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VIDEO: Popeye (2014): How It Should Be Done

With Hotel Transylvania director Genndy Tartakovsky onboard to direct a new CGI adaptation of the popular sailor man, Joey takes a look at how it should be done!

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  • jeffersonblackburn

    Standard comic strip fare? Regular comic strip follies? As a huge Popeye geek (both the original comic as well as the classic cartoons), I beg to differ. The stories that E.C. Segar came up for “Thimble Theatre” were definately not standard fare. There were plenty of twists and turns, making it more adventure strip than comic strip. Segar has even been described as a better storyteller than a cartoonist.

    Some of the stories would go on for weeks, even months. “Plunder Island” (considered one of the best of the Segar stories), for instance, was a Sunday continuity that lasted 8 months; there’s a morbid moment in that story where Wimpy grinds several lions into hamburgers! The 1932 continuity, “The Eighth Sea”, was the story that introduced Bluto (who was only meant to be a throwaway character, very much like Popeye was a few years earlier). Their first fight would last 2 weeks worth of comic strips, ending with Popeye using his “twisker” punch.

    Sure, there’s humor a plenty, but there were times that the stakes were high. In fact, during the course of Popeye’s first appearance, he was shot several times! He then rubbed the feathers of a magical bird which gave him super strength to beat up the would-be assassin. Spinach hadn’t even come in the equation yet; but when it did, he rarely used it in the strip. It was the animated shorts that made spinach a regular thing in the Popeye universe, the part that every fan looks forward to, once you start hearing the first few notes of the theme song. 

    And there’s so many characters from the strip that can be used for this new movie to go along with Popeye, Olive, Bluto, Poopdeck Pappy, and Wimpy. There’s the Sea Hag, George Geezil, Toar, Alice the Goon, King Blozo, Eugene the Jeep, Castor Oyl, Nana Oyl, Cole Oyl, Ham Gravy, and of course, Swee’Pea. I do agree that Popeye’s nephews don’t need to be in this movie (I don’t hate them, though, one of my favorite Popeye cartoons features them).

    Sorry I got carried away, but I feel that the original stories by Segar are worth a look at. I know that they are all available in 6 hardcover book collections by Fantagraphics. I only got the first and third volumes, unfortunately. Hopefully, I’ll get the rest, especially volume 4, which contains the “Plunder Island” story I mentioned.

    I do enjoy your videos, by the way. I just wanted to clear things up about the original strip, which was definately not your usual, mundane, “gag-a-day” comic strip. I look forward to your future videos.

    • Joseph Tedesco

      It’s fair! I encourage people to comment even if I’m wrong. I’m just not a fan of the strip by comparison to the shorts. I’ve picked up one of the collections from my local library before putting this video together. However I may give it one more shot 😉 

      I’d imagine fantagraphics publishing them. They also publish the Mickey Mouse comics by Floyd Gottfredson (I know, i’m so mainstream :P). 

      • jeffersonblackburn

        It’s cool. You know, I’ve been wanting to check out those Mickey comics myself. It’s interesting that in all these comic strips how all these characters are often more fleshed out. A comic strip has the luxury of TIME unlike a cartoon short. Of course, this is why spinach became such a major part of the shorts; after all, you need a climax and a quick resolution.

        Mickey is seen by many today as a bland corporate symbol, but he’s a completely different creature in those stories. I mean, he can be a total badass sometimes! Donald Duck is another example; because it’s a print medium, he’s given a chance to be more articulate. Sometimes he’s very industrious, other times, he’s more of a blowhard and rather incompentent; still, he maintains the basic aspect of his familiar personality. Popeye wasn’t exactly a model citizen when introduced in 1929. He drinks, gambles, breaks the law, and picks fights for no reason. Once he became a hit with kids, he was gradually turned into the more likable hero that we all know and love: a tough guy with a heart of gold.

        • Joseph Tedesco

          I agree! The earlier cartoons/comics got away with alot before the comics code/hays code. My biggest worry (which I didn’t mention) was that it will be toned down. However Genndy mentioned that there’s alot of visual action he wants to capture which is great because he’s made some great action-animations. 

