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Feature Film

Sony Has Killed Genndy Tartakovsky’s ‘Popeye’

Popeye won’t be moving forward at Sony, at least the version that director Genndy Tartakovsky wanted to make. Tartakovsky revealed in a Moviefone interview yesterday that he’s no longer working on a film featuring the pipe-puffing, spinach-guzzling sailor:

Popeye, at least, we put up a great screening, everybody really liked that sizzle, we got a positive reaction. I was in love with what we were doing, but I think the studio is going through changes and I don’t know if they want to make the Popeye that I want to make. So they’ve got to make a decision…It was hard to let Popeye go, but that’s the business.”

The “changes” at Sony that Tartakovsky alluded to in his comments are the canning of Sony Pictures Digital Productions president Bob Osher (and his enabler Amy Pascal) and the hiring of former DreamWorks producer Kristine Belson as president of Sony Pictures Animation.

The Animation Guild blog hinted at the likely cancellation of Popeye in a blog post yesterday, saying that Kristine Belson “is likely itching to put her own stamp on SPA, so look for some previously-announced pictures to be pushed back….or pushed overboard.”

Tartakovsky, who is currently wrapping up on Hotel Transylvania 2, says that he’s now developing the previously announced Can You Imagine?, which he says is “an original idea of my own and a very personal story.”

Sony has not commented yet on whether they intend to continue making Popeye without Tartakovsky’s participation. Below is the Popeye CG test that Tartakovsky directed as a proof-of-concept. Enjoy it because it’s the only new Popeye animation you’re going to be seeing for a while:

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  • Someonewhoshouldmakeanaccount

    That is sad news. It was one of the very few things that were truly separating from the usual business we see coming from the big studios in terms of style.

  • Paul M

    I confess to having been somewhat lukewarm to the idea of my favorite animator doing a Popeye feature in the first place, it would be an awful shame if the movie failed at the box office (a sad possibility, as the scrappy sailor is almost unknown among younger generations), which would leave Genndy in a more difficult position to get funding for projects of his own creation. I have said it before here – if Sony wants to make a lot of $$$ they should give Genndy a blank check to produce an original action feature that would blow the cobwebs out of the entire industry. Let him do what he is great at.

  • Zhibou

    One of my most anticipated animated project. A very sad news.
    I hope that “Can You Imagine?” will get made.
    Tartakovsky deserve more than the Hotel Transylvania franchise. The first one was such a messy let down. (maybe the sequel will have a bit more creative freedom, but still).

  • Michel Van

    I not happy with this, if one can make a Popeye movie, it’s Tartakovsky
    will sony force him to do next: Hotel Transylvania serial ?
    or do dozen Smurfs moves the world really not need ?

    • Kenneth Wise

      Michel Genndy has nothing to do with the Smurf movies. Although he probably would make a better movie than what we’ve been getting now. The way I see it, if hotel transylvania 2 does not make a big profit this time around, then Can You Imagine may get the axe next.

  • I am a bit shocked that Genndy is no longer able to lead the project after great reception from animation admirers and professionals alike.

    Though, I am honest, I did not feel that this was the Popeye I’ve grown to enjoy and appreciate (by the test alone, and if they were going to continue with that direction for the story). If nothing else, should the project get scrapped altogether, at least there is no worry if the film would do well with today’s audiences or not (it was a concern).

    What I also hope is that the new leadership at Sony does not overthrow Genndy’s next endeavors. If so, and may not be a surprise if they do after this has happened, Sony will continue to be the studio with less respect for creatives, as Phil Lord and Chris Miller claimed.

  • tbh I kinda hated the Popeye cartoon as a kid, so I am not too bummed over this. BUT, I enjoyed that animation test Sony revealed a while back, Popeye’s character design was off to me, but I thought the fluid and noodley movements of the characters in CGI looked pretty good.

    but if someone like Genndy isn’t going to be behind the wheel of a CGI Popeye movie, then no one should.

  • JoshActionReplay

    Damn if I’m not disappointed. That animation test was fantastic. It had the right amount of speed, squash -n stretch, and timing to make me hopeful for something truly great. I don’t know why Genndy has gotten screwed so often throughout his career (Jack, Titan, and now this), but if he ever gets his chance to do something original and meaningful, then he better knock it out of the park (and I know he can) because who knows if anyone will give him a chance in this current climate.

    • Alan_Gabriel

      Don’t forget about the Dark Crystal sequel that’s languishing in development hell.

  • Toonio

    I stand corrected, Sony, one step forward, ten steps backwards.

    My apologies to all. Good day!

  • starss

    Boooooo.

  • Aannddyy

    That would have made a fine 7 minute short.

  • bunyipbrown

    that’s such a bummer.

  • six6sixwitch

    Popeye will be live action, starring Vin Diesel as Popeye, Rosario Dawson as Olive Oyl, and Gerard Butler as Bluto. Brought to you by the team who made hit action flick Pompeii.

    • Benjamin_nl

      popeye will probably be played by the rock and olive by justin bieber

    • sidney

      I’ll pay to see it only if Vince Vaughn plays Wimpy. Or, wait… maybe Jack Black… no — I got it — Jim Carrey in a fat suit! Genius!

    • Andrew Vrba

      Shut up and take my money.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Sony was afraid to take a risk on this. That’s why they released the test on the internet. They wanted to see how many thumbs up or down they got and what the comments were. It was a test screening before the movie was even made. I guess they didn’t like the results.

  • Mister Twister

    On the bright side, at least now he is making his original thing.

