Sunday, July 4, 2010

Popeye The Sailor Wishes You A Happy Fourth

Last year we here at the Monkey celebrated America's birth with a post about Walt Disney, Ub Iwerks and their all- American creation, Mickey Mouse, who made his debut in the 1928 cartoon, Steamboat Willie.

This year, we celebrate July 4, 1933, with a sneak peak at another all-American icon, Popeye the Sailor, who is set to make his big screen debut in a Betty Boop cartoon on July 14, 1933. Based on a character in E.C. Segar's long-running comic strip Thimble Theater, Max and Dave Fleischer of Fleischer Studios brought Popeye to life in a series of animated shorts for Paramount Pictures.

A middle-aged sailor with a squinty eye, powerful forearms and a fondness for the stimulative powers of spinach, Popeye was actually a late addition to the comic strip. Created in 1919, Thimble Theater for years focused on the adventures of Olive Oyl and her boyfriend Harold Hamgravy. Popeye himself wasn't introduced to the strip until 1929, and even then only as a minor character, when Olive and Ham hire the old salt to pilot a ship for them.

Segar intended that Popeye leave the strip after that one adventure, but reader reaction was so positive, he kept Popeye around and gradually began expanding his role. Eventually, Olive left Ham for Popeye, although the relationship between the old sea dog and the willowy Ms. Oyl was less than smooth sailing.

In 1932, the Fleischers, the creators of the hugely popular Betty Boop cartoons, signed a deal with Segar to produce a series of animated cartoons based on the Thimble Theater characters. The Fleischers introduced Popeye to the theater-going public through a Betty Boop cartoon, Popeye the Sailor, then thereafter produced stand-alone Popeye cartoons. William Costello initially provided the character's voice, but was eventually replaced by animator Jack Mercer.

Sammy Lerner contributed the series' theme song, "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man."

Perhaps the most famous entry in the Popeye series is the 16-minute technicolor short Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor (1936) which is preserved in the National Film Registry.

After Segar's death in 1938, various artists continued to produced Popeye comic strips. Fleischer Studios animated Popeye until 1941 when Paramount took control of the studio and produced Popeye cartoons under the "Famous Studios" banner until 1957.

And now for your viewing pleasure, Popeye the Sailor.


Max Evel said...

Happy 4TH !

Mythical Monkey said...

Thanks, Max! And a happy Fourth to you, too!

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

I loved that cartoon, as many a skinny little boy did ... :-)

My mom served the worst canned spinach in the world but I always asked for it anyway ... until i got wise to the sailor man's game.

Happy 4th to you & Katie, Myth.

Mythical Monkey said...

I also demanded spinach from a can for exactly the same reason. It was only as an adult that I finally tasted fresh spinach and thought, "Oh, this is what spinach tastes like." Quite an improvement. But I still like the idea of squeezing the can until the lid pops off and plopping the spinach right in my mouth.

Anyway, happy 4th, Who!


Even a day after congratulations on the 4th of July.

Popeye is an inimitable character. International hundred percent. And a perfect example of how the American spirit came and was accepted by the public in countries with social, political and cultural course very different.