          • jeffersonblackburn

            I personally trust Genndy to be true to the source material. If anything, I’ll be one happy man if these 4 things happen:

            1. He gets to be a badass; someone who actually gets to throw punches! Even though I have enjoyed the various incarnations of the sailor that we’ve been given in the past 80 years, when was the last time we saw him punch a bad guy (well, besides the classic arcade game)?

            2. He needs to toot his pipe. Even though I’m don’t smoke myself and I think it’s a disgusting habit, I think it’s so stupid that people don’t want him to smoke his pipe (damn you, political correctness!!). Seeing him toot his pipe after he sings his theme song is a highlight and a great way to end a cartoon…or a movie 🙂

            3. He needs to do the under-the-breath mumblings. Once again, another highlight of the cartoons. And we have the late Jack Mercer to thank for that. Both Robin Williams and Billy West did a great job of recreating that in recent years.

            4. Keep out modern day references. I definately don’t want to hear Popeye talking about reality TV!!!

            Will these requests be fulfilled? Well, I guess we’ll have to wait until 2014….

    • Muthsarah

      Though I grew up knowing something of Popeye, and even seeing some of the cartoons, I never really knew much about the comics or their universe (I wasn’t curious about old stuff as a kid).  It was a treat reading your geeking out about something familiar, yet mostly unknown to me, especially since I’m now curious to read up on the Golden Age of Comics.  But anything popular back in the 30s and 40s (or before) is going to be interesting to me.  You wouldn’t happen to have a blog where you go more in-depth, do ya?

      As for the film itself, given the costs involved in making an animated movie and promoting it to a kids’ audience (which is still where the industry and audience’s mindsets are stuck), I can’t be too pessimistic about what kinds of changes they’re gonna make, and what former Disney Channel star they’d rope in (OMG, Popeye’s got a new, hip niece from L.A.!) in order to be able to sell the idea of a movie based on an 80-year-old cartoon character.  If they keep the action back in the 30s, though, I’ll be there opening weekend.

      • jeffersonblackburn

        Yeah, it was a bit of a geeking out, wasn’t it? Couldn’t help it, though. Popeye is one of my all-time favorite characters, and I get really passionate when I talk about him. For most of the 32 years I’ve been alive, he’s one of the those characters I strongly have connected to. He was the first character I taught myself how to draw (both the cartoons and the comic strip were heavy influences in my drawing style).

        Unfortunately, no I do not have a blog. I’ve thought about doing that or my own web series, but currently I don’t have the money or the equipment to do that. I have an idea of what I would like to do, but I’m not sharing it here because I don’t want anyone to steal the idea, or worse, shoot down the idea.

        I do suggest the following sites for all things Popeye….

        http://www.popeye.com

        http://www.popeyepicnic.com  -this website holds a special event that takes place in Chester, Illinois (the official “home of Popeye”; I hope to go there someday).

        http://www.mtcnet.net/~bierly/popeye.htm  -this website was created by a Popeye geek like yours truly. I traded some cartoons with him over 10 years ago…he’s good people.

        Hope this helps!!!

        • Joseph Tedesco

          I agree on the drawing bit! Even though the characters were simple designs, they were very dynamic and can help with making easy and effective poses! 

  • Dennis_Fischer

    For the most part, Joey, I agree with you, but I do take small issue with a few of your comments.  First, you don’t really give enough credit to Seegar’s Thimble Theater, the comic strip that Popeye sprang from, which was incredibly inventive (introducing such characters as J. Wellington Wimpy, Bluto, Alice the Good, and the Sea Hag as well), unlike the duller, later Popeye strip which was crafted by other hands for King Features. 

    Second, Jack Mercer was NOT spouting gibberish with his sotto voce mutterings, which were often quite funny self-commentary on whatever predicament Popeye happened to find himself in, as well as his famous “I yam what I yam” philosophy.

