60s Popeye: Hamburger Fishing


This week’s 60s Popeye cartoon is Hamburger Fishing. It’s another Jack Kinney production. This let me see who’s credited for the story (Ed Nofziger). This fact might let me someday work out some idea whether scripts were handed down by King Features or whether the individual animation studios got to make up their own stories.

The framing device is Popeye reading a story to Swee’Pea. It’s one they used a lot in these King Features cartoons. It’s a useful frame. It excuses putting the characters in literally any setting whatsoever. Also depending how they use it they can fill a cartoon with a good minute of stock animation. I like the kid logic of Swee’Pea wishing he had a wish, so he could get a wish.

Right into Popeye’s story I wondered why cast Wimpy as a fisher. Swee’Pea anticipated my joke in saying he wasn’t a very good fisher. And Popeye answers that he fishes for hamburgers, or as we’d know them, cows. It’s a silly idea and soundly in-character. So, good work adapting the Fisherman And His Wife premise to the Popeye characters. Especially in setting the Sea Hag out to steal Wimpy’s three wishes. And also answering why the Sea Hag didn’t just get the wishes from the enchanted Olive Oyl herself. This premise could have been used for a lazier cartoon and it’s good on Ed Nofziger that he put cleverness into things.

There’s also many nice little touches here. I like Swee’Pea’s disgusted look at Popeye for the “fisherman was stumped” line. Popeye’s laughter had this weird abrupt edit, though. I also like the Sea Hag’s eyes bouncing wildly around as she dreams of being rich. Or Wimpy’s silly dance at about 19:36 as he dreams of hamburger happiness. And casting the Sea Hag in the Fisherman’s Wife role tracks well with the comic strip. In that, the Sea Hag and Wimpy have a curious relationship that keeps looking like it could be romantic, except that both are scheming to use the other, and know the other is doing the same. Granted that casting is forced on the cartoon, since there’s only two important female characters who can speak in Thimble Theatre. But it fits well. And maybe says something of why the Popeye character set was so long-lasting, if it can cast stories well.

Wimpy, smiling, holding a fishing pole with an end tied into a loop. Caught on the loop is an Olive Oyl who's a biped cow, clutching her hooves together and looking distressed.
Who are you and where did you get the nerve to animate my DeviantArt account?

The Sea Hag claims Wimpy owes her for “4011 hamburgers” and that this is Tuesday. Wimpy uses up one of his wishes for a hamburger, that gets stolen by a mouse. Swee’Pea wishes he had that mouse and I agree; that’s a cute one. Introducing the mouse also opens up for the cute business where Wimpy wishes for his hamburger back, only to sit on it, and for the mouse to come out and bite him to recover it again. That’s not at all needed for the story, and it doesn’t get commented on. It just makes the cartoon more fun to watch.

At about 20:28, as the Sea Hag tackles Wimpy, they both seem to bounce off something invisible. I wonder if there was supposed to be a stalagmite or something left out by mistake. I also don’t know what happens to Wimpy’s “whole room full of hamburgers”. It’s got to be something the Sea Hag did, although that’s never resolved. But also unresolved is that the Sea Hag is out there waiting for Wimpy to come back with more wishes. He goes off to catch Olive Oyl again. And she hasn’t got any more wishes, which is a mild twist but one that I don’t remember from other versions of this story.

And then at about 21:48 Popeye finally charges into the fairy-tale. I was wondering if they might leave Popeye only in the frame. I’m not sure any of these cartoons ever did that. Within the fairy tale Popeye doesn’t have much to do, and he does it. He demands kindness for dumb amninals, and then Olive Oyl kisses him to break her enchantment. (Did she know that would happen? But if she did, why didn’t she kiss Wimpy before? Other than the obvious, that he was hoping to kill and eat her, I mean.) And she declares she’s his because he … exists? Really, the weak part of the cartoon is the choice to put Popeye into the action.

All small problems. This is one of those cartoons I’m happy to see.

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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