popeye_wilco popeye_wilco
Music Videos

Popeye meets Wilco: “Dawned On Me”

King Features has collaborated with rock band Wilco on a comic strip/music video tie-in with Popeye. The sailorman and his crew crossed over in last Sunday’s comic strip (1/22/12 by Frank Caruso and Ned Sonntag) and joined the group in this animated music video (embed below), directed by urban fashion designer Darren Romanelli and animated in Singapore by Peach Blossom Media.

  • Really lame song. The animation is passable, though…

  • Confused

    Cute video.

  • The Gee

    Sad to say that I don’t read the papers much anymore. But, I do check out comics online when possible. Somehow, earlier this week I didn’t bother checking out Sunday’s strips.

    So, I wish like heck I’d seen that earlier. Amazing.

    As much as Wilco is considered a Chicago band, part of its roots go back to further down Illinois. Given that state is Chicago and a bunch of towns, it is fair enough to say that Jeff Tweedy, the “leader” of the band is from the same neck of the woods as was Segar, and the legendary retired salty, toothless sailor who supposedly inspired the Popeye character. So there is something right about this.

    Haven’t watched the video yet. But, yeah. Whatta crossover.

    So, this gets the Alice the Goon Seal of Approval.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      At least someone remembers Chester, IL!

      Arguably, while I don’t care for the song since it sounds like every other tune I hear on the radio lately, the animation could’ve been a little more ropier and on 1’s personally. Some of the timing is just a bit off, I”m sure if they had hired someone like Mark Kausler on this it would’ve worked.

      • Superstarseven

        Can I move to where you are? I don’t hear any songs like this on the radio. I’d love to know what other band sounds like Wilco.

  • Tony C


  • Dave

    Well, their hearts are in the right place, but it looks like they spent about a buck ninety-eight on the animation, and (unfortunately) I find it plays better with the sound off.

    • Yes, the budget is a buck ninety-eight. But in today’s economy, that buys our animators a couple of 99c burgers to feed ourselves…
      Every studio dreams of doing big budget stuff one day. But we do our best with what we we are given, we are real proud of the job we did on Popeye.

  • Dee

    The animation is awful. Tweedy and the others’ designs are freakish-looking. The story is clichéd and unimaginative. The popeye characters look on model though.

  • It’s nice that they chose to go with the style from the Fleischer era cartoons.

    As others have said, the band member character designs are pretty disappointing. They look like they’re straight out of a bad 80’s cartoon.

    There’s a mix of really awful animation (Olive’s dance) and some pretty good stuff.

    The problem is that even the parts that have nicely drawn frames tend to feel weightless because the timing is all off.

    Commendable effort on the compositing.

    Also, I don’t mind the song, but it doesn’t really suit the jolly, swaggering nature of Popeye at all (except maybe the whistle solo).

    • Hi Ivan Dixon,

      Actually, the timing is spot on. Because if you check out the Fleischer cartoons, they are “weightless”. Our animators worked really hard on this, even reverting to pencil and paper to replicate the feel.
      So we’d appreciate more educated and informed comments. But thanks for the feedback nonetheless.

      Imaginary Friends Studio

  • Rufus

    I officially hate Wilco now, not that I ever listened to them, but this song is whiny and annoying, uninspired, just like the animation. Bleurgh.

  • That’s seriously unpleasant in its entirety

  • Rick R.

    I have to agree that the animation is not really that good, since a lot of it seems to be simple, repeated cycles, and I am wondering why it had to be animated in Singapore instead of the US.

    Don’t we have any animators on these shores any more?

    (And no, this isn’t hating on the people of Singapore. I just think there are people here who would have been happy enough to get a paycheck on it, and without the distance issues, might have made a better piece.)

    • Hi Rick,

      It is repeat cycles because it was a conscious effort to mimic the old Fleischer videos. If you study those (like we did), it’s all loops.

      BTW, you ARE hating on Singaporeans. You assume that Singapore = cheap labor? They hired our studio because we are the best in the world. Nothing to do with flag-waving patriotism. Just talent. Check out our website for proof.


  • Jason Geyer

    This was pretty terrible. The Squirrel Nut Zippers’ “Ghost of Stephen Foster” was a terrific Fleischer homage that makes this look even worse by comparison.

