I continue not to know anything about the production of these Popeye’s Island Adventure cartoons. There’s stuff we can infer, but only about the tools used to make them. Who’s writing them, who’s drawing them, who’s designing the figures for the computers to animate? In what order they’re being finished? I assume roughly in the order they’re released, although I’d be surprised if a cartoon were never bumped ahead or back a week for the reasons.
Well, here’s the seventh of the new run of cartoons. It’s titled A Kraken Good Race, and the title does promise both kraken and race.
The story’s stronger this week. The cartoon’s the best, I think, since Scramble For The Egg. Eugene sets Popeye and Bluto on a boat race; Bluto tries to cheat, and it doesn’t work. Solid, straightforward idea that can be completed in two minutes and be coherent.
The action’s efficiently done. It leaves space for personality, though. The scene starts with Olive Oyl carving a wood sculpture of Eugene. Why? Just to do it, and that’s enough. Eugene encourages Popeye and Bluto to race to an island mostly to get them out of his hair for a while. It’s curious to see Eugene acting as the grown-up here, or at least the peacemaker. But it doesn’t feel out of place, at least to me. Bluto’s entrance capsizes Eugene’s pool ring; that’s enough reason for Eugene to want to quiet things down.
There’s a good bit of escalation in Bluto’s attempts at cheating. He tries drilling into Popeye’s boat; Olive Oyl uses the hole in the anchor to beat that. Bluto tries harpooning Popeye’s boat; Popeye shifts his own speed up from “some kind of cat I guess” to “spinach” and rips the muzzle off Bluto’s own gun. (I don’t quarrel with the slow speed being ‘tortoise’ and the fastest speed being ‘spinach’, but I would like the middle speed to either be ‘hare’, matching tortoise, or more clearly a cheetah or similar fast cat. I’m not sure what is meant.) Then Bluto deploys the kraken, although all we ever see is one giant tentacle. Still, good third attempt there.
Popeye pops open a can, and we get the new record for spinach-induced body horror this series as his arm turns into a kraken-y tentacle. I like that, as fun and appropriate. I can imagine people not finding this quite so merry. Popeye doesn’t fight the kraken so much as arm-wrestle it. I like this, for being silly but reasonable. I’m not reading the YouTube comments to see how many people are upset there wasn’t more punching. The kraken’s left a hole in the boat, but Olive plugs it up with the muzzle of Bluto’s harpoon gun. That’s a moment that impressed me. It gives the story that little bit extra structure, and a bit more strength.
Popeye uses his kraken-tentacle arm to propel the boat to the island. This is a great success, and builds up a tidal wave to come crashing down on the island and Eugene. And there’s another bit of good story structure: Eugene proposed this race because he’s chagrinned at getting soaked by Bluto. He ends the cartoon chagrinned at getting soaked by Popeye. It’s a good beat to close on.
My impression has been that these cartoons have been getting better. I’m curious whether this follows from the creators getting more experienced at what does and doesn’t work. Or whether there’s several writing teams and one of them better fits my tastes. Well, I like the overall direction this is going. Is there any other important measure?
And for however long I keep watching Popeye’s Island Adventures, the reviews should be here.