Popeye’s Island Adventures is really calling my bluff here


Yeah, seriously, since I went and reviewed that 1960s Popeye cartoon to give myself some breathing room they haven’t posted a single new Popeye’s Island Adventure. Also it turns out that that 60s Plumber’s Pipe Dream cartoon that I couldn’t find online two weeks ago? They posted that themselves, back in August last year, on YouTube. In my defense, the only way I could possibly have found that out was to try.

(The first cartoon on the four in that video was Hits and Missiles, which actually I wrote about nearly five years ago. I suppose I don’t need to go and re-think it.)

So apparently now I’ve got both Jim Scancarelli and King Features messing with my head. If I see Mary Worth snarking about bloggers come Tuesday I’ll know what kind of forces are arrayed against me. Their goal: to make me look somehow less necessary than I already do.

Popeye’s Island Adventures is trying to make a fool of me


Me, last week when I reviewed a 1960s cartoon so I could build a little buffer time:

Next week I should get back to Popeye’s Island Adventures with a fresh essay at this link. Now watch as King Features double-crosses me and doesn’t post a new cartoon this week.

King Features:

(Goes two weeks without posting a new cartoon.)

I was ready for it and yet I feel betrayed.

1960s Popeye has Plumber’s Pipe Dream


I’m taking this week to build myself some margin in the Popeye’s Island Adventure series. I’m doing that by filling in a week with an older cartoon. This one, Plumber’s Pipe Dream, is part of the notorious 1960s series. In that, King Features made over two hundred short cartoons over the course of about three years to fill television with a heap of content. Doing this required hiring, like, everybody who could hold a pencil. This is a short that I thought King Features had on their official YouTube channel. They have a couple dozen of that run. So I’m posting a copy I can find. If you find it’s been removed, please let me know. I’ll try to find a replacement. It could be King Features will have added it to their official channel by that time.

This cartoon, at least, I can give credits for. It was made by Jack Kinney Productions. Jack Kinney worked for Disney in the Golden Age — he directed sequences in Pinocchio and Dumbo. And he worked for UPA Studios at its peak too. You could get that idea from the stylish title card. By 1960 he had his own studio doing television work, King Features cartoons among it.

This is not a good cartoon. It is one I enjoy watching. It’s weird that those go together. A strain in pop culture, especially on the Internet, celebrates bad stuff. It’s been celebrated so long that we can forget that this is a strange choice to make. What’s fun about a bad cartoon, or movie, or book, or story?

I think it’s something you have to grow into. You start out taking in stories (cartoons, movies, whatever) and accepting them as stories. Then you get to knowing stories well enough. You can tell good from bad, and maybe why some are good and some bad. Most of us then stick to the good stories, and live a happy life with our entertainment choices. But some of us, in what feels like a nerdy thing to do, break that. I think some of us get so obsessed with studying stories, and why they work and why they don’t, that we overthink it. Like, we notice that most good stories follow (sensible) rules. A genuinely bad story, though? That won’t follow rules. Or it follows a weird distorted idea of the rules. It surprises in a way that a well-made story can’t. The surprise and novelty is great if you’ve consumed so much of a particular kind of story that normal ones are boring. And it’s great for showing by its mistakes how good stories come together. And, yes, a good story that defies rules and breaks expectations is also cherished. But there’s probably more ways to make a bad story than a good one.

So how does this hypothesis matter to this cartoon?


We start with Olive Oyl having a leaky faucet. Good premise. Plumbing cartoons are usually fun. Leaking water gives things a sense of urgency, and that often builds comic energy well. Swee’Pea suggests having it fixed, something Olive Oyl never thought of, even though they have the same voice actor. Olive Oyl insisting she wouldn’t have thought of that, and looking up “plumbers” under “P as in Plop”, are a couple cute throwaway dialogue jokes. They’re not quite laugh lines, but at least they’re cheery.

Popeye’s the designated plumber, and mentions how this call roused him from a snooze. There’s a weird momentary fade to black at about 1:31, before we see Popeye’s face making some weird expressions. This turns out to be plot-important, but you only know that in retrospect. Popeye’s first attempt only makes the leak worse and he rushes to the basement to turn the water off. This by the way takes about as long as a whole Popeye’s Island Adventure does. So I appreciate how much story compression has to go into those shorts.

Popeye can’t remember which apartment he needs to turn off, so he breaks that pipe too. So he figures now he has to go to the water main and runs out to the city sewer. Here, given the direction to turn the wheel right he turns it back and forth until it breaks off, sending even more water loose. You have get to wondering whether Popeye was always this incompetent. Boring Suburban Popeye, the character he mutated into in cartoons of the 50s, had a lot of problems. (And yes, this is Popeye in the city. But it’s the way he acts when the cartoon makes him the owner of a boring home in a boring suburb.)

Now the apartment is flooding to the point it looks lost at sea. Popeye needs to get to the city mains before a J G Ballard novel can break out. He hails a taxi, that gets there on distinctly dry streets, and calls out, “The City Water Works!” The shocked driver asks, “It does?” and so help me that makes me laugh every time. This is because I am a nerd. That a phrase might have more than one meaning is always funny to both nerds and four-year-olds. Four-year-olds it makes sense. They’re delighting in the discovery of how language works. Nerds, I don’t know. Might be we so like having things explained and sensible that a sentence which resists mono-meaning is delightful.

Now the water comes, with the city streets flooding or flooding more. Popeye swims toward the water works, only to find the water’s risen so high that it threatens to extinguish the Statue of Liberty’s torch. You know, the torch that has never been a literal fire.

There’s some spinach floating by, that Popeye grabs happily and eats. He gets his power-up fanfare and … water squirts out of his muscle bulges. Well, he puddles to the drowned shutoff valve, which opens a drain, threatening to suck him down. And then what do you know but it’s all a dream, and he’s still getting another call from Olive Oyl. He rushes to Olive Oyl’s apartment and once again forgets to turn off the water. The end.

Lay out the storyline like that and it seems workable. Making a small problem ever-worse is a standard comic method. It’s standard because it works so well. And there are a bunch of funny little drawings. Popeye asleep in his chair looks weird, but in a funny way. The taxi driver has some nice bugged-out eyes when he sees the flood coming. There’s more nice casual jokes than I remembered were in this short. It isn’t quotable, but that’s because all the jokes depend on their context to be anything. And a cartoon doesn’t have to be quotable to be good.

But what’s bad. Mm. Well, little things. Every scene takes a few seconds longer than it needs. The music was done by hitting shuffle on the King Features 1960s Background Themes playlist. I’ll give them a pass on how much animation gets reused within this short. They had like $20 and a heap of Green Stamps for an animation budget, and as many as twelve minutes to draw the thing. But did a third of all the dialogue have to be Olive Oyl crying out “Heellllp” in an endless repeated chant? (I likely find this more annoying than other people because the same chant gets used in many of the 60s cartoons. I recognize it like I recognize the exact same gunshot sound effect in half of all the M-G-M Tom and Jerry cartoons.)

For the most part, this cartoon is boring. Or it’s annoying, when Olive Oyl is crying out “Heellllp” in a sound clip they used in every King Features Popeye. It’s going a bit loopy, with the speed and magnitude of the flooding. But it’s not until 3:55, it changes. This is when Popeye notices the Statue of Liberty is almost drowned. Now the cartoon is not only bad, but great bad. Making the flooding worse by fixing it? That’s a normal line of action. That’s the plot thread that you could make a good cartoon around. Making the flooding “Oh, and it’s going to extinguish the flame in the Statue of Liberty’s Torch”? That’s not a logical thought. The cartoon leaps into some surreal, dream-logic territory. It’s surprising and weird. The rules of plot logic that we’re used to fail and that’s thrilling. Plus there’s a nice alarmed look on the statue’s face.

That it’s all a dream is … eh. The cartoon could as easily have had the big drain open up and let the city dry. Making it all a dream retroactively excuses Popeye making dumb mistakes, at least. And it sets up the here-we-go-again punch line. The cartoon manages, at least for a while, to be a great bad cartoon.


Next week I should get back to Popeye’s Island Adventures with a fresh essay at this link. Now watch as King Features double-crosses me and doesn’t post a new cartoon this week. Well, I have 219 other 1960s cartoons to look at. Plus they’ve posted episodes from Popeye And Son. I can wait them out.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: Drone Drama


There were two minutes, seventeen seconds for this week’s cartoon. It’s hard telling any kind of story with so little time. This week, they impressed me with a story that’s densely plotted and interesting, without getting confusing. The 25th of these little animations is Drone Drama. It’s not an inspiring title. I can imagine it fitting into the King Features Syndicate cartoon run of the 60s. But do you remember the subject line I picked for this essay? No, and I say that before I’ve even written it. So I can give them a break.

We start with eleven seconds in Bluto’s Swamp. He’s making something sinister: one of those drones like you’d fly at the beach, only evil. Then we go to Popeye’s ship home. He and Olive Oyl are tending the spinach gardens. Swee’Pea is doing magic tricks with Eugene the Jeep. Routine enough.

Bluto sneaks up on Popeye’s ship home. He camouflages a can of bait as spinach and leaves it for Popeye as … bait. Despite Olive’s misgivings, Popeye takes the … bait. Bluto’s drone drops a cage on Popeye and Olive Oyl. Popeye opens the false spinach can and swallows the bait. This doesn’t get him any particular superpowers. It leaves me feeling queasy too.

Bluto flies, on is drone, up to the spinach garden. And at this point I realized how much I was liking this story. There’s some fun in the Young Bluto as a rival more than a villain, yes. But him doing actually villainous things is fun. And he’s got a good scheme here, one that’s using this drone invention well. Bluto uses the drone to drop a trap on Popeye and Olive Oyl, to get to the spinach garden, and even to scoop up the garden all around Swee’Pea and Eugene. And then to flee back to the swamp.

Swee’Pea and Eugene take action. Eugene vanishes, lest he spoil the plot by fixing the problem right away. Swee’Pea uses his saw to cut open Popeye’s cage. And this is something else I liked here. Swee’Pea can saw open the cage, but there needs to be a reason why he’d have a saw. So he’s practicing magic. And now this is all set up so it’s surprising but justified.

(Yes, yes, as illustrated Popeye and Olive Oyl would be able to get out of the cage if they stepped through the wide bars. I’m an easy audience. I’m willing to pretend the cage mesh is “really” too narrow to let them pass. It may not be more work to have the computer draw a fine-mesh cage rather than a sparse one. But it’s still hard to have a fine mesh cage and have the cartoon still read cleanly, especially to people watching on a phone. Give the animators a break.)

Popeye breaks out the emergency spinach reserve. Which was in a compartment covered by Swee’Pea and Eugene, by the way. In case you needed a reason why Bluto’s drone didn’t do anything about the hidden spinach reserve, there’s one. I’m not sure this is answering a potential objection to the storyline. It might have just been that “on top of the secret compartment” was the only good background available for Swee’Pea’s scenes. But it feels like it explains a problem someone overthinking the cartoon might have.

Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Swee’Pea catch up with Bluto and the stolen spinach. Bluto urges them to bring it on, and I like his smug confidence. It seems odd when you realize he’s seen they have spinach with them. Olive eats her can, and does a Plastic Man-style arm-reach to grab the bag of spinach. It turns out Bluto’s hidden his drone in the spinach bag. It pops out with big spinny whirly blades of death. Once again I like this. Bluto’s anticipating Popeye and his bunch. It makes him a tougher menace, and so a stronger climax.

Swee’Pea eats his spinach and flies into the air as a … something that flies, anyway. He tears up the drone, and the spinach falls toward the swamp. Popeye doesn’t eat a can; he grabs some loose spinach when the bag spills open. He makes a giant fan of himself, and blows Bluto into the swap. Olive Oyl and Swee’Pea grab the spinach bag. And Eugene finally reappears, to slap cucumber slices on Bluto’s mud-covered face. Happy ending all around.

This is a lot of plot for 137 seconds. I’m impressed with how well it all works. Bluto’s got a good scheme in mind. And he even anticipates Popeye’s responses and figures what to do about them. I like this. It gives the plot a more complicated and interesting shape than the last few weeks have shown. And for as much as happens here it’s never confusing. I followed what characters were doing and why they were doing it. And even stuff that didn’t seem relevant, like Swee’Pea and Eugene’s hanging out, mattered to the story. It’s all well-crafted. Again I’m sorry we don’t get credits for these shorts. I’m curious to know. Has one of the writing teams figured out how to work within the constraints this series uses? Or do things sometimes just all fit together well?

