Friday, May 24, 2013

DVD Review: POPEYE THE SAILOR: The 1960s Classics Volume One.




POPEYE THE SAILOR: The 1960s Classics Volume One
 
(Released May 07, 2013 by The Warner Archive Collection)  
 
Another (Partial – but still Looong) DVD Review by Joe Torcivia
 
When last we saw Popeye the Sailor on officially licensed Warner Bros. DVD, it was 2008 and the final theatrical shorts of the Max Fleischer / Black-and-White Paramount Famous Studios period had just completed.  Next up were the Paramount Famous Studios COLOR Popeye theatricals of the 1940s.  Then, the unexpected occurred…
The last Popeye DVD, released in 2008!
Now, Popeye once met “Rip Van Winkle who, so the story goes, slept for 20 years to awaken in a new world.  So it would seem for Popeye’s fans, when it comes to DVD releases, as in 2013 (having metaphorically “slept” through the ‘40s and ‘50s) we’ve awakened to POPEYE THE SAILOR: The 1960s Classics Volume One, from the Warner Archive Collection.

Wha' Hoppened ta the' Forties an' Fif-kies?
 
We don’t often do “Partial DVD Reviews” but, as if to make up for lost (mari)time, the Warner Archive Collection has released 72 (…of the approximate 220?!) made-for-TV Popeye cartoons in this single set – and, until I’m retired from work, and am otherwise freed from all of my earthly obligations, there’s no way that I’ll have the time and ability to view, critically assess, and formulate a Blog post on 72 cartoons in the span of about two weeks.  (Consider that, at my usual pace, I still haven’t come near to completing THIS ONE, so who knows WHEN I’ll have “battened the final hatch” on Popeye!) Since I’ve long anticipated the occasion of Popeye’s return to “legitimate” DVD release, perhaps you’ll understand my desire to share my initial thoughts as quickly as possible. 

 
Some background:  1957 saw the release of “Spooky Swabs”, a nicely-done and innovatively formula-breaking cartoon where the Sailor Man and Olive Oyl, adrift on a raft, find their way onto a “Ghost Ship” – concluding Popeye’s long and successful theatrical animation run that began in 1933.   Considering the vast number of shorts that did not depict Popeye as a SAILOR (in anything beyond costume), made this ending entry all the more satisfying. 



At about the same time, the run of Fleischer and Paramount Popeye cartoons were released to the medium of television, where they were a tremendous hit!  From here, I’ll let the text on the back of the DVD packaging take over:

“With TV reruns of the Fleischer / Famous Studios theatrical shorts proving that Popeye still packed a spinach-powered punch that delivered smash ratings, King Features commissioned a new series of Sailor Man shorts under the aegis of executive producer Al Brodax.

“The TV incarnation of Popeye made up for its scaled-back animation with a broadened narrative scope and scale while staying true to the source, thanks to the continued use of voice actors Jack Mercer (Popeye), Mae Questel (Olive Oyl), and Jackson Beck (formerly Bluto, now called Brutus), as well as the use of veteran Popeye-animation talents then working at Paramount Cartoon Studios.

“Adding to the ‘I yam what I yam’ authenticity is the addition of a number of Thimble Theatre comic strip characters making their cartoon debuts – including King Blozo, Toar, and [the] Sea Hag!  Among the cartoons contained in the stupendous 2-Disc, 72 episode volume, are all of the Paramount TV Popeye cartoons”.     
 
At last!  I'm out of the comic pages, and FREE TO MOVE!  Oh, wait... It's LIMITED ANIMATION!  DRAT!


Hey… Thanks, Warner Archives! Since you include NO Extra Features with this set, the very least you could do for this poor-but-honest Blogger (who SO OFTEN plugs your product line) is to save him from composing some critical background text! 

I should add to this that the “authenticity” described in the Warner text is additionally bolstered by the presence of musical underscores by the great (and underrated) Winston Sharples, who served as the main composer for the Paramount theatrical cartoons. 


 
In the interests of full-disclosure, I am writing this review after viewing only the FIRST FIVE cartoons of the set, plus a few others that I purposely “jumped around” to see.  My impressions will be based upon that sampling – and any noteworthy additions or changes to these views, should they occur, will be posted in future “updates”.  …Besides, I’m reviewing the DVD set, not putting forth a comprehensive overview of the King Features / Paramount Popeye TV shorts.  (I pity the sucker who tries to do THAT!)

