60s Popeye: Beaver or Not (Popeye’s swimming in air)


It’s several kinds of unusual in today’s King Features Popeye cartoon. The first is it’s a Gene Deitch-directed short. So, unfortunately, there’s no credits given for story or any of the Czechoslovakian animators. Just Deitch and producer William L Snyder. It’s from 1961, also, which I think makes this the first 1961 cartoon that isn’t from Paramount.

And then the distinctive thing: this is a cartoon where Popeye interacts with no other humans. There’s rather few like that. We know where that’s several cautions. But, here we go, Beaver Or Not.

Does Popeye ever think to try giving up when he notices he’s in a Popeye-Versus-The-Animal cartoon? These cartoons never show him at his best. They run against his (inconsistently followed) “be kind to children and dumb animals” ideal. He usually looks like the jerk. He ends up having to give in and letting the animal have his way. And Popeye is one of those characters who recognizes he’s in a cartoon. Does he ever think to jump to the happy ending?

This time around, Popeye’s battling a pair of beavers. Not sure why a pair, other than to give them a reason to say stuff to each other. Popeye doesn’t need an excuse to say his thoughts aloud, but a beaver needs some pretext. Popeye’s gone to a cabin in the woods for his vacation, and the beavers just then dam the river up. He tries tearing the dam apart so he can have his river.

One can sympathize with Popeye for wanting his vacation to be free of nonsense. But the need to draw the beavers as damming the river up right beside Popeye’s cabin damages the ability to sympathize. So, what he has to walk twenty feet upriver to get to the water? This is worth getting upset about? I grant it’ll be annoying paddling his canoe back through the mud to get home. He already had to paddle about eight minutes of screen time to get to his cabin. That’s an annoyance for off at the end of the vacation, though.

An angry Popeye stands in a dried riverbed, scowling at the two beavers sitting atop their dam which blocks it.
Popeye gets partly or fully covered in mud at least twice this cartoon. Getting covered in mud feels like something that happens a fair bit in Gene Deitch cartoons but I worry I’m just remembering wrong.

Like with any Popeye-Versus-The-Animal cartoon, Popeye tries various ways to get the animals to do what he wants. They don’t care. There’s some good cartoon action about batting dynamite back and forth. Popeye finally resorts to his spinach, with the beavers wondering “what’s he up to now?” and shrugging “who knows?” Popeye does take the gentlest approach, at least, lifting the dam out of the way and tossing it aside. Could have been meaner.

But the animals must prevail. They do it by discovering more spinach. (Often the way the animal gets the upper hand on Popeye.) “Let’s try it!” “Why not?” Reasonable. They cut Popeye’s cabin down into the river, for an even more of a dam. And finally Popeye yields to the cartoon he’s in and accepts he has to swim with the beavers or not at all. It’s a happy ending that Popeye could have gotten to sooner if he remembered every past cartoon starring an animal.

It’s all pretty good if you don’t feel like Popeye should be to smart to get in this fight. You know what Gene Deitch cartoons will look like, lots of good funny drawings and a strange soundscape. Sometimes mixed poorly: when he’s done changing Popeye can hear “a sawmill”. I can’t hear it at all. Or working so hard to be funny they don’t quite make sense, as in how the beavers roll around laughing and weightless. They look better for the short segment they’re under water, which is a feat. Usually animating something in the water is the hard part. Solid enough cartoon.

Here are some Popeye-Versus-The-Animal theatrical cartoons:

I bet I’m overlooking some, even besides the hunting cartoons and the bullfighting cartoons. And this is without looking into the many made-for-TV cartoons out there.

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.

Statistics Saturday: Ten Most Popular Men’s T-Shirt Sizes


  1. M
  2. 3XL
  3. (T-shirt bought in a tragic incident where it was the last full day of the only honest-to-goodness vacation they’re getting all year and the bar had a kind of funny-ish name and it seemed like it made sense to get something as some kind of souvenir and they only had the one shirt left and who even knows what size it is because now, with perceptions un-tainted by the desperate need to have a year’s worth of fun in under 144 hours, they could never, ever wear it, and feel too embarrassed to throw it out or to donate to some needy person, who would also refuse to wear it, so there it sits, taking up the only space in the drawer next to the three pieces of good underwear.)
  4. L

Reference: A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Barbara W Tuchman.

Statistics Saturday: My Time Spent Preparing For A Weekend Car Trip


Activity Time
Packing 15 minutes
Checking The Packing Hasn’t Unpacked 3 hours, 45 minutes
Trying To Write A Whole Four Days Ahead Of Deadline For These Blogs About Two Weeks
Forgetting Toothbrushes (again?!)
Downloading Podcast Episodes Almost At Random Until There’s Like 65 Hours To Listen To Two hours, plus three hours yelling at iTunes for not actually downloading the things I told it to
Worrying I Didn’t Pack Enough (I never stop, even after the trip)
Spending Fourteen Hours Wikipedia-Binging Starting From The World ‘Envelope’ 14 hours, 20 minutes
Turning Things Around The House Off (can’t tell; accidentally turned off the clock I was using to time it)
Removing The Fourteenth Pair Of Underwear From My Duffel Bag, Trusting That If I Need That Many Over The Course Of A Three-Day Trip I Could Probably Buy One, Even If I Am In The Barely-Settled Wilds Of Sandusky, Ohio Three minutes before I change my mind and put it all back
Panciked Buying Of Yes Albums So There’s Also That To Listen To Six minutes, plus ten minutes punching iTunes
Emergency Game Of Europa Universalis III Four years running now and I haven’t got the hang of it yet
Finding Every Possible USB Cable Except The One That Plugs Into My Camera 85 minutes

What To Pack


If you aren’t caught by surprise by your trip somewhere you’ll want to prepare, since preparation turns the stress of time spent away from home when you might discover you forgot something essential (the most commonly forgotten things are wristwatches, the ability to produce the neurotransmitter-hydrolizing serine protease acetylcholinesterase, and credit cards), into a week of worrying that you are going to forget something you need and then discovering you forgot something else while you brought enough toothpaste to crush a small army of cavities. Here’s things you need:

Outfits: 1 outfit for each day of travel, plus one just in case, plus one in case you decide to be non-nude when you set out. Add another outfit for every other day in case it turns out to be more than 20 degrees (forty Imperial meters) cooler than you expect it to be. Add one more outfit for every three days in case it turns out to e more than 25 degrees (two ha’pennies) warmer than you hoped it was going to be. Throw in another two outfits to cover the case of the weather being more average than you anticipate, and another three outfits in case you don’t see the pie fight soon enough.

Continue reading “What To Pack”