I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link. Next week, though, I plan to finally build myself a bit of buffer and review a much older cartoon. I hope you enjoy the change.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: Beach Ball Bonanza (no bonanza included)


While this, the 24th of the Popeye’s Island Adventures series, is titled Beach Ball Bonanza, readers should know there is no actual bonanza depicted, nor is there reason to expect one. There is a beach ball. I have no responsibility for these facts and so will not apologize for them.

The short faked me out some. I’m glad for that. From the start I thought it would be another one where Eugene sets up a contest to get Popeye and Bluto out of his hair. Or at least Popeye and Olive Oyl, which would be a change. So we start with Olive Oyl accidentally hitting their beach ball over to the cactus Eugene’s just planted. Popeye makes a good saving catch. When the relieved Eugene dusts some sand around the cactus’s base, it makes Popeye sneeze and burst the beachball on the cactus anyway. Basic but reliable setup. Usually the more times the story reverses whether the catastrophe will happen the better the joke.

Bluto sees his chance to swipe Popeye’s spinach. So he dresses up in a cactus costume, the better to sneak past them all undetected. This confused me the first time around, as, well, why sneak up to them just to sneak away to Popeye’s house? This shows how bad I am at spatial relations: Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Eugene’s cactus were between Bluto’s boat and Popeye’s house. So he has reason to sneak past them. Not answered: can’t Bluto just sail nearer to Popeye’s house? Maybe the reefs are too treacherous.

Bluto sneaks past the halfway point in the cartoon. He finally jumps up into Popeye’s garden, landing on a rake, which is one of those dumb laughs you certainly want. And now, finally, as Olive Oyl finishes repairing and re-inflating their beach ball, Popeye notices Bluto. The unexpected beach ball hit sends Popeye’s spinach flying loose, and Olive races to eat it before … I guess … it hits the ground and loses its potency? Spinach has always been a magic food, in the Popeye settings. This series has made it more explicitly so. If an opened can just has to be eaten right away that’s probably a good plot constraint to put on the series. Could add for some nice action. Or it may have just made for a better flow of action this short.

So, spinached up, Olive Oyl .. manifests the properties of a hang glider. A couple times now we’ve seen Popeye notice, say, a sponge and use the spinach powers to take on sponge properties. This was completely Olive acting on impulse. She carries Popeye over to his house in a scene that asks the question: was this really better than them just running over? It’s like a hundred feet away from where they started.

Popeye hasn’t got a can of spinach, but that’s all right, since the surprise gets Bluto stuck in a barrel. Like the rake, it’s a simple but reliable joke. Popeye attaches the air pump to the barrel’s tap, and setting up the beach ball explosion and repair pays off another plot dividend. The barrel explosion sends Bluto sailing into Eugene’s cactus, and we don’t need to wonder what happened to the spinach cans which were in the barrel. And, two minutes nine seconds in, we’re done.

It’s a fair enough short. It’s made me realize there are some stock situations, unique to this series, that I expect. And that the shorts can go against my expectations. That’s a good development.


Be with me next week as I try to review another of these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: Gone Fishing, as Olive saves the day


I need to invest less energy in coming up with subject lines for these little cartoon reviews. The urge is to come up with subject lines that invite the reader in. But for most of a post’s life I need it to be easy to figure out which cartoon a particular essay is about. Cartoon title and maybe a distinctive element is all that’s needed.

This week’s is the 23rd of the series, Gone Fishing. It starts that way at least.

I’ve always loved Popeye. That’s involved a lot of defending the cartoons against the complaint that they’re all the same formula. They’re quite diverse in structure, even if they nearly all share the Popeye-eats-spinach climax. Still, there is a formula. And it’s always thrilling when a cartoon breaks from that. The commonest break, it seems to me: someone else eats the can of spinach to save the day. Like, say, in this one.

The cartoon starts with Popeye and Bluto fishing. More, with actually catching fish. This felt anachronistic. It seems, to my uninformed eyes, that cartoons are likely enough to show characters fishing. But actually catching anything? As in, ripping animals out of their homes and suffocating them? That’s gotten perceived as too openly cruel to show. Our characters will still eat fish, of course. They’ll just leave the killing off-screen. Well, they’re all ones and zeroes imitating ink and paint anyway. They can’t feel it.

This builds into a natural little rivalry, Bluto and Popeye trying to out-catch the other, and I figured this would be the plot for the cartoon. It’s got some nice sound and, at about 0:32, even a rare screen split. I’m an easy touch for that sort of action-across-several-screens shot. They end up tied together in the water and from there stop being active parts of the plot, to my surprise.

So over to Olive Oyl, who’s made one of those Newton’s Cradles things of snail shells. One still has a snail, who reasonably takes her leave. The snail grabs a couple spinach leaves and scurries to the water, while Olive follows along. I’m not sure why Olive would. I get her accidentally bothering a live snail, but why chase after it? To apologize?

Our hero spots the stranded Bluto and Popeye, just in time for them to be menaced by a giant snail kraken. To let you in on how unperceptive I am: I wasn’t sure at first this was the spinach-transformed snail from seconds before. The snail seems to be overreacting to the offense. Still, Olive paddles into action, with a pretty cute “I’m watching you” finger-point. She surfs skillfully enough to tie up the snail-kraken’s tentacles, but there’s still the snail’s claws and screaming.

So Popeye opens his spinach and shoots the can at her. She gets your nice classic muscle bulge, flexy-long arms, and tosses the snail-kraken out of the cartoon. Then spins Popeye and Bluto free and tosses them into Popeye’s hammock, sending them each to their respective boats. Happy ending for everybody but, I’m going to guess, the episode of Shimmer and Shine that’s now about a snail-kraken somehow.

I like that Olive Oyl got something to do this cartoon. She’s always gotten the occasional chance to play the Popeye role, and I think this is her first turn in the Island Adventures cartoons. I think the music’s a bit better this week, too. I’ve never been really happy with the music on this cartoon series. It’s seemed a little too generic, like they had a stock library of tunes that are never really wrong for a short, but also never really right or distinctive. Or tied particularly to the action. This time, the music as we first saw Olive Oyl felt like a good change. I like having a different audio feeling for being on a different plot thread. Olive Oyl on the surfboard also gets more distinctive, with some brass instruments adding new energy.

It’s a bit surprising to notice how passive Popeye and Bluto are. But that is a danger of being the person-to-be-rescued. I get Popeye being reactive; even in the Fleischer cartoons he was mostly inclined to go about his business until bothered. Bluto going inert seems surprising. But cartoon fishing wire can be pretty tough stuff.

I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventure has a picnic, fresh strange body horror


The new Popeye’s Island Adventure for this week is Popeye’s Picnic. As is the custom there’s a couple of other cartoons suffixed to this. In this way, they get those valuable YouTube ads which interrupt the cartoon at, for me, the one-minute mark, in the middle of an otherwise good bit of Bluto plummeting through space. I realize I’m getting to sound like all I do is complain about how web sites have set up their business. In fairness, web sites have set up their business that way and should do better instead.

I am glad for this cartoon. I’d felt like the last couple shorts all left me grumbly and sour. This one’s got a story structure that works better for me. The setup suggests a couple of nice simple jokes and an obvious climax. That seems to reliably work for me.

The setup: Olive Oyl, Popeye, and Swee’Pea are having a picnic. Bluto’s having a picnic too, right nearby, only he uses a mechanical picnic basket. I get why Bluto’s stuff all has to be weird, slightly sinister-looking mechanisms. It plays to an old storytelling tradition of good people as being closer to nature, maybe building Rube Goldberg contraptions if they must have a machine do something. Bad people need a remote-controlled umbrella.

The structural problem with two groups having a picnic on the beach is they don’t need to interact at all. Not unless the beach is crowded, which the Popeye’s Island Adventures setting can’t be until they add a sixth character. Popeye’s ready to fight right away, based on nothing more than ninety years of experience with Bluto, but all he can do is grumble. Finally 43 seconds in, Bluto notices that Popeye has spinach and launches the actual story: attempts to swipe some spinach.

I’m curious why the short took so much of its run time in establishing that Popeye and Bluto were near each other. It’d be fine for an eight-minute cartoon, with time to play with the setting more. Was this the beset use of their two minutes, ten seconds? But then the cartoons are aimed at kids, probably quite young kids. Are they writing around the idea that kids need the premise explained more thoroughly? To me that feels like they’re underestimating kids’ ability to roll with the story. But I have a lot of experience watching stories, and it’s difficult to imagine what a novice cartoon-watcher sees.

The string of attempts by Bluto to steal spinach are fun, though. The first is just sneaking up while hidden inside his mechanical basket. Popeye notices just in time. From this I realize that a character acting all sheepish when their sneaking-about gets discovered is a comic beat that always works for me. This is when the commercial interrupted things for me.

Bluto tries tunneling up to the can of spinach; Popeye fakes him out with a can containing a crab. I’m not sure the crab quite fits the Popeye character model, but then almost no animals besides Jeeps and Whiffle Birds quite look like they belong in Popeye. I still think there’s something weird in the animation of the crab shuffling off.

Finally Bluto has an idea that works, using a team of mechanical ants to swipe a can spinach. Popeye has some spinach-bearing sandwiches to start a chase. And then we get a weird choice. Popeye isn’t satisfied just to run over there; he wants to do something with style. Fair enough; it’s a cartoon, the characters should do stuff that looks fun. He takes inspiration from the boomerang that Olive Oyl and Swee’Pea have been playing with. This also gives a reason for the two characters to even be in the cartoon. He eats a sandwich and turns into a Popeye-headed boomerang that … falls to the ground. He needs Olive Oyl’s help to go after Bluto.

Popeye’s spinach-eating transforming his body is this standard bit of cartoon business. This makes me realize I’ve taken his transformations to be, at least mostly, metaphorical. Like, sure, he grows tank tire treads or something, but that’s just to depict how he’s charging unstoppably through the terrain. A limbless boomerang-Popeye needing an assist to actually move makes this change … like, literal. As in someone who happened to stroll onto the beach would see this living young man’s head growing out of a blue-and-white boomerang. I know this isn’t the first time that the spinach-induced transformation is shown to direct what Popeye can literally do. It still seems weird to me. I think because it builds a joke on what a boomerang can’t do. When Popeye turns into, like, a rocket the focus is on how a rocket can fly through space.

Well, Olive Oyl uses a beach umbrella to propel Popeye at Bluto and grab the spinach back. Really seems like it would’ve been more efficient for Popeye to just run, but it’s true that wouldn’t be as interesting to look at. Popeye settles down to have a sandwich, and gets nose-pinched by the crab from earlier. Correct ending, that.


After the short ends we get another repeat of the one with the Popeye clones. Then the sandcastle battle again. Then the treasure-hunting cartoon and then then Heatwave. This is the same slate of four cartoons as run after the Olive-Oyl-on-vacation short two weeks ago. They’re all good picks of cartoons, but it seems sloppy at least to rerun all four in the same order so quickly.

I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures shows us What’s In The Box?


I couldn’t think of a clever subject line for this short. This happens, now and then. This week’s short is two minutes, 11 seconds, and is padded out with reruns. These include Scramble For The Egg, which is worth the watch.

Does Bluto need a sidekick? He hasn’t usually had one. The handful of times he has needed a second Wimpy’s done service. But Wimpy is this lightly supernatural figure, no more invested in the plot than any fae folk would be. But this is a short where Popeye-and-Olive-Oyl are on their own, and Bluto is on his own. The storylines are parallel. I liked Bluto’s machinations. It seemed like he would do well with someone to react against.

The short opens with Popeye dancing a version of the Sailor’s Hornpipe. I realized we haven’t seen Popeye do that in ages. It’s fun to see. He gets a package. It’s some kind of spinach-generating mechanical cornucopia? The purpose is obscure, but the instructions are baffling, and he calls on Olive Oyl to help.

The first iteration of this takes spinach through a funnel, whirs around an engine, and spits out garbage. The next iteration adds wheels and a chomping mouth. This releases a rampaging mechanical monster that chases Popeye and Olive Oyl to the top of the shipping crate. The music improves during this chase. It’s a bit more focused, more energetic.

That’s a good time to eat spinach, though. Popeye does. His spinach-induced body-transformative horror this time is turning his left arm into a giant net. This scoops up the contraption and hurls it out into the bay, and the problem is efficiently handled. Olive Oyl discovers there was a mistake: this was something meant for Bluto.

Then we go over to Bluto. He’s been attaching stuff to his submarine. It was supposed to add a cool turbine engine and chompers to his submarine. He’s got the parts for Popeye’s spinach-emitting thing instead. Once turned on, the thing starts shooting empty cans of spinach at Bluto. This knocks him into the water. And there he gets chased by the chomping machine that Popeye and Olive Oyl had assembled.

