Popeye



Popeye the Sailor is a famous comic strip character, later featured in popular animated cartoons. He was created by Elzie Crisler Segar (who would sign some of his early Popeye comic strips with a cigar because it sounded the same as his name) and first appeared in the King Features comic strip Thimble Theatre on January 17, 1929. Popeye quickly became the main focus of the strip, which was one of King Features' most popular strips during the 1930s. Thimble Theatre, carried on after Segar's 1938 death by artists such as Bud Sagendorf, was renamed Popeye in the 1970s. Today drawn by Hy Eisman, Popeye continues to appear in first-run strips in Sunday papers (daily Popeye strips are reruns of older strips).

In 1933, Max and Dave Fleischer's Fleischer Studios 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 Popeye at one time rivaled Mickey Mouse for popularity among audiences. After Paramount assumed control of the Fleischer Studio in 1942, they continued producing the series until 1957. Future Popeye cartoons were produced for television from 1960 to 1962 by King Features, and from 1978 to 1982 as well as 1987 to 1988 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.

Popeye is an independent sailor with a unique way of speaking, muscular forearms with two (sometimes one) anchors tattooed on them, and an ever-present corncob pipe. His strange, humorous, and often supernatural adventures take him all over the world, and place him in conflict with enemies such as the Sea Hag and Bluto.

The plot lines in the animated cartoons tended to be simpler. A villain, usually Bluto (later renamed Brutus for a time), makes a move on Popeye's "sweetie", Olive Oyl. The bad guy then clobbers Popeye until Popeye eats spinach, which gives him superhuman strength. (The "spinach factor" is only in the cartoons; in the comic strip, Popeye is just naturally tough.) Spinach farmers in Crystal City, Texas were so grateful for this they erected a statue of Popeye in the town and credited him for saving the then-dying spinach industry.

Although Popeye is short, odd-looking, belligerent, and has only one eye (his left eye), many consider him a precursor to the superheroes who would eventually come to dominate the world of comic books. Some observers of popular culture point out that the fundamental character of Popeye, paralleling that of another 1930s icon, Superman, is very close to the traditional view of how U.S. sees itself as a nation: possessing uncompromising moral standards and resorting to force when threatened, or when he "can't stands no more" bad behavior from an antagonist. This theory is directly reinforced in certain cartoons, when Popeye defeats his foe while an US patriotic song such as "The Stars and Stripes Forever" plays on the soundtrack. One of Popeye's catchphrases is "I yam what I yam, and that's all I yam," which may be seen as an expression of statesider individualism.

It is believed that Popeye was inspired from Frank "Rocky" Fiegle, a man who was handy with his fists during Segar's youth in Chester, Illinois. It was said Segar sent Fiegle checks in the 1930s. Fiegle died in 1948 at age 79.

Such has been Popeye's cultural impact that the medical profession sometimes refers to the biceps bulge symptomatic of a tendon rupture as the "Popeye muscle" (notice however that Popeye has pronounced brachioradialis muscles of his forearms, rather than biceps).

Popeye first appeared on January 17, 1929 as a minor character in Segar's newspaper cartoon strip Thimble Theatre, which had been running since 1919 with protagonists Olive Oyl, her brother Castor Oyl, and her boyfriend, Ham Gravy. The Popeye character became so popular that he was given a larger role. Olive eventually left Ham Gravy to become Popeye's girlfriend, although she often displayed a fickle attitude towards the sailor. Castor Oyl continued to come up with get-rich-quick schemes, and enlisted Popeye in the misadventures.

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 moocher and hamburger lover who would "gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today"; George W. Geezil, a local cobbler who speaks in a heavily affected accent and habitually attempted to murder or wish death upon Wimpy; Poopdeck Pappy, Popeye's belligerent and woman-hating father; and Eugene the Jeep, a yellow, vaguely dog-like animal from Africa with magical powers.

Segar's strip was quite different from the cartoons that followed. The stories were more complex, with many characters who never appeared in the cartoons (King Blozo for example). Spinach-usage was rare and Bluto made only one appearance. The original newspaper strips were collected and published in multiple volumes by Fantagraphics.

Wimpy's name was later borrowed for the Wimpy restaurant chain, one of the first international fast food restaurants featuring hamburgers, which they call "Wimpy Burgers."

The strip is also responsible for popularising, although not inventing, the word 'goon' (meaning a thug or lackey); goons in Popeye's world were large humanoids with indistinctly drawn faces that were particularly known for being used as muscle and slave labor by Popeye's nemesis the Sea Hag. One particular goon, a female named Alice, was an occasional recurring character in the animated shorts.

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 Theater strips and established the Popeye the Sailorman spin-off. Doc Winner and Bela Zaboly, successively, handled the artwork. Ralph Stein took over the writing until the series was taken over by Bud Sagendorf in 1958.