    Third, all the Fleischer Popeye shorts were theatrical releases–I think you meant to point out the multiplane animation in their color, two-reel superproductions, POPEYE MEETS SINDBAD THE SAILER and POPEYE AND THE 40 THIEVES, which definitely were two of the greatest Popeye cartoons ever made. (I do agree 100% that the story would be best served by an action-adventure type story). 

    Also, though the Fleischer SUPERMAN shorts were great, the opening theme and narration actually originated with the radio adventures of Superman, which the Fleischers wisely illustrated and maintained, utilizing the voice of the radio Superman for the animated series.

    Lastly, great as Robin Williams can be, he has already done riffs about how POPEYE the film didn’t wind up helping his career. He might prove hard to persuade unless someone backs in the proverbial truckful of money.

    • Joseph Tedesco

      Thank you for commenting!

      You’re right about the multi-plane being used in “Popeye Meets Sinbad” which wasn’t the typical 6-minute format. Also, I hope I wasn’t implying it was simply gibberish. When I was writing the script for this one, I tend to keep it short. I would have added that it gave Popeye character, but I kept it as it is for video flow.

      Now about Robin Williams… I think a decent paycheck can persuade anybody to do anything, but that’s just me 😉

  • Another voice acting suggestion could be John DiMaggio as Bluto. He just seems to have that gruff sort of voice that would suit a big silly hardcase like him. Other than that, we can only guess. Our visions aren’t Genndy’s and he could pull something out from the drawing board that differs greatly from our expectations. It could be similar but it’s only our own speculation.

    • Joseph Tedesco

      Right! It’s still fun to assume though… 🙂

      I can definitely see John DiMaggio play Bluto! 

  • $36060516

    One thing I find interesting about this is that Stephen DeStefano, the comic book artist and animator who has been in charge of drawing Popeye licensing artwork for years for King Features, to keep his style in line with the classic character, has also for years collaborated with Tartakovsky on cartoons like Sym-Bionic Titan.  Seems like it’s more than a coincidence.  Here is an interview with him where you can see some examples of DVD covers he’s drawn:  http://fullecirclestuff.blogspot.com/2010/07/clean-shaven-man-popeye-conversation.html

    I think we could trust the cartoon to be faithful to the original if Tartakovsky was completely in charge of all decisions.  The area where iffyness enters the picture is in how much interference the studio executives make.  They are going to be scared of keeping it too “old fashioned” and want to make sure that today’s kids relate to it.  So that’s where the scary decisions such as pop-and-locking Popeye with an iPhone might enter in.

    • Joseph Tedesco

      We can only hope no apple product isn’t placed in Popeye’s hands… :-/

      There’s no doubt that an executive will come in to make some not-so stellar choices. However listening to interviews with Tarakovsky before and after “Hotel Transylvania” suggest that the execs. have faith in him, even with making a hand-drawn Samaurai Jack film.

      Thanks for the interview! I’ve followed DeStefano’s work since he comments a lot on cartoonbrew.com, but this one’s new to me!

  • I am unbelievably psyched for Popeye. I’m a great lover of classic animation, the Fleischer studio produced many of my favorites (their Superman cartoons were my first exposure to the character).  But more importantly I am a die hard Genndy Tartokovsky fan. So for me, the announcement that he was making a Popeye movie was like the invention of Reese’s all over again.

    I love your idea of reusing the practical sets technique. Genndy draws much of his style & inspiration from classic animators like Tex Avery & Bob Clampett, so that’s something he would almost definitely love to try. The man is an innovator and loves to experiment.

    • Joseph Tedesco

      I agree! My favorite fleisher’s short is between “Minnie the Moocher” and “Snow White” which both feature Cab Calloway. “Popeye meets Sinbad” is truly a cinematic experience, and it’s worth seeing on film or video. 🙂

  • Thomas Stockel

    Thanks for letting me know about this, Joey.  I had no idea they had a Popeye movie in the works.  I remember seeing the live action movie as a kid and getting a kick out of it, but it hasn’t really aged all that well for me.  Still I think you are right in that Robin nailed the role perfectly.  Hell, Shelley DuVall was scarily on target for Olive Oyl.

