Last week’s Popeye’s Island Adventures video included four more cartoons after the new one’s end. This week’s does too. I have a dreadful feeling that I’ve figured out why they do that. This week’s video had two advertisements prefixed to it. Short ones, the kinds that they promise end in six seconds, but still. Maybe a ten-minute video attracts advertising dollars that a two-minute, ten-second one can’t.
Well. I figure, as threatened before, to take next week to review an old Popeye cartoon, so that I have more than a day to watch and think about these shorts in future. For today, though, it’s Sports Day. This is surely not a tie-in to my anticipated recap of what’s going on in Gil Thorp, due Sunday.
I like this cartoon. It reuses the setup of A Kraken Good Race, Eugene setting up a contest to get Bluto and Popeye to stop bothering him. It’s a good setup, though, even if it does require the odd state that Eugene has to be the grown-up in the room. But having the animal be the responsible one has a nice comic logic, as long as Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto are vaguely kids.
We start with Popeye and Olive Oyl playing basketball, and getting some good bounces against that sand. Eugene pours a can of spinach onto his plate, and then re-seals the can with confetti inside. That’s an interesting choice. It serves the storyline. It startles and even frightens Popeye after he opens the can. It leaves the spinach where Swee’Pea can get it for his innings. But why did Eugene do that? Had he already figured he would have to set up a Popeye-Bluto contest, and was readying a bit of chaos for that? The Jeep is a four-dimensional animal; it’s why he can answer questions about the future. But if he is using his foreknowledge, it’s underplayed to the point maybe nobody would know that’s what happened. Still, he has this sly look on his face when he does it. I guess he at least knew whatever happened would be funny.
Popeye and Bluto get into a basketball-throwing contest. When a stray basketball hits Eugene, he whips up an obstacle course. Bluto goes first, with some fun physical comedy. The soccer ball hits the goal, bounces off his head, and rolls through the net. Counts as a goal. He falls over the hurdles, over and over. He whacks himself with the putter, somehow knocking the golf ball in. He does put together a jigsaw puzzle of his crocodile friend. It gives another moment of that strange delight crocodiles give Young Bluto. I love that every time. And he runs back to the finish line.
Popeye’s turn, after he grabs the tampered spinach can. (And I notice Swee’Pea reading a pop-up book with a sea monster. That’s probably not a thematic reference to A Kraken Good Race. But I like sea monsters.) He kicks the soccer ball into the sea. He twirls around the hurdles. He hits the golf ball against a palm tree and back again to make a simple shot way more complicated. It’s honestly kind of bragging. Solving his jigsaw puzzle — a can of spinach — by slamming the backboard down is more fun. And then he opens his spinach for that burst of energy to run back to the finish line? Anyway, it’s confetti, that frightens him, and he runs back to beat Bluto’s time.
Swee’Pea insists on his own turn, and eats the plate of spinach for it. And that gets bigger, sillier stunts. Hitting the soccer ball hard enough to knock out the sun, a bit of exaggeration that wouldn’t be out of place in a Fleischer-era Popeye. He flies through the hurdles. He hits the golf ball hard enough it rebounds off an eagle before landing in the hole. And his jigsaw puzzle is of a pacifier. He vastly beats everyone’s time.
The cartoon’s structure is simple, which isn’t a bad thing. The build of absurd overachievement works. It should drain Bluto of menace that everything he does is so incompetent. But he’s also a kid in this series. It’s all right if he’s not a serious menace.
I liked the animation more this time around. It feels less rigid than usual. I trust it’s all being rendered by computer, but the unknown-to-us animators were better able to get characters to stretch and distort themselves, and move in funnier ways. Look at the way Popeye’s golf ball slides down the flagpole at about 1:33; there’s thought that went in to making that.
Eugene’s tail gets a lot of things to do, particularly serving as a starter pistol. I’m not sure how I feel about that. There’s something unsettling me in having the tip of his tail fly off and release a ‘BANG!’ flag. But that’s my hang-up, not something the cartoon has to answer for. I suppose it wouldn’t be Popeye’s Island Adventures without at least some touch of body horror.
I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.