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Popeye

Started by Mobbd, March 08, 2024, 10:05:12 AM

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Mobbd

He's strong to the finish cos he eats his spinach.

So, CaB. What's up with Popeye? Let's talk about the comedy of Popeye.

He's a sailor man. You know... for kids.



As a kid, I was fond enough of Popeye but I never really understood it. Thinking about it now, I still don't. Popeye was just... on. My dad seemed to like it.

Apparently, he started out as a newspaper comic strip. Which makes sense. He doesn't look like anything designed for kids really.

But he was on TV a lot and it seemed (to me) to be for kids. I could tell he was extremely popular before I was born. Watching Popeye cartoons felt like joining in with older people, or a lesson in history or something.

Is Popeye funny? I am not against Popeye. He was far from my favourite cartoon character but I didn't dislike him. Popeye was alright. He eats his spinach.

And when he eats spinach he becomes supernaturally strong, usually in order to "saves" his love interest, Olive Oyl, from the would-be kidnapper-rapist Bluto.

Why is Bluto in a humorous kids' show? He's horrible.

Why is Olive Oyl like that? All gawky and silly? Is the joke that she's not the typical damsel in distress or something?

What is Wimpy? "I'll gladly pay your Tuesday for a hamburger today." Okay, no sweat Wimpy, you got it. Wait, is this a joke in some way?

My dad really liked Wimpy, as seemingly did most of his generation and his parents' generation. They fondly nicknamed a plane after him in the war. He seems charming but is he a comedy character? What's funny about borrowing money for food? What's the deal with Wimpy?

Is it funny that the baby is called Sweet Pea? Is he Popeye's baby or what? From a previous relationship? Is Popeye a shagger? Does spinach put wowser in your trouser?

I remember "the Goon" from an '80s spinoff cartoon called Olive and Goon, apparently a segment from something called The All New Popeye Hour though I don't remember anything else about that. Olive and Goon are in the military for some reason and aren't very good at it. It had M*A*S*H vibes. Goon is also called Alice sometimes and speaks in a nonsense "what-nip-nip-what" language that we can't understand but Olive can, like Han and Chewie. Actually, I liked Goon. Goon was entertaining to me as a kid.

Please share your Popeye memories, understandings, analyses and theories.

*toot-toot!"*

idunnosomename

As you say, Popeye's not intially a kid's thing though of course, hence why it is about a short-tempered elderly man fighting with a big fella over a very odd woman. It was originally a newspaper strip and then shown in cinemas before main features. Stuff like the '80s Popeye and Son is shit, mostly cause he cant punch anything anymore.

The 1930s Fleischer series are some of the best cartoons ever made. They take a while to get really good, particularly to get Jack Mercer in the lead. He's the one who starts ad-libbing Popeyes unlipsynced weird muttering, something that gets forgotten in later incarnations but is one of the funniest parts of character, giving him a softer side. Although of course its the great visual gags like Popeye punching things so hard they turn into smaller, related things.

One thing to look out for is the Fleischers' stereo-optical process- the animation cels painstakling shot on a real perspectival set rather than just a painted background. Most obvious and best used in the two colour double lengths, Sindbad and Ali Baba.

Peak ones imo:

Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934)
King of the Mardi Gras (1935) first Jack Mercer as Popeye
The Spinach Overture (1935)
Popeye Meets Sindbad (1936) colour, double length
Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves (1937) colour, double length - my fav, personally.
I Yam Love Sick (1938)
The Jeep (1938)
Goonland (1938)
Leave Well Enough Alone (1939)

After those it slips a bit and never recovers from the crap WW2 propaganda cartoons they have to make like ahem, You're a Sap, Mr Jap (indeed Popeye keeps wearing his US Navy uniform is successive cartoons), and the in-house Paramount Fanous Studios are never as good.