    With Gennedy in charge I am cautiously optimistic, but damn it the movie had better be violent as hell.  I want a PG-13 rating slapped on it!

    • Joseph Tedesco

      I would love to see a PG-13 rating on Popeye, however I think they’ll end up giving it the PG rating. Better than the G rating in my opinion.

      • Thomas Stockel

         Yeah, I guess we gotta take what we can get.  And heck, The Incredibles and Megamind were PG and they were kinda violent.  I guess PG won’t be so bad.

  • The_Stig

    CGI Popeye? I’ll pass. I’d have had hope for Tartakovsky if he didn’t piss away all his Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Lab and Clone Wars credibility with that piece of cockadookie Hotel Transylvania.

    • Joseph Tedesco

      I have faith. May be a difference in opinion, but I enjoyed “Hotel Transylvania.” Call it a guilty pleasure, but it’s still fun to watch a modern-day version of the Monster Mash. That and i’m a sucker for trendy pop-music… 😛

      BTW, Hotel Transylvania and Popeye are the movies Genndy made/making as part of a deal to make a third movie of his choice (which he wants to use to make a hand-drawn Samaurai Jack film).

      • Sofie Liv

         A cinematic hand drawn Samurai Jack film? .. no.. that can’t be for real.. no.

        Hollywood would never have enough balls or integregraty to do that!

        Dude, if that movie really comes out, count me one of the first ticket buyers! that would be astoundingly amazing O.O

        And btw… yeah, except for some minor issues. (A true loves zink and you are soul-mates? really? I hate stuff like that.)
        This is a movie I myself would count as a guilty pleasure as well, it’s really vibrant and alive, and it’s interesting seeing his style translate like that to a feature animated movie, I actually think the sequel has a good chance of becoming a huge improvement.

        • The_Stig

          *ears perk up* Cinematic hand-drawn Samurai Jack? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

          Genndy, you crafty son of a bitch.

        • Joseph Tedesco

          Well here’s the interview where he discusses it: http://www.avclub.com/articles/genndy-tartakovsky-on-helming-hotel-transylvania-p,85854/ Another interview which was a video review I can’t seem to find where he mentions making it hand-drawn. Problems with arise, but I like the direction he’s heading!

  • Torgeaux

    I have an idea  to do one of these reviews and be part of the crew.  You are all doing finewok and I’d like to try it.  I  lfor a life of being in great stacts of books  acome over and instanttlu Ca dragon. SorryMy point has gotten lost again, my mind went on vacation in South Beach mostly for an Hawaian ice.  I could se me there conecting with allsorts of wonderful peoplek, but the people I was with never seemed to get the fun of here the wereat.   I knelldld w in my heart of hearts I wou

    • MichaelANovelli

      Go for it!  🙂

  • Leonard Maltin

    It would have been wonderful to hear Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin to star as the voices of Popeye and his girlfriend Olive Oil to do them both respectful justice if the script is right.

  • Inverse

    I completely disagree on Robin Williams for Popeye, and for one simple, easy reason.

    Billy West already exists.

    He does the voice currently, and does it pretty much exactly like the original Fleshiers popeye actors (there was two of them) did, so there’s honestly no reason to ever go for anyone else.

    In fact, I can almost perfectly guarantee that Billy West WILL be playing Popeye in the new film, no matter what anyone else thinks. I’m absolutely positive that he’s already being cast, and is probably already recording. So, it’s really a moot point, anyway.

    • Joseph Tedesco

      Well find out as soon as it’s out. Besides, what’s wrong with speculation? 🙂

  • R.I.P. Robin Williams. 🙁

    Admittedly I haven’t seen many of his roles of the past few years, but watching your video definitely had that 12 year-old in me hoping and looking forward to being entertained again by the master himself.