Sagendorf wrote and drew the daily strip until 1986 and the Sunday strip until his death in 1994. Sagendorf, who had been Segar's assistant, made a definite effort to retain much of the classic style, although his art is instantly discernable. Many obscure characters from the Segar years were maintained, especially O.G.Wotasnozzle and King Blozo. Sagendorf's new characters, such as the Thung, 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 would sometimes take an entire week of Sagendorf's daily strips for the plot to be advanced even a small amount.

George Wildman drew Popeye for Charlton Comics from 1969 till the late 1970s. 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. Since then the daily strip has been reprints of older Sagendorf strips, and the Sunday strip was taken over by Hy Eisman in 1994. Acknowledging Popeye's growing popularity, the strip was billed as Thimble Theatre Starring Popeye during the 1960s and 1970s, and eventually was titled simply Popeye.

Thimble Theatre was adapted into an animated cartoon series originally produced for Paramount Pictures by Fleischer Studios, run by brothers Max Fleischer (producer) and Dave Fleischer (director) in 1933. Popeye made his film debut in Popeye the Sailor, a 1933 Betty Boop cartoon (Betty only makes a brief appearance). It was for this short that Sammy Lerner's famous "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.

As one astute cartoon historian has observed, the song itself was inspired by the first two lines of the "Pirate King" song in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, The Pirates of Penzance: "For I am a Pirate King! (Hoorah for the Pirate King!)" The tune behind those two lines is identical to the "Popeye" song except for the high note on the first "King".

The character of Popeye was originally voiced by William "Billy" Costello (Red Pepper Sam). When Costello's behavior became a problem, he was replaced by former in-between animator Jack Mercer, beginning with King of the Mardi Gras in 1935. Olive Oyl was voiced by a number of actresses, but by far the most notable was Mae Questel, who also voiced Betty Boop. Questel eventually took over the part completely until 1938. Various actors provided the voice of Bluto, including Gus Wickie, William Pennell, Jackson Beck, and Pinto Colvig. Other characters from the strip would appear briefly in the shorts, including Poopdeck Pappy, Eugene the Jeep, George W. Geezil, and the Goons.

Thanks to the series, Popeye became even more of a sensation. During the mid-1930s, polls taken by theater owners proved Popeye more popular than Mickey Mouse. The voices for pre-1940 Fleischer cartoons were recorded after the animation was completed, so the actors, Mercer in particular, would improvise lines that were not on the storyboards or prepared for the lip-sync. The series was noted for its urban feel (the Fleischers operated out of New York City), its manageable variations on its simple theme (Popeye loses Olive to bully Bluto and must eat his spinach and defeat him), and the characters' "under-the-breath" mutterings (which began as ad-libs by Mercer, who muttered so that his additions would not alter the timing of the completed animation).

Fleischer Studios produced 108 Popeye cartoons; 105 of them in black and white. The remaining three were two-reel (double-length) Technicolor specials billed as "Popeye Color Features": Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor, Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves, and Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp.

The Fleischers moved their studio to Miami, Florida in 1938 to weaken union control and take advantage of tax breaks. The Popeye series continued production, although a marked change was seen in the Florida-produced shorts: they were brighter and less detailed in their artwork, with attempts to bring the character animation closer to a Disney style. Mae Questel refused to move to Florida, and Margie Hines, the wife of Jack Mercer, voiced Olive Oyl through the end of 1943.

In 1941, with World War II becoming more and more of an issue in America, Popeye was (re-)enlisted into the U.S. Navy, as depicted in the 1941 short "The Mighty Navy". His costume was changed from the black shirt and white neckerchief to an official white Navy suit, and Popeye continued to wear the Navy suit in animated cartoons until the 1960s. Popeye periodically wore his original costume when at home on shore leave, as in the 1942 entry Pip-Eye, Pup-Eye, Poop-Eye, An' Peep-Eye, which introduced his four identical nephews.

Fleischer Studios was dissolved in January 1942, when Max and Dave were both forced to resign from the company. Paramount purchased the studio and renamed it Famous Studios. Appointing Seymour Knietel and Isadore Sparber as its heads, production was continued on the shorts. The early Famous-era shorts were often World War II propaganda, featuring Popeye fighting Nazis and Japanese soldiers.

In late 1943, the Popeye series was moved to all-Technicolor production, beginning with Her Honor the Mare. Paramount moved the studio back to New York at this time, and Mae Questel re-assumed voice duties for Olive Oyl. Jack Mercer was drafted into the Navy during World War II. When he was unavailable to record his dialogue, Mae Questel stood in as the voice of Popeye, in addition to her role as Olive Oyl. Jackson Beck voiced Bluto in the color Famous shorts, which began to adhere even closer to the standard Popeye formula.