Each of these “first five” was directed by Seymour Kneitel, with such familiar animators as I. Klein, Morey Reden, and Wm. B. Pattengill.  Much has been made over the years of the inferior TV animation – and, quite true, there’s no way one might confuse this series with the more lushly animated Paramount theatricals.  The character design and movement here is significantly below that of the theatricals – but the gulf is not as wide as you might expect, if you compare it to later efforts like the aforementioned “Spooky Swabs”, as opposed to the best of the Fleischer films.   


Wot's HE got ta be embarasked about, up there?!

Not that it doesn’t have its own shamefully damning faults, mind you.  FOUR of those “first five” end with Popeye turning to the audience and bobbing up and down as he sings an original and “plot-appropriate” final verse to his signature theme, and winking to close things out! This is the SAME re-used animation every time, only marginally disguised by a varied BACKGROUND – often of a single solid color.  I’ve rarely seen such blatant re-use of animation stock character footage, outside of the Filmation productions to come later in the decade.  Certain character walk and run cycles are also re-used – but never in as painfully obvious a way as this.  
Simon the Pieman - from Filmation's BATMAN (1968)  He's probably struck this pose before - and will do it again!

 Additionally, the FINAL NINE shorts of this collection were not done by the Paramount crew – and are clearly the product of another studio entirely!  So, when Warner says in its text: Among the cartoons contained in the stupendous 2-Disc, 72 episode volume, are all of the Paramount TV Popeye cartoons”, they aren’t just blowing smoke out of their pipe!  That would also indicate that, if the collected order is to be believed, Paramount produced 63 of these cartoons. 
 
The remaining nine have 1960 copyright dates, are credited to directors Bob Bemiller and Tom McDonald (can’t say I know anything about them), and exhibit no writing credits – nor any identification of the studio from which they originated!  A Google search identifies these cartoons as having been produced by “The Gerald Ray Studios” – and that FIVE different studios got in on this “new Popeye thing”, presumably, with varied results. 
 
What I CAN say about these is that the design sense of the animation is not up to the Paramounts – and, if anything, has the look of early products of Gamma Productions, such as King Leonardo.  Or, maybe Roger Ramjet… or, at best, the 1960 UPA Mister Magoo series.   Stock music (not by Winston Sharples), some of which I can identify from early episodes of KING LEONARDO AND HIS SHORT SUBJECTS, also backs these cartoons. 


 




While the animation may be “cheesy”, that doesn’t mean the cartoons are bad – perhaps, quite the contrary!  That is, if you can accept plots like The Sea Hag and Toar counterfeiting three dollar bills (with a picture of a HANGED Benedict Arnold on them), and Popeye, Olive, and Wimpy as vacationers stumbling onto their operation, in an outing called “The Last Resort”. 

I daresay, the “cheesy” animation actually ADDS to the sense of fun in cartoons like this.  For example, Toar slides back a wall-framed picture of a “General leading a charge” to fire a gun at our heroes.  The gun, naturally, fails to go off – but, of course, does so decisively in Toar’s face when he examines it.  He slides the picture back into place, to reveal that it now shows the “General lying dead on the battlefield, holding a flower on his chest”!  A more literal (as Bob McKimson) or ornately stylized (as Chuck Jones) version of this gag might not have been as funny.  See “The Last Resort” for yourself, and decide. 

Remember when CHEESY was FUN, Bullwinkle?
To digress, this illustrates the great difference between the “cheesy” animation of the sixties and the “cheesy” animation of the seventies.  In the sixties, producers actually worked their limitations to some humorous advantage (as Jay Ward certainly did) – while, in the seventies, it just dragged the already-inferior product further down. 
Quite!
Quite WHAT, ya swab!


POPEYE THE SAILOR: The 1960s Classics Volume One is a release of “The Warner Archive Collection”.  Please GO HERE to read more about the standard Pros and Cons of this enterprise from Warner Home Entertainment.
 

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.  

The CONS:

No Content Listings:  Or… I just bought 72 cartoons from the Warner Archive Collection, and all I got was a lousy t-shirt and NO Content Listings – less the t-shirt!”  You’d THINK that, with 72 cartoons in a set, the least the WAC could do was include a paper insert listing each one of those 72 cartoons, and where (on which disc) they can be found… but NOOOOO! 

Instead, we have three menus deep of 12 selections, over 2 discs, to wade through.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it each and every time Warner “cheaps-out” in this way, I should not have to engage a DVD and go through several menus to find what I’m looking for, when all it takes is a paper insert to be included with the package.  For a list price of 29.99, this should not be an issue! 