    • Joseph Patrick

      Oh boy… you’re right. Another great opportunity we won’t get to see. I still think he captured the spirit well of the character. He was like an unofficial ambassador to animation, bridging the gap between niche and mainstream. Not only did his performance as the Genie help promote more big-name stars to work in animation, but worked with Chuck Jones, included anime references in his movies and even promoted independent animation. Truly, he will be missed 🙁

    • Muthsarah

      If you’re curious about his more recent work, check out “World’s Greatest Dad”. It’s pretty damn dark (so prolly not the best choice if you’re looking for Williams to make you smile), but it’s easily the best movie Williams has done in his final decade, and it flew WAY under the radar.

      To me, Williams was always a much better dramatic actor in movies; he’s brilliant with his own material, but too often, studios tried to use him to sell their own schlock. For comedies, all I can really recommend is The Birdcage, if you’ve somehow never seen it. Top Three best comedies of the 90s.

      • Thanks for the recommends. 🙂

        I’ve always enjoyed Williams’ dramatic roles like in Good Will Hunting, etc. Some have since inferred he was in fact injecting a lot of his personal pain into those characters.

        • Muthsarah

          So….you HAVEN’T seen “The Birdcage”? I’m gonna hafta assume that from your comment. My apologies if you have.

          But….I’m gonna go ahead and offer MY HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. Trademark. PLEASE see the movie, if you haven’t already. Promise me you’ll watch it soon. It’s his best comedic movie, and a landmark film of the decade. If it’s dated, it’s dated in only the best of ways – meaning that it’s less-than-fully-relevant today only because the world has gotten better and thus the “very serious” issues raised just aren’t so critical today as they were when it was released. It’s very much a movie of its time. But Williams is both funny and (again) even better when he’s serious. It’s…there’s…just nothing significantly flawed about the film. It’s a classic comedy in the purest sense. TCM will be running it regularly some day.

          And, yeah, the sad clown is such a common…thing with comedians. I’ve gathered that the people who try hardest to make us laugh are the ones who most desperately want to laugh the hardest themselves, but can’t figure out how. To me, the desire to express one’s unrequited love outwardly, even while dealing with unquenchable demons, is just one of the most awesomely endearing qualities a person can have. And that was how I’ve always viewed Robin, ever since I first heard about his issues. It may sound callous, but even though I only heard of his death today, and even though I’ve known of him and loved his work since I was a child, I didn’t feel too broken-up over the news. I know he had a hard time with life, and part of me feels happy that he doesn’t have to deal with his demons anymore, whereas we still get to enjoy all of the fruits of his labor, which he clearly poured his heart and soul into, for decades. His suffering is over, but our enjoyment will live on. The happy, manic, genius Robin will outlive the troubled one that only he truly knew. Again, I hope that doesn’t come off as unfeeling; I don’t mean to imply such a thing.

          • Joseph Patrick

            “Demons” might be a misnomer when talking about depression. Part of the prevention comes from speaking out about it, and referring to it as demons is part of the stigma that can lead to suicide. It’s important, since of all the mental illness, depression is not only the most common and treatable, but also the closest linked to death. Comedians who commit suicide can be for a number of reasons beyond compensating for the happiness they project towards others. I would know as someone whose family member was both a comedian and severely depressed. What we can do now is prevent the stigma by being open to our emotions and dropping the stigma of admitting to being depressed.

          • Muthsarah

            I get that. But he also had long-term problems with cocaine and alcohol addiction. Those are the ones I was thinking about. I didn’t know until very recently that he had depression as well (and even then, I don’t know exactly how his depression worked), but he was the first celebrity whose addiction I can remember hearing about, in a “mom, what’s cocaine?” kinda way.

          • No, haven’t seen The Birdcage. Will check it out. 🙂

            I understand; everyone grieves in their own way.

          • Muthsarah

            And I just rented The Fisher King. Dunno whether I’ll laugh or cry, but I’m sure I’ll feel something ‘cuz of Robin.

            Birdcage is on Netflix, BTW, in case you have it.