    • Mike

      I was just coming on here to post this after I watched the painful music video. The SNZ vid is one of m favorite music videos ever…good on ya sir!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I should have brought this video up before since it’s a great example of what I would’ve liked to have seen out of this.

    • Dominick

      Wow! Never saw that before. “Ghost” did everything right!
      Wilco on the other hand is really lame. Looks like they traced action from the first few Popeyes in a way that reminds me of the crappy colorized stuff done in the ’80’s.
      Plus the song stinks. I liked Wilco 15 years ago. Officially don’t now.

    • Funkybat

      Ah, this video. The first time I saw it, I could hardly believe it was made in the 1990s, it was so authentic to 1930s animation styles, both the gags and the art itself. Too bad the Wilco Popeye video doesn’t really approach it, but most animators would probably have a hard time recreating something as well as “The Ghost of Stephen Foster” team did.

  • The Gee

    I still haven’t watched the video.

    But, if the general consensus so far is that it ain’t all that and a can of spinach, when I watch it I won’t expect something cool or even sublime.

    But, I will say this: if the song doesn’t work or seem suited for the cartoon then that sucks.

    One of the worst things about Now is there are so few bands who make the best kind of music for something like that. Sure, it is animation. Anything is possible. You can go artsy or cartoony. But, unless the music is made for it and it is a match made in heaven…it can be disappointing. Drag.

    As for what Rick R. wrote: my sentiments exactly. There are those who would and could do a bang up job. That goes without saying. But, somethings get outsourced offshore. Blame it on budgets and producers.

    • Old Man Father Time

      Weird Al collaborated with John K a few times. Look at ‘Close But No Cigar.’ His music and writing all fit with John K’s style like they were meant to be together in that song! I wish more artists shared that same kind of vision.

  • Randy

    Really LAME tuneless “song”. Wilco pretty much sucks on this tune.
    Animation is pretty much on character, looks-wise, but nothing they do much fits the beat or pace of the video. Kind weightless and pointless, considering the tune has NOTHING to do with what is happening. (What exactly IS happening in that thing, anyway???)
    Nice idea, misdirected efforts. It just doesn’t work on a number of levels, especially to anyone that has any experience with really good pop music and classic Fleischer animation.
    Nice try though….the clueless 17 year olds will most likely think it’s clever and awesome. God help us.

  • Lee B.

    I think I got a bigger kick out of the homage to the old Bud Sagendorf comic book cover with Popeye and Olive dressed as bottles during the opening titles than the rest of the video. Too bad, I wanted it to be better.

  • Ben H.

    Considering that the theme was simply a day at the docks, it could have gone a lot worse. Namely Peter, Bjorn & John worse, who had their music video Young Folks simply have people doing simple motion tweened loops.
    Graphically though Popeye and his friends don’t seem to fit the really fine lines that the digital process has constrained them into.
    I dont have much to say about how ‘pure’ the animation is to the original. I am an amateur cartoonist and not much of an animation historian. But my opinion is that it fit the market it was shooting for. It seems that King Features Syndicate found a band willing to let their likeness be animated in simple loops while they animate it’s most well known sailor in the foreground. And that’s fine, its made for a specific purpose, to garner views on youtube and to be played when a music video station has a few free minutes. I wish it could have more life, a little more conflict than “they fight for her love”, but we didn’t fund it, King Features and Romanelli did. And they got what they wanted. So now it sits on their iPods while others go and try something better.

  • Jon

    Well, thanks for explaining Sunday’s Popeye comic strip. I’ve never heard of Wilco and had no idea what in the world that strip was all about.

  • This gets a big thumbs-down from me. It’s just endlessly repeated cycles, and not very good ones at that.

  • That was an enjoyable little video. I like both Popeye and Wilco and the Sunday was very nice as well. Thanks for posting this!

  • I like Wilco and I love Popeye, and thought that this might have been cool, but it just wasn’t done very well. There was no weight either in the lines or in the figures’ relationships with the environment, and to me the characters seem disconcertingly off-model. It was reaching for a faux-vintage look, but only used the most superficial aspects of period animation–the flicker and uneven exposures, and the 1920-style “stand in place and bob up and down” cycling animations. The last is especially disappointing, ‘cos Popeye cartoons generally didn’t do that stuff.