Had a lot of these taped off the BBC, in the 2000s they made some excellent DVD compilations of all the toons.

buzby

Quote from: Mobbd on March 08, 2024, 10:05:12 AMWhat is Wimpy? "I'll gladly pay your Tuesday for a hamburger today." Okay, no sweat Wimpy, you got it. Wait, is this a joke in some way?
Wimpy originally started off a referee in strips about Popeye's prize fights. He was open to being bribed, the payment being a hamburger on credit. He proved popular with readers and became part of the main cast as Popeye's cowardly sidekick.
QuoteMy dad really liked Wimpy, as seemingly did most of his generation and his parents' generation. They fondly nicknamed a plane after him in the war.
The Vickers Wellington was nicknamed 'Wimpy' because it had the same name as the character.

The Jeep also got it's nickname (which was offiically adopted by Willys after the war) from Eugene The Jeep, as when Ford were brought in by the Department of Defense as a second source alongside Willys to build American Bantam's winning entry for the Army's 4x4 1/4 ton Reconnaissance Car specification, they called their version the GPW (in Ford's coding system at the time, G = Government Contract, P = 80 inch wheel base, W = Willys design).
QuoteIs it funny that the baby is called Sweet Pea? Is he Popeye's baby or what? From a previous relationship? Is Popeye a shagger? Does spinach put wowser in your trouser?
In E. C. Segar's original 1930s comic strips, Swee'Pea was a baby that was abandoned on Popeye and Olive's doorstep who they adopted. He was actually the heir to the throne of Demonia, and after his father the King was killed by Swee'Pea's Evil Uncle the Queen left the baby with Popeye for his own protection.

In the post-war Famous Studios cartoons, Swee'Pea was referred to as Olive's cousin who they sometimes had to look after, and in the 1960s King Features cartoons he is referred to as Popeye's nephew. In the 1987 Hanna-Barbera Popeye and Son cartoon series, the son was Popeye Jr, Popeye and Olive's biological son and not Swee'Pea, who is never mentioned (presumably he had returned to take the throne of Demonia).

dissolute ocelot

Started on a path of trying to figure out how old Popeye is after idunnosomename described him as an elderly man; according to the Popeye Fandom.com Wiki in the animated cartoons he's variously stated to be between 34 and about 41-43, but presumably that bears little resemblance to the newspaper cartoons.

The newspaper cartoon prominently featured characters like Olive's brother Castor Oyl, and Harold Hamgravy (aka Ham Gravy) who was Olive's original fiance but was largely replaced by Popeye because Ham had no real character traits other than a long nose. A fascinating insight into the dietary habits of early 20th century America.

When do we get onto the Altman film? It's a long time since I saw it. It was interesting, but so is all Popeye.

Proactive

Was there a Viz or similar parody called Poparse? Seem to remember such a thing.

Senior Baiano

Browneye? He shoves tins of spinach up his arse

idunnosomename

Quote from: dissolute ocelot on March 08, 2024, 11:27:15 AMStarted on a path of trying to figure out how old Popeye is after idunnosomename described him as an elderly man; according to the Popeye Fandom.com Wiki in the animated cartoons he's variously stated to be between 34 and about 41-43, but presumably that bears little resemblance to the newspaper cartoons.
well i guess hes middle-aged. His father is still around and hes implied to be like, super old. Even if theres a line of dialogue saying how old a character is they're all just cartoons at the end of the day. The cartoon shorts don't have much if any continuity, sometimes Popeye and Bluto don't know each other, sometimes they start off as friends etc, even when Bluto's not "playing" another character like the Sindbad or the king of the forty thieves.

Shaxberd

#7
I never particularly enjoyed the animations that were on TV in the 90s, but a lot of American cartoonists cite Elzie Segar's original strip cartoons as highly influential. For the time they're very well drawn and apparently often had complex running storylines.

I've been trying to find some scans to share and haven't come up with anything much that makes me laugh, but there's a lovely simplicity and expressiveness to Segar's art. Popeye is often very deadpan and I can see why Wimpy was a popular character back in his day, he only has the one facial expression but it works perfectly for his air of giving absolutely no fucks about anything but hamburgers.

