Now let’s journey back in time to 1960. Time Marches Backwards is another Jack Kinney-produced time-travel cartoon, with story by old reliable Ed Nofziger and direction by Hugh Fraser.
I am once again annoyed, slightly, that there’s no production order information for these cartoons. Mostly that doesn’t matter, as there’s no important continuity. Here’s the exception. If this was not the first O G Wotasnozzle time-travel cartoon, then what’s going on? We have too long and too slow a buildup to explain it as the cartoon filling up on stock footage. There is a lot of time spent introducing Popeye to the distant past. And, in a rare touch for these Wotasnozzle time-travel cartoons, we see him come back. I imagine after two or three of these they realized it wasn’t necessary to explicitly reset the status quo.
So if the frame explains why Popeye is in some weird setting, what explains the rest of the cast being there? Right away Popeye meets Wimpy trying in his ineffective way to catch a cow, or a cowasaurus. Popeye surmises that Wimpy hasn’t changed much in 50,000 years, which is a lucky guess about how far back in time he is, and also not an answer that would satisfy me at age seven. Olive Oyl cries out for Popeye by name, but how could she know his name? Unless there is a proper caveman Popeye that happened to miss the action because present-day Popeye was on the scene.
There is not a lot to this cartoon, once it finally starts. Brutus drags Olive Oyl by the hair, like cavemen always do to cavewomen in cavecartoons. This always seemed the most inefficient way to abduct someone, to me. She cries out for Popeye to save her and there’s what sure sounds like a tape glitch over and over again. You hear it at about 8:57 in the video, and again, many times over. Wimpy crosses the line of action, following without doing much to the cowasaurus. Repeat these starting points for all the screen time you’ve got. In the last iteration the cowasaurus has Wimpy caught on the horns, a good resolution. The cowasaurus’s complete indifference to what’s happening is maybe the best laugh of the short.
It’s all a very okay cartoon, at least for the series. If you get into this kind of tone-poem cartoon where there’s no plot, just a bunch of beats that it shifts between. If you don’t like its tone-poem nature, then the cartoon’s completely lost. There’s some nice backgrounds and that’s it. Everybody but Popeye and Wotasnozzle is out of their usual clothing, so the animation is even rougher than usual. (That said Popeye and Brutus hitting each other on the head, on that stone arch bridge, sure looks like repeated animation to me. I can’t think what it’s from, though.) Most notable here is how indifferent the mouth movements are to dialogue. I don’t expect the lips to be good. But I do expect them to move just about the same time that someone’s speaking, and then stop.
Popeye running across some primitive, prehistoric spinach made me curious about spinach’s domestication. Apparently it happened about two thousand years ago, in what’s now Iran, and it spread from there east, first. It reached Western Europe in the 9th century, which means. So, like, all the great philosophers of Ancient Greece? Not a single one of them ever had a can of spinach. Except Pythagoras, I’m sure, according to his followers. Spinach turns out to be from the same taxonomic family as beets, which makes sense, since every vegetable we eat is either a beet, a tomato, a mustard, or a potato. So that’s nice to know.