- Hits and Missiles (Paramount Cartoon Studios)
- Out Of This World (Jack Kinney Productions)
- Popeye: The Last Resort (Gerald Ray Studios)
- Popeye: Swee’Pea Soup (Rembrandt Films)
- Popeye: Crystal Ball Brawl (Larry Harmon Pictures)
- Popeye, The Ace Of Space (Famous Studios)
I mentioned last week that “Popeye, The Ace Of Space” was a partial remake of an earlier, 1946, Popeye cartoon. So why not show that cartoon? Here’s “Rocket To Mars”.
It’s closer to “The Ace Of Space” than I had remembered, although I would say it’s also superior in most regards. Some of that is surely the sound design. After a functional opening, and a couple of the Looking at Heavenly Bodies jokes you’d expect from that era, “Rocket To Mars” features bombastic music, with a driving, well, martial beat that gives real power to the scenes of Mars, Ready For War. And Bluto as the Emperor of Mars gets a deep reverberating voice that fits nicely the slight redesign that makes him tall enough to really tower over Popeye.
This cartoon has, to me, a real sense of menace behind it, and I wonder if that reflects it being made so near World War II. The cartoon was released in August 1946, but production was surely in production before V-J Day (it’s obscured in this cut, but the scene of Popeye spotting an 8-Ball in the sky originally featured a Japanese man ducking out from behind it; I understand having the scene during the war but it’s still surprising to me they bothered filming it after the Occupation began), and the slow multiplanar pans across fields of war plants feels informed by having living experience with a monstrously large war. For that matter, Jack Mercer, the normal voice of Popeye, only does the voice work for part of this cartoon; Mercer was drafted.
And I like the amusement park that Mars gets turned into, as the result of what seems like an earlier-than-average Eating Of The Spinach. It’s a shame that the premise of sending Popeye to Mars precludes giving the new place its obvious name: Luna Park.