Sometimes there’ll be a good story idea for a character hanging around, waiting, for nearly a century before someone does it. Here’s one of them. There’ve been cartoons where someone has duplicated Popeye, either impersonating him (Hello, How Am I, 1939), or building a mannequin to fool Olive Oyl (Puppet Love, 1944), or building a robot to fool Olive Oyl (Robot Popeye, 1960), or something. And there’s, I believe, at least one Bud Sagendorf story in the comic strip where Swee’pea gets duplicated. But Popeye himself, duplicated? With, like, normal good versions rather than evil ones? I haven’t seen that before. And that’s a great idea.
The short starts with Eugene, using his powers of advancing the plot. He’s somehow found a magic pool that duplicates stuff tossed in it, and that’s great for the apple shortage. While he’s off getting more fruits to duplicate Popeye wanders over and falls in. Young Popeye is a pretty clumsy fellow around here. It’s a bit endearing, and he does need something on his side since he can’t mutter anything fun in this series.
He heads off without noticing anything. The pool, after a pause, spits up a Duplicate Popeye, and then another, and then another. I don’t mind that the Duplicate Popeyes took longer to start making than the apple did. I can write that off as editing, especially since the short only has 130 seconds to do its business. What I don’t get is why there’s no end of Duplicate Popeyes and only the one apple. (Maybe the pool stops duplicating when the original and existing duplicates are removed? I don’t know. This really only matters for people roleplaying Popeye’s Island Adventures at home.)
The Duplicate Popeyes like each other, which in turn I like. The scene about 40 seconds in of them all just ack-laughing at each other tickles me. Eugene gets back, is shocked, and puts an end to the duplicating by covering the pond with a giant rock. I assume this means the pool gets buried under a pile of many gigantic duplicate rocks, but we don’t see that. Instead the Duplicate Popeyes go off about Popeye business.
And that gets to the high point of this cartoon and one of the high points of this series. A dazed Olive Oyl having eight Popeyes over for tea? She’s got a great expression. And it’s well-directed, repeated cuts out to establish there’s even more Popeyes and even more ack-laughing going on. Following that up with a dazed Swee’Pea, similarly, being read to by five Popeyes? That’s great. That all of them are making the inarticulate Popeye-ish grunts that the series has used? Even better, and a moment of using one of the series’ biggest limitations to be funnier. So by 1:09 in I was ready to call this my favorite of the series.
Then it all falls apart. Popeye’s in his ship-home, doing a bit of charting. (And as a person who’s never really understood navigation charts, his insight how to get there entertained me.) Then a bunch of Duplicate Popeyes break in and spill cans of spinach all over the place. Seven-year-old me would appreciate knowing that spinach cans are so fragile these days. He was always disappointed with his experiments squeezing a can open.
The Duplicate Popeyes lick up some spinach and then disintegrate into a green goo. And, well, that’s a quick and simple horrifying way out of the too-many-Popeyes problem, isn’t it? Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Swee’Pea set up to spray the island for Duplicate Popeyes. And for the last half-minute of the short, it’s various ways to get a blob of spinach into a Duplicate Popeye’s mouth and watching them disintegrate. Some of these ways are fun, like Olive’s spring-loaded Loving Cup. Some of these scenes include funny weird bits, like several Duplicate Popeyes pointing and laughing at an apple. And the music behind it is this fun, playful version of the series’ theme. But … gah, it’s eleven Duplicate Popeyes disintegrating into gooey puddles.
I mean, I felt for the Duplicates. I don’t want Popeye killing them. I suppose they were doomed to be short-lived anyway, given their vulnerability to the element of spinach and being Popeye clones and all. But the cartoon is taking lightly something that I just can’t.
So, the last hour just crashed the production for me. And no, I don’t know how to get out of the problem of “we probably should not actually have fourteen Popeyes hanging around”. Maybe they all swallow cans of Baseline Popeye’s spinach in order to fend off a startled Bluto, and they melt then. Which is still bad but would leave nobody morally responsible the result. Anyway, you shouldn’t make clones just to kill them. It’s a controversial stand but I’ll stand there.
This and my other reviews of Popeye’s Island Adventures ought to be posted at this link.