Basically, we did a screening, and it was great. Internally, everyone was super happy with it. I think it was also exactly what King Features wanted. We had a great reaction.
But this was also during the culmination of the Sony hack, and I could feel that something was going to happen soon. So after the screening, I didn’t get an answer from them, which was weird because everybody was so positive. Usually, we meet and talk and get notes. But they had a meeting on their own, and that was it. I just got a phone call afterward telling me how great it was, which always makes me suspicious. If they just call to tell you it’s great, there’s something going on, because they didn’t offer any notes. Later on, I personally went to see [then Sony Pictures Entertainment executive] Amy Pascal , and said, “Look, I’m a big boy. I can take it. I just need some information.” And she said, “Look Genndy, we love you, but we just don’t like Popeye.”
And that was the core. I think they’re still developing Popeye, trying to find a way to make it, but just not the way I was making it, which I think was very sincere and respectful to the way Popeye was.
When asked about that approach to the Popeye character, Tartakovsky excitedly explained the look and feel of his version:
Not only were those characters really well animated, they were animated really funny. Which is an even harder thing to do, to elicit laughs just from movement. But that’s why I’m in this industry; it’s what I love. Popeye had that in spades; the way those characters moved was really funny. I was so looking forward to it. That little test we did was just a scratch of what we had planned.
The test Tartakovsky was referencing was shared by Sony in 2014, and can be seen at the end of the video below.
When asked about the possibility of a future revival of the project, Tartakovsky didn’t sound hopeful:
I mean, you never know. There’s a reason every project usually takes seven years to get going, because of this type of stuff. But right now, I just don’t see it coming back to me.
In 2020, it was reported that Tartakovsky still had hopes to produce a Popeye film with King Features (The Cuphead Show), but there has been little news since about that project’s progress.