Popeye the Sailor is a fictional American
cartoon character created by Elzie Crisler Segar (pictured below with
his children Marie and Tommy). The character first appeared in the
daily King Features comic strip Thimble Theatre on January 17th,
1929, and Popeye became the strip's title in later years. The
character has also appeared in theatrical and television animated cartoons.
Thimble Theatre strip was in its 10th year when Popeye made his
debut, but the one-eyed sailor quickly became the main focus of the
strip, and Thimble Theatre became one of King Features' most popular
properties during the 1930s. After Segar died in 1938, Thimble
Theatre was continued by several writers and artists, most notably
Segar's assistant Bud Sagendorf. The strip continues to appear in
first-run installments in its Sunday edition, written and drawn by Hy
Eisman. The daily strips are reprints of old Sagendorf stories.
In 1933, Max Fleischer adapted the Thimble
Theatre characters into a series of Popeye the Sailor theatrical
cartoon shorts for Paramount Pictures. These cartoons proved to be
among the most popular of the 1930s, and Fleischer, and later
Paramount's own Famous Studios, continued production through 1957.
These cartoon shorts are now owned by Turner Entertainment and
distributed by its sister company Warner Bros.
Over the years, Popeye has also appeared
in comic books, television cartoons, video games, hundreds of
advertisements, peripheral products ranging from spinach to candy
cigarettes, and the 1980 live-action film directed by Robert Altman
and starring Robin Williams as Popeye.
Charles M. Schulz said, "I think
Popeye was a perfect comic strip, consistent in drawing and
humor". In 2002, TV Guide ranked Popeye number 20 on its "50
Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time" list.
Popeye's story and characterization vary
depending on the medium. Originally, Popeye got "luck" from
rubbing the head of the Whiffle Hen; by 1932, he was instead getting
"strength" from eating spinach. Swee'Pea is Popeye's ward
in the comic strips, but he is often depicted as belonging to Olive
Oyl in cartoons.
is no absolute sense of continuity in the stories, although certain
plot and presentation elements remain mostly constant, including
purposeful contradictions in Popeye's capabilities. Popeye seems
bereft of manners and uneducated, yet he often comes up with
solutions to problems that seem insurmountable to the police or the
scientific community. He has displayed Sherlock Holmes-like
investigative prowess, scientific ingenuity, and successful
diplomatic arguments. In the animated cartoons his pipe also proves
to be highly versatile. Among other things, it has served as a
cutting torch, jet engine, propeller, periscope, musical instrument,
and a whistle with which he produces his trademark toot. He also eats
spinach through his pipe, sometimes sucking in the can along with the
contents. Since the 1970s, Popeye is seldom depicted using his pipe
to smoke tobacco.
Popeye's exploits are also enhanced by a
few recurring plot elements. One is the love triangle among Popeye,
Olive, and Bluto, and Bluto's endless machinations to claim Olive at
Popeye's expense. Another is his near-saintly perseverance in
overcoming any obstacle to please Olive, who often (if temporarily)
renounces Popeye for Bluto.
THIMBLE THEATRE AND
POPEYE COMIC STRIPS
Theatre was cartoonist Segar's third published strip when it first
appeared in the New York Journal on December 19th, 1919. The paper's
owner, William Randolph Hearst, also owned King Features Syndicate,
which syndicated the strip. Thimble Theatre was intended as a
replacement for Midget Movies by Ed Wheelan (Wheelan having recently
resigned from King Features). It did not attract a large audience at
first, and at the end of its first decade appeared in only half a
In its early years, the strip featured
characters acting out various stories and scenarios in theatrical
style (hence the strip's name). It could be classified as a gag-a-day
comic in those days.
Thimble Theatre's first main characters
were the thin Olive Oyl (seen below in her first appearance) and her
boyfriend Harold Hamgravy. After the strip moved away from its
initial focus, it settled into a comedy-adventure style featuring
Olive, Hamgravy, and Olive's enterprising brother Castor Oyl. Olive's
parents Cole and Nana Oyl also made frequent appearances.
Popeye first appeared in the strip on
January 17th, 1929, as a minor character. He was initially hired by
Castor Oyl and Ham to crew a ship for a voyage to Dice Island, the
location of a casino owned by the crooked gambler Fadewell. Castor
intended to break the bank at the casino using the unbeatable good
luck conferred by stroking the hairs on the head of Bernice the
Whiffle Hen. Weeks later, on the trip back, Popeye was shot many
times by Jack Snork, a stooge of Fadewell's, but survived by rubbing
Bernice's head. After the adventure, Popeye left the strip, but,
owing to reader reaction, he was quickly brought back.
The Popeye character became so popular
that he was given a larger role, and the strip was taken up by many
more newspapers as a result. Initial strips presented Olive as being
less than impressed with Popeye, but she eventually left Hamgravy to
become Popeye's girlfriend and Hamgravy left the strip as a regular.
the years, however, she has often displayed a fickle attitude
towards the sailor. Castor Oyl continued to come up with get-rich-quick
schemes and enlisted Popeye in his misadventures. Eventually, he
settled down as a detective and later on bought a ranch out west.
Castor has seldom appeared in recent years.
