60s Popeye: Hoppy Jalopy, the racecar cartoon


Way, way, back, when I started reviewing the King Features Popeye cartoons of the 60s I skipped this bundle of cartoons. I had said none of these cartoons interested me enough. Well, I’m running out of 60s Popeyes to review, and I’ve built up a tolerance for not-interesting cartoons. I think I can say something about them now.

So this is another cartoon produced by Larry Harmon. You know what that means: it’s the future crew of Filmation. The story’s credited to Charles Shows and the direction to Paul Fennell. From 1960 here’s Hoppy Jalopy.

There’s obvious affects the tiny budget, in money and time, have on these shorts. There have been good animation bits, but never a scene that captures the imagination like overflowed in the 30s and filled a bunch of the 40s cartoons. The scope of the plots also diminishes. Popeye cartoons never have big casts, but they could at least give exits to the other competitors in the car race, or not introduce anyone but Popeye and Bluto/Brutus. That they were introduced, but not excused from the story, must reflect a lack of time to think the story through and rewrite it to a smooth finish.

But the subtler effect is to give the cartoon this weird, formalistic structure. Popeye and Brutus are racing, fine, of course they do. Is anyone else racing? Why not? Who cares what happens to them if they aren’t main cast? Olive Oyl’s scooped up in Brutus’s trunk, a thing she could only avoid by trying in any way. Why doesn’t she try in any way? Because it’s a Popeye cartoon, what is she doing in it if she isn’t abducted by Brutus? (Or being Popeye’s cheerleader, as in Swimmer Take All or Hot Air Aces.)

Brutus, in his very tiny racecar, has the trunk open and is ready to catch Olive Oyl in it. She's standing on the exposed side of the trunk hood, crying for Popeye's help, instead of taking one step away to be safe.
You know, Brutus’s racecar has some amazing trunk capacity, leg room, and engine power to fit in that tiny a frame. Also for Brutus’s steering wheel to fit around his belly.

I know this is the result of not having the animation cells to spare, to have Olive Oyl try and get away. But the effect is seeing things happen because they’re the things supposed to happen in a cartoon like this. And, in that regard, it’s fascinating. I am not proposing that the team which would, eventually, give us the animated adventures of Gilligan and the Skipper in outer space was experimenting with the audience’s concept of narrative. I mean that they ended up, somehow, creating a cartoon that works fine if you watch it while distracted and becomes odd if you pay attention.

I know I watched this — every King Features — cartoon a lot when I was a kid. I don’t remember ever wondering about why anything was happening. Yes, part of that is that the target age for this cartoon is not renowned for critiquing stories. But I wonder if it’s also that the roles of Popeye and Brutus and Olive Oyl are clear enough that as long as everyone is doing roughly what makes sense, the whole cartoon does. Or at least it looks enough like a cartoon that makes sense to pass.

60s Popeye: Popeye in the Grand Steeple Chase


We’ve finally broken Seymour Kneitel-Mania! Briefly. Jack Kinney Studios takes over for this 1960 short. Story by Carol Beers, and animation direction by Harvey Toombs.

Before getting into Popeye in the Grand Steeple Chase a quick warning. At about 7:21 in the short, Popeye uses a then-accepted-by-white-people slur to refer to being cheated. Don’t want you caught unaware.

It’s easy to say why do a horse-racing cartoon. There’s bunches of good setups available. They may all exist in the shadow of Walt Disney’s Goofy cartoon How To Ride A Horse. Also of the Marx Brothers’ A Day At The Races. Fine. Those are the shadows you want to be in.

I’ve mentioned how often Jack Kinney cartoons felt like sketches or first drafts of cartoons. And the previous Carol Beers-story cartoons, Camel Aires and Popeye’s Museum Piece, had more sketchy or baffling storylines. This time around it’s all pretty straightforward. Olive Oyl cajoles Popeye into entering a steeplechase. Brutus sells Popeye a bad horse. Brutus figures to win the steeplechase himself. Despite his dirty tricks Popeye gives his horse “organic spinach-falfa” and wins the race. And, yes, Brutus would surely have won if he hadn’t wasted all that time digging a trap for Popeye. Isn’t that always the way?

