It’s been a while since I was studying the King Features Syndicate-made run of Popeye cartoons. I’m going through the roster as King Features gathered them on their YouTube channel, so these follow no logic I’m aware of. For today, it’s a Gene Deitch-produced cartoon from 1962, Canine Caprice. Let’s enjoy.
Gene Deitch, famously, didn’t care about Tom and Jerry when he got the contract to make Tom and Jerry shorts. Didn’t feel the characters were interesting. What I’ve never known is what he thought about the Popeye shorts. The only important animator whom I know to have said a bad word about the 30s Popeyes, for example, is Chuck Jones. And that’s only if we count as negative his observing that they’re scrawny-little-hero versus big-round-bully, like any generic generic black-and-white cartoon.
What gets me wondering is this short. It’s got Popeye in it, but it’s all driven by Roger the Dog. Who’s a talking dog that Popeye buys, in falling for a talking-dog scam. And who takes over the short, messing up Popeye’s life for not much obvious reason. The dynamic’s a lot like that of Shorty, from three of the most loathed Famous Studios cartoons. But Shorty you always knew what his deal was. Why does Roger not talk in front of Olive Oyl until the end of the short? No idea.
Roger and Shorty are not a bad concept. As he got domesticated, Popeye stopped looking for fights, and he got boring. A character pulling Popeye into trouble fixes that. And if you think I’m making a case for Scrappy-Doo, well, yeah. Scrappy being a relative answers why Scooby puts up with him. We don’t get so much information for Roger. I’m still stuck on why Roger didn’t talk to Olive Oyl when they first met, and why Popeye talked to him after that. Roger firing up Popeye’s jealousy over the piano teacher makes sense, although Olive Oyl could have said something sooner. At least there Roger had good intentions.
The story starts hobbled. But granting that, the rest of the short holds up. Deitch’s animation looks cheap, yes, but the characters all move, with a good range of motion. You don’t get characters standing and blinking. The dialogue’s okay enough. It includes Popeye’s weird statement that “fights bores me”, which can only make sense if he means televised fights that he’s not in. Or Popeye’s domestication and boringness got really out of control.
I, too, am curious why Popeye’s packing a valise full of spinach cans. In the Deitch cartoons he never seems to have a can on him, so, what is this for?
Anyway, I wish Roger a happy time moving in with Wilbur Weston, a man whose life he can’t possibly screw up any worse than Wilbur can.