Popeye: Hits And Missiles


I mentioned last week the first of the 1960s run of King Features-commissioned Popeye cartoons, “Hits and Missiles”, which was produced by Paramount Pictures Cartoon Studios, which had been Famous Cartoon Studios and before that Fleischer Studios, who made all the great Popeye cartoons that animation fans speak of in reverential whispers. I thought, why not discuss this one, which I had characterized as “not too bad”.

The obvious thing to say about this is: it’s cheap. You can really see the budget in the editing, both in its sluggishness and how many inset shots are of a character standing by himself or herself on a featureless background, or when the walk cycle shows no evidence of getting out of the cycle. Or how there’s almost as many as three people doing all the voices (and you can really hear the different recording sessions they were using). Or how dialogue (especially between Popeye and the Big Cheese once Popeye breaks out of jail) doesn’t actually quite flow. Besides the things obviously being laid in for reuse (isolated characters on featureless backgrounds) there’s stuff that was recycled from earlier, better cartoons; even the premise of Popeye accidentally blasted into space was done before, in Popeye’s “Rocket To Mars”. I could swear a Popeye cartoon had done the gag about a rocket punching a hole in the Big Dipper, but can’t think which one (it’s not “Popeye, The Ace Of Space”), and even if they didn’t, someone had.

And yet there’s some good stuff in it. First, throwing Popeye into space is a sensible modernization of the “send Popeye on a fantastic voyage” motif that generates so many of his best stories. The mountain of Swiss cheese that Popeye and Olive fall through is a good sequence, and would make a great amusement park ride. And the cartoon throws in little bits of business that are amusing even when they serve no role in the plot, like Wimpy’s under-the-hat frying pan, or Olive Oyl’s little makeup table. Remove them and, yeah, you’d have to get the rocket accidentally launched slightly differently, but Olive’s makeup table is there just as an amusing throwaway gag. Considering they’d have been justified just showing the Big Cheese and Popeye talking instead, it’s good they showed a gag. It’s an attempt to fill the cartoon with funny pictures.

The overall cartoon is not great, no; but compared to the lethargic efforts Famous Studios was putting out a couple years before such as “Popeye For President” or “Parlez Voo Woo”? The cartoon suggests that the TV run of Popeye might be decent.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

8 thoughts on “Popeye: Hits And Missiles”

    1. Well, nothing’s going to be as good as the Fleischer Studios at their best, at least not in this style of cartoon. But, for the budget and production constraints that this particular series was under it’s not doing badly.

      We’re in a pretty good era of animation right now, although the styles that are popular are ones that would probably not treat Popeye well at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. And it’d probably be CGI. And, look, I don’t mind CGI as some of it can be quite beautiful, but does EVERYTHING have to be in that style? I think that’s the part of it that depresses me. So glad that there are the occasional things like Adventure Time out there, as well as most of Japan’s output. I like actual DRAWN things too, y’know? Anyhoo, thanks for the trip down memory lane with Popeye and Krazy Kat. Very very cool. 🙂

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