Twilkes

Popeye was always around from since before I could remember, and I was sooooooooo old when I realised the man called Popeye had asymmetric eyes and that those two facts were related.

Mobbd

Amazing detailed answers from @idunnosomename and @buzby so far. I knew this was the place to turn. Who says CaB is all phimosis all the time? Not me.

Snrub

Did my head in that it was called the All New Popeye Adventures or something, even though it looked absolutely ancient to me in the early 90s (the episodes might have been 10 years old at the time?).

Popeye an absolutely classic example of watching any old shite just because it was on. Must have been better than what was on CITV at the time, but I don't ever remember looking forward to it or have any fond memories of it at all. Didn't hate it either mind.

Have they ever tried to reboot it? Must have been a while since any new Popeye stuff has been made

Mobbd

Quote from: buzby on March 08, 2024, 11:13:50 AMIn E. C. Segar's original 1930s comic strips, Swee'Pea was a baby that was abandoned on Popeye and Olive's doorstep who they adopted. He was actually the heir to the throne of Demonia, and after his father the King was killed by Swee'Pea's Evil Uncle the Queen left the baby with Popeye for his own protection.

Why Popeye's protection? Is he a famous lovely toughguy in their world?

Alberon

I seem to remember finding Alice the Goon a bit frightening when I saw some of the cartoons.





28 years old I was.




Well, all right, no I wasn't, but she did scare me as a kid.

Barry Admin

Great read.

1980 for the Robin Williams/Robert Altman movie, any thoughts on that? I don't remember much about it at all.



GoblinAhFuckScary

classic fleischer popeye is wonderful it makes me cackle

Ignatius_S

Quote from: Snrub on March 08, 2024, 12:44:24 PMDid my head in that it was called the All New Popeye Adventures or something, even though it looked absolutely ancient to me in the early 90s (the episodes might have been 10 years old at the time?).

Popeye an absolutely classic example of watching any old shite just because it was on. Must have been better than what was on CITV at the time, but I don't ever remember looking forward to it or have any fond memories of it at all. Didn't hate it either mind.

Have they ever tried to reboot it? Must have been a while since any new Popeye stuff has been made

The All-New Popeye Hour started in the late 1970s and was repeated for a long time and episodes shown in differ t formats. It's worth mentioning that the late, great Allan Melvin, who played Bilko sidekick, Henshaw, was cast as Bluto; Melvin did a tremendous amount of voice work.

As an IP, Popeye has pretty much always been a very active one - there's a lot of merchandising tie-ins, for instance. Old strips have been reissued in different formats and can be found online; there's a manga-influenced comic, Popeye Eye Lie Comic, that was announced a little while. The last animation was produced a few years ago, aimed at young children.

In various articles, looks at the characters etc., a contrast has been made between how active Popeye is as a character, compared to a lot of iconic comic characters that tend to be dusted off once in a while.

Bentpitch

I went to see the Popeye movie in the cinema with my family when it came out (aged 8-ish) and have a very clear memory of feeling disconcerted and queasy about the whole thing, not really wanting to look at the screen as I found Robin Williams and Shelly Duvall unpleasant to look at.

letsgobrian

I've got the massive Fantagraphics collections of Segar's strips and find the daily strips are stronger than the Sunday colour strips. The dailies have more of an adventure comic element, and you can still see its influence today in things like One Piece. The Sundays tend to be focused on the Popeye & Olive romance.

Ignatius_S

Quote from: Barry Admin on March 08, 2024, 12:58:18 PMGreat read.

1980 for the Robin Williams/Robert Altman movie, any thoughts on that? I don't remember much about it at all.



Although derided at the time by critics and wasn't the box office smasheroo they hoped for, commercially it wasn't a flop and its stock has risen over time.

