Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Popeye Rules

What's great about Popeye?

I love Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Droopy and many other classic cartoon characters, but the series that is most consistently funny and inventive to me is the Fleischer Popeye cartoons. For a solid run of about 6 years, these cartoons are really fun, funny and inventive. And they glorify in their cartooniness.

I'm absolutely amazed at how long these cartoons have been off the air. When I was a kid, everyone loved Popeye-even our Dads!

How can you raise decent kids without Popeye cartoons?

Luckily for everyone now, Jerry Beck and his group have managed to release these great cartoons on DVD and I hope everyone snaps them up for themselves and for any kids you know too!

Popeye is a true American hero and a great example for our youth, unlike 50 Cent.

There are a ton of great things about Popeye, and here are just a few of the things that I like about them.



The first few cartoons throb to the music beats. This is a holdover from the Betty Boop cartoons.

Since all classic cartoons were timed to rhythms, this throbbing action was Fleischer's entertaining way to keep holds alive while someone else is doing the talking or action.

I think we should all throb constantly to the beat in real life.


A Song In Every Cartoon

Almost every classic Popeye has its own theme song. Many were especially written for the cartoons, and some were already well known hits.




These songs were woven into the storylines and add a lot of good feeling to the cartoons.

This is another practice, like throbbing that should come back to cartoons.

Although nobody today can write catchy melodies anymore. It's all that new age warbly broadway and animated feature stuff about spreading your wings and soaring like the eagle who devours the bunnies now.

Buy the Popeye collection and experience real songs! You won't stop humming them.

Gruesome Closeups

The Best Girl Cartoon Character Ever


Olive Oyl is the the most distinct and entertaining girl character in cartoon history.

Usually girls are pure stereotypes.

The beautiful girl.

The fat one.

And now, we have the girl who is smarter and stronger than the wimpy ass male leads.

Olive is specific and distinct in every facet of what makes a person unique.

Her design.

Her voice.

Her personality.

Her movement.

Her expressions.

She is also funny as Hell.

Individual and Funny Walks and Runs

In many cartoons characters merely walk. In the Fleischer Popeyes, it seems as though someone commanded the animators to make sure that every walk is unique and fun.
The characters hardly ever just walk from this story point to the next as cartoon characters today do.

Great Personalities and Chemistry

The characters of Popeye, Olive, Wimpy and Bluto are not only individually unique and fun, their chemistry is perfect.

E.C. Segar created the characters and imbued them with individual eccentricities, but the Fleischers added the voices and many mannerisms.

When you have such rich characters and great animators who understand them, you can drop them into infinite situations and the stories then write themselves.

Visual Metaphors Galore

Popeye shows his strength by having battleships in his biceps, hands that turn into vice grips and lots more fun stuff that can only happen in cartoons.

This kind of stuff didn't even happen in the comics. The Fleischers added these wonderful treats.

Popeye has some of the funniest and cleverest violence in the history of film. Beatings are an essential element of cartoon entertainment and these are the best ever.

Clever Technical Structure


The Fleischer artists and animators were real showmen. They purposely devised complex and impressive technical scenes with the purpose of entertaining the audience.

Long before computers, they relied merely on talent, showmanship and ingenuity to pull off some of the trickiest sequences in cartoons.

Unlike many modern show offy animated sequences, this show offy stuff was entertaining, like watching Fred Astaire dance. It's not merely technical, it's fun and artistic.

Many cartoons were written around the technical sequences, like "A Dream Walking".

Clever Situations
You would think with only 3 main characters you might run out of story ideas pretty soon, but the Fleischers kept devising new situations for years for these guys.

In fact, Popeye was hardly ever in ships! He beat up every animal and every race in every environment on earth.

Great Voices
Mae Questel
Jack Mercer
Gus Wickie

These were all very distinct voices - unlike today's bland star actor voices that do nothing to help give the characters individuality.

Perfect Translation From Comics To Animation
Usually when you try to translate characters from one medium to another, it's a creative disaster.

Executive types love to take something that is popular in one medium and remove what made them popular when they translate it to a new medium.

The Fleischers did the exact right thing with E.C. Segar's characters.

They left the personalities of the characters intact and found voices that perfectly suited their personalities.

The comic strip stories were continued every day and whole plots sometimes took months to complete. This type of story structure obviously wouldn't work in a 6 minute cartoon, so The Fleischers devised new story structures that took advantage of the personalities and atmosphere of the original, but added the things that only film and animation could do. Music, acting, motion gags, magic and more.

This is an element that is rare in many forms of popular entertainment.

Popeye and the gang, as crazy and preposterous as the cartoons can be, still reflect real human emotions, motivations and the uncontrived actual things that our species naturally find entertaining.

There are no new-age messages, no characters clamoring to prove that they can be the best me that can be, no artificial pathos, no lecturing the audience about the writers' beliefs, just pure real street-smart fun. The Fleischer animators were a lot more in touch with real people than the Disney animators.


It remains to be seen. Jerry has posted some clean frame grabs that look great to me.

The 2 color episodes are suspicious.

I was doing a commentary on Sindbad and I kept screaming about the print, because it was neon pink, purple and turquoise and they kept swearing to me that that was not going to be the final print. They even showed me another one which looked totally different and had assorted colors in it.

It seems that the My Little Pony version is the one on the dvd if these frame grabs are any indication.

Who knows, it's possible that those are the actual original colors, but it's very hard for me to believe that in 1936 there was a 12 year old girl who picked all the colors for such sophisticated cartoons.

Ali Baba looks a lot more like 30s colors, very rich and lots of subtleties.

It does look like the engineers pulled up all the purple they could find in the BGS though and pumped the saturation up, but look how different it is than Sindbad.
This looks like 80s little girl color palette to me. I really doubt anyone used colors like this 70 years ago.

BUT! Luckily there are only 3 color Popeyes anyway. The rest are black and white, so they can't mess with the colors-although one expert pointed out to me that the contrasts were pumped up, so that now the BGs have dark blacks in them rather than the original milky greyed BGS that stayed in the background.

Let's just hope they haven't done the line thinning jitters and the strobing pans.

If you like cartoony cartoons, buy this sucker now and laugh lots!