The baffling stuff is all tucked into the details. Some of them are jokes, or at least attempted jokes. Wimpy as the racetrack announcer, for example, won’t stop eating hamburgers, even though this reduces his announcements to gibberish. That’s a fair joke. It’s confusing only because I’d expect those names to be jokes. I can’t make out if they are. But not putting in the joke I expect isn’t wrong. Also, credit to the studio for at least claiming there are other jockeys. This sort of Popeye-versus-Bluto/Brutus cartoon often skips having other competitors. Brutus locking the other jockeys in makes the race more full without forcing anyone to animate a third figure.

In the stands several groups of seriously-dressed people watch the race. Olive Oyl is jumping around, swinging her arms and legs, cheering Popeye. Two of the audience are looking at Olive Oyl, annoyed or resentful or worse.
I love how much those two people resent Olive Oyl being all cheerful and excited at a sporting event.

Also I understand intellectually that people dressed more formally back then. But this crowd for the horse race is dressed, to me, like they’re witnessing a State of the Union address.

There’s other small baffling things. Brutus affects a southern accent before putting on the persona of “Colonel Rudolph Brumus” for Popeye. It’s only one line, but why that line? Also, why “Rudolph Brumus”? It feels like a reference to someone adults at least would recognize around 1960. All it suggests to me is trying to do a name that’s amusing without being ostentatiously funny. You know, the way Paul Rhymer filled Vic and Sade with unlikely but not obviously clownish names. I’m never going to fault a writer for stuffing small, needless oddities. When it works, it’s the horse’s “Fax Mactor” fake tail.

There’s a character design oddity. The writing treats it as an obvious hilarity that Popeye’s horse, Sir Gallyhad, might be taken for a racehorse. But the drawing of him? I dunno, he looks like a normal cartoon horse to me. Maybe the animators had to start design work before the script was finished. Or it could be the horse design was prepared for another project. I don’t know what other stuff the Kinney studios was doing around that time.

The biggest characterization oddity: at the end, Brutus’s horse dunks him in the pit they dug to trap Popeye. Olive Oyl and Popeye find this hilarious. But they never discovered the various tricks Brutus had played to rig the race, other than selling Popeye a bum horse. Popeye didn’t even notice Brutus pulling out Sir Gallyhad’s Fax Mactor tail. But then it’s so natural for Popeye and Olive Oyl to laugh at Brutus’s comeuppance. Maybe Beers overlooked that the story hadn’t given them much reason to want him beaten up by his horse.

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Why is the Earth ruined? September – December 2021


Earth is ruined because Western Civilization failed to develop economic or political systems that handle externalities. Those are the harms that get diffused too broadly, or too indirectly, to hold people responsible. That combined with counting the movement of money as summum bonum to do unsustainable harm. Also, in the current Alley Oop story something’s collapsed the environment 25 years sooner than it has in our timeline. But that story only started last week so it’s too soon to say who to blame. But it’s the wealthy.

So this should catch you up on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for early December 2021. If you’re reading after March 2022 I should have a more up-to-date essay here. I’ll also share any news about the strip there, in case I get any.

Over on my mathematics blog I wrote about “convex” recently. It’s a mathematics term that turns up all over the place. And that’s a part of my Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z, a glossary of terms with essays I keep trying to make short. Sometimes they even stay short.

Alley Oop.

5 September – 4 December 2021.

My last plot recap coincided with the end of the alien-on-the-Moon sequence. So the gang headed to Moo for some relaxation. This despite the warnings of “dangerous levels” of bizarre chaos from Doc Wonmug’s instruments.

Ooola: 'All right, Doc. What's the terrible news you have?' Wonmug: 'The time cubes. They're completely destroyed. Look!' He shows some smashed parts. Alley Oop: 'Yikes. How did that happen?' Wonmug: 'I dropped them and they were rushed by a passing dinosaur.' Alley Oop: 'Sounds like Stompy got them. He's such a rascal.' Ooola: 'Typical Stompy.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 20th of September, 2021. I mis-remembered Ooola as saying this was ‘Classic Stompy’. That seems like a funnier line to me, but I grant other people will disagree without being wrong.

It’s a good time to visit Moo. They’re holding the World’s Fair, with representations from half of the two countries in the world. It’s a bad time for Wonmug, who drops their time cubes in the mud, where a dinosaur stomps them. Alley Oop and Ooola are not that distressed to be stuck in their home time and homeland forever. Wonmug is barely able to handle the thought, though.

