December 8, 2020

Popeye’s Island Adventures, the worst Popeye cartoon I never heard of. I alluded to it briefly at least twice in the past, thinking it better to not dwell on, the more recent time receiving comments –and I often don’t receive any– to the effect that the commentators had heard even less of it than I had, so perhaps I ought to say SOMETHING about it. I seem to have far too much to say about it.

in 2018ish I had been aware of the notoriously low-quality cartoons that King Features produced to try and capitalize on the high returns of 1930s popeye cartoons that had begun being broadcast on television in the 1950s. King Features actually owned Popeye but had licensed the character to Fleischer Studios and then Paramount, but was missing out on big buck$ due to not owning the animated cartoons. And so King endeavored to make hundreds of its own cartoons on the lowest budgets possible with the dumbest Tom and Jerry ripoff plots ever, their only legitimacy coming from employing the same three voice actors who had most recently been associated with Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto in the Paramount cartoons. Which also tended to have moronic one-dimensional plots but at least were well-animated. So then inexplicably King Features’ awful cartoons turned out to also be popular, and also for, honestly, no good reason, renamed Bluto to Brutus and changed his design in a superficial manner that could easily be written off as a consequence of the budget reduction, which led to an entire generation of television viewers being confused about what Popeye’s recurring foe’s name was.

Anyway I was finally looking those up, and surprisingly they were on youtube, which had for years been deleting uploads of Popeye cartoons, but these were on the “OFFICIAL popeye and friends” youtube account, and indeed they were awful and formulaic, with occasional bits of surrealism and intensity that unfortunately are subordinate to the formulaicness. I had been writing obsessive notes about a particularly abysmal entry, name of “Hoppy Jalopy,” and at the end observed:

even if the animation and art didn’t look like they cost 2 cents to make this might be the worst popeye cartoon you (you being me) have seen, although the uploading account has a number of videos labeled “popeye for kids” that look to be at the level of the “capn crunch show” that you avoided some years ago.

“Popeye for Kids” turns out to be an unofficial title for Popeye Island Adventures but that even the official account for uses. This official Popeye youtube account had uploaded all those old cartoons legally as a way of establishing legitimacy for the new series it was trying to push. It chose the 1950s King ones because those are the ones it owns, and also that its new series looks better when compared against, and yet still not better than.

Everything about this is dumb. How are diesel and punk more ‘eco friendly’ than a character born before the invention of mass-production?
This text dump seems like something somebody would come up with as a parody of the aimless mega-liberal boredom sources that continually rise in modern cartoons. also Popeye has a whistle instead of a pipe. Why he needs a whistle was less important than him not needing a pipe, and if he simply was not given a pipe OR a whistle viewers might possibly have not noticed and then the writers couldn’t pat themselves on the back for being so progressive.
But why does the new Bluto seek Popeye’s spinach if Popeye doesn’t get strength from it and Olive is the strong one, quite without needing spinach? The only reason Bluto would assume spinach was a source of strength would be if he had been watching better Popeye cartoons.

Variations on this nonanimated graphic appear during the extremely, for lack of a better word, gay closing theme song. “you NEVER seen a nuther sailor DO the things he can,” says the song with nothing to say, that only talks at all after the wordless cartoon to make sure the intended audience knows what it is called, I suppose. That it sings the words “Popeye the sailor man” rather than “Popeye for kids” or “Popeye’s island adventures” may indicate uncertainty on the part of the hack song-creating algorithm about what this cartoon was called or what purpose it was meant to serve, or possibly a profound awareness that it ultimately has no purpose.

something is really off about bluto and I had to look in the comments (which have since been disabled by the page owner) to realize that he is missing a beard. How is a BEARD offensive? I realize I said blippi’s beard was offensive to ME but first of all it isn’t a real beard and presumably he has the same target demographic as this. I suppose they wouldn’t want to give the “nu-male” beard to a character who is not meant to be a role model, and perhaps real beards are just illegal, or retroactively proclaimed to be appropriation of religious customs, or feared that in the near future they might be.