In 1933, Popeye received a foundling baby
in the mail whom he adopted and named Swee'Pea. Other regular
characters in the strip were J. Wellington Wimpy, a hamburger-loving
moocher who would "gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger
today" (he was also soft-spoken and cowardly; Vickers Wellington
bombers were nicknamed "Wimpys" after the character);
George W. Geezil, a local cobbler who spoke in a heavily affected
accent and habitually attempted to murder or wish death upon Wimpy;
and Eugene the Jeep, a yellow, vaguely doglike animal from Africa
with magical powers. In addition, the strip featured the Sea Hag, a
terrible pirate, as well as the last witch on Earth, her even more
terrible sister excepted; Alice the Goon, a monstrous creature who
entered the strip as the Sea Hag's henchwoman and continued as
Swee'Pea's babysitter; and Toar, a caveman.
Segar's strip was quite different from the
cartoons that followed. The stories were more complex, with many
characters that never appeared in the cartoons (King Blozo, for
example). Spinach usage was rare and Bluto made only one appearance.
Segar signed some of his early Popeye comic strips with a cigar, his
last name being a homophone of "cigar" (pronounced
SEE-gar). Comics historian Brian Walker stated: "Segar offered
up a masterful blend of comedy, fantasy, satire and suspense in
Thimble Theater Starring Popeye".
Thimble Theatre became one of King
Features' most popular strips during the 1930s. A poll of adult comic
strip readers in the April 1937 issue of Fortune magazine voted
Popeye their second-favorite comic strip (after Little Orphan Annie).
By 1938, Thimble Theatre was running in 500 newspapers, and over 600
licensed "Popeye" products were on sale. The success of the
strip meant Segar was earning $100,000 a year at the time of his
death. Following an eventual name change to Popeye in the 1970s, the
comic remains one of the longest-running strips in syndication today.
After Mussolini came to power in Italy, he banned all American comic
strips, but Popeye was so popular the Italians made him bring it
back. The strip continued after Segar's death in 1938; a series of
artists performed the work. In the 1950s, a spinoff strip, Popeye the
Sailorman, was established.
Thimble Theatre had a number of topper
strips on the Sunday page during its run; the main topper, Sappo, ran
for 21 years, from February 28th, 1926, to May 18th, 1947. (Sappo was
a revival of an earlier Segar daily strip called The Five-Fifteen,
aka Sappo the Commuter, which ran from February 9th, 1921, to
February 17th, 1925.) For seven weeks in 1936, Segar replaced Sappo
with Pete and Pansy - For Kids Only (Sept 27th - Nov 8th, 1936).
There were also a series of topper panel
strips that ran next to Sappo; Segar drew one of them, Popeye's
Cartoon Club (April 8th, 1934 - May 5th, 1935). The rest were
produced by Joe Musial and Bud Sagendorf: Wiggle Line Movie (Sept
11th - Nov 13th, 1938), Wimpy's Zoo's Who (Nov 20th, 1938 - Dec 1st,
1940), Play-Store (Dec 8th, 1940 - July 18th, 1943), Popeye's Army
and Navy (July 25th - Sept 12th, 1943), Pinup Jeep (Sept 19th, 1943 -
April 2nd, 1944), and Me Life by Popeye (April 9th, 1944)
After Segar's death in 1938, many
different artists were hired to draw the strip. Tom Sims, the son of
a Coosa River channel-boat captain, continued writing Thimble Theatre
strips and established the Popeye the Sailorman spin-off. Doc Winner
and Bela Zaboly, successively, handled the artwork during Sims's run.
Eventually, Ralph Stein stepped in to write the strip until the
series was taken over by Bud Sagendorf in 1959.
wrote and drew the daily strip until 1986, and continued to write
and draw the Sunday strip until his death in 1994. Sagendorf, who had
been Segar's assistant, made a definite effort to retain much of
Segar's classic style, although his art is instantly discernible.
Sagendorf continued to use many obscure characters from the Segar
years, especially O. G. Wotasnozzle and King Blozo. Sagendorf's new
characters, such as the Thung, also had a very Segar-like quality.
What set Sagendorf apart from Segar more than anything else was his
sense of pacing. Where plotlines moved very quickly with Segar, it
sometimes took an entire week of Sagendorf's daily strips for the
plot to be advanced even a small amount.
From 1986 to 1992, the daily strip was
written and drawn by Bobby London, who, after some controversy, was
fired from the strip for a story that could be taken to satirize
abortion. London's strips put Popeye and his friends in updated
situations, but kept the spirit of Segar's original. One classic
storyline, titled "The Return of Bluto", showed the sailor
battling every version of the bearded bully from the comic strip,
comic books, and animated films. The Sunday edition of the comic
strip is currently drawn by Hy Eisman, who took over in 1994. The
daily strip began featuring reruns of Sagendorf's strips after London
was fired and continues to do so today.
On January 1st, 2009, 70 years since the
death of his creator, Segar's character of Popeye (though not the
various films, TV shows, theme music and other media based on him)
became public domain in most countries, but remains under copyright
in the US. Because Segar was an employee of King Features Syndicate
when he created the Popeye character for the company's Thimble
Theatre strip, Popeye is treated as a work for hire under US
copyright law. Works for hire are protected for 95 years from
publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. Since
Popeye made his first appearance in January 1929, and all US
copyrights expire on December 31 of the year that the term ends,
Popeye will enter the public domain in the US on January 1st, 2025,
assuming no amendments to US copyright law before that date.
have been a number of Popeye comic books, from Dell, King Comics,
Gold Key Comics, Charlton Comics and others, originally written and
illustrated by Bud Sagendorf. In the Dell comics, Popeye became
something of a crimefighter, thwarting evil organizations and Bluto's
criminal activities. The new villains included the numerous Misermite
dwarfs, who were all identical.