When I saw it as a kid, it wasn't what I wanted from a Popeye film (I love Popeye!) but there were some musical scenes that I thought were just fantastic. When I've watched it subsequently, it's a brilliant adaptation - as a film, maybe more interesting than brilliant (and hard to see it as blockbuster), but great performances, physical comedy and designs. IIRC, it's only towards the end that Popeye eats spinach for the first time, which I think was one of my  frustrations when watching as a kid - having to wait for the bit you want to see!

idunnosomename

I've said this here before I think, but it's fascinating that Billy West (Futurama, etc, very talented voice artist), who voiced Popeye for a not very-good direct to DVD CG film, said imitating Jack Mercer's Popeye was one of the hardest voices he's ever done. He only got it right by using throat-singing technique to basically do two voices simultaneously - the high agagagaga and the low throaty one in different mixtures. Even when he's fully doing the low "Oyylive - i gots ya some flowwwers" drawl there needs to be a bit of the chirpy high voice to make it sound right

Even more interesting was that Mercer only joined Fleischer Studios as an inbetweener. He wouldn't have got the starring role he had till his death in 1984 if the original voice, William "Red Pepper Sam" Costello wasn't such a cunt. Similar to Hank Azaria getting Moe and successively all his Simpsons roles because everyone at Gracie Films wanted rid of Christopher Collins.

GoblinAhFuckScary

Quote from: idunnosomename on March 08, 2024, 10:44:19 AMPeak ones imo:

Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934)
King of the Mardi Gras (1935) first Jack Mercer as Popeye
The Spinach Overture (1935)
Popeye Meets Sindbad (1936) colour, double length
Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves (1937) colour, double length - my fav, personally.
I Yam Love Sick (1938)
The Jeep (1938)
Goonland (1938)
Leave Well Enough Alone (1939)

crackin list. i forgot how fucking funny jack mercer's mutterings are

buzby

Quote from: Mobbd on March 08, 2024, 12:44:46 PMWhy Popeye's protection? Is he a famous lovely toughguy in their world?
As hinted at in my post, in the original Segar comicss he made his money as an (unbeaten) prize fighter.

non capisco

Quote from: Alberon on March 08, 2024, 12:50:00 PMI seem to remember finding Alice the Goon a bit frightening when I saw some of the cartoons.

My mum had a childhood memory of being terrified by seeing the Fleischer era 'Goonland' on TV where there are tons of them ambling about in a sluggish loping stroll.

EDIT: This one

Brundle-Fly

In a Robin Williams biography, the actor described his 'Popeye' prosthetic bulbous forearms as sheer torture. They were applied so tightly they cut off the blood circulation at his elbows. At the end of the day on removal, his limbs looked like they'd been replaced by the cold, grey arms of a cadaver.

Here's a short piece from Slash Film.

Robin Williams was not at the top of anyone's list to bring E.C. Segar's one-eyed comic strip sailor to life. Though "Mork and Mindy" had turned the stand-up comic into a major television star, he had yet to prove himself as a big-screen draw. Producer Robert Evans initially wanted Dustin Hoffman to top-line his live-action adaptation, but when the temperamental actor dropped out after clashing with screenwriter Jules Feiffer, he took a risk on the up-and-coming funnyman.

Williams' whirling-dervish energy wasn't entirely compatible with director Robert Altman's penchant for long, laid-back takes sprinkled with overlapping dialogue. Whereas characters tend to drift in and out of scenes in an Altman movie, Williams draws focus with his constant ad-libbing. If he couldn't disappear into the sea of eccentrics that populate the fictional village of Sweethaven, Altman's immersive aesthetic would be completely ruined. Then again, if no one could understand a word stumbling out of Williams' mouth, this problem would be completely moot.

Though Evans wanted Segar's comic strip to be the film's stylistic template, audiences would be expecting Popeye to sound exactly like Jack Mercer's Popeye from the popular, long-syndicated Fleischer Studios cartoons — i.e. a little bit mumbly (as expected for a man who speaks with a corn cob pipe stuck in his mouth), but always decipherable. Williams failed miserably on his first pass.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, the actor confessed, "I had to dub that movie over twice... because people couldn't understand what I was saying. I sounded like a killer whale farting in a wind tunnel." He nailed it the second time through, to the point where you wonder how much of the character's tossed-off witticisms were improvised. While the Popeye of the comics and cartoons favored bad puns and groaner jokes, there's a wryness to Williams' dialogue that's new to the character. He's a little too sharp at times.