And ah ha ho ha if Olive is supposed to be so strong and independent, why is she put into this weakling feet-pointed-at-each-other anime waifu pose? Unless she is about to fall down or do the Charlie Brown Christmas dance there is no justification for this. Hey why don’t corporate entities ever try to make Peanuts media For Kids? I don’t know anyone under the age of 50 who cares about it. Olive’s eyes each also have a tiny little line jutting off the tops of them, hinting at false eyelashes, a trait not traditionally associated with Olive’s character design except late in the Paramount era when she was made into a shrill Minnie Mouse style character and meant to be conventionally attractive rather than independent or even funny. Island Adventures Olive ends up not being any of those things.

The yellow creature is Eugene the Jeep and is in fact an authentic Thimble Theatre/Popeye character from EC Segar’s comic strips, and the automobile brand “Jeep” is even named after it. Eugene did appear in a few late Fleischer Studios cartoons (Popeye describes it as “a magical dorg”), but didn’t work well with the less storyline-driven formulas and rarely, if ever, appeared until the 1978 bad Popeye cartoon where it at least appears in the opening sequence. Though I enjoy the Popeye comic strips they are entertaining for a different reason than the animated cartoons are when they are, and so it is of not much surprise that the more the cartoons try to incorporate elements from the comics, the less they work.

Despite being a near-irrelevant mascot character in Popeye Whyland Nonventures, that actually makes it considerably less unlikable than the ostensibly more important figures. As far as I can determine, J Wellington Wimpy does not appear at all. With his most noteworthy trait being how much he annoys other characters, his omission in this subtlety-free positivity fest is also not surprising. If I said his most noteworthy trait was his fondness for hamburgers, I would be yet less surprised that he wasn’t in this cartoon. 2018 Wimpy may even canonically STILL eat hamburgers and just have given up trying to mooch them off of anyone who IS in this cartoon.

Even the lack of dialog is cited as a culturally progressive trait. So it will be “as funny in bangladesh*” as elsewhere. Except it isn’t funny anywhere and the new premise still has to be spelled out, since I did not pick up on the concept of Popeye growing spinach and saving rainwater nor of Olive being an “independent woman” until I read that these were the case in a press statement. One of the funny things about popeye has always been how he talked. Also how he looked and behaved. What IS popeye without those things? Just some guy who likes boats and spinach. Or if you go back to Segar’s 1929 Popeye, just some guy who likes boats. Maybe that is a better “role model” but there is no reason to care enough to want to emulate this Popeye, much less watch him do things other than like boats and spinach.

*Unfortunately I cannot locate now the specific press statement which used this line but I insist it exists. I would not have thought up that stupid an excuse myself and not remembered I had.

The videos, in addition to having their comments hidden, have also had their own descriptions removed in the time since I initially sloppened upon them. They aren’t anything especially incriminating, and you can still find them through, though nothing behind the “SHOW MORE” button, but their subsequent deletion functions as evidence that the property owners, conscious of the intense negative reactions, even from people that aren’t me, have attempted wherever possible to make the aura about these things more ambiguous, since they failed to achieve one that was pleasant.

Oh there’s that again! Never in my life have i heard or read someone say “You know what i love most about Popeye cartoons? The ‘squash and stretch.'” That the 1950s Popeye cartoons lacked it entirely and still were successful and comparatively less stupid and pointless than Popeye Island Adventures testifies to that. People like the violence, the dialog and the amusing absurdity. Some more recent enthusiasts may appreciate its detachment from modern society since it is so thoroughly stuck in another time period. I wish the Island Adventures gang were stuck in another dimension.
ALSO “squash and stretch” in this instance is misleading because stretching or squashing a frame of cheap digital cutout animation is extremely easy and handled by the software. The artists aren’t individually drawing those frames, and so individual elements do not react to being stretched or squashed, and everything has a uniform line weight and so still looks flat and lifeless.

popeye looks so awkward moving around; he is behind an object one moment then immediately in front of it, like an old nintendo game. His individual parts all are moved but do not look like they are moving. Which is fine, for budget animation, so long as you don’t try to put this budget animation on level with something that is leagues superior to it.

