60s Popeye: There’s No Space Like Home, the rare alien-mailbox-free flying saucer cartoon


There’s a weird bit of fanfare to start the credits. So you know what that means: it must be a Gene Deitch cartoon! Except the pipe sound effect comes in time with Popeye blowing his pipe. So … not Gene Deitch? … Nope; it is. There’s No Space Like Home is another 1960 cartoon from Gene Deitch’s team and I’m sorry not to have better credits for you.

We open with Popeye reading the news about flying saucers over town. And … what, again? We just did a Gene Deitch cartoon about Popeye meeting flying saucers. Well, the subject can go a lot of ways. In Partial Post, it went really weird, with aliens taking the form of mailboxes to mess with Popeye’s head.

Here we have a more normal story. It’s much easier to like as it’s easier to say what’s going on and why. Popeye decides to go to Olive Oyl’s costume party as a spaceman. Brutus gets Popeye arrested for this. But then he mistakes a tiny blue-skinned guy for the costumed Popeye, and accidentally gets the aliens to go to war with Earth. Or, well, with Olive Oyl’s underpopulated costume party. Popeye, having broken out of jail because he didn’t see any reason to stay there, gets to the party in time for the aliens to roughhouse with him. Brutus declares this is dire enough he has to feed Popeye spinach. More fanfare, Popeye punches the aliens, and throws their spaceship so it gets stuck in the moon.

A battered Popeye, wearing a spacesuit, slumps against the doorframe as two short space aliens in spacesuits and helmets fling the door closed. There's the confetti and ribbons of a party strewn about.
I guess when you look at the aliens and their miniskirt spacesuits you really can see how Brutus would mistake one of them for Popeye.

There’s nothing this cartoon does wrong, and compared to Partial Post it does a lot more well. It’s always clear why people, including the aliens, are doing what they’re doing. The only truly baffling moment is Brutus mistaking a tiny blue guy for Popeye. Maybe Brutus is even worse at recognizing faces than I am. The cartoon’s well-paced, and pretty well-animated too. Freeze the video at any spot and the picture’s expressive. (And character walk cycles match the pace at which the background moves.) And we get Brutus recognizing how he’s out of his league here and turning the whole fight over to Popeye. It’s the touch that makes Bluto/Brutus’s relationship with Popeye interesting.

But there is this curse to competence. Partial Post is full of stranger, more alien choices. That sticks more solidly in my mind. I’m curious whether that’s because I am impressing so many of these cartons into my brain, and it looks for the novel and the weird. And so There’s No Space Like Home seems less good. This even though it’s clearly the better 1960 Gene Deitch-animated cartoon about Popeye versus flying saucers to show someone.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

2 thoughts on “60s Popeye: There’s No Space Like Home, the rare alien-mailbox-free flying saucer cartoon”

    1. They’re certainly worse than the theatrical Popeye cartoons of the 30s and 40s. I’m open to an argument that they’re as good as the 1950s theatrical cartoons, not in animation quality but at least in story and energy, as the late Famous Studios/Paramount theatricals were running n autopilot for a good while. And often the TV shorts manage to be bad in fascinating ways, ones where I have to reconstruct what the ideas were that went so wrong.

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