“Blow Me Down!,” the world's famous spinach-chomping, pipe-smoking, under-the-breath-muttering sailorman with grotesquely huge forearms and a penchant for fistfights, celebrates his 75th birthday this year. And what better way to pay homage to this self-righteous, but charmingly humble one-eyed swab than to sit down and enjoy some of his best animated films?

On January 17, 1929 Popeye was introduced to the public for the first time. The grizzled mariner walked onto Elzie Segar's “Thimble Theater” comic strip and soon became the readers' favourite character. A few years later, in the summer of 1933, Popeye appeared in his first animated short, Betty Boop Presents Popeye the Sailor, produced by the New York-based Fleischer Studios, which operated under Paramount. The sailor's first moving picture, just like his first appearance in the funny pages, was an instant success. Popeye soon became Paramount's biggest cartoon star and he continued to be so for more than twenty years. Over the last four decades, there have been many revivals of the “Popeye” cartoon series, but numerous cheaply produced animated films, made exclusively for TV, have never been able to match the quality of drawing and animated detail, the frantic energy and unprecedented charm, the hilarious self-consciousness and whimsical plasticity of the original Fleischer shorts.

In honour of the 75th anniversary of Popeye's first appearance, our program at the Ottawa 04 International Animation Festival will feature some of the sailorman's best cartoons, mainly animated shorts from the now-legendary Fleischer Studios, which helped Popeye become one of the most celebrated cartoon characters in animation history. Come and enjoy watching this classical cartoon hero stay “strong to the ‘finich'.”

Popeye the Sailorman 
Popeye

Popeye and Max Fleischer
Programme:
Friday, September 24, 9:00 pm (National Gallery)
Sunday, September 26, 11:00 am (NAC Southam Hall)
Running time: 77:00 mins.
   

Betty Boop Presents Popeye the Sailor [1933]
Dave Fleischer / Fleischer Studios / USA / 7:00 / 16 mm
Animated by Seymour Kneitel & Roland Crandall

After a live-action prologue, Popeye and Bluto out-duel each other at a local carnival in order to impress Olive Oyl. Popeye resorts to the magical powers of spinach in order to save the skinny girl of his dreams.

   

Can You Take It [1934]
Dave Fleischer / Fleischer Studios / USA / 6:00 / 16 mm
Animated by Myron Waldman & Thomas Johnson

Popeye is challenged by the Bruiser Boys Club motto: “Can you take it?” In order to prove himself worthy of the club's membership, the sailorman must endure a number of painful tasks. This short represents an interesting example of Fleischer Studios' zany, surrealist New York-style of cartoon-making.

   

A Dream Walking [1934]
Dave Fleischer / Fleischer Studios / USA / 7:00 / 16 mm
Animated by Seymour Kneitel & Roland Crandall

While sleepwalking, Olive ends up high atop girders of a construction site. Not recommended for people with acrophobia, this short features some amazing perspectival animation.

   

The Man on the Flying Trapeze [1934]
Dave Fleischer / Fleischer Studios / USA / 7:00 / 16 mm
Animated by Willard Bowsky & David Tendlar

Popeye returns from a sea voyage only to find out that Olive has gone off with a circus performer. Heartbroken, Popeye decides to look for Olive and discovers that she has joined the circus. A hilarious gravity-defying battle ensues.

   

Beware of Barnacle Bill [1935]
Dave Fleischer / Fleischer Studios / USA / 7:00 / 16 mm
Animated by Willard Bowsky & Harold Walker

This parodic cartoon features Popeye proposing to Olive. Olive, however, refuses to marry him, explaining that she is in love with another sailor - Barnacle Bill (played by Bluto) - who arrives pounding on her door. Popeye, unhappy with the situation, decides do something about it.

   

Brotherly Love [1936]
Dave Fleischer / Fleischer Studios / USA / 6:00 / 16 mm
Animated by Seymour Kneitel & Roland Crandall

Influenced by Olive's plea for brotherly love, Popeye decides to help his community by doing a number of good deeds. The gruff sailorman, however, ends up teaching a group of street bullies “brotherly love” his own way (with the help of spinach, of course). Yet another fine musical picture set to the catchy song by Sammy Timberg.

 

 

For Better or Worser [1935]
Dave Fleischer / Fleischer Studios / USA / 7:00 / 16 mm
Animated by Seymour Kneitel & Roland Crandall

Popeye and Bluto arrive in a matrimonial agency where they are offered a choice of ready-made brides. The problem is – both guys have set their eyes on one particular lady – Ms. Olive Oyl. Will Popeye and Bluto be civil about this or are we in for yet another hilarious fistfight?

   

Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves [1937]
Dave Fleischer / Fleischer Studios / 17:00 / 16 mm
Animated by Willard Bowsky, George Germanetti, & Orestes Calpini

This cartoon was the Fleischers' second two-reel Three-Color-Technicolor “Popeye” special, inspired by the children's classic story. It features the mumbling one-eyed sailor taking on Abu Hassan (played by Bluto) and his hostile thieves. A major attraction when it was released in 1936, it was released and marketed on the same scale as a feature film.

   

Hold the Wire [1936]
Dave Fleischer / Fleischer Studios / 6:00 / 16 mm
Animated by Willard Bowsky & Orestes Calpini

As Popeye romances Olive on the phone, Bluto taps into the line and starts to imitate the sailor's voice, uttering some rather insulting remarks. Olive gets mad at Popeye, but the sailor resolves the situation by teaching Bluto a lesson. How about a fight on the telephone lines?

   

Goonland [1938]
Dave Fleischer / Fleischer Studios / 8:00 / 16 mm
Animated by Seymour Kneitel & Abner Matthews

Popeye sails to an eerie Goon Island in search of his Pappy, held prisoner by the bizarre humanlike creatures - the Goons. Even though Popeye's “ol' goat of a father” does not want to recognize Popeye when he first sees him, his heart softens once his only son is captured by the grotesque creatures. This film contains a marvelous example of Fleischers' self-reflexive approach to cartoon-making as Popeye and his Pappy need the animator's help to end the picture.