1957, released theatrically
Features Syndicate (various studios)
opeye began his animated career in
much the same way he originated on the printed page - as a
secondary character whose popularity pushed him into a lead
role. He first appeared in the King Features newspaper strip,
Thimble Theatre, in 1929. The strip was already ten years old by
that time, but Popeye became the featured character shortly
after he was written in. Similarly, a positive reception
following his debut animated performance in the 1933 Betty Boop
short Popeye The Sailor quickly lead to his own
self-titled series of short theatrical films, beginning in 1933
with I Yam What I Yam.
Popeye was a middle-aged, workin'
class sailor with thinning hair who smoked a corncob pipe. His
demeanor was aptly exemplified in the titles of his film shorts,
which were consistently formed of horrikibly misspelled words n'
poor grammers. He dated Olive Oyl, a gangly and sometimes fickle
girlfriend who made Popeye work for her affections. She was not
above taking an interest in other men, at times even falling for
Popeye's chronic nemesis Bluto, a large, brutish bully who fit
perfectly into whatever role was required for the antagonist of
the story. Popeye was a brave and self-assured sailor, but his
struggles with Bluto, or whatever disaster he was facing,
usually got the best of him until near the end of each film,
when he ate from a can of spinach to gain a surge of strength.
With his extra strength he was able to perform fantastic feats
that allowed him to quickly and easily overcome his immediate
problems or foe.
Several secondary characters
(most being versions of characters taken from the newspaper
strip) appeared from time to time throughout
the series. Wimpy was a portly fellow who appeared in a
variety of roles. One thing that never changed was his love
of hamburgers, which he enjoyed to such a degree that he
became distracted and absent-minded about everything else. Swee'Pea was an infant who was sometimes cared for by Olive
Oyl (no real explanation was given in regards to their
relationship). Because of his curiosity and restlessness,
Swee'Pea was prone to wandering off and getting into
hazardous circumstances that Popeye had to rescue him from.
Occasionally Popeye also had to care for his own nephews - a
set of four rambunctious and untiring quadruplets by the
names of Peepeye, Poopeye, Pipeye and Pupeye. Popeye was
sometimes helped by a magical, pet dog named Eugene The
Jeep, who could appear and disappear at will. Depending on
the cartoon, he also had abilities like phasing through
solid objects or manipulating his tail into a useful shape.
Poopdeck Pappy was Popeye's ninety-nine year old father, who
caused Popeye endless consternation by living life to the
fullest, assuming the behavior and engaging in the
activities of a much younger man.
In 1941, with the United Stated
edging closer to getting involved in the second World War,
Popeye joined the U.S. Navy and - beginning in the short The
Mighty Navy - was outfitted with a white Navy uniform in
place of his original dark shirt and brimmed mariner cap. With a
few exceptions, the new uniform remained Popeye's mode of dress
throughout the TV cartoons of the 1960's.
Other than the three, 16 to 21
minute, two-reeler specials Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the
Sailor (1936), Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves
(1937), and Popeye Meets Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp
(1939), Popeye shorts were made in black & white until color was
introduced on a standard basis in 1943, beginning with the short
Her Honor, the Mare. Popeye theatrical shorts continued
to be made by Famous Studios/Paramount until 1957.
Owning the rights to the
characters, King Features Syndicate commissioned a number of
different studios to produce new Popeye cartoons for syndication
beginning in 1960. These cartoons were made for television, but
they continued in the tradition of the theatrical shorts,
keeping the stories between five and six minutes in length. 220
cartoons were produced in two years, and to facilitate costs and
speed production the animation was greatly simplified in
comparison to the theatrical shorts. A majority of the same
characters were used, but believing Paramount Pictures owned the
rights to the Bluto character, a near duplicate was created for
the KFS cartoons by the name of Brutus. There was very little
difference between the two characters. The series remained in
syndication from 1960-62.
Popeye series include The All New Popeye Hour (1978), The Popeye
and Olive Comedy Show (1981), and Popeye and Son (1987).