name means "A guy whose eye popped". That's pretty gross.

Those cartoons were for tough kids. My dad remembers liking Popeye and he's badass, half Apache.

Nice post, man.

pinkboi said...

Kids like songs that are easy to remember/parody, rather than formless over-produced junk with no definite melody (if you can't hum it, it has no business being the title song!)

I'm sure many of you remember parodies of Popeye songs when you were kids! Maybe even parodies of the Gigantor theme song? Me and my sister made lemonade out of lemons as kids, singing a hilarious song about our cat based on that god-awful song from Aladdin.

markisnotmark said...

this is kind of off topic, but whatever - i've been hoping you'd talk about the venture bros. at some point. so, do that.
i think that it's one of the best cartoons around currently, if not the best.
that is to say - it's not bland at all.

Bubbashelby said...

Popeye is my hero. I would not have eaten spinach as a child if it wasn't for Popeye. Seriously.

Now if I could just quit the pipe.

Anonymous said...

The only reason I like and eat spinach today is because I wanted it when I was five years old, growing up in Guatemala, watching the same PD Popeye tapes and on TV over and over and over again.

I also developed a fondness for carrots.

You're right on the money.

kate yarberry said...

The only vegetable I ate when I was a kid was spinach. It's still the only one I buy at the market. It's all because of Popeye. It drove my mum nuts.
Oh and speaking of chartoon character walks, my all time favorite is Pink Panther's walk. I love that they took the time out to time it to Mancini's theme. The way Pink kind of strolls about and at the same time kind of hops once in a while is, some what cat like in a way. It's Quality with a capital Q.

stefimon said...

"Everything about him is unique and original, even his walks and taste in women." haha, true dat!

I remember how terribly entretaining was that episode where Popeye and his father end up in the Goons island. Those Goons and Popeye trying to imitate them had the best moves I've ever seen in my whole life. <3

Gabriel said...

the only thing i ate as a kid was spinach. I'd eat it as breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was also my favorite snack, and i also liked to drink it with milk straight from the blender!

Popeye is so cool! I think i'll have to rob a bank to buy the dvd set, my country's currency is not very strong...

Sean Worsham said...

Popeye has the coolest walk cycles of all time!

Brian Boyko said...

Hello John K. My name is Brian Boyko, I'm the editor of Network Performance Daily. I came across the blog via BoingBoing and I was wondering if you would be interested in doing a phone interview or an e-mail interview.

Network Performance Daily is the company blog of NetQoS, but we cover all sorts of things so long as they're at least vaugely related to technology. For example, we examined Christopher Noxon's book, "Rejuvinile" earlier this year, and we've also covered Wafaa Bilal, a Chicago artist who locked himself in a room with a remote-controlled-via-the-internet paintball gun.

I was hoping that I could talk to you about blandness and personality in animation; and how blandness and personality are part of user interface design these days. (The MacOSX UI, for example, may or may not be more efficient, but it certainly has personality - as does the design of an iPod, etc.)

You can reach me at brian (dot) boyko (at) netqos (dot) com


-- Brian Boyko
-- Editor,

Zam3d said...

You should talk about The Pink Phanter, Jhon!

mike f. said...

Hey John,
I just sampled the new Popeye DVD set, and - (hold onto your pants, 'cause you're not gonna BELIEVE this) - the digitally restored prints look... awesome!
I've only watched half of the first disc so far, but I gotta admit - I couldn't believe my own eyes.

Here's Leonard Maltin's online review:

"POPEYE THE SAILOR 1933-1938 (Warner Home Video) — At last! After twenty years of negotiations and near-misses Warner Home Video and King Features Syndicate have finally come to terms, enabling cartoon lovers everywhere to revel in this definitive DVD collection. I can’t think of enough adjectives to describe it, but one may suffice: perfect.

To begin with, no one has ever seen these cartoon shorts looking so beautiful; they have been transferred from original 35mm nitrate materials and the results are simply breathtaking. The original Paramount logos and live-action end titles, which were lopped off for television release fifty years ago, are back. The sharpness and resolution are amazing. And when you see the Technicolor two-reelers (Popeye Meets Sindbad the Sailor and Popeye Meets Ali Baba’s 40 Thieves) you may gasp aloud, as I did.

The four-disc set includes two longform documentaries, one on the history of Popeye and another on the birth of animation, that call on a wide array of experts (including me), many of whom also turn up on commentary tracks. There are also short “Popumentaries” about various aspects of the long-running series, executed with flair and obvious affection for all things Popeye. Another nice bonus feature is a selection of silent Out of the Inkwell shorts by Max and Dave Fleischer.

It is my fondest wish–and one that I hope is not out of reach–that this DVD release will help to reintroduce these terrific cartoons to a new generation, as well as film buffs and cartoon junkies who have been deprived access to them over the past few decades. Today’s kids may have no idea who Popeye is, and that’s a crime. It’s no coincidence that many prominent animators, cartoonists (including The Simpsons creator Matt Groening) and pop culture mavens are so fond of these simple black & white shorts. They all grew up watching them on television and recognize them for what they were.