Popeye appeared in the British TV Comic
becoming the cover story in 1960 with stories written and drawn by
"Chick" Henderson. Bluto was referred to as Brutus and was
Popeye's only nemesis throughout the entire run.
A variety of artists have created Popeye
comic book stories since then; for example, George Wildman drew
Popeye stories for Charlton Comics from 1969 until the late 1970s.
The Gold Key series was illustrated by Wildman and scripted by Bill
Pearson, with some issues written by Nick Cuti.
In 1988, Ocean Comics released the Popeye
Special written by Ron Fortier with art by Ben Dunn. The story
presented Popeye's origin story, including his given name of
"Ugly Kidd" and attempted to tell more of a lighthearted
adventure story as opposed to using typical comic strip style humor.
The story also featured a more realistic art style and was edited by
Bill Pearson, who also lettered and inked the story as well as the
front cover. A second issue, by the same creative team, followed in
1988. The second issue introduced the idea that Bluto and Brutus were
actually twin brothers and not the same person, an idea also used in
the comic strip on December 28th, 2008 and April 5th, 2009. In 1999,
to celebrate Popeye's 70th anniversary, Ocean Comics revisited the
franchise with a one-shot comic book, titled The Wedding of Popeye
and Olive Oyl, written by Peter David. The comic book brought
together a large portion of the casts of both the comic strip and the
animated shorts, and Popeye and Olive Oyl were finally wed after
decades of courtship. However, this marriage has not been reflected
in all media since the comic was published.
In 1989, a special series of short Popeye
comic books were included in specially marked boxes of Instant Quaker
Oatmeal, and Popeye also appeared in three TV commercials for Quaker
Oatmeal, which featured a parrot delivering the tag line "Popeye
wants a Quaker!" The plots were similar to those of the films:
Popeye loses either Olive Oyl or Swee'Pea to a musclebound
antagonist, eats something invigorating, and proceeds to save the
day. In this case, however, the invigorating elixir was not his usual
spinach, but rather one of four flavors of Quaker Oatmeal (a
different flavor was showcased with each mini-comic). The comics
ended with the sailor saying, "I'm Popeye the Quaker Man!",
which offended members of the Religious Society of Friends or
Quakers. Members of this religious group (which has no connection to
the cereal company) are pacifists and do not believe in using
violence to resolve conflicts. For Popeye to call himself a
"Quaker man" after beating up someone was offensive to the
Quakers and considered a misrepresentation of their faith and
religious beliefs. In addition, the submissiveness of Olive Oyl went
against the Quakers' emphasis on women's rights. The Quaker Oatmeal
company apologized and removed the "Popeye the Quaker Man"
reference from commercials and future comic book printings.
In 2012, writer Roger Langridge teamed
with cartoonists Bruce Ozella, Ken Wheaton, and Tom Neely (among
others) to revive the spirit of Segar in IDW's 12-issue comic book
miniseries, Popeye. In late 2012, IDW began reprinting the original
1940s1950s Sagendorf Popeye comic books under the title of
In January 2019, in celebration of its 90
years of character, King Feature Syndicate launched the webcomic
Popeye's Cartoon Club. In a series of Sundays-format comics, a wide
assortment of artists depicted the characters in their own styles in
one comic each, including Alex Hallatt, Erica Henderson, Tom Neely,
Roger Langridge, Larry deSouza, Robert Sikoryak, Jeffrey Brown, Jim
Engel, Liniers, Jay Fosgitt, Carol Lay, and Randy Milholland. At the
end of the year, Milholland's Cartoon Club comic was declared the
number one comic of the year on King Features' website, Comics
Kingdom. From February through April 2020, Cartoon Club ran an
additional five comics by Milholland.
From May 28th through July 6th, 2020,
Popeye's Cartoon Club ran daily comics from Randy Milholland, making
Milholland the first person to write a daily-update Popeye comic for
King Features since 1994.
November 1932, King Features signed an agreement with Fleischer
Studios to have Popeye and the other Thimble Theatre characters begin
appearing in a series of animated cartoons. The first cartoon in the
series was released in 1933, and Popeye cartoons, released by
Paramount Pictures, remained a staple of Paramount's release schedule
for nearly 25 years. William Costello was the original voice of
Popeye, a voice that was replicated by later performers, such as Jack
Mercer and even Mae Questel. Many of the Thimble Theatre characters,
including Wimpy, Poopdeck Pappy, and Eugene the Jeep, eventually made
appearances in the Paramount cartoons, though appearances by Olive
Oyl's extended family and Ham Gravy were absent. Thanks to the
animated-short series, Popeye became even more of a sensation than he
had been in comic strips, and by 1938, polls showed that the sailor
was Hollywood's most popular cartoon character.
