60s Popeye: Seer-ring is Believer-ring, which isn’t about Wimpy offering to pay somehow?


This week’s King Features Popeye cartoon puts us back in the capable, if dull, hands of Paramount Cartoon Studios. Seymour Kneitel’s the director, with animation by I Klein, Jack Ehret, and Dick Hall. The story’s credited to I Klein. Here’s 1960’s Seer-ring Is Believer-Ring.

The sparse information that Popeye The Sailorpedia has for this cartoon does not say it was adapted from a comic strip or comic book story. I suppose it wasn’t, then. There is this feel, though. The cartoon introduces a new menace, Evil-Eye. I initially wrote him as a new “villain” because he’s coded as one. The name, sure. His being generically ethnic. Olive Oyl even calls him “a foreign-looking gentleman”. But his actions?

As presented, after all, all he’s really trying to do is get back the magic ring that Olive Oyl’s gotten. And Popeye slugs him for it. Evil-Eye escalates to hypnotizing Popeye and Olive Oyl. That is a heck of an escalation, although it’s also the clearly safe thing to do when you’re trying to get around Popeye. Evil-Eye would have presented himself better if he’d asked for the ring openly, though. You don’t need a ring of foretelling to know flirting with Olive Oyl in front of Popeye ends badly for you.

The ending feels unsatisfactory. It feels truncated in a way that I associate with the Bud Sagendorf comics, which would end when Sagendorf felt he’d shuffled the pieces around enough, never mind if anything was resolved. The setup’s decent. Evil-Eye, whose ring can foretell anything except how he’s going to lose it, loses it in a sidewalk vendor’s box. Olive Oyl picks it up and has amazing visions. Popeye doesn’t believe she can see the future. Sailors are, by reputation, a notoriously un-superstitious bunch, after all. But even her foreseeing Wimpy offering to treat everyone at Roughhouse’s Diner doesn’t convince Popeye. Also, what the heck is Wimpy doing offering to treat everyone to anything, ever? Possibly he figures he needs to do a little bit of paying-you-Tuesday in order to keep his line of credit open? It’s still a weird offer.

So Evil-Eye tries to swipe the ring off Olive Oyl’s hand by flirting with her, and that goes wrong, a scene not foreseen by Olive Oyl. Wonder how she missed Popeye acting jealous. Popeye spins him out of the picture. Evil-Eye zaps both with his hypnotic … evil eye … but that doesn’t stop the unconscious Popeye from pulling out his spinach and clobbering him. This sends the ring rolling off into the sewer and Evil-Eye has to fish for it. Also … maybe because of this? … Olive Oyl and Popeye wake up. Neither of them seems to remember Evil-Eye, or her ring. They just walk past and Popeye cracks a joke about Evil-Eye.

This may be another case where I’m too old to understand the plot. Maybe a kid is faster to accept the idea that of course part of Evil-Eye’s hypnosis is suppressing your recollection that he was even there. Or the thing he was interested in getting for you. It doesn’t seem like asking too much from the premise.

Popeye is staring huge-eyed, into the camera. In front of him, Olive Oyl has stretched out her hand and she's delighted by Evil-Eye holding her wrist and calling her 'Ninotchka' and trying to grab the ring off her hand.
[ Record scratch ] “Yup, tha’s me! I bets youze is won’nering how I gotsk meself into this sit’chee’ation.”

Evil-Eye is voiced of course by Jackson Beck. So is the ring seller. There’s an interesting bit in Olive Oyl’s visions of the future, in that Mae Questel tries to do the voices of Popeye and Wimpy and Evil-Eye. Her version of Popeye seems to land somewhere near the Sea Hag. Her Evil-Eye sounded closer to Swee’Pea than anything else. Her Wimpy didn’t evoke any particular character to me. It’s interesting we get yet another reference to Roughhouse without actually seeing him. Roughhouse is becoming the Boba Fett of this series, building up a lot of reputation without doing anything.

So far as I know this is the only appearance of Evil-Eye. That’s a shame. He seems to have more going for him than the usual one-shot villain. Not so much as the hypnotist from Nix On Hypnotricks, but still, he seems like he could have done more.

The art here strongly embraces a flatter, UPA-influenced style. Evil-Eye and the ring seller are much more deliberately limited characters than our regulars are. I’m curious how much of that was Paramount’s animators wanting the artistic challenge of the newer style and how much was just budgetary. It looks most distinctive when Evil-Eye is nearly done spinning about 10:02, and he’s represented with a simple slide back and forth under the camera. It suggests spinning without making any literal sense as a spin. That’s a neat effect to have.

Really would like an explanation of what Wimpy is doing offering to treat anyone, though. He has that wad of bills that would seem to show his sincerity. Maybe he’s figuring to coax them to Roughhouse’s and then dump the check on them? Something’s not working with that part of the story anyway.

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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