I ain't very "CONTENT" wit th' way things is "LISTING", me-self!

The PROS:
 
The very same 72 cartoons for an MSRP of 29.99: Consider that a Warner set like THIS offers a mere 15 short cartoons for 19.99, and you’ll probably appreciate this all the more.  Especially, if you happen to catch it on one of Warner Archive’s discount promotions.   …Still would like some Content Notes, though! 
 
…And the reason we’re all here:

THE SHORTS:  (Limited to the “First Five” – all of which are directed by Seymour Kneitel – and some random skipping.) 
 

Hits and Missiles (Runs 05:46)  For various reasons, not the least of which is that it leads off the collection, I suspect “Hits and Missiles” may have functioned as the “pilot” for this new series of Popeye cartoons.  



The THEME was different from the rest, and was actually the previously-used version for the theatrical shorts (the Made-for-TV shorts would have a slightly different theme).  There was a director’s credit for Seymour Kneitel, but the only other credit would read: “Produced by Paramount Pictures Cartoon Studios”.  No subsequent short would display this credit, but they would credit the writer and various animators.  Finally, the copyright year in the balance of these shorts (1960 or 1961) would display in Roman Numerals, but here it reads: “1960”. 

 
It is a terrible shame that no writing credit is attached to “Hits and Missiles”, as it is an imaginative effort, balancing cartoon fantasy adventure with some good humor… and with an unusually high number of puns.  (You KNOW, that’s gonna appeal to me!)  

To the story (with puns specially highlighted):  Popeye, Olive, and Wimpy are on hand for “Cape Canaveral Testing Grounds – Visitor’s Day”, where a bearded rocket-scientist (with the Jack Mercer-furnished voice of Famous / Paramount’s “Modern Madcap” series player “Professor Schmaltz”, gives them a tour of rocket ship “Luna No 1”. 

If this first effort was intended to “modernize” Popeye for the early sixties audience, I’d say tapping into the astronaut mania we all had back then was a good move. 

I KNOWS a good thing, when I SEES one!
 
POPEYE:  "Wot would ja call the inhabitinks on Luna?  Luna-tics?" 

OLIVE:  "Oh, Popeye… Stop trying to be so punny!"  (See!  Even Olive notices the shift in writing!) 

A mishap between Wimpy and Olive results in Luna No 1 accidently blasting-off to the Moon, with our three principals trapped on board.  In typical, pre-1969-moon-landing cartoon fashion, both the Big Dipper and the Milky Way are depicted as being BETWEEN Earth and the Moon for the sake of some gags.  

For the record, the 1961 UPA DICK TRACY cartoon “Rocket Racket”, featuring Hemlock Holmes and The Retouchables in a rocket chase with Sketch Paree and The Mole, offered the same astronomic inaccuracies in the name of some gags. 

And, speaking of outdated concepts, the Moon is revealed to be made of CHEESE!  (…Not “Green Cheese”, however!  Remember when we used to be told that story?  Does anyone perpetuate that today?)     

Seeing a mountain (of angularly stacked slices of Swiss cheese, compete with holes), Popeye declares:  This must be th’ SWISS CHEESE ALPS!”  This is followed by a nicely done sequence where Olive falls down and through the many Swiss holes, and Popeye is just a moment too late to grab on to her each time. 

At the bottom of the mount, they run afoul of a detail of militaristic cheese wedges (presumably Limburger) – protected by glass-topped cheese platter armor!  (They later lift their glass-top helmets to “gas” Popeye with their strong scent.) 

Their commander introduces himself as “Krantz, Captain of the Guard”.  To which Popeye replies Take me to your leader, Krantz!”  (Gotta love THAT!)   

The leader turns out to be (what else?) a BIG CHEESE (wheel)… would that also make him a “Big Wheel Around Here”?  He lives in “Roquefort Castle on the Rinds” and imprisons his visitors, after a false promise of assistance. 
Don't expect a SQUARE DEAL from a ROUND CHEESE!
From his prison cell, Popeye and company see downtrodden little peasant cheeses forced to pay exorbitant TAXES of “crackers” dumped into a large cracker barrel.  One unfortunate taxpayer, who drops his contribution breaking it into CRUMBS, is tortured by being repeatedly dipped into a vat of hot mustard! 
 
See?  He's GONE BAD already!

