60s Popeye: Going … Boing … Gone, all right, but what’s the boing?


Today’s is a King Features Popeye cartoon that makes us ask whether people said the word “boing” wrong in 1961. Maybe it was an in-joke at Paramount Cartoon Studios. So here’s Going … Boing … Gone, a story by Joseph Gottlieb and directed by Seymour Kneitel.

Here we have another Popeye cartoon that barely feels like a Popeye cartoon. Not just that the focus starts, and really stays, on Wimpy-versus-Brutus. Or that nobody eats spinach, Popeye included. Or that Popeye doesn’t even come into the picture before it’s one-third through. Many good Popeye cartoons have run that way.

But, like, Popeye is in the cartoon only as an agent of chaos, encouraging Wimpy in his mischief. Popeye isn’t usually one to encourage other people to fight, though, preferring to get into a good fight himself. I can’t say it’s exactly out of character, but it is a side we rarely see in the cartoons. It fits less awkwardly into the comic strip, I think. That Roughhouse appears does make me wonder if the premise is drawn from the comic strip. The characters had broader personalities there, where stories could ramble for months before coming to the first ending anyone thought of.

We start off with Wimpy spotting Brutus, who’s unusually well-dressed this cartoon. Wimpy asks Brutus for a dollar, which inspires the sort of unending rage normally reserved for Twitter feuds. Like, OK, Brutus chases Wimpy into a store, OK. But then some indeterminate time later Brutus is still roaming around, angry about this? Why? Does Brutus have nothing else to do?

A smiling Brutus, wearing a suit and hat and smoking a cigar, giving Wimpy a crushingly tight one-armed hug, that's swept Brutus's body three-quarters through Wimpy's body and caused Wimpy's face to billow up like a balloon squeezed to the brink of bursting.
Sincere talk that’s going to sound sarcastic: so they keep talking about doing a computer-animated Popeye movie. I’m sure it’ll be hideous. You know why? Because not one of the CGI animators would ever have the courage to have one character squish another the way Brutus is squishing Wimpy’s body here. I’m serious. As a still frame, the anatomical impossibility is horrible. In animation? (You can see it around 12:35 in the video.) It communicates how powerful Brutus is even when he’s being amiable. They wouldn’t have the guts to do something like this in a CGI movie.

Wimpy’s undetectable because he found some vanishing cream. You never see vanishing cream cartoons anymore, and yeah, I know that’s how they’re supposed to work. Still, for a quick way to do invisibility plots you’d think they’d stick around. I know you might protest, who even sells vanishing cream anymore? Yeah, well, vanishing cream’s sales flopped from about the 1930s onward. They sell foundation makeup instead. We’re in a lot of trouble if we start insisting on cartoons and comic strips that reflect the world of more recently than 80 years ago.

And Wimpy needs Popeye’s advice on how to turn this to his advantage. This because Wimpy is notoriously bad at scheming while Popeye … you see what I mean? It’s not that I can’t fit this all with the characters. but everybody feels a little bit weird.

Really there’s no need for Popeye to be in this cartoon except that he’s Popeye, after all. But, you know, Wimpy’s a great character, the only Thimble Theater cast member to have seriously risked taking over the comic from Popeye. I’m curious if we could have had a couple stories that just followed him around his low-level food-based grifting. And I wonder if this story started out as a generic story with the Thimble Theater cast put in, or whether it was meant as a Wimpy cartoon that they had to make carry Popeye.

I have no idea why “Boing” is in the title of this cartoon.

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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