Although Segar may have used spinach as a
prop a few times, it was Max Fleischer who realized its potential as
a trademark. In every Popeye cartoon, the sailor is invariably put
into what seems like a hopeless situation, upon which (usually after
a beating), a can of spinach becomes available, and Popeye quickly
opens the can and consumes its contents. Upon swallowing the spinach,
Popeye's physical strength immediately becomes superhuman, and he is
easily able to save the day, and very often rescue Olive Oyl from a
dire situation. It did not stop there, as spinach could also give
Popeye the skills and powers he needed, as in The Man on the Flying
Trapeze, where it gave him acrobatic skills.
In May of 1942, Paramount Pictures assumed
ownership of Fleischer Studios, fired the Fleischers and began
reorganizing the studio, which they renamed Famous Studios. The early
Famous-era shorts were often World War II-themed, featuring Popeye
fighting Nazi Germans and Japanese soldiers, most notably the 1942
short You're a Sap, Mr. Jap. In the film Popeye singlehandedly
defeats the crew of a Japanese battleship in which two of their crew
members posed as fishermen in the Pacific Ocean. The title gets its
name from a novelty song written by James Cavanaugh, John Redmond and
Nat Simon. Though one of the best-known World War II propaganda
cartoons it has been unavailable for commercial release for years due
to its racially offensive caricaturing of the Japanese.
late 1943, the Popeye series began to be produced in Technicolor,
beginning with Her Honor the Mare. Famous/Paramount continued
producing the Popeye series until 1957, with Spooky Swabs being the
last of the 125 Famous shorts in the series. Paramount then sold the
Popeye film catalog to Associated Artists Productions, which was
bought out by United Artists in 1958. Through various mergers, the
rights are currently controlled by WarnerMedia's Turner Entertainment.
In 2001, Cartoon Network, under the
supervision of animation historian Jerry Beck, created a new
incarnation of The Popeye Show. The show aired the Fleischer and
Famous Studios Popeye shorts in versions approximating their original
theatrical releases by editing copies of the original opening and
closing credits (taken or recreated from various sources) onto the
beginnings and ends of each cartoon, or in some cases, in their
complete, uncut original theatrical versions direct from such prints
that originally contained the front-and-end Paramount credits. The
series aired 135 Popeye shorts over 45 episodes, until March 2004.
The Popeye Show continued to air on Cartoon Network's spin-off
While many of the Paramount Popeye
cartoons remained unavailable on video, a handful of those cartoons
had fallen into public domain and were found on numerous low budget
VHS tapes and later DVDs. When Turner Entertainment acquired the
cartoons in 1986, a long and laborious legal struggle with King
Features kept the majority of the original Popeye shorts from
official video releases for more than 20 years. King Features instead
opted to release a DVD boxed set of the 1960s made-for-television
Popeye the Sailor cartoons, to which it retained the rights, in 2004.
In the meantime, home video rights to the Associated Artists
Productions library were transferred from CBS/Fox Video to MGM/UA
Home Video in 1986, and eventually to Warner Home Video in 1999. In
2006, Warner Home Video announced it would release all of the Popeye
cartoons produced for theatrical release between 1933 and 1957 on
DVD, restored and uncut. Three volumes were released between 2007 and
2008, covering all of the black-and-white cartoons produced from 1933
to 1943. In December 2018, a fourth volume featuring the first 14
color shorts from 1943 to 1945 was released on DVD and Blu-ray from
Warner Home Video through the Warner Archive Collection.
THE VOICES OF POPEYE
William "Billy" Costello (1898 -
1971, below left), a.k.a. "Red Pepper Sam", was an American
actor and voice actor, and the original voice of Popeye the Sailor in
animated cartoons. Costello had worked with Fleischer Studios as the
voice of Gus Gorilla on their Betty Boop series and they found that
the raspy voice he had used for that character would work for the
Popeye character in their planned adaptation of E. C. Segar's Thimble
Theatre comic. He went on to provide the voice for the first Popeye
cartoon, 1933's Popeye the Sailor. Costello worked in the next 24
Popeye shorts until he was fired by the Fleischers, allegedly over
bad behavior, and was replaced by Jack Mercer. Costello's final
appearance was in You Gotta Be a Football Hero (1935).
Winfield B. Mercer (1910 - 1984, above
right), known professionally as Jack Mercer, was an American
animator, storyman and voice actor. He is best known as the voice of
cartoon characters Popeye and Felix the Cat. The son of vaudeville
and Broadway performers, he also performed on the vaudeville and
Mercer began his work in cartoons as an
"inbetweener", an apprentice animator at Fleischer Studios.
Mercer liked to imitate voices, including one close call where he
mimicked the high-pitched and loud voice of the wife of one of the
Fleischers after he mistakenly thought she had left the studio.
When Billy Costello, the original cartoon
voice of Popeye (1933 to 1935), became difficult to work with, he was
dismissed. Mercer had begun imitating Costello's interpretation of
Popeye, and practiced it until his voice "cracked" just
right and he had it down. Searching for a replacement for Costello,
Lou Fleischer heard Mercer singing the Popeye song and gave him the
job of doing the voice. Mercer's first cartoon was King of the Mardi
Mercer continued to voice the one-eyed
sailor for the Fleischers, for Paramount's Famous Studios cartoons
(19421957), for a 1960 series of television cartoons for King
Features Syndicate, and for a Saturday morning cartoon show produced
by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera in 1978. Mercer also did other
cartoon voices, including all the voices for a series of Felix the
Cat cartoons produced in 1959 and 1960. Mercer also did the voices of
Wimpy, Poopdeck Pappy, Popeye's nephews, and a number of voices for
the Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels (1939) and Mister Bug Goes to Town
(1941) films. Mercer's natural voice was relatively high-pitched for
a man, and he was able to do some of the female voices as well.