Alley’s able to help, though. Old Man Krank’s cave got hit by a weird glowing meteor recently. Old Man Krank is missing, but there’s a baby in his cave now. Examination reveals the meteor to be Time-onium, useful for reversing the effects of time. They could use this to fix the time cubes, if they don’t regress to even more childish infancy while doing so.

To complete the repairs they need some reversite, which reverses the effects of whatever you’re doing. Luckily, Moo gets a lot of weird meteorites and one fell right by where the waterfall goes uphill. But reversite is difficult to work with, for the same reasons it’s hard to talk like Bizarro if you try to think every sentence through.

Ooola: 'I can't believe we had to walk backwards all the way back here.' Wonmug: 'It was the only way. Reversite does the opposite of what you want.' Alley Oop: 'Oooh, then *don't* give me a million dollars, Reversite!' Wonmug: 'Alley, it doesn't work like that.' Alley Oop's at the cave window. Wonmug: 'Hey! Are you NOT trying to NOT throw the Reversite out the window?' Alley Oop: 'No. yes. I don't know!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 11th of October, 2021. So if you were on the wavelength for this nonsense, this part of the story was a bunch of silly fun. If it didn’t tickle your funny bone at all, I’m guessing it was excruciating, and just kept getting more so. Also a little thing mentioned here was Wonmug giving small chips of Reversite to everyone in Moo so they wouldn’t age. Which is nice except that nobody in the strip really ages anyway. It sounds like a setup for a later plot, except that Wonmug says he didn’t give Ooola and Alley chips so they would suffer the indignities of age with him. The somewhat nasty joke is a satisfying enough explanation for bringing the subject up at all, though, so maybe the immortality of Moovians won’t ever come up again.

So it’s a lot of amiable nonsense. But Wonmug’s able to build something to get him back to our present day. While he builds some new time cubes, Ooola talks Alley to going to the Raptor 500 race at the Moo World’s Fair. And that’s a new small story, starting from the 25th of October.


Alley’s wary of the dinosaur-riding event, as he’s heard bad things about how the dinosaurs get treated. But one dinosaur licks him, and he’s won over. Just in time, as one rider gets injured and they need a replacement. Why not someone who’s never raced before?

Alley takes an early lead, with everyone else turning while his dinosaur — Rawr — runs straight into the jungle. Rawr has a mission out in the middle of nowhere. Her eggs were stolen, and they’re in a nest atop this one tree. Alley’s glad to climb up there, despite an angry pterodactyl who doesn’t understand the justice of his cause. He grabs the eggs, falls out of the tree, and the dinosaur chicks hatch.

Rawr, dinosaur, licks Alley Oop appreciatively. Alley Oop: 'You're welcome. It was my pleasure to save your babies.' Rawr nuzzles him. Alley: 'Should we go back to the race? Everyone is probably worried about us?' Rawr looks up from her children and asks, 'Rararr?' Alley: 'Oookay. But only until I get tired.' They run back, Rawr and the baby dinosaurs riding on Alley Oop's back. Everyone seems happy with this.
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 19th of November, 2021. Now, if you didn’t find this scene, and story, happy, I’m sorry but you’re wrong.

Rawr, Alley, and the newborns run back to the Raptor 500 where, what do you know, but they win. (Alley tries to confess to cheating, although turns out the Raptor 500 rules encourage cheating. Also I don’t see what it is he did that’s actually cheating.) So that’s a happy ending on a lightweight, silly story. With the 25th of November starts the current story.


Wonmug brings Alley Oop and Ooola back to the present. And while they watch a time thing happens. There’s been a major disruption in the timeline that their time travels protected them from. But the atmosphere’s lost its oxygen. There’s a thousand humans still alive. The only clue is that something happened in the Rocky Mountains in the year 2000. That’s where they, and we, are this week.

Next Week!

Captain Savarna’s on death row, and Old Man Mozz forecasts doom if The Phantom rescues her. Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom (Weekdays) gets its recap next week, which will look a lot like that, but with more words. Some of the words will be different.

