Wednesday, March 28, 2018
The cartoons from 1938-1940 featuring Popeye here are still lovely examples of early Fleischer Studios animation, but it's clear to anyone that some of the inventiveness has departed and instead the creators are beginning to rely increasingly on the core plot of Popeye fights Bluto over Olive.
Also we have the unfortunate debut of the four nephews who are arguably the worst things the Fleischers added to the Popeye canon. As dream characters as they are in the cartoon in this collection they are a curious diversion but they will become sadly a mainstay of many of the later cartoons. Likewise the introduction of Poopdeck Pappy as a regular feature allowed the creators to trim down Popeye's own irascible nature and still find that voice in the cartoon. Popeye as the mainstay was being diminished somewhat.
There is one final two-reel color cartoon in this collection, Popeye in the role of Aladdin, a final nod to the Arabian Nights. It's not as lovely as the two previous outings, lacking depth and richness of backgrounds which make the earlier efforts so utterly wonderful. But nonetheless, it's a sturdy effort and a lot of fun in many respects.
The Fleischer Studios moved out of NYC and shifted operations to sunny Florida during the period these cartoons were developed and the lack of a cluttered urban setting can begin to be felt as the animators seem to be drawing on the real world they live in to inform the cartoons.
These cartoons are still very very good. But you can see that the creators are honing off the rough edges and as it turns out those edges are what give the earliest cartoons so much zip.