There’s a lot that’s likable in this short. I don’t know why I don’t like it more. I think once again the two-minute run time is spoiling things for me. Part of the fun of a mysterious contraption story is the rhythm of trying something, having it fail, and trying again. I mean, a Road Runner cartoon is made up of small jokes. It gets to be funny because Wile E Coyote has the machine explode on him, and crush him, and drop him off a cliff nine times in five minutes. This short is going that way, but there’s only two iterations of the thing Popeye and Olive Oyl build.

I wonder if it wouldn’t work better if they cut out Bluto, and used another twenty seconds to make another iteration of the gadget. But that might be impossible. There probably needs to be some explanation of what the device was supposed to be, and what happened to the thing Popeye expected to get. All told, I don’t know what I would do different, or if it would be better that way.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures sends Olive Oyl on vacation


I did figure to spend a week or two reviewing non-Popeye’s-Island-Adventure cartoons. This to build some buffer in my writing schedule. Once again it was easier to not. But this time for sure I’ll get my writing onto a more sustainable, less exhausting schedule.

Olive’s Vacation is listed as the 20th of these Popeye’s Island Adventure shorts. As has become the standard it’s followed by four more shorts, padding the production up to eleven and a half minutes, the better to support Google advertising. I had it pop up that panel asking me questions about other advertisements or companies I’ve heard about recently. If you encounter this, remember, you should lie to them.

The short starts with a decent idea. Olive Oyl’s going on vacation, so Popeye and Swee’Pea house-sit. It’s a stock premise, but I don’t mind stock premises. They can build reliable stories, ones that don’t screw things up. This premise, it’s all in how the chaos builds, and how hard Popeye has to work to prevent Olive Oyl from discovering the disaster.

The moment Popeye’s back is turned, Eugene and Swee’Pea split open a watermelon, using a hammer. I like Eugene as this agent of chaos. The Jeep brushes up against the fairy-world. Such creatures should operate without regard for grown-up human interests. Popeye runs after the mess, accidentally opening Olive Oyl’s Murphy-like bed and spilling all that stuff over the house. This was a bit I didn’t understand until I rewatched the short. I didn’t know what to make of the contents hidden behind the cabinet. The sort running time of these shorts — here, two minutes, 11 seconds — sometimes damages its clarity.

Popeye thinks to use his spinach to clean the place up. He then tries rubbing his can of spinach on a puddle of watermelon juice. It’s dumb. I laughed. Bluto appears, offering his help in exchange for a can of spinach. A distraught Popeye pays the price. Bluto shows how to hide stuff under the carpet and runs off, cackling gleefully. Gleeful Bluto might be my favorite part of this series of cartoons. It’s so endearing.

Olive Oyl stops back in for her forgotten hat. She gets there just after Popeye’s hidden everything away, and just before everything explodes out of the Murphy-ish bed. In the explosion, Olive’s flower-planter boot flies way off to Bluto’s swamp, knocking his hard-earned spinach into the marsh. That’s by the way the flower-planter boot she made way back in episode 13, Commotion in the Ocean. I don’t expect continuity beats in two-minute Popeye flash cartoons.

Anyway now Popeye thinks, what if he ate his spinach? He squirts a blob of that out of his backup spinach can, at the same time he squirts a blob of detergent into a pail of water. This had me so nervous I’m not even being funny. This week’s spinach-induced transformative body horror is a mop-hand, but that cleans up everything within five seconds. Olive Oyl sets out again. In the punch line, Eugene has another watermelon.

Like I said, it’s a good idea for a short. I don’t like how it came out, though. There’s a couple promising ideas here. Popeye trying to contain a mess and only making it worse would be good. Bluto scamming Popeye with fake cleaning advice would be good. Popeye trying to distract Olive Oyl away from a mess would be good. Even just Popeye trying to house-sit and that going all wrong would be good. The pieces are all introduced, but there’s no time for any of them to build, or to bounce off one another. There’s spot jokes that work well enough. There’s not any build in tension, though, or pacing. It’s an amiable short, but it just sort of putters along.

Also, Olive Oyl’s vacation dream was her lounging on the beach. She lives on the beach. Is that a joke? Is it the observation that nobody’s ever happy where they are? I’ll credit it as a joke. Part of me thinks they used “going to the beach” to signify a vacation and didn’t think about whether that would actually be a change of activity for Olive. That isn’t important, no, except in how I think it reflects the short not developing its storyline enough.


The reruns padding out the short are Popeye Squared, the one with the clones, which is worth watching. Then Sandcastle Battle, another contest refereed by Eugene. Then X Marks The Spot, the treasure-hunting cartoon that did give Olive Oyl a vacation. And finally Heatwave, with that cute alligator pool toy. Both Heatwave and Popeye Squared have already been used as padding shorts, just two weeks ago.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: SPORTS


Last week’s Popeye’s Island Adventures video included four more cartoons after the new one’s end. This week’s does too. I have a dreadful feeling that I’ve figured out why they do that. This week’s video had two advertisements prefixed to it. Short ones, the kinds that they promise end in six seconds, but still. Maybe a ten-minute video attracts advertising dollars that a two-minute, ten-second one can’t.

Well. I figure, as threatened before, to take next week to review an old Popeye cartoon, so that I have more than a day to watch and think about these shorts in future. For today, though, it’s Sports Day. This is surely not a tie-in to my anticipated recap of what’s going on in Gil Thorp, due Sunday.

I like this cartoon. It reuses the setup of A Kraken Good Race, Eugene setting up a contest to get Bluto and Popeye to stop bothering him. It’s a good setup, though, even if it does require the odd state that Eugene has to be the grown-up in the room. But having the animal be the responsible one has a nice comic logic, as long as Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto are vaguely kids.

We start with Popeye and Olive Oyl playing basketball, and getting some good bounces against that sand. Eugene pours a can of spinach onto his plate, and then re-seals the can with confetti inside. That’s an interesting choice. It serves the storyline. It startles and even frightens Popeye after he opens the can. It leaves the spinach where Swee’Pea can get it for his innings. But why did Eugene do that? Had he already figured he would have to set up a Popeye-Bluto contest, and was readying a bit of chaos for that? The Jeep is a four-dimensional animal; it’s why he can answer questions about the future. But if he is using his foreknowledge, it’s underplayed to the point maybe nobody would know that’s what happened. Still, he has this sly look on his face when he does it. I guess he at least knew whatever happened would be funny.

Popeye and Bluto get into a basketball-throwing contest. When a stray basketball hits Eugene, he whips up an obstacle course. Bluto goes first, with some fun physical comedy. The soccer ball hits the goal, bounces off his head, and rolls through the net. Counts as a goal. He falls over the hurdles, over and over. He whacks himself with the putter, somehow knocking the golf ball in. He does put together a jigsaw puzzle of his crocodile friend. It gives another moment of that strange delight crocodiles give Young Bluto. I love that every time. And he runs back to the finish line.

Popeye’s turn, after he grabs the tampered spinach can. (And I notice Swee’Pea reading a pop-up book with a sea monster. That’s probably not a thematic reference to A Kraken Good Race. But I like sea monsters.) He kicks the soccer ball into the sea. He twirls around the hurdles. He hits the golf ball against a palm tree and back again to make a simple shot way more complicated. It’s honestly kind of bragging. Solving his jigsaw puzzle — a can of spinach — by slamming the backboard down is more fun. And then he opens his spinach for that burst of energy to run back to the finish line? Anyway, it’s confetti, that frightens him, and he runs back to beat Bluto’s time.

Swee’Pea insists on his own turn, and eats the plate of spinach for it. And that gets bigger, sillier stunts. Hitting the soccer ball hard enough to knock out the sun, a bit of exaggeration that wouldn’t be out of place in a Fleischer-era Popeye. He flies through the hurdles. He hits the golf ball hard enough it rebounds off an eagle before landing in the hole. And his jigsaw puzzle is of a pacifier. He vastly beats everyone’s time.

The cartoon’s structure is simple, which isn’t a bad thing. The build of absurd overachievement works. It should drain Bluto of menace that everything he does is so incompetent. But he’s also a kid in this series. It’s all right if he’s not a serious menace.

I liked the animation more this time around. It feels less rigid than usual. I trust it’s all being rendered by computer, but the unknown-to-us animators were better able to get characters to stretch and distort themselves, and move in funnier ways. Look at the way Popeye’s golf ball slides down the flagpole at about 1:33; there’s thought that went in to making that.

Eugene’s tail gets a lot of things to do, particularly serving as a starter pistol. I’m not sure how I feel about that. There’s something unsettling me in having the tip of his tail fly off and release a ‘BANG!’ flag. But that’s my hang-up, not something the cartoon has to answer for. I suppose it wouldn’t be Popeye’s Island Adventures without at least some touch of body horror.


After Sports Day, this video goes into Scramble For The Egg, then Swee’Pea Arrives, the previously-referenced A Kraken Good Race, another repeat of Feeling Blue.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures has hiccup, also strange event


There are many things I don’t understand, even now, about the Popeye’s Island Adventure cartoons. Who makes them, for example, like, is it a single writer-or-director? A team? Several individuals? How many are they going to make? How many do they plan to make? Are they still making new cartoons, and are they responding to audience reactions in making them? Why does the YouTube channel posting these have it labelled in some places as ‘Popeye For Kids’? And what is the release schedule? I often can’t find a new cartoon until a Monday, which makes me feel nervous when I know I have, like, two things I have to do on Tuesday. I’ve been thinking about passing one week on purpose just to give myself some margin and chance to see a cartoon before writing about it.

And then there’s the strange conclusion to this week’s entry, Sick of the Hiccups, which the title also says offers ‘AND MORE’. That more is other Popeye’s Island Adventure cartoons. After all the hiccups are done we get reruns of Feeling Blue, and then Can’t Handle The Tooth, and then Popeye Squared, and finally Heatwave. But with no title cards or clear breaks between cartoons you could be forgiven for not knowing what the heck is going on.

But the first cartoon of this eleven-minute video is new, so let me talk about that first two minutes, seventeen seconds.

The short started with the sort of simple, traditional premise I usually like in these: Popeye has hiccups. It disrupts his eating oatmeal. I like the camera move of his bowl leaping into the air and landing on his head. And I like Eugene popping in and imitating Popeye’s clumsy eating. There’s not much reason for Eugene to do it, but a clever animal like a Jeep can just stop in and mess with people.

Popeye heads off, hiccuping every few steps, to Olive Oyl’s. Meanwhile Bluto, dressed as a giant flower, sneaks into the short. Olive gets to play her role as smart person who knows how to find things in books and stuff, and puts Popeye through a couple of the traditional sure-fire hiccup cures that I only ever see people in comic strips or old-time sitcoms use. Popeye trying to drink a water while upside-down is a funny idea, but I don’t feel it this short.

Popeye tries holding his breath, and spinaches things up to do it better. This makes him manifest an air tank, swim fins, and breathing mask. I don’t mind him doing that, but the combination is weird. It isn’t like you’re holding your breath in scuba gear, not if you’re using it right. I feel like they had the Popeye-in-diving-suit stuff for another short and reused it here. I don’t mind him manifesting hardware like that, it’s just … this isn’t how you hold your breath. I know, the short is aimed at kids, and you never really imagine what you were like as a kid. I think, though — on the grounds of my documented complaints, at age eight, about the plausibility of The Far-Out Space Nuts — that if I were a kid I’d be bothered by that.

I don’t mind him manifesting the hardware. His accidentally puncturing the air tank on a harpoon that Olive has in the umbrella stand is … something that unsettles me more every time I think about it. The puncture sends Popeye flying out of control, back towards his house, while Olive resolves to scare him out of the hiccups.

Finally — and it’s a bit weird it can feel like “finally” when it’s only been about 75 seconds — we get back to Bluto. He’s snuck into Popeye’s garden, and sees a pile of spinach cans. He gets this delighted look as he sees he can steal all Popeye’s canned spinach. And it is such an endearing look. I think my favorite part of these new shorts might be the moments, like at 1:33 here, where Bluto’s joyfully surprised. He swipes the stack just ahead of Popeye, and then Olive Oyl, arriving.

Olive’s dressed as a ghost to which Popeye is indifferent. Popeye sees the missing spinach, though, and is horrified, scared out of his hiccups and, briefly, the ability to stand. It’s the obvious joke, yes, but obvious doesn’t mean wrong, and it resolves the story’s problem sensibly. And I like the animation of Popeye’s point of view and how the missing cans get highlighted.

Olive cleans up the loose ends, using her bedsheet ghost costume to wrangle Bluto. Popeye hugs Bluto, grateful, and that’s again the obvious resolution but also the one that makes sense. And I like when, occasionally, a cartoon ends with Popeye glad for Bluto. A circumstance like this where Bluto has no idea why Popeye’s hugging him makes it better. And Bluto has hiccups, since the premise of cartoon hiccups is that they never go away, they just transmit from one being to another.