That’s enough for Popeye, who pipe-flame-cuts his way out of his cell and confronts the Big Cheese:  That’s a PRETTY CHEESY trick ta play on those little fellers!”  The expected altercation ensues, climaxed by a spinach-powered Popeye smashing the Big Cheese into tiny little slices.  He orders the pieces to CHEESE-IT!”, and they each grow little feet and hotfoot it out of there. 

The trio get a heroes’ send-off as they return to Earth, with Wimpy (who, like so many cartoon characters, apparently doesn’t need to breathe AIR – much less worry about issues of space-vacuum decompression) barbecuing “grilled hamburger and Swiss cheese kabobs” off the rocket’s tailpipe flame.   Not unlike the cover of this Dell Comic! 


Yeah, I spent a lot of time on one cartoon – but I feel it was worth it to give you a feel for what they were trying to do, and how it differed from Popeye cartoons past.  This was an imaginative romp, having more in common with the COMICS than most of the theatrical cartoons that preceded it.  You either like this sort of thing for Popeye, or you don’t… and I DO! 

As noted, I particularly liked the unusual proliferation of puns.  Other nice touches included Wimpy having a little, ever-present “flame grill” hidden under his hat (You never know when a stray hamburger might toddle by!), and Olive’s ring, with a pop-up full make-up kit including a large mirror.  If nothing else, it was certainly out of the ordinary for Popeye – and suitably heralded this new era.  …Sure wish I knew definitively who the writer was. 
 
Yeah, who WAS that writer, anyways!


The Ghost Host (Runs 05:38) Writer: Seymour Kneitel.  With this (presumably second) entry, the newly-modified theme, credits for Director, Writer, and various Animators – as well has the Copyright Year in Roman Numerals – begin for what is likely the balance of the Paramount series. 

Popeye and Olive pick up almost where they left off in the last theatrical, “Spooky Swabs”, when they flee from a storm into a haunted house.  They are harassed by three ghosts, who appear to be “beatnik-inspired” versions of Casper’s Ghostly Trio. 
We're OUTTA SIGHT, man... When we're invisible!

Strikes, Spares, an’ Spinach (Runs 05:36) Writer: Seymour Kneitel.  “Brutus”, having now assumed the former role of “Bluto” sabotages Popeye’s bowling date with Olive.  You’ve gotta wonder how they managed to overlook “bowling”, when they did countless versions of this plot in the theatricals.  Oh, and I’ve always differentiated “Brutus” from “Bluto” due to “Brutus” having a much larger paunch, while “Bluto” was more muscular overall. 


 
Pardon me, Sir... But didn't you used to be in BETTER SHAPE?

Jeep is Jeep (Runs 05:40) Writer: I. Klein.  A modern version of the 1938 Fleischer cartoon “The Jeep”, which is discussed in THIS POST.  The new series already makes a statement with the inclusion of the odd little E.C.Segar character “Eugene the Jeep” (not to mention Swee-Pea) – and this is the only one of the “First Five” not to end with the stock “Popeye singing, bobbing, and winking” footage. 
 



We end our look at the “First Five” with a real goodie! 

Spinach Scholar (Runs 05:39) Writer: Seymour Kneitel.

OLIVE (angry):  Popeye. I thought I told you I wasn’t going to see you again until you got an EDUCATION!” 

POPEYE:  "But-but, Olive… I been TO SEA, since I was a KID – an’ I ain’t never had a chance ta get ed-ja-ma-cated!” 


And so, we find the Sailor Man enrolling at the local schoolhouse, and being assigned to the Eighth Grade.  There, the teacher asks:  Who knows what Caesar said, when Brutus stabbed him?” 

Popeye raises his hand excitedly and replies:  He said OUCH!”  

For that, he is immediately demoted to the Seventh Grade!  I liked that gag, but wondered why they failed to do one based on his traditional foe now being called “Brutus”!  (…even if it was just a “muttering joke” after Popeye’s been humbled) I know *I* would have done it!  Perhaps, it was too early in the run, and the new name hadn’t yet fully caught-on. 

Subsequent gags find our not-so-scholarly-sailor backtracking to Fifth Grade, Third Grade, and finally Kindergarten! 

There he is asked to spell “cat” – and is finally forced to down a can of spinach just to do so!   And, in a nice break from the way they would have done it in the ‘50s theatricals, the spinach DOES NOT pump him up to college graduate, or doctorate level (complete with an abruptly-appearing cap and gown), but is just enough to get him through the intimidating challenge at hand! 

At cartoon’s end, he brags: There was nuthin’ to it, Olive!  I *went through* th’ WHOLE SCHOOL in one day!”  (He just fails to say, in WHICH DIRECTION!) 