Even the completely unauthorized “Popeye’s Takeaway” in Blackpool, England, is a more faithful and interesting use of the character than “Island Adventures.” King Features can’t do anything about it because, apart from the King’s authority only being ceremonial there, governments other than the United States’ don’t bend over backward to indefinitely prolong corporate copyrights on lucrative characters, although I can imagine the totally unrelated Popeyes (no apostrophe) fried chicken restaurant

having a problem or getting a problem if they ever try to expand into that region. I absolutely believe the decision to feature fried chicken on the window was made after confused tourists came into the store and asked for fried chicken rather than because the people in charge knew how to prepare it. Even in England the Eastern-Europe-style takeout joint motto is “put everything on the menu and use someone else’s pictures.” I am impressed they bothered to have someone paint that one awkward Popeye on the left, holding a can of spinach like he intends to drink it.

back to the cartoon, since I wrote allll this garbage, is it fair to issue an assessment based on a single two minute episode? yes because it isn’t popeye, it is rubbish that i wouldn’t have watched even one episode of if it had not claimed to be Popeye. It is like a video game made by Ocean. And then I felt GUILT about saying that and watched another. If something promoting itself to be a continuation of something else does not quickly establish itself as worthy of what it claims to follow, then I owe it no further attention, particularly something that hasn’t been interesting in almost 80 years, and should have been made public domain before now. The longer it isn’t, the more diluted and pointless it becomes.

Every decade gives “kids” less respect, and material that purports to be “for” them gets dumber.

yes I consider 2021 to be the next decade.
If you think it is irresponsible to show kids cartoons of fake people beating each other up and engaging in other uncouth behaviors, just don’t show them those cartoons.

There doesn’t neet to be a demographically prescribed version of every ancient character. Assuming this is meant to be a muppet babies-style companion to regular popeye rather than a replacement, I do find it less objectionable than muppet babies in any form, but I still wouldn’t recommend any of them to anyone.

Even in the 1930s Popeye was being watered down by corporate interests worrying about “the kids,” which is the sole reason Popeye’s creator EC Segar had him start eating spinach instead of big unseasoned lumps of beef to begin with.

(and also stop swearing at and physically assaulting hospital workers) and even after that happened Popeye didn’t depend on spinach to solve all his problems. It was only turned into an effective recurring gimmick in the animated cartoons because the Fleischer studios had good writing and production values. After Paramount kicked out the Fleischer brothers and took over the studio, they demanded a more disney-like product and the writing eroded immediately; popeye became a one-note, spinach-addicted loser who couldn’t do -anything- without it, Olive turned into Minnie, as I mentioned earlier, and perhaps most critically, voice actors had to stop ad-libbing lines. Ironically, it was trying to imitate Disney’s feature length productions that put the Fleischers into debt in the first place, as their shorter cartoons, foremost those featuring Popeye, had continued to come out on schedule and be lucrative. Anyway when King Features made their own cartoons the budgets caught down with the writing.

the next logical step was then, in any other situation objectively illogical, were offerings from Hanna Barbera in the 1970s and 80s, in which Bluto and Popeye were already forbidden from punching each other but not yet from speaking, being old or having beards. The trend continued in 2005’s “Popeye: Rush For Spinach” where characters still looked the same but in addition to not fighting didn’t do anything else either apart from occasionally awkwardly appropriating youth culture they didn’t understand. And now in Popeye For Kids they finally add looking totally different on top of acting totally different. I am not even sure why the latest Popeye even needs spinach if there is nobody for him to fight. Although, as noted, the spinach wasn’t even necessarily EC Segar’s idea. So by now the character has been robbed of everything that WAS segar’s idea and is exclusively comprised of an accumulation of the managements’ ideas. Segar himself got dead in 1938 at the age of 43 from liver disease AND leukemia and never had to see this happen, but couldn’t do anything to stop it, either.

I suppose it speaks to the strength of his creation that it took 80 years from the time of his death for the work to reach rock bottom.

although I like to believe Popeye was actually replaced by an impostor ages ago and escaped with at least whatever dignity he ever had.

2 Responses
  1. 1
    3:46 am, December 12, 2020

    Metcalfe Guernsey sez:

    Exclusive leaked image of Bad Boot’s redesign:

  2. 2
    2:14 am, December 13, 2020

    Frimpinheap sez:

    I appreciate that Bad Boot’s primary traits, those of being bad and of being a boot, have not been interfered with.

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