I’ve said, I think, many warm things about this short. Do I like it? … Not so much, really. I think it’s a good start, but I only really liked a few moments in it. Bluto’s delighted face at finding the spinach free, for example. But it never gets wild or imaginative enough for me. I don’t think the short does anything wrong. Once again I suspect this would play better as the skeleton of a full-length cartoon instead.

I have no idea why they’ve started putting more shorts on the end of these cartoons, or how they pick the ones they have. I do wonder if, like, five weeks from now when they stack this onto the end of some short, they’ll also put the other nine minutes of cartoons on. I’m imagining the day when each of these videos is two minutes, ten seconds of, like, Young Popeye playing a video game and then a four-hour block of previous Island Adventures, some of them repeated a dozen times over. That seems like it’s nothing too extreme to me.


I’m do try to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link. If I do take an off week to give myself more writing time, eh, you’ll see something about it. Don’t worry.

Popeye’s Island Adventures springs leaks


This week’s Popeye’s Island Adventure has the title Plumbing Problems. It set my expectations high. Plumbing has been a really good theme for cartoons. Plumbing Is The Pipe, from 1938, was another of the masterful Fleischer-era Popeye cartoons. Famous Studios did one as Floor Flusher, in 1954, and that was pretty solid despite the layer of general boredom that settled on Popeye cartoons of that era. When King Features cranked out 286,000 shorts in twelve minutes in the early 60s, one of them was Plumbers Pipe Dream and while I can’t call that one good, it is certainly deeply weird and unpredictable and thus interesting. I may do a separate review of just that carton because it is so … so … very much itself.

So how was Plumbing Problems?

I didn’t like this one. I mean, not so much as I liked Popeye the Painter. Nor some of the other plumbing cartoons. The storyline seems too scattershot for me. What I think gives most plumbing cartoons their comic energy is how they normally have this nice, built-in ratcheting of comic tension. Water is coming, and then more water is coming, and everything done to stop the water makes the problem worse, until things get truly dire. I don’t insist that all jokes can be explained as releases of tension. But there are many jokes which do work that way, so this is a good platform to build on.

It’s a competent start: Olive Oyl tries to make tea, but there’s no water. Leaks appear all over her house. Popeye tries plugging them up, first with an umbrella. I liked the umbrella handle spewing water; that’s a good bit. Olive Oyl and Popeye take miscellaneous objects, a lot of them clam shells, to stuff into the leaks, which works for the moment that comic timing requires. The sink becomes a geyser, and Olive tries to make emergency repairs. This fits in line with her Island Adventures characterization as a tinkerer.

Popeye hands Olive Oyl a heap of miscellaneous things. After stuffing them all in the drain, the leak’s stopped for a moment. It doesn’t last, which says exciting things about Olive Oyl’s water pressure. The geyser returns, shooting all this kitchen stuff into the air.

And here — 59 seconds in — Bluto finally enters the short. He’s minding his own business, a nice change of pace for the villain. He’s startled by the fork landing in front of him, and cringes when he sees Olive Oyl’s kitchen flying toward him. The dining table, chairs, plates, and candlestick land in perfect shape, another good bit of business. And that’s ended well with Olive’s flower-in-a-shoe landing in Bluto’s face. And Bluto gets an idea.

So Bluto presents himself as a plumber. His fee: a can of spinach. This fits a long history of Bluto being smart enough to understand the importance of spinach, but not smart enough to just buy it himself. (Although since we’ve seen Popeye canning his own spinach maybe there isn’t an island grocery.) And this gives Popeye the idea of trying to use spinach to fix the leaks. This fits a long history of Popeye not just eating spinach early enough to head off his problems. Stuffing some spinach into the drain, for a wonder, doesn’t work. But it does give Bluto the chance to swipe the rest of Popeye’s spinach. I credit the cartoon for subverting my expectations. But: is this all that funny? It makes sense Bluto would use an opportunity like this to make mischief. It makes sense Bluto would try stealing spinach. But this means he’s skipping out on the main plot tension of the water in order to swipe spinach. I don’t think the short has enough time — two minutes, fifteen seconds — to make that change of plot focus work.

Popeye and Olive Oyl realize Bluto’s trick. Popeye eats his remaining can of spinach and turns into … I’m not sure. He looks a little like your classic Von Braun Man-Will-Conquer-Space-Soon style rocket. Or maybe an anchor? Neither quite makes sense, since he uses the geyser from the sink to launch into the air. Popeye grabs a windsock, and wraps up Bluto before he’s gotten all that far. Seems like Popeye could probably have caught him by running, too, although then where would the windsock have come from? The water floods out of Olive’s house, and Popeye has the idea to replace all the leaking pipes with empty spinach cans. This works right up until Olive Oyl tests it, when instead of water, spinach pours out of the faucets. This is what happens when you pay attention to your own needs more than those of the friend you’re doing the work for.

So none of these are bad ideas. But the short feels episodic, a bunch of good starting points for jokes. The storyline felt scattershot, as if the writer couldn’t think of a funny thing to do with Olive’s house leaking. Or a funny reason for it to have started leaking. It’s among the weaker of these cartoons.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures tries some art


This week’s is a short Popeye’s Island Adventure. I clock it at running two minutes exactly. That’s all right. It’s really funny as it is. Popeye The Painter doesn’t need to be longer just to be longer. Let’s watch.

There’s almost no plot to this short. It’s all setup and punchline. It works. Maybe because the premise is both simple and flexible. Popeye wants a painting. Setup: he tries painting something. Punchline: we see what he’s looking at. Repeat for as many good jokes as the still-unknown-to-us writers have. Add any running jokes and you have a story.

It’s all solid enough jokes, too. Fine art almost always harmonizes well with cartoons. I’m not sure why. It might be that the technical skill of a masterpiece gives a cartoon a better sounding board for its jokes. It might be that animators get really excited about playing with great art. Maybe not; the animation here was about the same as ever, with the writing setting up the comedy. In any case it usually goes well, unless the cartoon goes on about modern art.

Popeye’s first painting is a riff on Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, starring Olive Oyl, Eugene, and Swee’Pea. The reality is less glamorous: Olive Oyl, Eugene, and Swee’Pea are trying desperately to escape a giant man-eating clam. It’s a funny setup, and I like seeing how the other characters are off having adventures even when we’re busy watching Popeye.

Then we get a version of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, featuring Popeye and Bluto. It’s theologically weird. But we can ask whether Popeye would have been such a great cartoon character if he didn’t have Bluto to play against. There are many cartoons without Bluto, but they are typically less interesting. The “reality” scene is a bit odd too. Bluto’s hanging from a crane in what looks like the aftermath of a scheme to make mischief. That’s fine, and again, I like the suggestion the characters have other stuff going on. Also that apparently Bluto mistook the scarecrow Popeye for the real one, pleasantly goofy. Popeye throwing away the painting makes sense; that this hits the crane’s controls and sends Bluto spinning away seems imbalanced, though. I feel like just abandoning Bluto to his plight would fit better.

On to modern art! Cartoons and comic strips are usually very cranky old men regarding modern art, the last place you can get paid for saying “my kid could’ve drawn that”. This cartoon isn’t so cranky. Popeye paints a Picasso-esque Portrait of Dora Maar. Eugene’s horrified by how distorted his head’s gotten; a good sneeze fixes things.

Then Swee’Pea in a version of Edvard Munch’s Scream. Swee’Pea has something to scream at: it’s the giant man-eating clam, off on a rampage. It’s sudden and funny and by making a running joke gives the cartoon just enough story.

Finally Popeye gets inspiration, drawing a spinached up version of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. There’s some nice variations on the eating-the-spinach routine here. In past art cartoons Popeye’s eaten a can of spinach to gain artistic skill. Here he just uses it as a dab of paint, and that’s another smile for me. The music is different too, doing a more chamber music version of the New Popeye theme. He’s finally got the right painting for his wall. Meanwhile Olive Oyl, Eugene, Bluto, and Swee’Pea are fleeing the giant rampaging man-eating clam. Perfect resolution.

I watch these shorts several times over before writing them up, and usually another time while writing an essay. Sometimes shorts improve on the rewatching; sometimes I need a couple watches to get it. This is one I just got right away, and liked from the start. Good concept, well executed. And it finds space to fit in a Magritte joke that’s thematically appropriate to the cartoon and a riff on how Young Popeye doesn’t have his pipe. Good work all around.

I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures has dark, stormy night


One of those questions you never think to ask until you look hard at the record: is Popeye a good sailor? And the reflexive answer is, of course he is. But if you go looking at all the classic cartoons, and many of the comic strip adventures … he ends up adrift at sea a lot. That isn’t by itself a sign of being a bad sailor. After all, I have a perfect record so far of never being adrift at sea. But I live in Lansing, Michigan. The most sailing I do is pedaling a swan boat at an amusement park and reading books about the history of longitude. THere’s lints to how much trouble I can get in. Maybe Popeye ends up adrift at sea because he does so much more, and in such challenging circumstances, than even the normal sailor would.

This week’s Popeye’s Island Adventures is After The Big Storm. I think it’s the first one not to have Olive Oyl appear. Despite that, it’s a long cartoon, going 2:22 before it finishes.

We start in the big storm, making the title a forgivable lie. I’d wondered whether we needed Swee’Pea in the cartoon. But he serves a role. If Swee’Pea weren’t trying to fly a kite in the storm, Popeye wouldn’t have reasons to board up the windows. And then Popeye couldn’t have the clumsy accident that knocks him out. Popeye’s always a bit of a klutz in these Island Adventures stories, but that would be a bit much. Accidentally nailing himself to the wall, and dropping a can of spinach on his head, makes sense if he’s focusing on keeping Swee’Pea from kite-flying in the thunderstorm.

Come morning, Popeye’s house is out at sea. And I guess I’d assumed his house was a functional boat that happened to be on land. It’s not so functional as that. This makes me realize that back in X Marks The Spot he had a separate boat. Popeye’s house, meanwhile, has laundry to dry on the sailing mast. He’s got fishing poles and boards and shovels and all that can be strapped together to make an oar. But not a good oar. Bit of a fix.

48 seconds in Bluto finally emerges into the cartoon. He’s got this week’s contraption to go over and mess with Popeye’s house. I like the conceit that of course Bluto just keeps putting together these gadgets to mess with Popeye. It’s villainous but not mean-spirited somehow. This week’s contraption, which looks to me like a cheap version of the robots from The Incredibles, got wrecked in the storm anyway. Bluto can rebuild the legs of it, and shrugs and accepts he just has to push it into place.

Swee’Pea reenters the plot, and also assures us that nothing untoward happened after he went kite-flying in a thunderstorm. He drifts by, held aloft by his kite. So Popeye takes the hint, and weaves all his dirty clothes that he never wears into a giant kite. Then eats his spinach to tether the kite to his mast. Bit surprising to see Popeye turn into a Plastic Man-like extendable figure, but, that’ll happen. And it works brilliantly, lifting his boat out of the water. He’s able to guide it, too, so his home lands right back on its normal base. Have to say that is astounding navigation. Apparently he really is that good a sailor, and he just ends up in fixes a lot because he dares a lot.

Bluto gets to Popeye’s house’s base first. I like Bluto’s disappointment that the house is gone. It’s a funny reaction. The house lands right in front of him, though, and he can go back to work. The contraption sucks up Popeye’s Unused Clothing Kite, and it explodes, showering him with dirty laundry. Swee’Pea falls in Popeye’s arms, and Swee’Pea’s kite hits Popeye in the face. Decent ending.

Still, I feel disappointed in the short overall. It’s a good premise. Popeye lost at sea and having to improvise some solution is a good setup, and it can be done in pantomime. But there’s not much storyline. There’s a few steps toward Popeye trying to get out of his fix and failing, with the laundry on the mast, the failure of an oar. But there’s not enough ingenuity in this. I like this characterization of Bluto as just this guy trying to mess with Popeye ’cause. But here, it doesn’t add anything to the story. It’s just time spent on something that never makes Popeye’s life any harder, and that gets resolved without Popeye specifically doing anything. I’d rather they have dropped that, and given the time over to Popeye trying to sail his house more.

So the short’s competent enough. It’s just a good idea for a story rather than a well-executed one.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures is building castles in the sand


This week’s Popeye’s Island Adventure runs long. Not that long, just two minutes 15 seconds. That’s even longer than the busy one which introduced Swee’Pea. What do they do with all that time? … They build sandcastles. Here’s episode 14, Epic Sandcastle Battle.