Hmmm... Was it North, South, Eask, or Wesk?
 
 And, in another nice touch, once assigned to Third Grade, he finds it harder to fit into the little desk and chair sets. 

Where, oh where, was writing like THIS, when Paramount was churning out their endlessly formulaic theatricals?!  Seymour Kneitel was a part of it, back then.  Why didn’t he contribute an occasional story like this? 
This comic would ALSO have made a good Sixties cartoon!

Skipping ahead we find more diversity of subject matter, and even some comics-inspired adventure: 

 
Myskery Melody”: Can you believe a 5-6 minute condensed retelling of the 1936-1937 Segar comic strip continuity “Mystery Melody”?!  Yes, really! 


 It’s almost all here!  Popeye, Poopdeck Pappy and his ill-fated, long ago romance with “Rose of the Sea”, the Sea Hag with her eerie, mystery-melody emanating, evil magic flute and her vulture, and the powerful force of Eugene the Jeep!  I saw this as a kid, completely unaware of its origins as one of the most celebrated Popeye strip adventures of all time!   


Anyone who complains about it being a “digest version” is missing the greater point that kids’ television animation of the period would ever attempt to DO THIS in the first place! 

For the record, you can read E.C. Segar's original "Mystery Melody" in this magnificent collection, published by Fantagraphics...


...And, merely to digress further, you can read an "alternate world sort of sequel" to the tale in this 1957 Dell Comic, where Pappy is unaware of the Magic Flute's powers -- and The Sea Hag brings in "The Big Guy Who Hates Popeye" (who's been known to go by the name "Bluto") for a cameo -- along with a lion, a box of poison snakes, a bear, a gorilla, and a giant bomb -- to bust-up our Sailor Man!  ...Would I spoil things if I said the plan failed?

 

The Whiffle Bird’s Revenge”:  Bernice the Whiffle Hen was the subject of the first Thimble Theatre comic strip continuity that introduced a roughneck sailor named “Popeye”, on January 17, 1929.  While not an adaptation of that story (alas, “Myskery Melody” may have given me false hopes), it is a pretty good tale of the magical bird casting a werewolf spell on the hungry and predatory Wimpy. 

 
Hungry, like the...Wolf?
 
Seer-ring is Beliver-ring”:  One of those “bearded foreigners” that often appeared in Segar's comic strips, and Bud Sagendorf’s comic book stories, loses his mystic ring, which allows him to see into the future.  Olive accidently comes into possession of the ring, and trouble begins. 
 

A *very nice touch* in this one is, when Olive “sees her visions of the future”, everyone’s VOICE (Popeye, Wimpy, and even “Evil Eye” the bearded foreigner) is approximated by Mae Questel doing her best to duplicate / impersonate them, as opposed to Jack Mercer and Jackson Beck doing the voices as they normally would.  That’s really going all out, without the necessity to do so, to make the cartoon THAT MUCH MORE entertaining!  Kudos to Paramount on that!   

We end with the nine cartoons from the Gerald Ray Studio, which are decidedly different – but also good, in their own way! 

OVERALL:  By now, I’ve said enough, so I’ll keep the closing short. 

You know the PROS and CONS of Warner Archive Collection DVDs.  And, I’m sure I’ve supplied enough PROS and CONS on the King Features Popeye television cartoons of 1960-1961. 


 
What we might lose in animation quality, we more than make up for in diversity of subject matter, and a stronger animated adherence to the Popeye comic strip and comic books than has EVER occurred before or (alas, again) since.  


POPEYE THE SAILOR: The 1960s Classics Volume One is highly recommended for fans of Popeye, those interested in the overall period of television animation of the late ‘50s thru early ‘60s, fans of the Popeye comics, and anyone with an interest in the later activities of the Paramount / Famous cartoon studio… not to mention the heretofore-unknown-to-me Gerald Ray Studio. 

 
Or, you could just buy it, so we can get more Popeye on DVD – including the AWOL color Paramount / Famous cartoons!    
 
I ain't AWOL... I'm just MISS-KIN!

18 comments:

scarecrow33 said...

Nice review, Joe. Am I correct in guessing that we haven't heard the last about this set?

