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Popeye lives!


…and you thought the early Disney character costumes were ugly?

Popeye, Olive Oyl and Wimpy arrive for a performance of the Broadway musical revue Hellzapoppin, in this 1939 news photo currently for sale on ebay. Larger full size version here.

Popeye is one of those properties that is such a pure cartoon, any attempt to personify him in live action simply does not work. Even three dimensional Popeye toys have a history of looking grotesque – in a fun way.

(Thanks, Leonard Maltin)

  • Bob

    Ugly ain’t it. I’m going to have nightmares!

  • TJR

    Those customes are ugly. But I think Robin Williams did a find job of bringing Popeye to life.

  • Keith Paynter

    Jerry, those off-model Popeye toys remind me of the inconsistancy of toys that were featured in supplementary photos on the original Flintstones “First Thirteen Episodes” laserdisc that John K compiled. (Actually, John’s own ‘Joe Rockhead’ was pretty decent…)

    Who the heck is the blackface character to their left? Not having seen Hellzapoppin’, I don’t know if he was relative to the show.

  • TJR, I agree! I really enjoyed the live-action POPEYE film as a kid! I went to see it several times in the theaters.

    I still wish that Richard Williams would’ve done the animated Popeye from the opening. That would’ve rocked! Hanna-Barbera’s animated opening was so sub-standard Saturday morning quality.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Heh, nice to see there are a few that enjoyed the Robert Altman film. I had to say I do as well for having been at the right age and at the right time when that movie came out to have seen it naively without having so much as a tiny knowledge of the guy from the cartoons.

    But yeah, a Richard Williams-animated opening would be pretty interesting if given a chance to develop beyond emulating a typical Fleischer-style opening sequence.

  • Vincent Waller

    Bob Jacques has a great story of a live action Popeye coming to his front door in a dream. Just standing there and staring at him in all of his one eyed goodness.

  • See what happens when cousins are allowed to marry.

  • It’s like the Elephant Man….but made of plastic and sadder to look at.

  • jmac

    Keith, I think the minstrely-lookin dude is supposed to be Wimpy; that’s not a grinning gaptoothed mouth, that’s his mustache.

  • John A

    They don’t look so bad. They look like they were modeled off of Segar’s original comic strip designs,the first year after Popeye joined Thimble Theatre. The characters in the strip were cruder and a little grotesque. The Fleischers made them rounder and cuter. Olive Oyl IS kinda scary though.

  • Matthew Harding
  • Ben Williams

    Looks like an old-skool version of the metal band Slipknot.

  • It’s possible to accurately translate the shapes to a mask or a sculpture. Tracy Lee’s company, Electric Tiki, has done a great job with their sculpts of Fleischer characters (and many others). Examples here and here.

  • tom

    Who would think a costume of a deformed, unwashed, one-eyed middle-aged roughneck sailor would look so gargoyle-like?

  • Wimpy looks like a furnace.

  • Keith Paynter

    jmac, Wimpy is to the left of Popeye. The blackface gentleman is wearing white gloves, a white hat and white glasses…I’m referring to the full image, not the portion Jerry cropped for the cover story…check the link…

  • tom

    “It puts the lotion on it’s skin, or it gets me twisker sock agin’! Arf arf arf!”

  • I also enjoyed the Popeye movie. I was a Robin Williams/Mork fan, and thought he was great in the movie. I thought it made some sense in the comic strip version I had recently learned about. The cartoon version of Popeye was what I grew up with and love.

  • Spock Foolish

    That’s Popeye? I thought it was Quentin Tarantino.

  • Spock,

    LOL!!!!! I have to admit, these Popeye masks are really, really strange, let alone scary.

    But it’s unfair to say that Popeye cannot be rendered in 3D, it can be done right. Electric Tiki’s Popeye models are quite incredible! (I just can’t get over the model of the Famous Studios Popeye; it just comes to life somehow!)

    Dunno, maybe Pixar could do a proper 3D Popeye? :)

  • Stephen DeStefano

    One of the reasons I love–and collect–Popeye merchandise is how off model he tends to look in three dimensions. He is an extremely difficult character to sculpt, although I have seen it done well. And folks are right—Electric Tiki did a nice job. If you search around, there are other good statues of him…several years ago an outfit (can’t remember their name) came out with a triad of Popeye, Olive and Bluto which looked like sculpted Fleischer to a point (even painted in Black and White)!

    But again, I’ve just as much affection, if not more, for the off model versions of the character. Somehow, the peculiar variations fit for him. A middle aged sailor, with one eye, no teeth and extremely thick forearms seems like a poor candidate for a major cartoon star. For me, the very best thing about Popeye is his weirdness.

    Lastly, I’ve posted a storyboard drawing (by who, I’m not sure) from a Popeye Famous Studio short, on my blog. Not sure which short it’s from, but if anyone’d like to guess, I’d be interested in hearing.

  • Cartoonist Bill Mauldin, in his autobiography “The Brass Ring,” wrote that Segar went out of his way to mess up the anatomy of his characters — hence the pencil-thin upper arms on Popeye with the huge lower arms “as if that’s where the biceps lived.” He also said that J. Wellington Wimpy was created to get back at an art teacher, Wellington J. Reynolds, who was known to make a student redraw a kneecap a half-dozen times to get it right, and who was the antithesis of Wimpy: skinny, natty, and an aesthete. Even if it isn’t true, it makes a good story.

  • TJR

    What’s a shame about the Popeye (Robin Williams) movie is that it never got properly finished. Years ago I remember reading an interview with Robin Williams and saif that they had planned a big SFX ending with Popeye battling Bluto and a Giant (mechanical) Octopus. The Studio pulled funding because the film was running over schedule and over budget. The whole ending ending fight scene was cut down to a giant Popeye fist coming out of the water and hitting Bluto and no battle with the Giant Octopus (at least no battle that wasn’t off camera).

  • tom

    I’d be behind a big Pixar Popeye feature. It’s just got to be done by someone with taste and a fondness and respect for the character, for Segar and for the Fleischer studios. 2D would be fine, 3D would be fine, but I’ve often daydreamed about a Henry Selick or Aardman Popeye feature.

    I’m doing it right now.

  • Wyatt Wingfoot


  • Davey Hanson

    Thanks for the new wallpaper!