We start with Olive Oyl leading Popeye in sandcastle-making. She’s got plans. Bluto interrupts them by having a machine which he uses to build a castle in seconds. This offends Popeye for some reason. Well, they’re kids, they can take offense at someone else just existing without it being too bad. He marches off, leaving Olive Oyl to her own subplot. Popeye stares down Bluto, and eats his spinach. At only 25 seconds in, which might be an all-time record for Popeye resorting to this. And we’re all left admitting there’s no answer to why Popeye doesn’t always eat his spinach first. He builds a castle in seconds himself, and gets back to glaring and making threatening grunts at Bluto.

Eugene the Jeep interrupts. We haven’t seen him in a while, not since the disturbing cloning episode. As with the kraken episode Eugene sets himself up as referee. And the short got me. Bluto’s castle rating a 6? Fine enough. Popeye’s rating a 9? When they looked about equally good? I didn’t think Eugene that partial and was pleasantly surprised that it was a fake-out.

Bluto whips up a new sandcastle, that crocodile friend he dreams about having, and has in pool toy form. Popeye makes a can of spinach. Bluto gets more serious, building an Eiffel Tower. And now the short gets really good. It was decent before, with a bunch of nice little jokes like Popeye sawing his way out of a pile of sand, or Eugene’s 9-no-6 scoring fakeout. But now it gets to a new level. Popeye punches open the sand “can” of spinach, and uses the blob of sand “spinach” to build something no less impressive, a Big Ben.

Bluto had added to the skill of his Eiffel Tower by putting on a comic Frenchman moustache and a strand of shells, plus that We’re Set In France background music. Popeye dons a Beefeater’s hat and offers Eugene tea. Great extra comic joke. It’s sand tea. Oh, that’s really good.

Bluto builds a Colosseum. Eugene’s intrigued. Popeye gets his attention, tapping with the long pole of a gondola, which he rows over to the Leaning Tower of Pisa he’s built. Bluto sits Eugene down and serves him sand cannolis; Popeye matches with sand spaghetti. They grind enough pepper on him that Eugene sneezes. It sends the Leaning Tower of Pisa, after a moment of straightening out, falling over into Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the Colosseum. It’s all a fine mess.

Eugene magics his way out of the rubble. Olive Oyl, whom you may remember was in this short, has finished her sculpture. It’s a heroic pose of Eugene the Jeep, which he immediately awards a perfect 10. You do have to work the judges.

I like this one. I like it a bit more each time I watch it. The premise is solid. The competition grows sensibly, and it’s resolved well. That’s all fine. What raises this a level is that all the business is done in funny ways. Popeye sawing his way out of a heap of sand, at the start. Popeye as a Beefeater offering Eugene tea. It being sand tea. Bluto, Eugene, and Popeye gasping as the Leaning Tower of Pisa comes to stand upright, and relaxing as it tilts again. Bluto dusting off his first sandcastle to present it to Eugene. These are all small jokes. But they’re well-formed, placed at the right moments, and well-timed. Once again I’d like to know more about the making of these shorts, particularly the writers, directors, and production order. It’d be good to know whether better-than-average cartoons like this are because one team is quite good at this, or whether everyone’s getting the hang of the two-minute Flash cartoon.


They seem committed to making Popeye’s Island Adventures. I seem committed to having thoughts about Popeye’s Island Adventures, with the results here.

Popeye’s Island Adventures flirts with becoming the Popeye pinball machine


So, something the Popeye’s Island Adventure people declared when the series started and that hasn’t come up before. It’s part of their declaration about how this series is different from earlier Popeye cartoons.

The show combines the original squash and stretch animation style with a fresh update on the original characters and storyline. The new Popeye has a youthful appearance and more eco-friendly position, growing spinach on the roof of his dieselpunk style houseboat and collecting rain water in barrels.

I do not know what deiselpunk is but I can confidently say no, Popeye is not deiselpunk. I can say I am more deiselpunk, and please consider, I spent much of yesterday rewinding and listening again more carefully to a podcast explaining the historical reasons, connected to pronunciation shifts, regarding why the letter ‘c’ is used to represent both the soft-s and hard-k sounds. The claim that this is a more eco-friendly Popeye, though? That … hasn’t really played into any of the cartoons. And then came this week’s cartoon, Commotion in the Ocean.

So. This, yes, has almost nothing discernable to do with Python Anghelo’s incredible and bonkers concept document for the Popeye pinball game of the 1990s. It starts with Bluto surrounded by mounds of garbage. I’m not sure why Bluto is always assumed to be a garbage lord like this. I suppose it’s the thought that you have to be a bad person to litter, so therefore a really bad person is surrounded by a lot of garbage. Which is all right until you consider what signal that sends people who aren’t able to clean as much as they “ought”. We mock the messy and the cluttered and the hoarders; is that decent?

Anyway, Bluto’s sick of the mess in his submarine, and gets to cleaning it. His preferred method: shooting it out his gun barrel. Silly; he should be doing this responsibly, by putting it in a landfill, which is a societally-approved heap of garbage we put on top of the wetlands that would otherwise be keeping the planet alive. Bluto gets away with it until he lands a heap of trash on Popeye and Olive Oyl’s boat. Popeye was pulling some traditional fishing garbage — a metal bin, a funnel — out of the water before that. I’m not clear whether that was supposed to be from earlier Bluto trash bombs, or just Popeye’s bad luck. I’m also surprised he didn’t pull up a boot or old inner tube. But pulling up a funnel and a metal box was probably necessary. It foreshadows the end of the cartoon.

Popeye and Olive Oyl are able to track down who’s responsible for the trash by looking at some of the underwear in it. It’s got Bluto’s face on it. There are several questions this raises. First is why Popeye and Olive Oyl had to wait until we, the audience, could see Bluto’s face-underwear before reacting to it. They’d seen it when the under-face was looking at them, away from us. Also, granted, these shorts are trying to be language-neutral. Is this plot point best established by face-underwear? Also, so, when Bluto wears his face-underwear, which way is his face looking? I feel like these questions are a little unfair, but would the target audience for this cartoon ask different questions?

They spot the source fast enough anyway, with a cute throwaway joke of Popeye looking through a Pringles tube. After a couple more loads of garbage Popeye sees a corked bottle, giving him an idea: try eating spinach. This week the amazing transformation is to fuse his legs together to cork up Bluto’s gun barrel. This change doesn’t seem weird the way the sponge thing last week did. Blocking a gun barrel by jamming yourself in it seems like a common enough cartoon logic, so this feels justified to me. Olive Oyl holding up a judge’s ’10’ sign at Popeye’s hopping around is a cute bit too.

Olive Oyl remembers the funnel from earlier, and they set up … I guess the destroyed gun barrel? … as funnel into Bluto’s submarine, tossing trash back into that. Bluto shrugs and starts sorting out his recyclables. Which is fine for his glass and metal cans and all. I don’t know what recycling bin heaps of brownish-green goop go in.

All these cartoons feel abbreviated. This one particularly so, though. The premise is fine enough. It’s just there’s no real conflict. Bluto throws garbage into the lagoon, Popeye throws it back on him. Couldn’t there be at least one change of fortune along the way? But then I want contradictory things, too. This short avoided the frantic pace that the series has fallen prey to so often. Scenes were well-established, and there was plenty of time to see and understand the action. And the short does well showing off something that inspires a character’s specific ideas. Bluto smashing against the porthole after his first stoppered gun-blast is well-delivered, too.


I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: wait, spinach causes transmogrifications? This changes everything!


Perhaps the near-miss between Popeye’s birthday, in these cartoons, and the 90th anniversary of his debut in the comic strip was coincidence. This week’s two-minute cartoon is Heatwave, and that’s only seasonal if you’re south of the equator. Which, in fairness, Popeye must be sometimes. But I suspect if they do a Christmas cartoon it’ll be all snowy and winter-y.

Is Bluto dumb? The Popeye cartoon settings have always been malleable about their details. Their settings and what exactly Popeye and Bluto and Olive Oyl know about each other at the start of the cartoon. Whether Bluto is dumb affects the story, though. It sets the bounds of how clever a trick he can do, and how clever Popeye has to be to foil him. I think mostly he gets lumped into the “dumb” category. He’s got size and strength going for him. He has to dump something to stay balanced, by cartoon character creation rules. But smart and strong makes him a tougher antagonist. It’s, generically, more fun seeing the hero beat a tougher opponent.

In the Popeye’s Island Adventure series everybody’s a kid. I’m not clear just how young, but that’s all right. Every age of kid is dumb in their own ways, most of them all right. It makes it less weird someone might do something dumb. But Bluto’s smartness, relative to Popeye and Olive Oyl, is still important and still shapes the plot.

The story starts with a simple premise right there in the cartoon’s title. Popeye and his spinach are wilting in the heat. He brings a sad, nearly dead plant to Olive Oyl’s, and that’s all right. She’s got plenty of water, thanks to a water purifier that Popeye somehow didn’t notice when he arrived. I like giving Olive Oyl this trait of being a tinkerer, in part since that gives her something to do that isn’t waiting to be captured or rescued. Olive’s happy to lend Popeye her water-purifier, too.

Bluto builds a swimming pool. This seems idiosyncratic, since he’s never more than like twenty feet from the shore. But I understand preferring to swim in domesticated water. He builds kind of a shabby one, but not a bad one for a kid. And then he starts pumping swamp water in to fill it. He’s startled that he gets a pool of swamp water. What did he expect?

I can kind of follow the kid logic of “if it’s in a swimming pool, it has to be clean swimming pool water”. I mean, it’s a mistake, but I get the essentialist reasoning there. This Bluto seems old to be making that mistake, though. Olive Oyl, presumably about the same age, is building a water purifier. So is he dumb? Or just oblivious?

The cartoon goes on in the obvious, reasonable way from there. Bluto swipes the water purifier and fills up his pond. And he’s got a cute alligator inflatable that reminds me of the alligator pet he dreamed of in Scramble For The Egg.

Popeye and Olive Oyl follow Bluto back to his swimming pool. They surveil the situation and Popeye eats his spinach. And transforms into a human sponge. And I’m really not sure I like that. I was okay with his turning into a mer-man last week, for example. And I’m not sure why this isn’t okay. There’s a couple influences, I think. One is that an extended underwater sequence always has a slightly dreamy logic to it, so more absurd things feel less outrageous. And being in the water and turning to a water creature has tones of … oh, let’s call it sympathetic magic. Here, Popeye just looks at a sponge, eats a can of spinach, and turns into a sponge-torsoed human-form. There’s a linking step missing there, perhaps because the cartoon’s too short to justify it.

Popeye sponges up Bluto’s swimming pool, blasts all that water into the purifier and sprays Bluto with even more swamp water, and the action’s done. The button is Popeye taking a swig of Bluto’s drink and, uh-oh, that’s swamp water too. Good enough ending, certainly.

There’s much I like about the cartoon. The storyline’s logical, apart from Popeye’s spinach-induced sponge transformation. But what everyone does and why they do it makes sense. It feels underdeveloped, though. Everybody wants a thing, and then Bluto does a mean thing, and then Popeye foils it, and that’s all. I’d like a bit more escalation, or some wrinkles where trying to do something fails and they have to try again. This might be impossible, given there’s only two minutes of cartoon time. But there were 35 seconds spent establishing the heat wave before we see Olive Oyl’s water purifier. What if the cartoon started with an establishing shot of the heat waves rolling the atmosphere, and then Popeye with his wilted spinach at Olive’s door?

This is one of the cartoons I’d like to see done as a real, full, six-to-eight minute short.


I’m doing my best to watch all the Popeye’s Island Adventures. The cartoons’ reviews should be at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: Popeye does some sailing, treasure-hunting


That hiccough that left me without a cartoon for a week hasn’t repeated. That’s mostly good. I’ve accepted that I have a fondness for the King Features cartoons of the 1960s and would take the excuse to write about them some more. I should bank a couple of cartoon essays about those, if I want to write so much about them, and have a reserve against future cartoon gaps.

That’s for the future, for work that would make my life easier and that I won’t do anyway. This week there is a new Popeye’s Island Adventure. This one is titled X Marks The Spot. It’s, I believe, the first one without Olive Oyl. It’s also one of the rare cartoons without Eugene the Jeep. I think only Swee’Pea Arrives and A Toast To Popeye haven’t had Eugene before.

This is one of the Island Adventures cartoons that doesn’t get all weird. Popeye and Bluto been sea-diving before, for example in 1935’s Dizzy Divers. Bluto even snaps a picture of Popeye’s (well, Olive Oyl’s) map to start a treasure race in 1940’s Stealin’ Ain’t Honest. It makes good sense they’d then race to the treasure spot, and try to foil one another’s ships.

