Popeye Makeover

(Above: ‘Popeye’s Island Adventures.’ Source: YouTube screenshot)

The cartoon sailor with the spinach addiction has gone through numerous reboots since his 1933 big screen debut in Popeye the Sailor.

Popeye’s latest incarnation is a YouTube series called Popeye’s Island Adventures. This time he runs a rooftop spinach garden with Olive Oyl (“Olive Garden”?) and furry friend Eugene the Jeep. Arch villain Bluto is back, but his goal now is to whisk away the spinach, not Olive Oyl.

This Popeye is animated for our times. For instance, he has given up his pipe – he doesn’t even vape – but does carry a pennywhistle to put an exclamation point on his adventures.

Also, Popeye and friends don’t talk. They grunt, groan, gasp, guffaw and make other noises, accompanied by sound effects, that require no translation.

Finally, the shorts themselves are just two minutes long, making them easily snackable for young viewers. The new series is produced by WildBrain, a company that specializes in producing dialogue-free videos for pre-school audiences.

Below is episode one. The remaining 24 episodes will drop in 2019, the 90th anniversary of Popeye’s syndicated comic strip.

Popeye cartoons of recent vintage are a far cry from the 1930s’ Paramount theatrical series produced by the Fleischer Brothers. The original screen Popeye, voiced first by William Costello then Jack Mercer, appealed to audiences of all ages with clever visuals and puns. Most shorts were in black and white, but managed to achieve a 3D background effect despite the confines of a 2D cell. In many ways, the 80-year-old films are superior to the versions that followed decades later.

An extensive collection of cartoons from that era are available only on DVD, but you can find a few to stream on Amazon Prime in a compilation called Popeye: 33 Cartoon Classics.

In addition, individual shorts can be found on YouTube.

Here, for example, is Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor (1936). In this case, Paramount splurged on a full-color short that runs a rather lengthy 16 minutes, and it’s a classic:

About Larry Greenberg

A former local beat reporter and film critic, co-founder Lawrence Greenberg has more than 25 years’ experience as a writer and public relations executive.

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