Mercer's first wife was Margie Hines, provided the voice of Olive Oyl
from 1939 to 1944
Mercer also wrote hundreds of scripts for
various cartoon series, including a number of Popeye episodes, and
other animated cartoons produced for Paramount Pictures such as
Deputy Dawg and Milton the Monster.
Originally a resident of New York City,
Mercer moved to Miami, Florida when Fleischer Studios relocated there
in 1938. After Famous Studios took over the Popeye cartoons, Mercer
moved back to New York by early 1944. In the late 1970s he lived
briefly in Los Angeles but then moved to Queens, New York, where he
died in December 1984 after stomach cancer-related problems. After
his death, Maurice LaMarche, Jim Cummings and Billy West have
performed the voice of Popeye.
Maurice LaMarche (born March 30, 1958,
above left) is a Canadian voice actor and comedian who voiced Popeye
in the Hanna-Barbera Productions 1987 series Popeye and Son. LaMarche
is also known for voicing numerous animated characters, such as Chief
Quimby in the 1983 cartoon series Inspector Gadget and the titular
character in several spin-offs of the show, as well as Egon Spengler
in The Real Ghostbusters and its sequel TV series Extreme
Ghostbusters, Kif Kroker and Calculon on the Fox sci-fi sitcom
Futurama, Brain from the Pinky and the Brain segments of Animaniacs
(and its subsequent spin-offs), Big Bob Pataki in the Nickelodeon
series Hey Arnold!, Dizzy Devil in the Warner Bros. animated series
Tiny Toon Adventures, Principal Pixiefrog in the Cartoon Network
series My Gym Partner's a Monkey, and Hovis in the Nickelodeon series
Catscratch. Additionally, he took over the voice role of Balto from
Kevin Bacon in the sequel films Balto II: Wolf Quest and Balto III:
Wings of Change. LaMarche is also well-known for being the voice of
Toucan Sam in the Kellogg's Froot Loops commercials. He also provided
the voice of Orson Welles in the film Ed Wood.
Billy West (born April 16, 1952, above
right), is an American voice actor, musician, singer, and songwriter.
His most notable voice roles include the title characters of Doug and
The Ren & Stimpy Show, as well as the Futurama characters Philip
J. Fry, Professor Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, and Zapp Brannigan. In
commercials, he is the current voice of the Red M&M and formerly
voiced Buzz for Honey Nut Cheerios. He also voices established
characters Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Popeye, Shaggy Rogers, Super
Snooper, Muttley, and Woody Woodpecker, and was a cast member on The
Howard Stern Show, during which time he was noted for his impressions
of Larry Fine, Marge Schott, George Takei, and Jackie Martling. West
was the voice of Popeye and Poopdeck Pappy in Popeye's Voyage: The
Quest for Pappy.
Mae Questel (1908 - 1998, above left) was
an American actress and voice actress best known for providing the
voices for the animated characters Betty Boop and Olive Oyl from
1931. She began in vaudeville, primarily as an artist impersonator
and played occasional small roles on Broadway and on television and
films, later in her career, most notably the role of Aunt Bethany in
1989's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
Beginning in 1933 Questel also provided
the voice for Olive Oyl in the Max Fleischer Popeye cartoons,
inititially voiced by Bonnie Poe (above right, who also voiced Betty
Boop), she made her debut with "I Eats Me Spinach" and
essentially became the permanent voice until her hiatus to start a
family in 1938. She based Olive's nasal vocal quality and expression,
"Oh, dear!" on the character actress ZaSu Pitts and
ultimately played the role for 20 years.
Starting in 1938, Margie Hines, who was
the original voice of Betty Boop replaced Mae Questel when production
made the transition to the Miami Studio, Florida. Questel returned as
the voice of Olive Oyl in 1944 after the studio re-organized as
Famous Studios, Paramount Pictures and had returned to New York, a
role in which she would remain in until 1962. She also filled in for
Jack Mercer as the voice of Popeye for a small number of cartoons,
made when Mercer was temporarily drawn into war service.
When Hanna-Barbera began making the All
New Popeye cartoons for television in 1978, Questel auditioned for
the role of Olive Oyl but lost out to Marilyn Schreffler.
In addition to her signature voices of
Betty Boop and Olive Oyl, Questel also provided the voice of Little
Audrey and Casper, the Friendly Ghost in their respective animated
shorts. In 1958, she voiced Wendy the Good Little Witch in the
theatrical Casper cartoon short Which is Witch. In the 1950s, she was
the voice for the title character of the pioneering interactive
Saturday-morning cartoon series Winky Dink and You.
POPEYE ON TELEVISION
the 1950s until the 1980s, Popeye has starred in 29 locally produced
children's television programs.
