What I Thought About All the Gene Deitch Popeye Cartoons


You can continue to call this vamping, but I am trying to put in some reasonable order the many, many King Features Popeye cartoons of the 60s that I watched. The list today — drawn from the Popeye Wikia and thus in an order I can’t explain — represents cartoons producted by Rembrandt Films or by Halas and Batchelor. Or as everyone’s ever called them, the Gene Deitch cartoons.

I’m an easy touch for a Gene Deitch cartoon. I get where people didn’t like his Tom and Jerry cartoons, Deitch included. But I liked their creative energy and freshness, and I’d put them above the Chuck Jones shorts and even Hanna and Barbera’s own Cinemascope theatrical cartoons. I have much the same feeling here. Deitch cartoons can be weird in theme and plot, but usually successfully, coming together to something that makes sense. The animation works well against its limits. I certainly mentioned a couple times, for example, minor characters having their own walk or run cycles that are a bit out of phase, or even have different periods, so that very little animation looks like more than it does.

Here’s the various shorts that Gene Deitch’s vision oversaw:

  • Interrupted Lullaby – King Features took this video down and I don’t know why. Might get around to replacing it.
  • Sea No Evil – the one where Popeye keeps buying the same boat gear.
  • From Way Out – the one where Popeye accidentally causes an alien invasion.
  • Seeing Double – Robot Popeye alert!
  • Swee’Pea Soup – the one where Swee’Pea accidentally causes an uprising against King Blozo.
  • Hag Way Robbery – the where Eugene is kidnapped and Olive Oyl is all about eating canned olives.
  • The Lost City of Bubble-Lon – another currently missing video, sorry. This is the one where there’s an undersea kingdom in a lake or something? It didn’t seem like the ocean to me.
  • There’s No Space Like Home – another withdrawn video, sorry. Popeye gets harassed by Martians who, this time, are not mailboxes.
  • Potent Lotion – yet another withdrawn video. This is the one where Brutus uses a perfume that makes people want to slug Popeye to cover for a bank robbery.
  • Astro-Nut – Popeye signs up to spend sixty days in a simulated spaceflight and it didn’t cross his mind Brutus was going to try moving on Olive Oyl in that time.
  • Goon with the Wind – again, a withdrawn video. The Goons here are nothing like Alice the Goon. They’re Moon Goons. It’s not comfortable.
  • Insultin’ the Sultan – I don’t seem to have a review of this, or any mention of why I didn’t. From the title and from looking up its plot (Popeye joins the French Foreign Legion) I would believe it if I’d decided this got more racist than I’m going to review if I’m not being paid, but I don’t see a mention of that.
  • Dog-Gone Dog-Catcher – Popeye has a dog that he keeps badly, so he makes himself Dogcatcher Brutus’s problem.
  • Voice from the Deep or See Here, Sea Hag – Sea Hag scares the residents off a South Seas island so she can set up an Evil Tourist Camp.
  • Matinée Idol Popeye – another withdrawn video. Brutus is directing a movie and trying to get leading man Popeye out of the picture so he can move in on Olive Oyl.
  • Beaver or Not – Popeye versus two woodland beavers! We always love it when Popeye fights animals, right?
  • The Billionaire – Popeye has a fortune, for maybe the only time in his animated existence.
  • Model Muddle – Oh hey, a cartoon about Modern Art, I bet this one helps teach kids to appreciate the craft and thought that goes into nonrepresentational and nontraditional arts!
  • Which Is Witch – Robot Olive Oyl alert!
  • Disguise the Limit – Gorilla costume alert!
  • Spoil Sport – Brutus’s cool sporty car or Popeye’s little foot-powered scooter: who will win!
  • Have Time, Will Travel – Popeye builds his own time machine and the mystery of Oscar.
  • Intellectual Interlude – where Popeye gets to be smart and it’s everybody else’s problem.
  • Partial Post – here’s that cartoon where space aliens are mailboxes everyone’s been talking about!
  • Weight for Me – Olive Oyl gets fat and Popeye gets all body-shaming.
  • Canine Caprice – introducing Roger, talking dog that’s going to Poochie these characters up some.
  • Roger – more Roger, and a rare sequel cartoon!
  • Tooth Be or Not Tooth Be – where Swee’Pea and Pappy take center stage and Popeye is off … doing … something.

Author: Joseph Nebus

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

4 thoughts on “What I Thought About All the Gene Deitch Popeye Cartoons”

  1. I love the background music in Gene’s Popeye cartoons and the animation, in several, is just fine. Critics really need to judge each cartoon on its own especially when so many people were involved. A shameless plug but read BearManor’s new book on the series by myself. It lets people know which ones to watch and the episodes to stay away from.

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    1. I am always happy to encourage people to look at things in a charitable light. Have to admit it’s easier to say nice things about Gene Deitch’s run on the cartoons than the Jack Kinney studio’s, but I don’t know how much of that reflects the different pressures the studios were under.

      For those who weren’t aware, Grandinetti’s book is available at https://bearmanor-digital.myshopify.com/collections/all/popeye and possibly other online sellers of books.

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        1. Some of the Jack Kinney cartoons are excellent, and some of the ones that are … not so good … end up being so weird that they achieve that greatness of being wholly novel and unpredictable, and so, fascinating. I’m very glad you should share this interview and appreciate your thinking of me for it!

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