I like the way the cartoon built from there. The race is a good story setup. Popeye’s and Bluto’s attempts to foil each other make sense, at least by cartoon logic. Popeye seduced by the siren-call of a can of spinach gave me a laugh I quite liked. It’s absurd but sensible in character and in story; what more would you want?

Adding in a third party? That’s a good, sensible escalation. Does Swee’Pea make more sense than Olive Oyl? Either is probably as good. More sense than Eugene the Jeep? I suppose so; what does Eugene need with mere human treasures? And the series hasn’t introduced the kid versions of other characters yet. So I’m not sure that two minutes five seconds would be enough to carry this story and the burden of introducing someone new.

But let me speculate. Wimpy would be a good third party, if he could be roused to action, and if he were in the series. Poopdeck Pappy might fit well too, except I’m not sure how old you would make him to fit the series. I’d be interested in seeing a Young Sea Hag, except that having the evil character win the treasure would change the tone of the ending. Alice the Goon would be great, though. Past that we get into minor Thimble Theatre characters who might excite me and my love but wouldn’t even register to actual people. Toar? Sure, anyone who hangs around me long enough is going to hear about how great Toar is. But I’m not asking anyone to put up with me. Roughhouse, the diner owner, similarly, has that problem. But there the dozen of people who read Hy Eisman’s Sunday Popeye comics at least see him. Geezil? He’s good when he’s playing against Wimpy. When he doesn’t have Wimpy to hate on, you notice the … type … that E C Segar was using for him.

So. Swee’Pea it is, and that’s probably the best choice they could make, even if we expanded the Island Adventures cast.

Popeye and Bluto dive at the treasure spot. Popeye gulps down his spinach and grows a merman’s tail. That’s new. It’s a bit weird, yes, but it’s no giant-tooth weird. To me that doesn’t feel out of line with, like, Popeye spinning his ears fast enough to lift into the air, as in Follow The Spinach. Or more ancient cartoons where Popeye would, say, turn into a torpedo for the sake of hitting someone. I grant I also like merman and mermaid characters, so, what the heck. I don’t blame you if that’s a touch too weird.

Bluto and Popeye get scared off by a skeleton. This makes sense for them as kids in a way it wouldn’t quite if they were full-grown. That it’s a trick by Swee’Pea, well, I saw it coming but I still liked it. It’s all a happy enough ending.

This short feels like a condensed version of a normal cartoon, which is a style that I like in these. It’s got a premise and a storyline that fit Popeye, and even fit Popeye as a sailor. The resolution satisfies me. I’m happy with this.


My thoughts about all these Popeye’s Island Adventures ought to appear at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventure: send in the clones


Whatever happened last week was apparently not the end of new Popeye’s Island Adventures. Maybe I was right to guess someone was on vacation. So here’s the tenth of the series, Popeye Squared.

Sometimes there’ll be a good story idea for a character hanging around, waiting, for nearly a century before someone does it. Here’s one of them. There’ve been cartoons where someone has duplicated Popeye, either impersonating him (Hello, How Am I, 1939), or building a mannequin to fool Olive Oyl (Puppet Love, 1944), or building a robot to fool Olive Oyl (Robot Popeye, 1960), or something. And there’s, I believe, at least one Bud Sagendorf story in the comic strip where Swee’pea gets duplicated. But Popeye himself, duplicated? With, like, normal good versions rather than evil ones? I haven’t seen that before. And that’s a great idea.

The short starts with Eugene, using his powers of advancing the plot. He’s somehow found a magic pool that duplicates stuff tossed in it, and that’s great for the apple shortage. While he’s off getting more fruits to duplicate Popeye wanders over and falls in. Young Popeye is a pretty clumsy fellow around here. It’s a bit endearing, and he does need something on his side since he can’t mutter anything fun in this series.

He heads off without noticing anything. The pool, after a pause, spits up a Duplicate Popeye, and then another, and then another. I don’t mind that the Duplicate Popeyes took longer to start making than the apple did. I can write that off as editing, especially since the short only has 130 seconds to do its business. What I don’t get is why there’s no end of Duplicate Popeyes and only the one apple. (Maybe the pool stops duplicating when the original and existing duplicates are removed? I don’t know. This really only matters for people roleplaying Popeye’s Island Adventures at home.)

The Duplicate Popeyes like each other, which in turn I like. The scene about 40 seconds in of them all just ack-laughing at each other tickles me. Eugene gets back, is shocked, and puts an end to the duplicating by covering the pond with a giant rock. I assume this means the pool gets buried under a pile of many gigantic duplicate rocks, but we don’t see that. Instead the Duplicate Popeyes go off about Popeye business.

And that gets to the high point of this cartoon and one of the high points of this series. A dazed Olive Oyl having eight Popeyes over for tea? She’s got a great expression. And it’s well-directed, repeated cuts out to establish there’s even more Popeyes and even more ack-laughing going on. Following that up with a dazed Swee’Pea, similarly, being read to by five Popeyes? That’s great. That all of them are making the inarticulate Popeye-ish grunts that the series has used? Even better, and a moment of using one of the series’ biggest limitations to be funnier. So by 1:09 in I was ready to call this my favorite of the series.

Then it all falls apart. Popeye’s in his ship-home, doing a bit of charting. (And as a person who’s never really understood navigation charts, his insight how to get there entertained me.) Then a bunch of Duplicate Popeyes break in and spill cans of spinach all over the place. Seven-year-old me would appreciate knowing that spinach cans are so fragile these days. He was always disappointed with his experiments squeezing a can open.

The Duplicate Popeyes lick up some spinach and then disintegrate into a green goo. And, well, that’s a quick and simple horrifying way out of the too-many-Popeyes problem, isn’t it? Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Swee’Pea set up to spray the island for Duplicate Popeyes. And for the last half-minute of the short, it’s various ways to get a blob of spinach into a Duplicate Popeye’s mouth and watching them disintegrate. Some of these ways are fun, like Olive’s spring-loaded Loving Cup. Some of these scenes include funny weird bits, like several Duplicate Popeyes pointing and laughing at an apple. And the music behind it is this fun, playful version of the series’ theme. But … gah, it’s eleven Duplicate Popeyes disintegrating into gooey puddles.

I mean, I felt for the Duplicates. I don’t want Popeye killing them. I suppose they were doomed to be short-lived anyway, given their vulnerability to the element of spinach and being Popeye clones and all. But the cartoon is taking lightly something that I just can’t.

So, the last hour just crashed the production for me. And no, I don’t know how to get out of the problem of “we probably should not actually have fourteen Popeyes hanging around”. Maybe they all swallow cans of Baseline Popeye’s spinach in order to fend off a startled Bluto, and they melt then. Which is still bad but would leave nobody morally responsible the result. Anyway, you shouldn’t make clones just to kill them. It’s a controversial stand but I’ll stand there.

This and my other reviews of Popeye’s Island Adventures ought to be posted at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: Popeye gets a birthday without Shorty for once


King Features Syndicate has clearly decided to try reintroducing Popeye to the popular culture for the 90th anniversary of his debut and 100th anniversary of the Thimble Theatre comic strip he debuted in and took over. Part of this is a cute weekly comic feature, drawn by a host of different artists, called Popeye’s Cartoon Club. Part of this is surely this whole Island Adventures project. This week’s cartoon, Popeye’s Birthday, suggests that the two-minute shorts started publishing a few weeks late. The cartoon just missed the 90th anniversary of the character’s debut. (I don’t know whether Popeye has a canonically established birth date. I would imagine if he has, then it’s been contradicted several times. His debut date is as good a choice as we can have.)

After last week’s honestly baffling cartoon this was a comfortably straightforward story. Olive Oyl organizes a surprise birthday party for Popeye. Bluto tries to crash it. Along the way, Eugene has to delay Popeye from stumbling into the party before it’s ready. Everybody’s doing things for reasons that make sense.

So here’s something I noticed about Bluto trying to crash the party: nobody even knows he’s doing it. That Olive Oyl is able to hang Bluto as a piñata by accident is absurd in a way that I like a little bit more each time I think about it. Later, he tries to grab Popeye’s spinach(?) cake with a fishing line, and just swipes the garbage instead. Nobody cares. In principle, I like the subtle ridiculousness of his schemes failing so badly he goes unnoticed. But it does mean the first time Olive Oyl or Popeye see him is when he falls on the cake. And that’s a thing he wasn’t trying to do.

This is another good bit of situational irony. But it makes Popeye’s and Olive Oyl’s retribution disproportionate. It feels unfair, at least unless you suppose Popeye knows when someone deserves it. Which, yes, Popeye does. One of the earliest Thimble Theatre stories with Popeye has him slugging the bad guy every time he’s on panel, with no in-character justification beyond a Columbo-like awareness that this is the bad guy. Hm. Maybe I’m the one interrogating this text from the wrong perspective.

I like how Eugene’s best idea for distracting Popeye is to shove him into a chair and start juggling. And the off-screen escalation of the juggling that still bores the Sailor Kid. Bluto’s fantasy that a big can of spinach will let him turn into a giant and chase Popeye is a cute, odd bit of kid logic. Although I guess it’s not out of line with what happened to Bluto’s tooth. (It’s reusing the walk cycle from Scramble For The Egg and I would have sworn at least one more cartoon, too. The same banana model’s being reused, too.)

It’s nagging at me how much Popeye’s been a reactive character the last few storylines. In each case it’s understandable. You can’t throw much of a surprise birthday party for someone and have them be the character who drives the story, unless the story is them spoiling the surprise. But not every short has to have every character doing everything. Even if there were more than two minutes for it.

Is the project to reintroduce Popeye working? I don’t know. My love noticed at the mall this weekend a small child wearing a winter jacket with Olive Oyl and Eugene the Jeep on it. And one of the contestants had to guess the price of a can of spinach ($1.29) on The Price Is Right today. So that’s something. Meanwhile I keep watching Popeye’s Island Adventures, and leaving my thoughts about them at this link.

Popeye’s Island Adventures: Bluto and his teeth get some attention, also spinach


It’s happened before that Bluto has been the viewpoint character for a Popeye cartoon. At least to start things in action. Focus usually returns to Bluto. This week’s Popeye’s Island Adventure might be the most that Bluto has been the protagonist for a cartoon. I say ‘might’ because I remember basically three scenes from the late-70s Hanna-Barbera run. And all I’ve seen of Popeye and Son is that sometimes it was playing, silently, on the TV in the kids corner of the Popeye’s Fried Chicken in Singapore. (There was the one Popeye’s, and it was in Changi Airport.) But let me just assert that Can’t Handle The Tooth is the most Bluto-focused cartoon, and let people correct me.

My first thought about this was the cartoon’s a mess. The second was that fluffy was going to need like four pass-throughs to follow it. I did too, really. The storyline’s still messy, but I don’t think it’s hopeless. The short needs time, though. Incidents keep happening, in a sequence that feels a bit like a dream, or like a kid attempting to tell a story. A bit more screen time would help non-kids like me follow along.

I’d have gotten some of the time from the cartoon’s start. Bluto digging into Popeye’s ship is a reasonable thing for him to do. But the action only starts when Bluto tries opening an errant can of spinach. That’s at least ten seconds of stuff we didn’t really need established. Bluto trying to open the can is decent stuff.

Half a minute in, Bluto finally has a loose tooth. Trying to get it fully loose, and having every attempt fail in stranger ways: that’s the short’s focus. I like the silent-movie-approach of tying a string to a door and how that would have failed even if Popeye had gone through the door. And I like that this sets off a briefly-glimpsed side plot where Popeye can’t catch an errant spinach can. That premise could have been a short on its own, too. It might yet be. (Maybe not. Perhaps something that’s amusing in brief glimpses in the margins of the short would be boring if it were the primary focus. At least I’ve heard of that dynamic happening. But I’m a nerd, so deep down, I believe that anything funny can only be way more funny if you do a lot of it.)

The strangest interlude is with Eugene the Jeep. It’s a moment that feels like a frustration dream. Bluto figures biting into an apple will loosen the tooth; Eugene magically swipes the apples. He even turns a bunch of apples into a baked pie. I’m not sure how I feel about Eugene’s shift to magic-assisted gluttony, but there we are. Olive Oyl stepping out in a welding mask, with a torch and pliers, is another bizarre moment. I guess she has reasons for it, as who doesn’t fix a wobbly table in the sand by applying flame and pulling things?

And then it gets really weird. It’s not new that spinach should do wondrous things for entities besides Popeye. Nor is it new that it works on inanimate objects. When a bit of spinach falls on Bluto’s finally-free tooth … it … becomes gigantic? I don’t get how that follows from the usual spinach superpowers, and I missed why Bluto, Popeye, and the tooth end up in this giant rolling ball. Popeye ends up falling on Olive’s repaired table, another showing where the Sailor Kid’s fairly hapless. Bluto ends up in the water, and loses his gigantified tooth. It’s not the first time I’ve felt bad for Bluto at the end of a cartoon, although this one feels particularly unfair to him.