In 1960, King Features Syndicate
commissioned a new series of cartoons titled Popeye the Sailor, but
this time for television syndication. Al Brodax served as executive
producer of the cartoons for King Features. Jack Mercer, Mae Questel,
and Jackson Beck returned for this series, which was produced by a
number of companies, including Jack Kinney Productions, Rembrandt
Films (William L. Snyder and Gene Deitch), Larry Harmon Productions,
Halas and Batchelor, Paramount Cartoon Studios (formerly Famous
Studios), and Southern Star Entertainment (formerly Southern Star
Productions). The artwork was streamlined and simplified for the
television budgets, and 220 cartoons were produced in only two years,
with the first set of them premiering in the autumn of 1960, and the
last of them debuting during the 1961-1962 television season. Since
King Features had exclusive rights to these Popeye cartoons, 85 of
them were released on DVD as a 75th anniversary Popeye boxed set in 2004.
For these cartoons, Bluto's name was
changed to "Brutus", as King Features believed at the time
that Paramount owned the rights to the name "Bluto". Many
of the cartoons made by Paramount used plots and storylines taken
directly from the comic strip sequences - as well as characters like
King Blozo and the Sea Hag. The 1960s cartoons have been issued on
both VHS and DVD.
Popeye, Olive Oyl, Swee'Pea and Wimpy were
featured prominently in the cartoon movie "Popeye Meets the Man
Who Hated Laughter", which debuted on October 7th, 1972 as one
of the episodes of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. In this cartoon,
Brutus also appears as a turban-wearing employee of the nemesis, Dr.
On September 9th, 1978, The All New Popeye
Hour debuted on the CBS Saturday morning lineup. It was an hour-long
animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, which tried
its best to retain the style of the original comic strip (Popeye
returned to his original costume and Brutus to his original name of
Bluto), while complying with the prevailing content restrictions on
violence. In addition to providing many of the cartoon scripts,
Mercer continued to voice Popeye, while Marilyn Schreffler and Allan
Melvin became the new voices of Olive Oyl and Bluto, respectively.
The All New Popeye Hour ran on CBS until September 1981, when it was
cut to a half-hour and retitled The Popeye and Olive Comedy Show. It
was removed from the CBS lineup in September 1983, the year before
Jack Mercer's death. These cartoons have also been released on VHS
and DVD. During the time these cartoons were in production, CBS aired
The Popeye Valentine's Day Special - Sweethearts at Sea on February
the UK, the BBC aired a half-hour version of The All New Popeye
Show, from the early-1980s to 2004. The All New Popeye Hour
throughout parts of the 1980s contains segments on Popeye featuring
Popeye's nephews (Pipeye, Peepeye, Pupeye, and Poopeye) in which were
later advertised as PSAs on mostly independent and future FOX
Television Networks (more commonly during the SuperStars campaign off
of owned-and-operated FOX stations such as WFLD in Chicago, Illinois)
that were originally produced for CBS's original program.
Popeye briefly returned to CBS in 1987 for
Popeye and Son, another Hanna-Barbera series, which featured Popeye
and Olive as a married couple with a son named Popeye Jr., who hates
the taste of spinach, but eats it to boost his strength.
Maurice LaMarche performed Popeye's voice;
Mercer had died in 1984. The show lasted for one season. In 2004,
Lions Gate Entertainment produced a computer-animated television
special, Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, which was made to
coincide with the 75th anniversary of Popeye. Billy West performed
the voice of Popeye, describing the production as "the hardest
job I ever did, ever" and the voice of Popeye as "like a
buzzsaw on your throat". Its style was influenced by the 1930s
Fleischer cartoons, and featured Swee'Pea, Wimpy, Bluto (who is
Popeye's friend in this version), Olive Oyl, Poopdeck Pappy and the
Sea Hag as its characters. On November 6th, 2007, Lions Gate
Entertainment re-released Popeye's Voyage on DVD with redesigned
THE POPEYE THEME SONG
'm Popeye the Sailor Man
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
I'm strong to the "finich"
'cause I eats me spinach
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
Popeye's theme song, titled "I'm
Popeye The Sailor Man", composed by Sammy Lerner in 1933 for
Fleischer's first Popeye the Sailor cartoon, has become forever
associated with the sailor. "The Sailor's Hornpipe" has
often been used as an introduction to Popeye's theme song.
A cover of the theme song, performed by
Face to Face, is included on the 1995 tribute album Saturday Morning:
Cartoons' Greatest Hits, produced by Ralph Sall for MCA Records. A
jazz version, performed by Ted Kooshian's Standard Orbit Quartet,
appears on their 2009 Summit Records release Underdog and Other Stories.
Playground song parodies of the theme have
become part of children's street culture around the world, usually
interpolating "frying pan" or "garbage can" into
the lyrics as Popeye's dwelling place and ascribing to the character
various unsavory actions or habits that transform the character into
an "Anti-Popeye", and changing his exemplary spinach-based
diet into an inedible morass of worms, onions, flies, tortillas and snot.
POPEYE ON RADIO
was adapted to radio in several series broadcast over three
different networks by two sponsors from 1935 to 1938. Popeye and most
of the major supporting characters were first featured in a
thrice-weekly 15-minute radio program, Popeye the Sailor, which
starred Detmar Poppen (top right) as Popeye, along with most of the
major supporting characters, Olive Oyl (Olive Lamoy), Wimpy (Charles
Lawrence), Bluto and Swee'Pea. In the first episode, Popeye adopted
Sonny (Jimmy Donnelly), a character later known as Matey the Newsboy.