Famous/Paramount continued producing the Popeye series until 1957, with "Spooky Swabs" being the final of the 125 Famous shorts in the series. Paramount then sold the Popeye film backlist to Associated Artists Productions. AAP was bought out by United Artists and later merged with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which itself purchased by Turner Entertainment in 1986. Turner sold off the production end of MGM/UA in 1988, but retained the film catalog, giving it the rights to the theatrical Popeye library.

The black-and-white Popeye shorts were shipped to South Korea in 1988, where artists retraced them into color. The process made the shorts more marketable in the modern television era, but prevented the viewers from seeing the original Fleischer pen-and-ink work, as well as the three-dimensional backgrounds created by Fleischer's "Tabletop" process. Turner merged with Time Warner in 1997, and Warner Bros. (through its Turner subsidiary) therefore currently controls the rights to the Popeye shorts.

For many decades, viewers could only see a majority of the classic Popeye cartoons with the altered opening and closing credits (AAP had, for the most part, replaced the original Paramount logos with their own, and thus destroying the impact of their original theatrical presentation). But in 2001, the Cartoon Network, under the supervision of animation archivist Jerry Beck, created a new incarnation of The Popeye Show. The show aired, for the first time since their original theatrical releases, the Fleischer and Famous Studios shorts in their original unaltered form (complete with their original Paramount credits). Gone were any scenes bearing the mark of the television syndicator (Associated Artists Productions) with the original footage restored to each film seen on the 45 episode series. 135 Popeye cartoons were restored, and the program aired without interruption until March 2004. It is these restored shorts that are now making their way into revival film houses for occasional festival screenings.

The Fleischer and Famous Studios films, thus far, have not had an official DVD or video release. United Artists (under the former MGM/UA management) had planned a video release in 1983 but were informed by King Features Syndicate that they and only they had the legal right to release Popeye cartoons on video. United Artists did not challenge King Features' claim, and a release never happened. While King Features owns the rights to the Popeye characters, it has never owned any part of the Fleischer/Famous cartoons. King licensed the rights to Paramount Pictures to use the images of Popeye and his crew in the theatrical cartoons, but did not retain ownership of the films. This is why King Features produced the 220 Popeye TV-cartoons in 1960 – 62, so they could have a successful Popeye cartoon series all their own.

There was actually a clause in the original contract between Paramount Pictures and King Features, stating that after ten years, the prints and negatives of the Popeye cartoons were to be destroyed. King Features had the same clause for all of their licensed properties. There is speculation that the clause contributed to the demise of Fleischer Studios. The clause was never enforced for Popeye.

Warner Bros./Turner Entertainment now owns the cartoons and have reached an agreement with Hearst Entertainment and King Features Syndicate. Warner Home Video will begin releasing all theatrical and made-for-TV Popeye cartoons through 1987 on DVD starting in 2007, to be released restored, uncut and chronologically, in a similar style to the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD sets. In the meantime, some Popeye cartoons from the Paramount era now in the public domain have made their way into several unofficial VHS and DVD cartoon compilations. Among these cartoons are a handful of the Fleischer black and whites, several early-1950s Famous shorts, and all three Popeye Color Specials.

n 1960, King Features Syndicate commissioned a new series of Popeye cartoons, but this time for television syndication. Mercer, Questel, and Beck returned for this series, which was produced by a number of companies, including Jack Kinney Studios, Rembrandt Studios, and Paramount Cartoon Studios (formerly Famous Studios). 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 those debut during the 1961-1962 television season.

For these cartoons, Bluto's name was changed to "Brutus", as it was believed at the time that Paramount owned the rights to the name "Bluto". The 1960s cartoons are the only Popeye cartoons to have yet been given an official video release, and have been issued on both VHS and DVD.

On September 9, 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. Paul McCartney's instrumental "Hot as Sun/Glasses" (from his 1970 self-titled solo album, McCartney) was used as the theme song for the series. 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 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 14 (Valentine's Day) of 1979.

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 but respects spinach. Maurice LaMarche performed Popeye's voice; Jack Mercer had died in 1984. The show lasted for one season.

There have been a number of Popeye comic books, from Dell and other publishers, including a comic book in which Popeye and Olive Oyl marry. In the comics, Popeye became something like a freelance police assistant, fighting mafia and Bluto's criminal activities. The new villains included the Mings dwarves, who were identical.

Popeye and most of the major supporting cast members were also featured in a thrice-weekly 15-minute radio program named Popeye the Sailor. It was sponsored by the maker of Wheetena, a whole wheat grain breakfast cereal, which would routinely replace the spinach references. The show was broadcast on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:15 – 7:30 p.m. on WABC, and ran from August 31, 1936 to February 26, 1937, 78 episodes in all.

Director Robert Altman used the character in Popeye, a 1980 live-action musical feature film starring Robin Williams as Popeye and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, with songs penned by Harry Nilsson. The script was by Jules Feiffer, a big fan of the original strips. Many of the characters created by Segar appeared in the film, a co-production of Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions.