I’ve watched the cartoon many times over now, so I have a fair idea what’s happened in it. I’m still struggling with why these particular things should have happened. I think it spent too much time establishing Bluto’s loose tooth, and squeezing out plot time from the attempt to pull it. More time for the failed attempts, I think, would have rewarded the short greatly. It might never make sense that Bluto’s tooth turns gigantic. But more time to process the events could have made it feel less tiring.

This is the cartoon that leaves me with the question: do teeth float?

This and my other reviews of Popeye’s Island Adventures cartoons should be here.

Popeye’s Island Adventures battles a kraken but only has two minutes for it


I continue not to know anything about the production of these Popeye’s Island Adventure cartoons. There’s stuff we can infer, but only about the tools used to make them. Who’s writing them, who’s drawing them, who’s designing the figures for the computers to animate? In what order they’re being finished? I assume roughly in the order they’re released, although I’d be surprised if a cartoon were never bumped ahead or back a week for the reasons.

Well, here’s the seventh of the new run of cartoons. It’s titled A Kraken Good Race, and the title does promise both kraken and race.

The story’s stronger this week. The cartoon’s the best, I think, since Scramble For The Egg. Eugene sets Popeye and Bluto on a boat race; Bluto tries to cheat, and it doesn’t work. Solid, straightforward idea that can be completed in two minutes and be coherent.

The action’s efficiently done. It leaves space for personality, though. The scene starts with Olive Oyl carving a wood sculpture of Eugene. Why? Just to do it, and that’s enough. Eugene encourages Popeye and Bluto to race to an island mostly to get them out of his hair for a while. It’s curious to see Eugene acting as the grown-up here, or at least the peacemaker. But it doesn’t feel out of place, at least to me. Bluto’s entrance capsizes Eugene’s pool ring; that’s enough reason for Eugene to want to quiet things down.

There’s a good bit of escalation in Bluto’s attempts at cheating. He tries drilling into Popeye’s boat; Olive Oyl uses the hole in the anchor to beat that. Bluto tries harpooning Popeye’s boat; Popeye shifts his own speed up from “some kind of cat I guess” to “spinach” and rips the muzzle off Bluto’s own gun. (I don’t quarrel with the slow speed being ‘tortoise’ and the fastest speed being ‘spinach’, but I would like the middle speed to either be ‘hare’, matching tortoise, or more clearly a cheetah or similar fast cat. I’m not sure what is meant.) Then Bluto deploys the kraken, although all we ever see is one giant tentacle. Still, good third attempt there.

Popeye pops open a can, and we get the new record for spinach-induced body horror this series as his arm turns into a kraken-y tentacle. I like that, as fun and appropriate. I can imagine people not finding this quite so merry. Popeye doesn’t fight the kraken so much as arm-wrestle it. I like this, for being silly but reasonable. I’m not reading the YouTube comments to see how many people are upset there wasn’t more punching. The kraken’s left a hole in the boat, but Olive plugs it up with the muzzle of Bluto’s harpoon gun. That’s a moment that impressed me. It gives the story that little bit extra structure, and a bit more strength.

Popeye uses his kraken-tentacle arm to propel the boat to the island. This is a great success, and builds up a tidal wave to come crashing down on the island and Eugene. And there’s another bit of good story structure: Eugene proposed this race because he’s chagrinned at getting soaked by Bluto. He ends the cartoon chagrinned at getting soaked by Popeye. It’s a good beat to close on.

My impression has been that these cartoons have been getting better. I’m curious whether this follows from the creators getting more experienced at what does and doesn’t work. Or whether there’s several writing teams and one of them better fits my tastes. Well, I like the overall direction this is going. Is there any other important measure?


And for however long I keep watching Popeye’s Island Adventures, the reviews should be here.

Popeye’s Island Adventure offers a sloppy Toast to Popeye


The sixth of the Popeye’s Island Adventures continued the experimenting with format and story structure. Does this mean I’m happy? Have you ever seen evidence that I know how to be happy? Let’s watch A Toast To Popeye.

Rube Goldberg machines are one of those things that got lodged so well in the pop culture that nobody even knows where they came from. They were comic strips, originally. At least comic panels. They’re shaggy dog stories, with a punch line of some trivial task, like the buttering of toast, done in as roundabout way as possible. Are they funny? Tastes vary. I think they do well in animation, where the camera can guide the eye. Where a long continuous shot can give the action a sense of inevitability, the way a good farce will. They do well also when the contraption has as many parts as possible, but each individual part is just enough to accomplish its task. It takes tight design. It takes sharp editing. And it takes time; the more pieces in the contraption, the better the result.

So these are all problems working against this Island Adventure. There’s still only two minutes of animation; apparently the extra ten seconds last week was a concession to the need to carry so much story. The device Olive Oyl whips up to make and butter toast isn’t a bad idea. It does have the flaw of arbitrariness in it: once the balloon’s heated up, what makes it carry the toast over to the butter knife and the conveyor belt? No particular reason, just that if it didn’t, the machine wouldn’t succeed. What causes the mechanical arms to butter and spread jam on the toast just as the toast passes, rather than a moment before or after the bread goes by? No particular reason, just that if it didn’t, the machine wouldn’t succeed. So the device is a decent idea, but it doesn’t convince me. It’s not as funny as it ought to be. It could be fixed easily; put up a couple of rails, so the balloon has a direction imposed on it, and the machine would work.

And this is reflected in the story. There’s a good enough setup here: Swee’Pea needs a snack after the popcorn’s gone, and nothing but toast will do. Why not fruits? Why not gelatin? No particular reason, just that if it would, the cartoon wouldn’t have anything to do.. Swee’Pea could want something hot, but he can’t say so. Popeye happens to see Swee’Pea’s machine in shadow at a moment she’s holding her arms up and weirdly still. Why then? No particular reason, just that if he didn’t, the cartoon wouldn’t have anything to do. The story structure is all right, but it doesn’t convince me. It’s not as funny as it ought to be.

Coincidences are fine in storytelling. They’re usually taken better if the coincidence creates a problem rather than resolves it. But this is a case where the story has finished, and then remembers that Popeye hasn’t been in the short at all and he ought to do something. If there were a few more seconds, I’d have Popeye established on his boat, doing something, early on. Then return to him finishing the task and looking back on shore as Olive Oyl is doing her fist-bumps. This is still as coincidental a reason for Popeye to look just then, but it wouldn’t be a surprise that Popeye was in the short at all. And it might look more to Popeye like Olive Oyl was fighting some kind of robot monster.

And there is very little Popeye. At about the one-minute mark I was wondering if they were doing without him altogether, and getting ready to applaud their courage. I’m sure there have been Popeye cartoons with even less Popeye in them. (Probably Wimmin Is A Myskery, which is mostly Olive Oyl’s dream about her and Popeye’s four sons, who in later cartoons would be transferred over to nephew status.) But, no; the story just needed Popeye not to be there, until he could show up and not actually help anything. (There’s also no Bluto, the first time he’s been absent from one of these shorts. But as little as Popeye has to add to the proceedings, what could Bluto offer?)

While I wasn’t convinced by the story logic, there’s still important stuff I did like here. The first is that the direction’s getting better. The editing wasn’t as jumpy as it had been, and the camera movements all have clear purposes. The swiping of the lizard’s tongue is nice and funny to watch. I found it funny to have Olive Oyl pop out of a cake, holding another cake that the lizard pops out of, holding yet another cake. The hungry lizard’s reappearance at the end is a good closing. I like Swee’Pea swatting at his sandcastle while Olive Oyl goes looking for food; it’s something to do during a slow stretch. I like the strange, bachelor-making-a-sad-dinner attempt of Olive to just put a pear on a slice of bread and serve that as food. And, really, the more I write about this the more I like the short. I just can’t help feeling there’s an arbitrariness in the machinery, and the story logic, that keeps me from being convinced.


And I’ve finally put together a tag for this series. All the stuff I’ve written about Popeye’s Island Adventures should be here.

Popeye’s Island Adventures finally has Swee’Pea in it


The still picture underneath the closing music of all the Popeye’s Island Adventures has included Swee’Pea. Through the first four of these shorts, though, he hadn’t appeared. That changes now. This week’s cartoon, episode 5, is aptly named Swee’Pea Arrives.

I don’t remember as a kid wondering where Swee’Pea came from. In the comic strip he was left on Popeye’s doorstep, and only now do I think to wonder if E C Segar might have been riffing on Gasoline Alley. If I ever have some time I’ll read the sequence and see if that’s sustainable. In the Robert Altman movie, he’s left in a deliberately swapped basket for Popeye to take. I don’t think the cartoons ever addressed the topic. Anyway, it’s all variations on a theme: Swee’Pea is a foundling, and Popeye and Olive Oyl care for him. And that’s reestablished this cartoon, with Swee’Pea dropping from a plane to arrive in Popeye and Olive Oyl’s care.

It’s after that that we get a mess. If you’re giving a character an introduction story you need them to do something relevant, fair enough. But this is … just … what? Last week’s Scramble for the Egg was a good step up. It had a clear, coherent story and I thought that signalled a step up in quality for these cartoons. This one’s disappointing.

Popeye grilling spinach-burgers is a fine idea. A hungry Bluto seeing them and wanting to swipe some is also a good idea. It risks the problem Road Runner cartoons have, though. If the villain’s motivation is that he’s hungry, well, is that really villainous? Especially when the villain succeeding would be, at most, petty theft. You can’t fault the Road Runner for refusing to be eaten. But Popeye can look like a jerk for wanting a fifth burger. Moral shading can make for good stories. It’s a lot of difficulty to put into a two-minute pantomime cartoon.

Bluto costumes himself in a haz-mat suit, spinning a tale of spinach being toxic. And Popeye falls for it, as though we lived in a world in which poorly-inspected foodstuffs could carry health hazards. That’s a good enough starting point. It just comes halfway through the cartoon’s run time. And then for some reason Swee’Pea understands the No-Blutos sign. And recognizes Bluto inside the haz-mat suit. And decides to take action. And knows the remaining spinach burger will give him the fighting prowess to do something about it. And … why? Why any of these?

The logic of the cartoon would be stronger if it hadn’t spent its time introducing Swee’Pea. At least then the only mystery would be how Swee’Pea recognized Bluto in the haz-mat suit. Maybe a scene could have given Swee’Pea the hint. … Alternatively, if Swee’Pea weren’t in this at all, but Eugene the Jeep were, then recognizing Bluto would make sense. I’m curious if this did start as a Eugene script and then get changed because Eugene’s gotten so much to do already. (This does remind me of the Robert Altman movie, and how Swee’Pea got Eugene’s part and supernatural abilities.)

But then dropping Swee’Pea would lose the first minute, which is a bunch of nice scenes of Popeye and Olive Oyl with the kid. And it has some nice bits of direction, too, including some first-person shots. And, y’know, happy people playing. The editing of the cartoon felt too tight, too fast for me. But again all the camera moves made sense, and focused on the line of action appropriately. I don’t care for the animation style where a character holds something and then there’s a fast swish to move whatever needed to be moved. But that’s my tastes rather than a moral failing of the artists.

It’s the second week in a row that Popeye doesn’t eat his spinach. And it’s, I think, the first time another character does instead. Again, I’m glad that they’re not using too rigid a plot frame here. It does make Popeye again a passive character in his own adventures, though. He’s needed to put a spinach burger on the grill, and to catch the falling Swee’Pea, and that’s it. Swee’Pea even blows Popeye’s pipe at the end.

I’ve called this a two-minute short. The first four cartoons were. But this one ran long: two minutes, ten seconds. Ten seconds might not seem like much, but it’s an appreciable fraction of the original run time. Maybe they’re pushing to see if they can do fuller-length cartoons. Maybe it reflects the needs of the storyline. There’s two plots here, adopting Swee’Pea and Bluto scheming. Maybe there aren’t ten seconds you could cut from this without leaving the cartoon completely incoherent.

There’s still no credits. But the last twenty seconds of the video are pictures of the cast, and the encouragement to subscribe to the channel. For the first time this week those last twenty seconds have some band singing. It’s not the old Popeye the Sailor Man song, but it is a pretty catchy one that circles the same idea. I don’t know why they’re using a different song either, but, nice to have.

Several YouTube commenters asked where’s Wimpy. Wimpy’s a great character, mooching with an almost fae folk-like indifference to the mortals his schemes set in motion. You could make a series just out of him. He isn’t in the still underneath the closing music here, and I haven’t seen hints he’ll be in the cast. I’m curious whether there’s any plans to use him.