This program was broadcast Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights at
7:15 pm, September 10th, 1935 through March 28th, 1936 on the NBC Red
Network (87 episodes), initially sponsored by Wheatena, a whole-wheat
breakfast cereal, which routinely replaced the spinach references.
Music was provided by Victor Irwin's Cartoonland Band. Announcer
Kelvin Keech sang (to composer Lerner's "Popeye" theme)
"Wheatena is his diet / He asks you to try it / With Popeye the
sailor man." Wheatena paid King Features Syndicate $1,200 per
week. Poppen's vocal characterization of the famous King Features
sailor was only vaguely reminiscent of the better known cartoon
incarnation as performed by Billy Costello or Jack Mercer and he was
replaced by silent screen actor Floyd Buckley.
The show was next broadcast Mondays,
Wednesdays and Fridays from 7:15 to 7:30 pm on WABC and ran from
August 31st, 1936 to February 26th, 1937 (78 episodes). Floyd Buckley
(bottom right) played Popeye, and Miriam Wolfe portrayed both Olive
Oyl and the Sea Hag. Once again, reference to spinach was
conspicuously absent. Instead, Popeye sang, "Wheatena's me diet
/ I ax ya to try it / I'm Popeye the Sailor Man".
The third series was sponsored by the
maker of Popsicles three nights a week for 15 minutes at 6:15 pm on
CBS from May 2nd, 1938, through July 29th, 1938.
Of the three series, only 20 of the 204
episodes are known to be preserved.
Director Robert Altman used the character
in Popeye, a 1980 live-action musical feature film, starring Robin
Williams as Popeye. A co-production of Paramount Pictures and Walt
Disney Productions, the movie was filmed almost entirely on Malta, in
the village of Mellieha on the northwest coast of the island. The set
is now a tourist attraction called Popeye Village. The US box office
earnings were double the film's budget, making it a financial
success. However, the film received mostly negative reviews.
According to James Robert Parish, in his
book Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops, the idea for the
Popeye musical had its basis in the bidding war for the film
adaptation of the Broadway musical Annie between the two major
studios vying for the rights, Columbia and Paramount. When Robert
Evans found out that Paramount had lost the bidding for Annie, he
held an executive meeting in which he asked about comic strip
characters which the studio held the rights to which could also be
used in order to create a movie musical, and one attendee said "Popeye".
At that time, even though King Features
Syndicate (now a unit of Hearst) retained the television rights to
Popeye and related characters, with Hanna-Barbera then producing the
series The All-New Popeye Hour under license from King Features,
Paramount had long held the theatrical rights to the Popeye
character, due to the studio releasing Popeye cartoons produced by
Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios, respectively, from 1932 to 1957.
commissioned Jules Feiffer to write a script. In 1977, he said he
wanted Dustin Hoffman to play Popeye opposite Lily Tomlin as Olive
Oyl, with John Schlesinger directing. Hoffman later dropped out due
to creative differences with Feiffer. Gilda Radner, then a hot new
star as an original cast member of Saturday Night Live, was also
considered for the Olive Oyl role. However, Radner's manager Bernie
Brillstein later wrote how he discouraged her from taking the part
due his concerns about the quality of the script and worries about
her working for months on an isolated set with Evans and Altman (both
known for erratic behavior and unorthodox creative methods).
In December 1979, Disney joined the film
as part of a two-picture co-production deal with Paramount which also
included Dragonslayer. Disney acquired the foreign rights through its
Buena Vista unit; the deal was motivated by the drawing power that
the studio's films had in Europe.
Principal photography commenced on January
23rd, 1980. The film was shot in Malta. The elaborate Sweethaven set
was constructed beyond what was needed for filming, adding to the
cost and complexity of the production, along with a recording studio,
editing facilities, and other buildings related to the production,
including living quarters. Filming wrapped on June 19th, 1980, three
weeks over schedule due to rough weather. The set still exists, and
it is a popular tourist attraction known as Popeye Village. According
to Parish, Robin Williams referred to this set as "Stalag Altman".
Parish notes a variety of other production
problems. Feiffer's script went through rewrites during the
production, and he expressed concern too much screen time was being
devoted to minor characters. The original inflatable arms designed
for the muscle-bound Popeye did not look satisfactory, so new ones
were commissioned and made in Italy, leaving Altman to film scenes
not showing them until the new ones arrived. Altman also had the cast
singing their musical numbers live, contrary to standard convention
for a movie musical where songs are recorded first in a studio and
lip-synched, causing sound quality problems. Williams also had to
re-record his dialogue after running into trouble with his
character's mumbling style, a by-product of talking with a pipe in
his mouth, and his affinity for ad-libs also led to clashes with the
director. The final battle involving the octopus led to more
headaches when the mechanical beast failed to work properly. After
the production cost rose beyond $20 million, Paramount ordered Altman
to wrap filming and return to California with what he had.
