Thursday, March 29, 2018
The Popeye cartoons from the years 1941-1943 reflect the many transformations going on in the world at large which would find itself engulfed in a world war and the unfortunate dissolution of the Fleischer Studios when the brothers fell out in a tragic way.
These cartoons feature a new and different Popeye. As the United States goes to war, the Fleischer Studios are more than happy to offer up propaganda to support the effort and the Popeye cartoons become a bastion as Popeye himself joins the navy and trades in his traditional togs for Navy whites. Many of the cartoons are about various aspects of war preparation, such as ship building and weapons development. Also on hand are some particularly nasty stereotypical Japanese characters who become the mainstay villains as Bluto becomes merely a rival and not an enemy. There is now a real enemy out there.
The cartoons themselves are full of movement and energy but still alas lack the charisma of the earliest Fleischer Studio efforts. In fact the Fleischer Studios disappears as the brothers Max and Dave fell out. Even before Paramount had seized control of the operations, and renamed it "Famous Studios".
The Fleischer Studios were never the peer of Disney, though they did rival esteemed West Coast operation. The cartoons, especially the daffiest of the Popeye cartoons capture a time and place in the history of the United States looked over by other firms which operated in balmier climes. The hustle and bustle of a claustrophobic NYC gave the earliest Popeye cartoons so much distinctive character.