I Guess I’m Just Reviewing Popeye’s Island Adventures Now


And then a couple days ago I noticed another in the Popeye’s Island Adventures series of two-minute direct-to-the-web cartoons featuring Young Popeye and cast. If they’re going to keep giving me something to write about, all right. I’ll go on writing. The only thing I’ve ever learned about blogging is that if you stumble into something, you probably should keep doing it. It’s just weird to be doing a weekly Tuesday review of something that’s actually a current thing. Even if it is based on a thing that premiered when Woodrow Wilson was technically president.

Anyway, this is Episode 4, Scramble For The Egg.

I’m rather happy with this cartoon. It’s the first one that’s gotten, to my tastes, all the important pieces together. There’s a clear storyline: Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto each trying to take possession of an egg. There’s solid jokes: Popeye befuddled by daydreaming of a dog hatching out of the egg, at least until the dog has a can of spinach too. There’s even personality. You can try telling me I’m wrong to be delighted by Bluto’s joy in imagining bonding with a pet alligator. You’ll be wrong. There’s a logical resolution, too: of course none of the rivals get the egg, and it rolls into the possession of the uninvolved Eugene the Jeep.

I’m also much happier with the direction. For the first time this series the camera movements all make sense. There’s good reason to pan over to the right and back again. It’s even got the first fight-cloud of the series. Some of the commenters claim it’s the first fight period. I think they’re being too restrictive about the term ‘fight’. And the storyline doesn’t need dialogue, so that the lack of characters doing anything but making grunting noises doesn’t stand out.

Not for the first time I’d like more information about just who’s making these cartoons, and why. The story and direction are measurably better this time around. I’m curious whether it’s a lucky combination of creative staff or whether the team making these is getting better with experience.

Eugene the Jeep’s magic powers continue to be “any old thing”. It does inspire the question of, if he can make chocolate eggs, why does he need eggs? Maybe having the egg around reminded him he could be eating chocolate eggs now. It feels a bit weird to have the egg — which Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto all assumed would hatch — get eaten. But the story does need to end with the egg in nobody’s possession, so it’s either get eaten or hatch.

Popeye doesn’t eat his spinach this time. Well, he can’t, or he’d win the egg, against the needs of story logic. There was something weirdly exciting in older Popeye cartoons that subverted or entirely avoided the spinach scene. I’m glad that whoever’s paying for these new cartoons allows that Popeye doesn’t have to gulp down a can of spinach every short. It gives each story more room. I’m more confident about this series after this one.

And Then There’s Another New Popeye Cartoon, Which I Can Maybe Have An Opinion About


I’m still figuring to write up some thoughts about the whole Stan Freberg show given the recent listen. I just haven’t had time. So I’ll go for something that ought to be quicker.

I’d noticed a third of the Popeye’s Island Adventures cartoons come out and, hey, it’s only two minutes. That should be easy enough to think about.

Once again there aren’t any credits I can find. I only know the title — Feeling Blue — because of how it’s captioned on the YouTube page.

Eugene the Jeep has another, even bigger role this short than the past two. So I appreciate their attempting to cater to me. I’m curious if this is coincidence, or if the writers like Eugene’s plot-bearing potential. Or if it’s easier to write a mute character in cartoons that have to be dialogue-free. Could be any of this.

There’s no Olive Oyl this short either. Nor is there really a fight between Popeye and Bluto. I’m glad that these cartoons apparently aren’t obliged to have Olive Oyl or, presumably, anyone but Popeye in every short. It can help storywriting to have a template, but it’s a bad idea to include stuff only because the template demands it.

It’s a bit of a weird story. Eugene plants blue spinach(?) in Popeye’s garden. I like the start, partly because it’s cute to see Eugene being unrealistically impatient for his spinach to grow. Partly because it evokes the Pink Panther and the Naked Guy battling over whether the house will be painted pink or blue, or any of the other two-visions cartoons they did. That might be coincidence. (Surely coincidence is that Eugene and Pink are both, basically, mute characters.)

Then it gets weird: the blue spinach grows giantic, and Popeye has some weird allergic reaction to it and ends up with a blue nose. He eats spinach to cure himself, which mostly makes sense when you consider what spinach has done for him in the past, including bringing him back from disintegration. This time it misfire and makes him balloon up to a gigantic blue Popeye who scares Bluto off and … you know, what the heck am I watching? Because this is kind of weird. Not as weird as that 1960s Popeye where he tries to fix a faucet and accidentally floods the world, but still, kind of weird. Eugene fixes things with a banana peel and some Jeep magic and makes a smoothie. Fair enough solution and punch line and … you know, what the heck am I watching?

I should say, I’m not angry at the cartoon or anything. I’m entertained. It’s likable enough. But something in it feels less true to the things I love in Popeye than, say, the snowball-fight episode did. I’m not going to say they’re doing it wrong, or even wrong for me. Like, if I complain I don’t know the rules of Eugene’s magic here? Why would blue spinach turn Popeye blue? Why would eating regular spinach make Popeye blimp out? … Well, I learn what his magic does by seeing him do things. And what possible mechanism for the blimping out could make sense? I accepted his abilities to forecast the future; why not to conjure a pitcher of water into existence?

But I feel uneasy yet. Maybe it’s over things that the animators work out with experience. Maybe it’s over things I need to come and appreciate for this version of Popeye. I think it’s a misstep to have Popeye be the reactive, almost passive, figure in his cartoon, as much as I like to see Eugene driving the action. Mind, that is a problem with almost every cartoon Popeye has ever shared with an animal, going back to the 30s. And I don’t mean to be an Old about this. These cartoons aren’t the ones I grew up loving, and that’s all right. Those cartoons are still available, and don’t seem to be working for a new audience. Worth trying something with a different tone.

Yes, I caught the cameo of the white sailor’s garb that Popeye got put in because the War was on and the national defense needed Popeye to be less interesting. Cute bit.

So It Turns Out There’s More New Popeye Cartoons


After that first Popeye’s Island Adventures cartoon came out I did check back the week or two after. I didn’t see any follow-up, so supposed it was just on some schedule I didn’t understand. Or that the project had its start and then was drifting. This happens. I remember in the early 2000s when they made a couple of Flash cartoons for Mystery Science Theater 3000 and then stopped just as I was getting comfortable with Tom Servo’s new voice. (I’m a bit curious what became of those, and kind of suspect they’re lost to the ages. I think there were four different cartoons?)

But it looks more likely that I just misunderstood things. There’s at least two new cartoons out and, what the heck. Watching cartoons is a comfortable thing to write about. So here’s Episode 2, A Fistful of Snowballs.

The story is that Popeye and Olive Oyl get into a snowball war with Bluto. I like this more than I did the first one. The story is better-formed. It’s not so linear as the previous one. That seems like it’s going to be important for this series. The characters don’t really speak, so we can’t be charmed by their dialogue any. And it’s much harder to establish a character without speech. We’re forced to fall back on what they do. So the more that they try different approaches the better. There’s still room for bits of personality, even without dialogue or much story, though. One touch I did like was Popeye making a squinty eye for his snowman, for example.

The snowball-fight setup works better for the Young Popeye redesign too. It’s better scaled to kid characters. Not that I couldn’t imagine a great snowball-fight cartoon with the regular versions. But it’s something easy to figure kids getting into.

I’m, of course, an easy touch for Eugene the Jeep so I’m glad to see him be relevant to the plot. And that he gets a bit of mischief in, kicking snow in Popeye’s face. (Which is another bit of personality that can be done without dialogue.) I’m curious what a new viewer makes of Eugene’s vanishing, if they don’t know about the magical abilities of the Jeep. I suppose it’s not going to confuse anyone. Eugene was shown last cartoon floating in the air. And he goes back to floating right after the scene where he vanishes. So being able to disappear fits into that. I tend to think viewers need less stuff explained than creators fear, and that you can usually drop exposition if you need to save time. But does Eugene make sense if you don’t know anything about the character?

Two cartoons in and we get the first joke on opening the can of spinach. That it’s frozen makes sense, though it also makes the spinach look particularly dreadful to taste. And then on the second watch it made me feel cold for Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto, who’re still dressed as if it’s a summertime cartoon. But I always feel a little chilly.

Still don’t see why they aren’t using the Sammy Lerner I’m-Popeye-the-Sailor-Man tune. Not using it does make me believe more strongly that this whole project is about protecting some kind of rights to use Popeye more than anything else. But it might also be something where the budget is just too low to accommodate the real song. We might get a better idea as the project develops.

Yes, I Am Aware Of The New Popeye Cartoon And Have Thoughts About It


So earlier this week Comics Kingdom sent me an e-mail. I assume they sent it to other people too. It just had that tone to it. It said King Features was “excited to announce” the launch of Popeye’s Island Adventures. It’s part of an effort to bring Popeye back into the pop culture. They say it’s with “a fresh update on the original characters and storyline”.

All right, then. I’m game. Stand near me for about twenty minutes and you’ll work out that I’m a Popeye fan. And I’m sad that he hasn’t got much of a place in the public consciousness these days besides weird appearances on T-shirts sold at kiosks on the Jersey Shore. I’m not sure why he hasn’t had much traction since, well, the live-action movie came out. It’s easy to complain that Popeye’s just this dumb violent character, but, c’mon. Other cartoons get away with punching. And dumb is a matter of context. Give a character interesting things to do and they’re interesting. And Popeye has this forthrightness and moral clarity that I still think admirable.

So let’s see what King Features is doing with the character now. Episode one, Follow The Spinach.

It was maybe halfway into the two-minute cartoon that I realized, oh, they’re not just being drawn to look young. This is supposed to be some adventures of a Young Popeye and company. All right. I’m not sure if this is what it takes to appeal to a new generation. But, I also like variants on established character sets and I don’t think there’s been a “young Popeye” series before. At least not an important one. I’ll give that a try.

I’m glad to see Eugene the Jeep. Eugene’s the top of the many weird, interesting creatures in the Popeye universe. (Cartoons and comic strips.) Only sad point is he doesn’t really have anything to do with the story; he tickles Bluto’s feet and that’s all?

The short feels oddly paced to me. The story’s thin, but a two minute cartoon doesn’t have time for a deep plot. Still, it has Popeye eating his spinach at the halfway point in the cartoon. I’m more comfortable with it as the climax. You know, after Popeye’s had all he can stands and can’t stands no more. However, he’s also got to have time to do things, so maybe this couldn’t be pushed any later in the short. It puts more work on the introductory minute, though.

More time would help, surely. But that would surely be more expensive, and I can’t imagine there’s a huge budget for making Popeye cartoons in 2018. It shows in a couple ways. The voices, particularly. Reducing all the characters to little grunting noises avoids the problem of dubbing for different language-speakers. (This is proven by the variety of languages already in the YouTube comments. Also from this I learn I can tell when someone is whining about “political correctness” in Spanish.) But it requires either simpler plots or demands more elaborate expository artwork. I mean, try to explain the Jeep’s powers using only pictograms. Plus a lot of what’s fun about Popeye is listening to him talk. I’m not sure how long I would enjoy listening to Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto grunting at each other.

It’s got a fair bit of the stuff I like Popeye cartoons for. Particularly the feats of ridiculous exaggeration, as when the spinach-charged Popeye spins his ears into helicopter propellers. Or Popeye, skateboarding across the sand, picking up a train of bicycle, washing machine, walrus, and donkey.

The animation looks, to me, like a Flash game. That is, it looks cheap, to me. But if it weren’t cheap the short wouldn’t exist at all, so, fine. I thought the scene cuts were too quick, spoiling the comic effect of some shots. Why have Popeye haul a bicycle, washing machine, walrus, and donkey through the sand if there’s barely the time to see it? Also, in what seems like the exact opposite gripe, that the camera panned too slowly when a character moved quickly, such as when Popeye leaps into the tree at about 0:23. But, for example, I didn’t get why the spinach on Bluto’s fishing rod kept moving when Bluto set the reel down. That the reel was still spinning I didn’t catch until a repeat view. This is all probably stuff the animators (not credited in the video, by the way, nor on the YouTube page caption) will get the hang of with experience.

I’m not sure what I think of the character designs, or the choice to make this Young Popeye. It does give a pretext to quietly drop Popeye’s pipe. If that’s the compromise that gets us Popeye cartoons without protest from well-meaning people, all right. His blowing a bosun’s whistle is a decent replacement. That, based on the YouTube comments, this infuriates the sort of person who complains about SJW’s makes the substitution a double bonus. And Eugene’s cute. I hope he gets to be in a cartoon soon.

So, I’m glad to see King Features trying to make new Popeye cartoons. I’ll here for new ones.