I, too, have only managed to watch a few selected cartoons, but the ones I have checked out look pretty good. About "Hits and Missiles"--was it just my imagination, or were the first few seconds of animation a little more fluid, almost as in the Famous Studios style? It seemed that there were also a couple of fleeting moments later on in the cartoon where there seemed to be a bit more fluidity to the movement--but I could be wrong. I also noticed that in tone and character design, these cartoons bear a strong resemblance to their theatrical predecessors. I especially noted that the character of the Big Cheese looks like he might have been designed in the late Fleischer/early Famous era. "Hits and Missiles" in particular seems to be a "link" between the old Popeyes and the new ones.

I also watched the "Jeep" cartoon and enjoyed the particular weirdness of that character--which as a kid, I just took for granted, but which now seems to me very bizarre.

I guess my biggest impression so far is that these aren't as far removed from the Famous/Paramount series as I had previously thought.

One question, though--when if ever did Popeye change back from his Navy whites to his standard sailor costume? I seem to recall seeing him in his original costume in some of these cartoons, but I could be confusing these with the comic book version which I was reading at about the same time that these were running on my local TV station. So did he ever change back, and if so--when?

Like you, I am also lamenting the lack of "completism" in skipping over the Famous/Paramount entries. Maybe if this set does well...?

Joe Torcivia said...

Scarecrow:

I pretty much guarantee there will be at least one “Popeye Update” and, depending on what more I discover, perhaps others.

With such still-to-be-discussed gems as “It Only Hurts When They Laughs” and “Incident at Missile City”, and major moments as “The Valley of the Goons” and “Me Quest for Poopdeck Pappy” (which are, effectively, two different aspects of the great Fleischer short “Goonland” in back-to-back cartoons), and others seen since writing that post, I’m certain “…we haven’t heard the last about this set”!

I’d second all of your observations on “Hits and Missiles” – and that’s all the more reason I feel it must have served as Paramount’s PILOT for the new series.

You write: “I guess my biggest impression so far is that these aren't as far removed from the Famous/Paramount series as I had previously thought.”

Like Hanna-and Barbera before them, Paramount also showed they could adapt to the “new reality” of more limited television animation and design. And, given that “reality”, I think they did a fine job. Give Seymour Kneitel and his animators props for that! And, as noted, the continuity of the voice work AND the music scores went a long way toward making the transition as successful as it was.

I do not recall Popeye “changing-back” to his Segar/Fleischer sailor togs in any cartoon in the ‘60s series – but, it’s been decades since I’ve seen these, so I won’t say it didn’t happen, even once. For all I know, it could have, and I just don’t remember it.

Now, there was “Big Bad Sinbad” (Famous / Paramount, 1952) that reverted Popeye back to the old outfit to match Cheater-Footage of “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor”, where he tells his nephews of the great battle with Sinbad/Bluto. That was about 11 years after he switched to Navy Whites for 1941’s “The Mighty Navy” – and apparently never changed back, comics excluded. It’s possible, you may be recalling that. Or, maybe it was a later animated incarnation that I may not be familiar with. Was there a ‘70s “Saturday Superstar Movie”? I don’t recall any of those very well. (…Perhaps for the best?)

And, yes… I’d certainly like to think that any success for this set would result in more Popeye, so everyone go buy one! And the “Best of Warner Bros. Hanna-Barbera 25 Cartoon Collection”, too! There’s still too much prime H-B material unreleased as well!

top_cat_james said...

Joe & scarecrow:

Popeye did indeed appear in his black and red uniform in Jack Kinney's pilot tryout for the series-"Barbecue For Two".

www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4EAvKnQvyE

Note the extended opening credits and some of the illustrious talent involved in the production.

Regular GeoX said...

I've been binging on the original Segar comics lately, and your description of "Spinach Scholar" sounded veeeery familiar to me--so I looked it up, and sure 'nuff, it seems to be a reasonably close retelling of the 12/02/34 Sunday strip, reprinted in the fourth Fantagraphics book. I'm not familiar with these cartoons, but I like the fact that they seem to be more Segar-literate than one might have expected.

Debbie said...

"Barbecue For Two" features Popeye in his Segar/Fleischer/Sagendorf sailor's uniform, as did 1978's Hanna-Barbera series, "The All-New Popeye Hour" (although the color of Popeye's shirt was blue and not black in Hanna-Barbera's version).

Chris Barat said...

Joe,

Popeye was in a SATURDAY SUPERSTAR MOVIE... POPEYE MEETS THE MAN WHO HATED LAUGHTER. I don't recall what he wore, however.