Nintendo created a Popeye video game based on the characters in 1982. The game was originally released as an arcade game and was fairly popular. It was later ported to the Commodore 64 home computer as well as various home game consoles (Intellivision, Atari 2600, ColecoVision, NES, and Odyssey2). The goal was to avoid Bluto and the Sea Hag while collecting hearts, musical notes, or letters (depending on the level). Punching a can of spinach gave Popeye a brief chance to strike back at Bluto. Other characters such as Wimpy and Swee' Pea appeared in the game but did not affect gameplay. Nintendo overcame some resistance from King Features to bring the game to market.

In 1994, Technos Japan released Popeye : Ijiwaru Majo Seahug no Maki (Volume of the Malicious Witch Seahag) for the Japanese Super Famicom. A side scrolling adventure game that was mixed with a board game, the game never saw US release, but a ROM of the game can be found at various emulation sites. It featured many characters from the Thimble Theater series as well. In the game, Popeye had to recover magical hearts scattered across the level to restore his frozen friends as part of a spell cast upon them by the Seahag in order to get revenge on Popeye.

In 2004, Lions Gate Films 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; after the first day of recording, his throat was so sore he had to return to his hotel room and drink honey. The uncut version was released on DVD on November 9, 2004; and was aired in a re-edited version on FOX on December 17, 2004 and again on December 30, 2005. 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.

Popeye has made brief parody appearances in modern animated productions, including The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004), and the TV shows Drawn Together, Robot Chicken, The Simpsons (in the episode "Jaws Wired Shut" for instance) and Family Guy. Popeye imitations are a frequent element of comedian Dave Coulier's routines, and were performed often during his co-starring role on the ABC sitcom Full House. A Popeye pornographic comic is mentioned a few times in Steven King's novel The Green Mile. Although King assumed these did not actually exist, he was actually sent a similarly themed Popeye comic from the same time era as the book by a fan of the novel.

The reference to spinach comes from the publication of a study which, because of a misprint, attributed to spinach ten times its actual iron content. The error was discovered in the 1930s but not widely publicised until T.J. Hamblin wrote about it in the British Medical Journal in 1981.

The popularity of the character helped boost sales of the leafy vegetable and the spinach-growing community of Crystal City, Texas erected a statue of the character in gratitude. There is another Popeye statue in Segar's hometown, Chester, Illinois. Another statue is in Alma, Arkansas, which claims to be "The Spinach Capital of the World", and is home to Allen Canning which markets Popeye-branded canned spinach.

The 1954 Popeye cartoon Greek Mirthology depicts the fictional origin of spinach consumption in Popeye's family. Popeye's Greek ancestor, Hercules, originally sniffed garlic to gain his supernatural powers. When the evil Brutus removes the scent of the garlic using chlorophyll (an obvious incongruity), Hercules ends up getting punched into a spinach field, and, upon eating the leafy green substance, finds it empowers him many times more than garlic.

In the consumption realm, in addition to Allen Canning's Popeye spinach, Popeye Fresh Foods markets bagged, fresh spinach with Popeye characters on the package.

Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits, a fast food restaurant chain, is not named after Popeye the sailor, but rather after the character "Popeye" Doyle from the 1971 film The French Connection, who was in turn named after real police detective Eddie Egan, who was called "Pop eye" because of his keen observational skills. The restaurant chain would later obtain a license for the cartoon characters for use as a promotional tool, causing some confusion as to the source of the name. Recently, Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits has omitted the use of "Popeye the Sailor" in promotions; one reason given was the difficulty of effectively marketing their food with a sailor character.

In 1991, a special series of short Popeye comic books were included in specially marked boxes of instant Quaker Oatmeal. 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 catch phrase, "Can the spinach! I wants me instant Quaker Oatmeal!" apparently failed to catch on with the general public, and the promotional campaign remains little-known.

In 1995, the Popeye comic strip was one of 20 included in the Comic Strip Classics series of commemorative U.S. postage stamps.

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-after by collectors, but some merchandise is still being produced; for example Mezco Toys makes classic-style Popeye figures in two sizes, and KellyToys produces plush stuffed Popeye characters.

In 2001, Popeye (along with Bluto, Olive, and twin Wimpys) appeared in a television commercial for Minute Maid orange juice. The commercial, produced by Leo Burrnett co. showed Popeye and Bluto as friends due to their having had Minute Maid orange juice that morning. The ad agencies intention was to show that even the famous enemies would be in a good mood after their juice but some, including Robert Knight of the Culter and Family Institute, finds the commercial's intent is to portray the pair in a homosexual romantic relationship. Minute Maid denies this. Mr. Knight was interviewed by Stephen Colbert on the Daily Show about this.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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