In March 2010, it was reported that Sony
Pictures Animation was developing a 3D computer-animated Popeye film,
with Avi Arad producing it. In 2011, Jay Scherick and David Ronn, the
writers of The Smurfs, were assigned the screenplay for the film. In
June 2012, it was reported that Genndy Tartakovsky. In 2012, Sony set
the release date for September 26th, 2014, which was, in May 2013,
pushed back to 2015. In 2014, Sony updated its slate, scheduling the
film for 2016, and announcing Tartakovsky as the director of Hotel
Transylvania 2. In March 2015, Tartakovsky announced he was no longer
working on the project, and would instead direct Can You Imagine?,
which is based on his own original idea, but was later cancelled.
Nevertheless, Sony Pictures Animation stated the project still
remains in active development and in 2016, it was announced that T.J.
Fixman would write the film. In 2020, it was announced that a Popeye
movie is in development at King Features Syndicate with Genndy
Tartakovsky coming back to the project.
From early on, Popeye was heavily
merchandised. Everything from soap to razor blades to spinach was
available with Popeye's likeness on it. Most of these items are rare
and sought by collectors, and merchandise is still being produced
today including various video games. Toys, action figures and plush
has featured Popeye character likenesses. Popeye has also been used
as fast food premiums, giveaway comics and was once the mascot of the
Flamengo Soccer Team of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (currently they use a
vulture). Popeye has been used in countless advertising campaigns
from cereal and soup to soft and energy drinks. World Candies Inc.
produced Popeye-branded "candy cigarettes", which were
small sugar sticks with red dye at the end to simulate embers. They
were sold in a small box, similar to a cigarette pack. The company
still produces the item, but has since changed the name to
"Popeye Candy Sticks" and has ceased putting the red dye at
the end. Allen Canning Company produces its own line of spinach,
called "Popeye Spinach", in various canned varieties. The
cartoon Popeye serves as the mascot on the can. In 1995, the Popeye
comic strip was one of 20 included in the Comic Strip Classics series
of commemorative U.S. postage stamps.
Wimpy's Inn operated in two locations in
San Francisco in the 1930s. Brothers Walt and Adolph Schoch, the sons
of Swiss immigrants, used the cartoon character's name for their
hamburger and hot dog shops. Their motto was, "Wimpy Says Keep
Smiling" - a reference to the fact that Wimpy was a morose
sidekick to Popeye - and they printed the motto on all their menus.
J. Wellington Wimpy's most famous catch-phrase was, "I'll gladly
pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today".
Wimpy's name was borrowed for the Wimpy
restaurant chain, one of the first international fast food
restaurants featuring hamburgers, which they call "Wimpy
Burgers". The Wimpy brand was established in 1934 by Edward
Gold, when he opened his first location in Bloomington, Indiana under
the name Wimpy Grills. Gold did not open his first Chicago area
location until two years later in 1936, after opening units in five
other Midwestern cities. Wimpy Grills Inc. had 25 locations in the
United States at its peak, but only seven locations remained at the
time of Gold's death in 1977. The chain vanished within the United
States soon after because no one had purchased the rights and
trademark to the Wimpy name from Gold's estate.
In 1954, Gold sold a licence to J. Lyons
and Co. to use the Wimpy name in the United Kingdom. Wimpy Grills
Inc. of Chicago later formed a joint company with Lyons called
Wimpy's International Inc. in 1957. Wimpy's International was based
in Chicago and allowed the brand to operate Wimpy Grills in the rest
of the world. The joint company eventually grew to 1,500 locations,
with Gold later selling his share to Lyons prior to his death. After
obtaining full control of the international licensing outside of the
United States, Lyons and its successors handled global franchising
through their United Kingdom-based subsidiary Wimpy International
Ltd. This arrangement ceased when Wimpy UK became a subsidiary of the
South Africa-based Famous Brands in 2007. The South African company
started to handle worldwide franchising duties directly from
Johannesburg. Since it's heyday the number of Wimpy restaurants has
dwindled. Some locations in the United Kingdom have been sold to
rivals such as Burger King and there are now less than 90 location in
the UK. Canada has just under 60 locations.
Popeyes is an American multinational chain
of fried chicken fast food restaurants that was founded in 1972 in
New Orleans, Louisiana. Since 2008, its full brand name is Popeyes
Louisiana Kitchen, Inc., and it was formerly named Popeyes Chicken
& Biscuits and Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken & Biscuits. It is
the second-largest "quick-service chicken restaurant group"
followed up by Kentucky Fried Chicken. Popeyes has 3,102 restaurants,
which are located in more than 40 states and the District of
Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 30 countries worldwide. About thirty
locations are company-owned; the rest franchised.
Founder Alvin C. Copeland claimed he named
the stores after the fictional detective Jimmy "Popeye"
Doyle in the movie The French Connection, and not the comic strip
character Popeye the Sailor. The company's early brand became deeply
tied to the cartoon star with its sponsorship of the Popeye &
Pals children's show in New Orleans, and the character appeared on
items from packaging to racing boats. The name is spelled
"Popeyes", without the apostrophe commonly used by other
restaurant chains such as McDonald's and Hardee's. Copeland claimed
facetiously that he was "too poor" to afford an apostrophe.
The chain later acquired rights to use Popeye the Sailor for
marketing and used it for 35 years. In late November 2006, Popeyes
parent company AFC Enterprises announced the mutual termination of
their licensing contract with King Features Syndicate, effectively
ending their association with the Popeye characters. In 2017, Popeyes
was purchased for 1.8 billion dollars (US) and is currently a
subsidiary of Toronto-based Restaurant Brands International.