    I didn’t mind the song at all, though.

    • To Holmes!

      We’ll do better next time with more time. But the characters are on model, and you’re wrong, the Fleischer Popeye cartoons does a ton of cycling.


  • uncle wayne

    i don’t get it.

  • Gerard de Souza

    I agree with much of he constructively critical posts here. I would rather them do good animation and not neccessarily emulate Fleischer animation.
    I think sometimes people think Fleischers’ animation was naive or crude, and maybe this studio reflected that attitude. But if Disney was refined, Fleischer was pure; pure cartoons with a native visual language of its own….not crude.
    This animation was inexperinced, bad and mailed-in.

    I’ve liked the animation of Popeye in commercials (Minute Maid, soup). Those styles would have been fine with me.

  • Oscar Grillo

    A sacrilege!

  • Retro00064

    I am not a music video person, nor a rock music person, so I watched the video with the sound off.

    They obviously based animation sequences on those in the early Fleischer Popeye shorts: Popeye’s dance when he first comes out of the can is obviously a copycat of his dance when he smashed the ship’s mast while singing in the beginning of the first Popeye cartoon, Popeye the Sailor (1933). The sequence of Bluto carrying Olive off with Popeye galloping after him, and Bluto using a bird as a pair of scissors to cut the rope and stop Popeye, is also a copycat of/based on a sequence in Popeye the Sailor. Olive’s dancing is a copycat of her dancing when she first appears in Blow Me Down (1933), but the quality of it pales in compared to the original animation in the Fleischer short.

    The characters in this video (as far as the way they are drawn, etc.) do not look as nice as in the Fleischer shorts or even the Famous Studios Popeye shorts.

    Basically, the original theatrical Popeye shorts are superior to this video, in my opinion. But what do you expect from a music video? I doubt that this video was produced under as high a budget as the Fleischer or even the Famous theatrical shorts were. I feel they still could have drawn the characters closer to how they were drawn in the Fleischer or Famous shorts, but this is a music video, but I guess I shouldn’t expect too much from a music video.

    • Mike

      If you’re saying they should be let off the hook for the poor-quality animation because it’s a music video, I entreat you to watch the “Ghost of Stephen Foster” video posted above! There’s an example of Fleischer-styled period animation realized perfectly, and probably on a budget equally small or smaller than that of the Popeye video. (SNZ aren’t exactly a well-known band, unlike Wilco…)

      • Retro00064

        Yeah, the animation in the SNZ video is better. As I said above, I feel they could have drawn the Popeye characters in this video closer to how they were drawn in the Fleischer or Famous shorts.

      • Funkybat

        I guess “well known” depends on what demographic you’re speaking to. I have known who Squirrel Nut Zippers were for some time, and enjoy the few songs of theirs I’ve heard get major media rotation (such as “Ghost”) Wilco inhabits parts of the radio dial/Pandora/etc. that I rarely visit, and for a long time in my mind they were “that band whose name reminds me of ‘Weezer'” and not much else. Of course, my musical tastes skew mainly toward music made before I was born, and the main reason I like SNZ is because they don’t sound odd and old fashioned.

    • Old Man Father Time

      A LOT of animation in music videos work. MIKA employs a lot of that.

    • Thanks Retro,

      Finally, an intelligent, constructive comment! We’ll do better next time.

      You have rightly point out, music video budget and production schedule is a TINY fraction of what Paramount afforded Popeye in those days.

      Hope to get a big budget one day to really do something perfect.


  • The Gee

    Watched it and it was four minutes of the saddest Popeye I can recall ever looking at.

    The song is wrong.
    The bounciness of it isn’t something you can dance too easily, in anyway. However, it seems like the bounciness of the rhythm is what possibly made enough involved think it could work. After all old cartoons had characters bouncing, right? Perfect! We got an Idea!

    The gags…
    set up and then for the most part nothing. Since the characters don’t speak, it was best to have acting and a lot of exaggeration. There was smooshing in and out the can…. that one can…that magic can, which denoted little to nothing. Seeing the volcano in the opening versus the one on the bulging biceps equally disappointing.