In TELEVISION CARTOON SHOWS, Hal Erickson does a good job of running through the strengths and weaknesses of all the different studios that worked on the 60s POPEYE shorts. Unfortunately, the studio that worked on the most shorts, the Jack Kinney Studio, did the sloppiest work in terms of animation, and that is why the 60s POPEYE shorts as a whole have such a poor reputation. Erickson agrees with scarecrow that the Famous/Paramount shorts were quite similar to the later theatrical releases.

There were actually TWO pilots for the 60s series, "Hits and Missiles" and "Barbecue for Two" (which was made by Kinney).

Chris

Joe Torcivia said...

Wow! Go to sleep for 12 hours, and look what I find… lots of great and helpful comments!

Thanks… TCJ, GeoX, Debbie, and Chris! I really appreciate the wealth of information!

I took the link to “Barbecue for Two”, and enjoyed it immensely. Despite the odd animation style, it had something that many of the ‘50s Popeye cartoons did not have – it was funny!

Indeed, Popeye and Brutus were more like Donald Duck and Neighbor Jones (in both backyard setting and character), with Popeye actually and uncharacteristically making the first “jerk moves” against Brutus, by raiding his garden and disinviting him to the BBQ. As characterized here and in Paramount’s “It Only Hurts When They Laughs” – and classic shorts like “Fightin’ Pals”, THIS is the way I like Popeye and Bluto/Brutus best! More comedic rivals than bitterly antagonistic.

It was also a great juggling of many characters, all in fine service to the plot. I did not remember “Barbecue for Two” all that specifically, but do remember that other “Jack Kinneys” did not have Popeye’s original outfit, so it makes perfect sense that this was Kinney’s “pilot”, as “Hits and Missiles” was Paramount’s. The fact that, like “Hits and Missiles”, it also used the theatrical theme song (an extended version, in fact), helps support that assertion.

I suspect that Volume Two, if there is one, would concentrate on the “Jack Kinneys”, as Volume One did with the Paramounts. Now, more than ever, I want to see that happen! Paramount and Kinney were the two “major volume” suppliers of ‘60s Popeye, with other studios doing relatively small numbers of cartoons. I wonder how many of the 220 we’ll actually get.

Joe Torcivia said...

Special reply to GeoX:

Yes, indeed… “Spinach Scholar” did have its basis in Segar’s Sunday strip! Great catch!

Looking it up, I also find that the “Popeye vs. Kid Nitro” Sunday continuity (with Wimpy as referee, losing a fortune) in the same volume, was made into “Rags to Riches to Rags” by Paramount in 1960.

Clearly, Seymour Kneitel and/or others at Paramount were familiar with these strips and took advantage of the opportunity to adapt / homage them. Be that “directly” (as in “Myskery Melody”), or in the category of “influenced by”. And, great praise should be heaped upon them for it! Especially considering that the strips were probably not all that easily accessible in 1960 – unless they got to tour the “King Features vaults”!

Ryan Wynns said...

Joe, et al,

I grew up with TNT's packaging of the Paramount and (colorized, ugh) Fleischer shorts ... really, I could've done much worse! I don't believe I've ever seen any of these made-for-TV cartoons, so despite their dubious reputation, I can't help but be curious about them...

...sayyyyyy, has Popeye and Son been released on dvd yet? ;)

-- Ryan

Joe Torcivia said...

Ryan:

As you can see from many of the observations and comments here, the reputation of these shorts should not nearly be as “dubious” as it is… but, such is life. Put in their proper context, and when not judged by the animation of their theatrical predecessors, they’re quite entertaining. And all the more so, if you are a fan of the comic strips and comic books.

You should seek them out and decide for yourself. You’ve got some good titles mentioned throughout the post and comments to act as a starting point. Other funny ones I recommend would be “Popeye Goes Sale-ing” and “Duel to the Finish”.

Try looking up some of them, if you can, and let us know what you think.

Amazon does show one release that seems to encompass both “The All New Popeye Hour” and “Popeye and Son”. Don’t know any more than that.

Chris Barat said...

Ryan,

Hey, don't diss POPEYE AND SON... Anthony Adams wrote for that show!! Hopefully he threw in a couple of his favored "myth and legend" storylines to liven things up a bit.

Joe,

Should we count Popeye's Hawaiian shirt in P&S as canonical? I have to admit that I think that it has become such for Dale, at least in certain venues. Donald, not so much, despite QUACK PACK.

Chris

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris:

Next thing, you’ll be telling me that Adams wrote a POPEYE AND SON where Popeye and Son help the Homer of myth achieve his legendary status -- with The Sea Hag serving as Circe!