Altman's "Popeye" was a modest box-office hit when it hit theaters in December 1980. Though Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert came through with a pair of upturned thumbs, the majority of critics were mixed-to-negative. Williams fared well with most reviewers, but his performance was completely overwhelmed by Shelley Duvall's uncanny embodiment of the lovably lanky Olive Oyl. While "Popeye" didn't help or hurt Williams' nascent movie career, he wouldn't become a bankable superstar until 1987's "Good Morning, Vietnam," where his stream-of-consciousness riffing was actually integral to the plot. If audiences missed any dialogue in that movie, it's because they were laughing too hard.




wrec

I remember everyone pronouncing it "Pop-oy" so I only understood the name in recent years

Shaxberd

Quote from: non capisco on March 08, 2024, 01:49:17 PMMy mum had a childhood memory of being terrified by seeing the Fleischer era 'Goonland' on TV where there are tons of them ambling about in a sluggish loping stroll.

EDIT: This one

That's a brilliant piece of animation. The movement is so fluid and the meta moment at the end where Popeye and Pappy fight their way out of the filmstrip is genius. I love old animation, it boggles the mind to think how much painstaking work went into making it.

Quote from: Bentpitch on March 08, 2024, 01:05:22 PMI went to see the Popeye movie in the cinema with my family when it came out (aged 8-ish) and have a very clear memory of feeling disconcerted and queasy about the whole thing

All of this, I have an overriding memory of it being dark (as in lighting) and drab looking.

Wasn't there a thread on here before pointing out missing/changed musical numbers from UK/US versions or something?

JaDanketies

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
I live in a frying pan
I turned on the gas
And burned off my arse
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man

Ignatius_S

Quote from: Better Midlands on March 08, 2024, 02:04:55 PMAll of this, I have an overriding memory of it being dark (as in lighting) and drab looking.

Wasn't there a thread on here before pointing out missing/changed musical numbers from UK/US versions or something?

Some of the songs in the film are a different version to the soundtrack recording. After the film was released, the film was re-edited for Europe, reducing the running time, which cut out a couple of numbers (I think) whilst others were edited.

Going from memory, but when I was older and had re-watched it and later seeing the original cut, I felt the latter was definitely better. Some of the UK version was tighter (so in some respects was a plus) but there are scenes that were cut or heavily edited, which provided more context about what was happening in the story and felt it was more cohesive overall.

idunnosomename

Quote from: Shaxberd on March 08, 2024, 02:02:24 PMThat's a brilliant piece of animation. The movement is so fluid and the meta moment at the end where Popeye and Pappy fight their way out of the filmstrip is genius. I love old animation, it boggles the mind to think how much painstaking work went into making it.
yep, aside from the goon theme and how it emphasises the goon walk, it's that ending that really makes it special, it's very like Holy Grail in like fuck we don't know how to end this, oh well how about this crazy gag?

Popeye doesn't do the self-referential "this is a cartoon" like Duck Amuck all that much, the fourth-wall breaking between live-action and animation is more typical of the Fleischer's '20s series, Out of the Inkwell featuring Koko the Clown.

That sequence is all done in-camera, obviously, because there's no other way to do it back then. They would have to have the live actor's hands stay very still below the camera, while they change the cel behind (which of course, as well as Popeye and Pappy, means the film being folded back together) and take a shot one frame at a time. The shadows are real and in a better quality video than that you can see the reflection in the glass plate over the cels.
The exaggerated messing about with the safety pin is to cover up that it changes from a real one to actually drawn on the cel. Less than six seconds the hands are in shot but since it's all on ones that's 139 frames they need to shoot. Even for a professional studio that likes to push new technology and techniques must have been an absolute pain in the arse, especially for whoever's hands those are.