It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

Popeye with a mermaid Olive Oyl

Something clever about yams goes here.

Tonight’s cartoon is Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor. Released in 1936 by Fleischer Studios, it’s a musical meeting between two mythical sea-going adventurers — unless Sinbad is somehow Bluto in disguise. Though it features the series typical regressive gender politics — Olive Oyl as a piece of property to be violently fought over — I found myself fascinated by the intricate backgrounds which feature some real-life, photographed models mingled with the animated characters. The cartoon opens with a great panorama of Sinbad’s menagerie of fierce monsters, and there’s another lovely sequence later where Popeye creeps through a series of caves.

Poking around on the Internet, it interested me to learn that Popeye was originally a bit player in the comic strip Thimble Theatre. He breathed so much life into what was then a ten year old comic that he soon took over, with the strip renamed in his honor. From Wikipedia:

Thimble Theatre’s first main characters/actors were the thin Olive Oyl and her boyfriend, Harold Hamgravy. After the strip moved away from its initial focus, it settled into a comedy-adventurestyle featuring Olive, Ham Gravy, 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 17, 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 due 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 expanded into many more newspapers as a result. Though initial strips presented Olive as being less than impressed with Popeye, she eventually left Ham Gravy to become Popeye’s girlfriend and Ham Gravy left the strip as a regular. Over 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.

What are your favorite cartoons? I will try to use your suggestions in a future installment.

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Image by Janet Hudson released under a Creative Commons license.