Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons!

He's short, balding, ornery and downright ugly by anyone's standards. But countless numbers of fans have grown up admiring and identifying with this unpretentious hero since his introduction to the public in 1929. That's right, it's Popeye the Sailorman!

Popeye is an underdog with a long fuse and a keen sense of fair play. Everyone identifies with him when he finally says, "Tha's all I can stands, and I can't stands no more!" And it seems only fitting that our most unlikely hero would fall for the least likely of sex symbols: Olive Oyl. Flat as a board, with a pickle-shaped nose and fickle heart to match, Popeye's "goil" puts him through his paces. Her only real competition is spinach.
Popeye made his first public appearance Jan. 17, 1929, in Elzie Segar's then 10-year-old comic strip, "Thimble Theatre," which originally revolved around Olive Oyl's family. Although he was introduced as a minor walk-on character, Popeye quickly "muskled" his way into the limelight and eclipsed the older characters to become the star of "Thimble Theatre." With Popeye came a host of new, off-beat funny folks such as Swee'Pea, the "infink" Popeye adopted; J. Wellington Wimpy, the world's most hamburger-obsessed moocher; and Bluto, the hairy "heavy" with the glass jaw.
Segar had a genius for creating strong, memorable characters the entire world knows and loves. "Not even Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse or Warner Bros.' Bugs Bunny can top Popeye in the high profile department ... (because) both the Rodent and the Wabbit have known long stretches of inactivity between film appearances ... (but) the monocular seafarer has seldom been caught without a new adventure in the works," wrote Michael H. Price of The New York Times News Service.
Popeye made his film debut in Popeye the Sailor, a 1933 Betty Boop cartoon (Betty only makes a brief appearance, repeating her hula dance from Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle). It was for this short that Sammy Lerner's "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man" song was written. I Yam What I Yam became the first entry in the regular Popeye the Sailor series.
For the first few cartoons, the opening-credits music consisted of an instrumental of "The Sailor's Hornpipe," followed by a vocal variation on "Strike Up the Band (Here Comes a Sailor)," substituting the words "for Popeye the Sailor" in the latter phrase. After that the "I Yam What I Yam" tune was used as the theme song. As Betty Boop gradually declined in quality as a result of the Hays Code being enforced in 1934, Popeye became the studio's star character by 1936.
The character of Popeye was originally voiced by William "Billy" Costello, also known as "Red Pepper Sam." When Costello's behavior allegedly became a problem, he was replaced by former in-betweener animator Jack Mercer, beginning with King of the Mardi Gras in 1935. Jack Mercer copied Costello's gravelly voice style familiar to audiences. Olive Oyl was voiced by a number of actresses, the most notable of which was Mae Questel, who also voiced Betty Boop. Questel eventually took over the part completely until 1938. William Pennell was the first to voice the Bluto character from 1933 to 1935's "The Hyp-Nut-Tist", after which Gus Wickie voiced Bluto until his death in 1938, his last work as the "Chief" in Big Chief Ugh-A-Mug-Ugh. Nearly 750 Popeye cartoons were made and many are available on video.

Known as Iron Arm in Italy, Karl Alfred in Sweden and Skipper Skraek or "Terror of the Sea" in Denmark, Popeye continues to appear in comic books published around the world.
Interestingly, Popeye's spinach obsession began in the Thimble Theatre strip but became an indispensable plot device in his later animated adventures. Spinach capital Crystal City, Texas, erected a statue in 1937 to honor E.C. Segar and Popeye for their influence on America's eating habits, making Popeye the first cartoon character ever immortalized in public sculpture. The spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33 percent increase in U.S. spinach consumption — and saving the spinach industry in the 1930s!
Today the sailorman has made Popeye-brand canned spinach the No. 2 brand behind Del Monte and he has his own brand of fresh spinach, salads and fresh vegetable snacks. He has also punched up supermarket sales of everything from Pepsi to popcorn, not to mention millions of T-shirts, caps, jackets, collectors' watches. In fact, Popeye was the first character to invade, in an important way, the toy and novelty field. From tin wind-up toys to puzzles and kazoo pipes, early Popeye novelty merchandise now carries staggering price tags in antique shops and flea markets.
And, speaking of collectibles, the U.S. Postal Service featured Popeye in its "American Comic Classics" collection of postage stamps issued to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the comic strip.
Popeye continues to be one of the most widely recognized and beloved characters in the world. It's amazing what a little spinach can do!

No comments:

Post a Comment