Popeye The Sailor:
1941-1943 – Volume Three (Warner DVD)
Sound: C+ Extras: B Shorts: A-
volume of the black and white Popeye
theatrical shorts involves the transition of production from the Fleischer
Studios to Famous Studios. Paramount
Pictures took over Fleischer Studios in 1942. Calling their animation studio, Famous
Studios, production was continued on the profitable "Popeye" series.
The artwork on this set is outstanding as cartoonist, Stephen DeStefano was finally
allowed to produced original artwork as opposed to stock material. The Fleischer theatrical cartoons spotlight
the antics of Popeye's father, Poopdeck Pappy in four films. The
recurring theme of Popeye becoming the victim of the animal kingdom is introduced
with "Flies Ain't Human"
(though in this case it's the insect community). This theme is revived in
"I'll Never Crow Again",
"The Hungry Goat" and
Many of the same personnel involved with the production of the Fleischer cartoons
were used in the Famous Studios films. There's no real noticeable change
in animation style. The change is reflected in the cartoons directed by
Gordon experimented with Popeye turning the
character into a victim most notably in "The Hungry Goat" and "Happy
Birthdaze" totally stepping out of character, Popeye shoots Shorty (in
darkness) at the conclusion of "Happy
Birthdaze". Shorty would
survive popping up in two more cartoons.
As a child watching these films I wasn't happy Popeye was getting beaten up. Watching as an adult, it's apparent
experimentation was going on in the early Famous Studios films. Another change in direction was the character
designs for both Popeye and Bluto. The pair wore Navy whites and were
seen as 'real' sailors serving on a ship. Popeye starred in more patriotic
themed cartoons than any other animated character of this period.
"Seein' Red, White N' Blue"
is a funny and plain goofy cartoon where Popeye and Bluto consume spinach to
fend off an invasion of Japanese spies. Popeye's fist later slams into The
Emperor of Japan and Adolph Hitler!
It was commented on this set the World War II films are "hard to get through"
but these cartoons were originally made to boost morale in the United States.
They are just as enjoyable as Popeye's adventures on the home front. As with the previous two volumes the same
people tend to be used as commentators despite New Wave's claim they
interviewed 'a lot' of people for the Popeye sets.
The Popumentaries on Popeye's Navy career and his nephews are fine but offer little
one can't find in any Popeye history book including "Popeye: An Illustrated Cultural History" (McFarland, 2004) or
"Jack Mercer, He Yam What He Yam,
the Voice of Popeye" (BearManor Media, 2007).
The look at Myron Waldman's career was well done but he is better known for his
work on "Betty Boop", Famous Studios theatrical cartoons and later
television cartoons than the few Popeye films he was involved with.
Other features on this set include "Forging the Frame: The Roots of Animation,
1921-1930 and "Finding His Voice", a presentation from 1929.
The film and audio transfers are excellent when considering the age of the cartoons. They look just as good when aired on The
Cartoon Network's "The Popeye Show"
a few years back.
Many animation critics tend to think Popeye's animation career went downhill with
the Famous Studios cartoons. The films on this volume indicate, in this
reviewer's mind, that's not the case. Popeye became more streamlined in
visual style and the plots unpredictable and entertaining.
For more Popeye
coverage, try these links:
Volume One DVD set
Volume Two DVD set
- Fred M.