    And, to go from a spit take volcanic “eruption” to the battle ship and then have Popeye swing like a monkey…??? I don’t get that logic. Pick a gag and follow through appropriately.

    The cycles….if there were not one predominant “shot” of the whole cast dancing while the band played, it could have been mixed up. Say, like the Peanuts Christmas dancing on the stage. More cuts to closeups could have helped reduce monotony. Again, the squash and stretch mostly involved the magic can. No eye pops and lackluster action. But, hey. Budgets and schedules can result in simple. But, it should be easy enough to plan and adapt better to those limitations, too.

    Also, I wonder if a video editor cut some things. Some will do that to animation. Even animation that was well timed. They are used to Too Much To Use and not to Just Enough Made. I hope I’m wrong but there’s a few scenes that are missing stuff.

    it didn’t need one and didn’t have much of anything but to play off the song would have had something different for a “plot”–in my opinion. As is, it was uncharacteristic for Popeye to give up like that. He just went in that magic can and Lost a challenge. Maybe that is a geek perspective to expect him to win and win absurdly easily and spectacularly. But, it is hard to think KFS said: That’s brilliant! Go for it!
    But, someone said, Yeah! This is great!

    Oh yeah, the titles made me anticipate an adventure; exotic, even. You could possibly make the song work if the characters went somewhere…if it was necessary to use that song. Usually bands want the latest single and to make it just work and like this one ain’t close to poppy or jazzy cartoon music.. So… whatayagonna do?

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I’m starting to think using “Ghost of Stephen Foster” is TOO good an example for what is happening here. It really comes down to how they were selling this band in the first place. Everything you sight Gee put things in perspective quite well.

    • Funkybat

      I dare say even the Futurama episode “Reincarnation” did a better job at paying homage to the Fleischers and that era of animation, and that’s saying something…

  • Fleischer Fan

    As Dave said above – their hearts were in the right place, but this was just, well, below mediocre.

    The Fleischers’ inventive gags would make you laugh with surprise. This was just painful to watch. I bailed out about halfway through.

  • I like that they thought it was worth doing. The old characters don’t look too bad, but their moves are clearly just snips from old cartoons, and they neither move enough nor do enough — that is, the gags, slow as they are, are also spaced too far apart.

    Apathetic, all told, and don’t get me started on the band characters.

  • Count me as one of the folks who DOESN’T think it’s terrible. The song is boring, but the animation is passable. I like how they imitated the “bobbing” to the music that the characters did in the early cartoons, as well as Popeye’s unique “hopping” run. It’s certainly not up to par with its inspiration, but it’s a nice homage just the same. Nice to know Jeff Tweedy and co. are fans of the classics.

  • epidicus

    Personally, I dug it, I spent years hoping for an Uncle Tupelo/Popeye collaboration, so this is the next best thing. Why can’t we just be appreciative of the fact that Fleischer era animation is being referenced in the 21st century, and leave it at that.

    • Yes, well said! That’s exactly why I think it is a cool video!

      • The Gee

        That’s fine that you are happy about it.

        But, I guess I just look at the cartoon from a production standpoint in terms of time, crew size, and other stuff. So, it is a drag that it doesn’t always hit the nail on the head.

        The idea is great and it is nice to see that King Features even has web ads promoting the video/the site for the video.

        And, now that you mention it, epidicus, sure….yeah…why not? I could see an animated video with Tupelo and Popeye as the fourth member. He could be playing the jug and doing a jig while the rest of the cast does a contra dance to the song “Punch Drunk” or “I Got Drunk”.

  • Nancy Beiman

    The animation appears to be traced from old Popeye cartoons and exposed without inbetweens.

    • The Gee

      Yes, it often does seem like that.

      Then there is that part where Sweet Pea is handed to Wimpy.

      Maybe in parts like that they should have added scratches and broken film effects. Make it seemed like a found film and they could have covered blemishes in the animation. Not that that would be great but…

      I know they could have done broken timing, if you will, to make it seem old. But, it doesn’t always appear that the cartoon was going for that.

  • John

    I love Popeye but the music sounds like a bunch of guys who just learned how to play their instruments a few hours ago….and the “singer shouldn’t quit his day job.