60s Popeye: Double Cross-Country Feet Race, where we learn how much Brutus weighs for some reason


We are entering into a Jack Kinney zone. King Features bundles these 60s Popeye cartoons into quartets, “episodes” long enough to be worth YouTube putting commercials in. For whatever reason this block — Episode 44 — is all Jack Kinney-produced and directed videos. So, hope you like those weird title cards! I like them.

Today’s is a 1960 short, story by Ralph Wright and animation direction by Hugh Fraser. Sit back and enjoy the Double Cross-Country Feet Race. If you don’t enjoy that, then enjoy learning that Brutus weighs 245 pounds while Popeye, being a sailor, apparently cannot be characterized as having any weight at all.

This short has one of the biggest mismatches between strong plotting and weak animation that I’ve seen. From Jack Kinney’s studios I’ve come to expect animation that’s expressive and usually funny to look at. But in trade it’s not smooth and it’s loose with the models. That trade often works. Look at Popeye, tied up in the starter’s rope, at about 1:15. It’s hideous, but it does convey Popeye being discombobulated.

Still, for most of the short we have pretty respectable jokes undercut by poor drawing. Popeye and Brutus run into the corn belt. It’s an actual literal belt, seen (briefly) on a giant map, with shirt buttons running past it. They run so fast the road catches fire, and the fire causes the corn to pop. The audio tells us so, anyway. The picture is a couple kernels of popcorn flowing up, and causing nobody any particular trouble. Or take when they get to Los Angeles, “the fastest-growing city in the world”. The city popping into existence around them is good. I’ll even stand up for buildings popping in suddenly, without animation. But the freeway appearing under Popeye and Brutus happens in an edit that obscures things. It’s reasonable to think they wandered onto the freeway, a much worse joke.

Popeye and Brutus stand behind the starting line of the 'Double Cross Country FEET RACE - From NY to LA and Back'. A sign establishes this is at the New York City Limits. Wimpy, the referee, holds his megaphone backwards in front of his face.
I don’t mean to nitpick, but it’s actually the whole of Popeye and Brutus who race, not just their feet.

At Los Angeles Popeye declares “I’ll get a head start back!” Brutus declares “Oh yeah?” And there’s space for some response. Popeye’s mouth even moves, silently. What joke was meant for there and how did it get lost? A few moments later Popeye and Brutus run along the border of … something? A reasonable green landscape and a featureless blue-grey void. Popeye declares hey, no fair, but what are we supposed to see?

I’ll go along with the scenes that are a black dot moving in the distance. They let the animation budget concentrate on the important scenes. But were these the important scenes? There’s a quick shot of the New York City Off Ramp, to establish our racers getting closer to the city that … we already saw them racing towards. That seems like a joke got cut somewhere. Popeye brakes himself to a stop to eat his spinach because he needs a strong finish. All right, but why brake to a stop? Did his feet catch on fire and that’s why he stopped? I shouldn’t have to infer that.

This is one of those shorts where I wish the story had been taken up and given to Paramount Cartoon Studios to animate. The animation and editing would likely have made this work better.

And something I liked, so you won’t suspect me of being a sourpuss: referee Wimpy holds his megaphone backwards. It’s a trifle, given no attention, there only for people paying attention to the pictures. It’s nice seeing it.

Not to spoil the next couple shorts? But you know how with this one, you mostly know what’s going on and why? Hold on to that memory.

Five Astounding Facts About Turbo, That Movie About A Snail in The Indianapolis 500


  1. Thanks to the pioneering work of this film next year’s Indianapolis 500 is going to have the question “is there a rule saying a snail can’t race?” in its FAQ.
  2. The current lack of rule specifying the inability of a snail to race in the Indianapolis 500 also fails to prohibit the racing of sponges, beams of light, the abstract concept of “justice”, pepper shakers, nuclear ibexes, or photosynthesis, so next year’s race looks to be wide-open.
  3. Turbo is a movie that exists, somehow.
  4. Someone will grow up with sweet memories of how this is the first movie they ever remember seeing, and when they try to tell their friends about their happy thoughts of being with their folks and watching this on the big screen, they’re going to be laughed at mercilessly, for their whole lives.
  5. Film was actually written and directed by a snail, whose dream was to someday make people bolt upright in bed asking if there really was a movie about a snail racing the Indianapolis 500, and who failed to give it up even after a high-speed collision with a lesser noddy who dreamed of being the guy in accounting who shuts down movie projects.
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