Those of you who don’t know what we’re referring to – and there may be A FEW of you – please refer to Chris’s excellent review of the DUCKTALES episode “Home Sweet Homer”, written by Anthony Adams! …And one of my personal favorites of the series.

http://newsandviewsbychrisbarat.blogspot.com/2013/04/ducktales-retrospective-episode-30-home.html

scarecrow33 said...

I used to catch "Popeye and Son" on Sunday mornings on USA, and while I watched casually at first--it came right before or right after a favorite show that was my prime target at that time--I soon got caught up in some of the clever storylines and became a fan. So I can vouch for some enjoyable episodes of that show.

Here's another question--does anybody know the story behind the logo that opens and closes each of these Popeye cartoons? It appears to be Bellerophon riding Pegasus, but I can't figure out what the connection is with King Features, or why Bellerophon has that giant feather which is used to write the words "The End" after each cartoon. I may have wondered about it briefly as a kid, but I'm sure I accepted it as part of the Popeye cartoons. Now, there are some other King Features cartoons that use a crown logo--which makes sense, given the name. I think the Blondie live-action movies also use the crown logo. So I was just wondering about the use of the Bellerophon and Pegasus logo? Was it used only for the Popeye cartoons? And what's the connection with King Features? I've been looking on the internet but can't find any info on the various logos employed by KFS over the years. Anybody know about this stuff?

Joe Torcivia said...

Scarecrow:

I have no idea about the logo. And, yeah… I recall the other King series employing the “crown logo” too – so, yes, it becomes a mystery all the more. Anyone out there know?

Another question to grow out of this concerns the script-penmanship version of the words “The End”. It was like the one they used in Gold Key Comics – and at the end of certain theatrical cartoons, and even some movies. Is there any significance to that? Or is it just some coincidence of style and font? I’ve seen it too often, and in to many different places, to readily accept “coincidence”.

Also, nice to know that POPEYE AND SON had some worthwhile moments. I tend, and not without good reason, to write-off pretty much anything from that period that wasn’t DuckTales or Mighty Mouse the New Adventures. Being a Hanna-Barbera production of the period only reinforces that (perhaps unfair – but understandable) bias.

Pan Miluś said...

I'm a BIG,BIG, BIG fan of oryginal Segar comics. Those cartoons where "Meh". Some I enjoy, but most had horrible animation that made Hanna Barbera look like Disney. Still I like that they stick more to Segar in some stories.



If there ever was another Popeye live action movie who would you cast as Popeye, Whimpy, Bluto and Olive Oile (I would go with Megan Fox, but that's just me :P )

Joe Torcivia said...

Pan:

Once you’ve read them, I don‘t think it’s possible to NOT be a fan of the original Segar comics. Kinda like the way it is with Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson.

On the other hand, I think we’ll “agree to disagree” when it comes to calling the animation “Meh”. (Though I "call the animation out" for specific shortcomings, too.) But, at that point in the early 1960s, there was no other way it could be done. So, when faced with the possibility of animation dying-off like the “comedy short” or the newsreel – or continuing on in “limited” TV form, I’ll opt for the latter every time.

Especially because, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, it gave us some very worthwhile series, like Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, The Flintstones, Top Cat, The Jetsons, Rocky and his Friends, The Bullwinkle Show, Beany and Cecil, King Leonardo, Tennessee Tuxedo, Underdog, UPA’s Dick Tracy and Mister Magoo, Roger Ramjet – and this series of Popeye cartoons, along with the accompanying Snuffy Smith, Beetle Bailey, and Krazy Kat efforts from King Features.

Sure, individual opinions will vary on some of these but, strictly in terms of “all ages” entertainment value, these have it all over most of the product of the ‘70s and Pre-DuckTales (...and Mighty Mouse the New Adventures) ‘80s! (Shudder!)

I’m not sure I could cast a modern Popeye movie. I’d be happy to simply see a Segar/Sagendorf based quality animated series!

Pan Miluś said...

I think most these Popeye shorts had good/funny scripts and I'm happy then they used more of Segar characters (still, no Castor...)

I just found the limited animation in some painfull to watch but I understand they had little to no choise.

Pan Miluś said...

Example of what I'm talking about :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54N3c5wlQMI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hUe9YzuUGQ

BTW -> Brutus actually eats spinach in this one... I know there was example or two of Bluto using it Fleisher shorts but... still Odd... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zBkFS542ps
I actually think it would make an interesting fight if he would do this more often ;)