I did figure to spend a week or two reviewing non-Popeye’s-Island-Adventure cartoons. This to build some buffer in my writing schedule. Once again it was easier to not. But this time for sure I’ll get my writing onto a more sustainable, less exhausting schedule.
Olive’s Vacation is listed as the 20th of these Popeye’s Island Adventure shorts. As has become the standard it’s followed by four more shorts, padding the production up to eleven and a half minutes, the better to support Google advertising. I had it pop up that panel asking me questions about other advertisements or companies I’ve heard about recently. If you encounter this, remember, you should lie to them.
The short starts with a decent idea. Olive Oyl’s going on vacation, so Popeye and Swee’Pea house-sit. It’s a stock premise, but I don’t mind stock premises. They can build reliable stories, ones that don’t screw things up. This premise, it’s all in how the chaos builds, and how hard Popeye has to work to prevent Olive Oyl from discovering the disaster.
The moment Popeye’s back is turned, Eugene and Swee’Pea split open a watermelon, using a hammer. I like Eugene as this agent of chaos. The Jeep brushes up against the fairy-world. Such creatures should operate without regard for grown-up human interests. Popeye runs after the mess, accidentally opening Olive Oyl’s Murphy-like bed and spilling all that stuff over the house. This was a bit I didn’t understand until I rewatched the short. I didn’t know what to make of the contents hidden behind the cabinet. The sort running time of these shorts — here, two minutes, 11 seconds — sometimes damages its clarity.
Popeye thinks to use his spinach to clean the place up. He then tries rubbing his can of spinach on a puddle of watermelon juice. It’s dumb. I laughed. Bluto appears, offering his help in exchange for a can of spinach. A distraught Popeye pays the price. Bluto shows how to hide stuff under the carpet and runs off, cackling gleefully. Gleeful Bluto might be my favorite part of this series of cartoons. It’s so endearing.
Olive Oyl stops back in for her forgotten hat. She gets there just after Popeye’s hidden everything away, and just before everything explodes out of the Murphy-ish bed. In the explosion, Olive’s flower-planter boot flies way off to Bluto’s swamp, knocking his hard-earned spinach into the marsh. That’s by the way the flower-planter boot she made way back in episode 13, Commotion in the Ocean. I don’t expect continuity beats in two-minute Popeye flash cartoons.
Anyway now Popeye thinks, what if he ate his spinach? He squirts a blob of that out of his backup spinach can, at the same time he squirts a blob of detergent into a pail of water. This had me so nervous I’m not even being funny. This week’s spinach-induced transformative body horror is a mop-hand, but that cleans up everything within five seconds. Olive Oyl sets out again. In the punch line, Eugene has another watermelon.
Like I said, it’s a good idea for a short. I don’t like how it came out, though. There’s a couple promising ideas here. Popeye trying to contain a mess and only making it worse would be good. Bluto scamming Popeye with fake cleaning advice would be good. Popeye trying to distract Olive Oyl away from a mess would be good. Even just Popeye trying to house-sit and that going all wrong would be good. The pieces are all introduced, but there’s no time for any of them to build, or to bounce off one another. There’s spot jokes that work well enough. There’s not any build in tension, though, or pacing. It’s an amiable short, but it just sort of putters along.
Also, Olive Oyl’s vacation dream was her lounging on the beach. She lives on the beach. Is that a joke? Is it the observation that nobody’s ever happy where they are? I’ll credit it as a joke. Part of me thinks they used “going to the beach” to signify a vacation and didn’t think about whether that would actually be a change of activity for Olive. That isn’t important, no, except in how I think it reflects the short not developing its storyline enough.
The reruns padding out the short are Popeye Squared, the one with the clones, which is worth watching. Then Sandcastle Battle, another contest refereed by Eugene. Then X Marks The Spot, the treasure-hunting cartoon that did give Olive Oyl a vacation. And finally Heatwave, with that cute alligator pool toy. Both Heatwave and Popeye Squared have already been used as padding shorts, just two weeks ago.
I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.