Popeye’s Island Adventures flirts with becoming the Popeye pinball machine


So, something the Popeye’s Island Adventure people declared when the series started and that hasn’t come up before. It’s part of their declaration about how this series is different from earlier Popeye cartoons.

The show combines the original squash and stretch animation style with a fresh update on the original characters and storyline. The new Popeye has a youthful appearance and more eco-friendly position, growing spinach on the roof of his dieselpunk style houseboat and collecting rain water in barrels.

I do not know what deiselpunk is but I can confidently say no, Popeye is not deiselpunk. I can say I am more deiselpunk, and please consider, I spent much of yesterday rewinding and listening again more carefully to a podcast explaining the historical reasons, connected to pronunciation shifts, regarding why the letter ‘c’ is used to represent both the soft-s and hard-k sounds. The claim that this is a more eco-friendly Popeye, though? That … hasn’t really played into any of the cartoons. And then came this week’s cartoon, Commotion in the Ocean.

So. This, yes, has almost nothing discernable to do with Python Anghelo’s incredible and bonkers concept document for the Popeye pinball game of the 1990s. It starts with Bluto surrounded by mounds of garbage. I’m not sure why Bluto is always assumed to be a garbage lord like this. I suppose it’s the thought that you have to be a bad person to litter, so therefore a really bad person is surrounded by a lot of garbage. Which is all right until you consider what signal that sends people who aren’t able to clean as much as they “ought”. We mock the messy and the cluttered and the hoarders; is that decent?

Anyway, Bluto’s sick of the mess in his submarine, and gets to cleaning it. His preferred method: shooting it out his gun barrel. Silly; he should be doing this responsibly, by putting it in a landfill, which is a societally-approved heap of garbage we put on top of the wetlands that would otherwise be keeping the planet alive. Bluto gets away with it until he lands a heap of trash on Popeye and Olive Oyl’s boat. Popeye was pulling some traditional fishing garbage — a metal bin, a funnel — out of the water before that. I’m not clear whether that was supposed to be from earlier Bluto trash bombs, or just Popeye’s bad luck. I’m also surprised he didn’t pull up a boot or old inner tube. But pulling up a funnel and a metal box was probably necessary. It foreshadows the end of the cartoon.

Popeye and Olive Oyl are able to track down who’s responsible for the trash by looking at some of the underwear in it. It’s got Bluto’s face on it. There are several questions this raises. First is why Popeye and Olive Oyl had to wait until we, the audience, could see Bluto’s face-underwear before reacting to it. They’d seen it when the under-face was looking at them, away from us. Also, granted, these shorts are trying to be language-neutral. Is this plot point best established by face-underwear? Also, so, when Bluto wears his face-underwear, which way is his face looking? I feel like these questions are a little unfair, but would the target audience for this cartoon ask different questions?

They spot the source fast enough anyway, with a cute throwaway joke of Popeye looking through a Pringles tube. After a couple more loads of garbage Popeye sees a corked bottle, giving him an idea: try eating spinach. This week the amazing transformation is to fuse his legs together to cork up Bluto’s gun barrel. This change doesn’t seem weird the way the sponge thing last week did. Blocking a gun barrel by jamming yourself in it seems like a common enough cartoon logic, so this feels justified to me. Olive Oyl holding up a judge’s ’10’ sign at Popeye’s hopping around is a cute bit too.

Olive Oyl remembers the funnel from earlier, and they set up … I guess the destroyed gun barrel? … as funnel into Bluto’s submarine, tossing trash back into that. Bluto shrugs and starts sorting out his recyclables. Which is fine for his glass and metal cans and all. I don’t know what recycling bin heaps of brownish-green goop go in.

All these cartoons feel abbreviated. This one particularly so, though. The premise is fine enough. It’s just there’s no real conflict. Bluto throws garbage into the lagoon, Popeye throws it back on him. Couldn’t there be at least one change of fortune along the way? But then I want contradictory things, too. This short avoided the frantic pace that the series has fallen prey to so often. Scenes were well-established, and there was plenty of time to see and understand the action. And the short does well showing off something that inspires a character’s specific ideas. Bluto smashing against the porthole after his first stoppered gun-blast is well-delivered, too.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Author: Joseph Nebus

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

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