Entertainment Magazine: Film: Cartoons: Popeye

Popeye the Sailor Man

Popeye the Sailor Man has become world famous. Whether it be from his addiction to spinach or the lyrics to his song, people of all ages imitate, collect, and aspire to be like Popeye.

This muscle man was not even originally in the comic strip created by Elzie Segar. Elzie Segar, the cartoonist wrote Thimble Theatre in the late teens and early twenties. The first strip consisted of the characters Olive Oyl, Ham Gravy (Olive's first boyfriend), Cole and Nana Oyl (Olive's parents), and Castor Oyl.

Remembering Popeye’s Bumblebee (Bela Zaboly)!

On January 17, 2014 Popeye the Sailor turned 85 years old.  The sailor man with a passion for spinach and Olive Oyl made his debut in the Thimble Theatre comic strip created by E.C. Segar. 

For decades Segar’s work, including his successors Bud Sagendorf and Bobby London, have been reprinted for new generations to discover.  Although reprinted in comic book format during the 1940’s and 1950’s the work of one Popeye’s greatest cartoonists has been slighted: Bela “Bill” Zaboly. Continue reading about Bela Zaboly.

Popeye: Over 85 years old and still goin'

Popeye the SailormanBy Fred M. Grandinetti
Entertainment Magazine

For 85 years, generations have viewed the comedic actions of a unique figure in film history, Popeye the Sailor man. The spinach-eating swab was created for the "Thimble Theatre" comic strip in 1929 by E.C. Segar.

Despite his success in the funnies, more people know of the character from his appearances in over 500 animated cartoons produced for both motion pictures and television.

The Fleischer Studios, unlike other cartoon studios during the early 1930's, illustrated the darker, meaner streets of New York City. "Betty Boop" was born from that era and Max Fleischer who was a great fan of "Thimble Theatre," plucked Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto from the funny papers putting each into one animated film.

On July 14th, 1933, the comic strip trio appeared in one of the Betty Boop entries titled, "Popeye the Sailor."

Betty was used just briefly on screen as the film was designed to see if the sailor, who was a big hit with depression era audiences in newspapers, could translate that popularity to the big screen. Popeye passed the test and his own series began three months later.

The shadows, texture, the sub-vocal mutterings were staples of the Fleischer cartoons. There was more attention to detail in one Popeye cartoon than even in the best Disney animated production.

The Fleischers made full use of the black and white spectrum, using gray tones more effectively than anyone else in history. Many of the cartoons featured three-dimensional backgrounds, which made for astounding looking backdrops.

For this reason, even the earliest Popeye cartoons remain as fresh and vibrant today. The fact that the black and white "Popeye" series continues to be aired on television, with a huge following, is a testament to the work of the Fleischer Studios.

Popeye the Sailor ManMae Questel, one of the actresses who voiced Betty Boop, handled Olive Oyl's vocals.

Gus Wickie was famous for his hearty rendition of Fleischer's Bluto.

William ("Red Pepper Sam") Costello was the original choice for Popeye. When success went to Costello's head he was fired and replaced by the more tender sounding vocals of Jack Mercer. Mercer would go on to voice the character for the next 40 years with his under-the-breath mutterings bringing a greater personality to the character.

The Fleischer Popeyes were one of the most faithful adaptations of characters being transferred to animation from the comic strip.

Segar's other fanciful creations also made the transition to film; J. Wellington Wimpy, the hamburger eater, Eugene the Jeep, the magical creature from the 4th dimension, Swee'pea, Popeye's adopted son, found on the doorstep in 1933 and Poopdeck Pappy, Popeye's ol' goat of a father.

In 1936, Popeye would star in the first of three two-reel color animated cartoons, "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor."

This cartoon, featuring dazzling three dimensional backgrounds, was often billed along with the theatre's main attraction. Popeye's other two-reel cartoons would involve battles with Ali Baba and a Wizard seeking Aladdin's lamp.

When the Fleischer Studios moved to Florida in 1938 and the Popeye films took on a brighter look, they were still Paramount Pictures (who funded the Fleischer Studios) number one short subject series.

However by 1942, the Fleischer Studios was deeply in debt to Paramount Pictures due to the studios mishandling of the Fleischer's second animated feature film, "Mr. Bug Goes To Town."

Paramount closed the studio in Florida, moved it back to New York and renamed it Famous Studios.

Though Famous continued to film the series in black and white the cartoons would switch to color by the end of 1943.

Continued reading on next page...


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Popeye DVD's

Popeye (1980)
Robin Williams

This musical fantasy features the famous comic strip character who comes to life and tries to find his real father. Studio: Paramount Home Video Release Date: 08/22/2006 Starring: Robin Williams Shelley Duvall Run time: 113 minutes Rating: Pg Director: Robert Altman. Nothing interests filmmaker Robert Altman more than a contained culture that mixes bare humanity with local eccentricity (think of his M*A*S*H and Nashville). So Altman's Popeye (1980), based on the old comic strip, works best as a portrait of a busy, cluttered, cartoonish town called Sweethaven. But it is much less successful as a comprehensible story about the famous sailor with massive forearms and a relationship with Olive Oyl (Shelley Duvall). Robin Williams plays Popeye with his usual brilliance for mimicry, Paul Dooley makes a credible Wimpy, and Paul L. Smith makes an impression as the oversized bully, Bluto. But this strange, disastrous film never becomes more than an expensive workshop airing out Altmanesque themes. --Tom Keogh.

Actors: Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall, Ray Walston, Paul Dooley, Paul L. Smith
Directors: Robert Altman
Writers: E.C. Segar, Jules Feiffer
Producers: C.O. Erickson, Robert Evans, Scott Bushnell
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: June 24, 2003
Run Time: 114 minutes

Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938, Vol. 1 DVD
Popeye the Sailor, 1938-1940, Vol. 2 DVD
Popeye the Sailor: 1941-1943, Vol. 3 DVD
Giant 600 Cartoon Pack DVD

Popeye Books

Popeye: An Illustrated Cultural History

by Fred M. Grandinetti (Author)

It’s a rare comic character who can make audiences laugh for well over half a century—but then again, it’s a pretty rare cartoon hero who can boast of forearms thicker than his waist, who can down a can of spinach in a single gulp, or who generally faces the world with one eye squinted completely shut.

When E.C. Segar’s gruff but lovable sailor man first tooted his pipe to the public on January 7, 1929, it was not in the animated cartoon format for which he is best known today (and which would become the longest running series in film history). Instead it was on the comics page of the New York Journal, as Segar’s Thimble Theatre strip. Over the decades to come, Popeye was to appear on radio, television, stage, and even in a live-action feature film.

This comprehensive and lavishly illustrated history is a thoroughly updated and revised edition of the highly acclaimed 1994 work. Animated series and films are examined, noting the different directions each studio took and the changing character designs of the Popeye family. Popeye in other media—comics, books, radio, and a stage play—is thoroughly covered, as are Robert Altman’s 1980 live-action film, and Popeye memorabilia.

Paperback: 337 pages
Publisher: McFarland & Company; 2 Sub edition (July 2004)

Popeye Books by by E.C. Segar

Elzie Chrisler Segar, Popeye's creator, was born in 1894 and died in 1938. His work was showcased in the landmark "Masters of American Comics" exhibition at the Hammer and MOCA museums in Los Angeles in 2006.

Popeye Vol. 1: "I Yam What I Yam"
Popeye Vol. 2: "Well Blow Me Down!"
Popeye Vol. 3: "Let's You and Him Fight!"