Popeye: Crystal Ball Brawl


And to wrap up my tour of the 1960s King Features mass-produced Popeye cartoons, here’s one made by Larry Harmon Pictures, Crystal Ball Brawl. I concede it’s not a very good cartoon, although it does capture an aspect of the original comic strips pretty well: a triggering incident offers the chance for riches and the characters besides Popeye start scheming to use it. The scheming doesn’t get very far — only Wimpy and Bluto get in on the villainy — but it does at least evoke how in the comic strip pretty much all the humans except Popeye have huge swaths of rotten in them.

If the name “Larry Harmon” nags at your mind it’s because you’re just about to place him as Bozo The Clown. Larry Harmon Pictures, or Larry Harmon Studios, was formed to animate Bozo the Clown, and the studio did work for Popeye, like everyone did, as well as animation for Dick Tracy and Mister Magoo. I can’t find much more information about it; the studio didn’t last long. The animation, featuring a pretty static set of poses with long camera pans in place of motion and a soundtrack that wanders in indifferent parallel to the action, doesn’t really commend itself like the work of some of the studios here.

And yet … look at that action and at the credited artists, particularly Hal Sutherland and Lou Scheimer. They would, after the closing of Larry Harmon pictures, create Filmation, which brought to the screen a lot of cartoons with pretty static animation, long camera pans, and a wandering and endlessly repeated soundtrack. Charitably, that seems to be because they rarely had the time or budget to do cartoons well: when given the chance, as on Star Trek or Fat Albert or Flash Gordon they created things that were quite solid, at least for television cartoons of the era. So this little cartoon is part of a thread that brings us to He-Man, if nothing else.


Author: Joseph Nebus

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

8 thoughts on “Popeye: Crystal Ball Brawl”

  1. Too bad they don’t have “1/2 Like” buttons – I like the post but not the cartoon. What to do? I’ll wait a half hour, then come back and click “Like” (which isn’t very funny, but then neither is the cartoon).


    1. I’ve gotten to supposing that ‘like’ on the Internet means that it’s just an acknowledgement that something exists, and it’s generally nice that things exist, so that’s likable of them. The cartoons are, I admit, kind of a mystery if you look at them in detail.


  2. Actually, I should apologize for my previous comment, which was not only a rather lame attempt at humor, but added nothing new to your opinion of the cartoon.
    As for “Likes,” I pretty much agree. I’ve often clicked “Like” when I think a post is well wrtten, even if I have little interest in the subject matter (especially if they “Like” my posts – ha ha).


  3. Larry Harmon also owned the rights to Laurel and Hardy, and eventually made a misbegotten ‘sequel’ called ‘For Love or Mummy” with Bronson Pinchot as the Stan character.


    1. I had forgotten that! And I remember now that I’d seen a review of that in the actual newspaper (the Star-Ledger of Newark) talking about how just generally sad the whole effort was.

      I’m honestly torn about the attempts to revive or recast classic comedy teams. On the one hand, they’ve never worked. On the other hand, the Marx Brothers (say) or the Three Stooges are characters, with personalities and styles as well-defined as any in the commedia dell’arte; why can’t they be recast?

      Sherlock Holmes and James Bond can be played by different actors, obviously, and the early evidence is James Kirk can be too. On the other hand, Maxwell Smart hasn’t worked out so, and Inspector Clouseau I’d say was only kind-of successful. Maybe comic acting is too intimate to allow recasting so?


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