Each seven-minute gem is a perfect synthesis of inventive animation, storytelling, gag writing, voice work, and music, utilizing a unique and indelible cast of characters. Forget color and CGI ; these black and white marvels are among the greatest cartoons ever made. This collection finally does them justice."

...Holy crap! I can't believe someone actually did something right for a change.
It almost restores my faith in humans.

(Now I have nothing to bitch about. I hope the weather turns bad or something - I'm not used to being happy...)

Adam H said...

Picked up my copy last night and I can't believe how chocked full of fun ideas each one are. You really can't go more than a moment or two without grinning or laughing at anything from the voice tracks to the movement to the absurdity of some of the gag concepts. They're even better than I remember them as a kid! One that comes to mind most fondly (if I remember this right)is Popeye using a tuna as a baseball bat, & when he hits the ball, the fish turns into a school of smaller fish! So good! Does it add to the story or further define the characters? Who cares, it's fun!

I really get the sense of the conceptual fun of making a cartoon from watching Popeye. It's so easy to visualize them just brainstorming & jotting down ideas & having a good time...back when fun wasn't considered un-cool.

pappy d said...

...the horror...

:: smo :: said...

i can't remember the specific title, i'll figure it out once i can pick up the set, but there's a great popeye where he's crossing some ropebridge, someone cuts it, he turns to run back as it falls plank by plank behind him, but instead of a standard run he does this weird feet first arms back jog and it's hilarious. if i find it again i'll post it.

Sean Worsham said...

The Popeye DVD was fantastic and I loved you guys' commentaries on Popeye the Sailor vs. Sinbad the Sailor (especially the comment from John when he mentions how execs and networks today would try to get rid of gags like the bump on the 2 headed giant just because it was illogical to them). Were the colors accurate to you John on the color two reelers? On my hdtv the reds looked way too red compared to how the documentaries show them (it could just be my imagination) not to mention the greens and violets really popped out a lot. But other than that, this is the best quality I've ever seen the old Fleischer Popeyes looking bar none even better than I remember the broadcast copies looking. I'll watch the other commentaries you made tonight.

lastangelman said...

Linguini is as good as it has gotten so for Pixar, a little vaudeville slapstick toned down but Segar and Fleischer Popeye is a hard act to follow, it only took Hanna Barbera and Paul Reiser to suck all the fun outta him (see 3-D animated Popeye and you'll know what I mean!)

Okapi Figment William said...

You know your right about kids acting like Popeye and most kids these days dont even watch the cartoon. I think thats pretty dang cool way to act. Everyone should act like Popeye, hey it might lead to better outcomes then one might hope for, in daily life. Be a hero & get laid... maybe.

andrewdm said...

these are great!
i was just about to ask for a reference to wrap my head around walks. thanks man. the popeye show had the greatest movements and timing, so funny and strange

Anonymous said...

Hey John. I remember that in another post, you stated that, "for a solid run of about 6 years, these cartoons are really fun, funny and inventive. And they glorify in their cartooniness." That made me wonder if you like any Popeye cartoons made after 1939?

ZSL said...

I wish I could be like Wimpy and pull burgers out from absolutely somewhere. Wish I could do it now. I'm hungry as hell.
If they ever try to market Popeye characters in some modern fashion, there we go: a bowler cap that cooks burgers ON THE GO.

Jason Tammem├Ągi said...

These are great, no doubt about it. How do the budgets work out? I know you say they're cheaper than a minute of modern full animation - you mean Disney movies, right? How do the Popeye budgets compare with television budgets? I'm curious as the majority of animation today is for television.

Mary Pat said...

My kids -- a 1-yr-old boy, a 2-yr-old girl, and a 4-yr-old girl -- love the Popeye cartoons. They don't have the most discerning of tastes, as you can imagine, but they like the old b&w ones as much as the color ones that had to have come at least 20 years later. My baby boy thinks it's the funniest thing when Bluto sings.

Chloe Cumming said...

number three is my favourite.

me like man anatomy funnyness

Craig D said...

There are a couple scenes in PLEASED TO MEET CHA where Popeye and Bluto break into a different walk cycle with each new step they take!

Check out where they walk from the parlor into the dining room just before the cigar gag!

bobk said...

He walks the walk and talks the talk. I like to listen to Popeye when he's talking to himself.
In Aladdin when he puts his sword into the umbrella stand before he enters the castle, he says something like, "I'll put this sticker over here."
I spoke with one of the animators many years ago, and asked him what Popeye was mumbling. He told me that nobody knew what he was saying half the time, and that made it even funnier for me.

:: smo :: said...

just watched these i want to get a solid soundtrack and just animate goofy ass walks to it. damn.

Jim Rockford said...

Speaking of funny walks....I love the scene in "Boo Boo runs wild" when Yogi and Boo Boo exit the cave (without the mandatory one item of human attire)
their funny walks had me on the floor!,I especially like the "hop walk" where he'd intermitently hop up in mid stride with his legs flailing wildly.
it reminded me of the funny old man's walk in "the Dover boys of Pimento University"

I keep hoping you'll make some more Spumco Yogi's

McD said...

"If you were a kid, who would you rather be, Linguini or Popeye?"

Uh, Remy? I mean, isn't that the point?

barbaraeberlyfan said...