    On the dark side, this test animation is perfect. The temp track is great, don’t know why Genndy was so apologetic for it.

  • Clément Hossaert

    People, let’s redirect our hate towards Tom Rothman, the actual CEO of Sony, the franchise killer, the trash opener.

  • Fred Blunt

    That’s a real shame – I can’t think of a better look / animation style for a popeye movie!! :(

  • Blpak

    I was looking forward to seeing popeye…. so sad to hear that

  • jhalpernkitcat

    I will admit, I was curious to see what Tartakovsky would do with Popeye. Now we won’t have that chance.

  • DB

    Just like Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man, this also sucks :(

  • Meredith

    Aww, bummer. Genndy, PLEASE make some Popeye shorts at least!!!

  • Mark Queen

    Should’ve taken place, just imagine how much money would roll in from the classic! The animation was spectacular.

  • Tony

    Sure hope Hotel Transylvania 2 and Can You Imagine? make lots of money so that Tartakovsky can revive Popeye, because let’s face it, unless Cartoon Network executives wise up, that Samurai Jack movie ain’t happening.

  • The test animation looks good but maybe the designs had a very over exaggerated feel.

  • Ham Sandwich

    This looked good and quite fresh with the type of animation they showed, sad to see it cancelled.

  • Strong Enough

    i rather have that can you imagine instead. we need more original films

  • VoiceTalentBrendan

    All is not lost! here is an article from animation expert and cartoon historian Jerry Beck:

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/animationscoop/popeye-lives-rumors-of-feature-cancellation-not-true-20150313

    • AmidAmidi

      Yes, of course, SOMEONE SOMEWHERE SOMEDAY might make a Popeye feature. But that’s true of any classic character. Someone somewhere someday might resurrect any number of classic characters.

      Our post title very clearly stated that Sony killed Genndy Tartakovsky’s Popeye and that info comes straight from Genndy’s mouth. The version that he wanted to make, which was in active development, isn’t happening anymore, and nothing in the post you link to contradicts our original story.

      • VoiceTalentBrendan

        :-( sorry can I have my post removed?

        • AmidAmidi

          No worries. It’s valuable to keep your comment because I’m sure that others may be wondering what’s happening right now, too.

          • VoiceTalentBrendan

            Thanks I hope Genndy will return to his film someday

          • Mesterius

            Amid, did you read the statement Jerry posted directly from a Sony Pictures Animation spokesman? It says, “Genndy has been developing both Popeye and his original idea Genndy Tartakovsky’s Can You Imagine? (temp title) at the same time while directing Hotel Transylvania 2. It initially looked like Popeye would happen first but Imagine pulled ahead and is now scheduled to be his next directorial film at Sony Pictures Animation. That said Popeye is still very much in active development.”

            Whereas Genndy’s full quote says: ” “Popeye,” at least, we put up a great screening, everybody really liked that sizzle, we got a positive reaction. I was in love with what we were doing, but I think the studio is going through changes and I don’t know if they want to make the “Popeye” that I want to make. So they’ve got to make a decision. Right now, I’m off that project and moving on to the other one that we soft-announced, which is “Can You Imagine?” which is an original idea of my own and a very personal story. It was hard to let “Popeye” go, but that’s the business.”

            I’m not saying that you’re wrong about Genndy’s version of Popeye not happening anymore. Both sources support that notion, and Genndy’s quote in particular. But I think it’s interesting to note that Genndy says, “Right now, I’m off [Popeye]…”. And the Sony spokesperson says, “It initially looked like Popeye would happen first [for Genndy] but Imagine pulled ahead…”

            Of course, part of what the Sony spokesperson says might be corporate smoothing-over talk. But perhaps it could signal that Sony wants to keep a small doorway of opportunity open in case they someday, later on, change their minds and let Genndy direct Popeye after all?…

  • JoshActionReplay

    Yeah, the Can You Imagine project sounds intriguing, hopefully Genndy gets to do what he wants with it. But the animation lover in me desperately wishes that we could’ve had both. Got too greedy I guess, lol.

  • Kirielson

    Honestly, I’m surprised they didn’t get a short out of it and transition to Hotel Transylvania so they could test out the waters. :(

  • ThatGuy

    I bet it was because they wouldn’t allow the pipe :} Anti-smoking jerks…

  • Ryoku240

    Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of Genndys Popeye, I think the dumber move was Sony canning it and yet approving “Pixels”.

    As old as Popeye is he’s still more relevant than an ancient arcade game, Adam Sandler was never “relevant” to begin with.

  • Ryoku240

    No, it’ll be a “prequel”, that gets more hits that “remake”.

    • white vader

      Ha!

      I was just joking around as it didn’t seem like 66Switch knew there was a previous live action one.

  • Ken Martinez

    Isn’t this a bit like saying “Pixar has killed Brenda Chapman’s Brave” or “Disney has killed Glen Keane’s Rapunzel”? The Brave we got isn’t the one Brenda wanted to make either
    If a director departing from an animated movie constitutes killing it, then Sony killed Hotel Transylvania a bunch of times.
    More than likely, the same thing that’s happened to every single other animated movie with a publicized staff upheaval; it’ll continue under someone else.

  • JoshActionReplay

    He’d definitely want to do it. The question is whether or not someone will let him. In every interview I’ve seen of Genndy, he always seems to mention the Jack movie as his #1 ambition. However, he is insistent that it be hand-drawn 2D animation (as it should be), and I’m not sure if he’ll be able to do that with Sony. As for titan, we can only hope for justice, but that one seems like the more unlikely of the two sadly.