(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)
Adventures of Popeye is an example of what came to be known in movie parlance as a “cheater”: a “new” cartoon that nevertheless re-uses footage from older cartoons to cut corners on the budget. As cheaters go, though, this is one of the best. Leave it to the Fleischers not to stint even on a cost-conscious cartoon.
The movie begins in live action, with a little boy in short pants — labeling himself, at least for 1920’s and ’30s bullies, as a “sissy” — purchasing an “Adventures of Popeye” comic book. As he walks along reading, an older and bigger boy starts picking on him and fighting with him. The bully exits, laughing derisively and leaving his victim in tears.
Even a comic-book Popeye has had all he can stand. He comes to life on the magazine cover and shows the boy how to fight back, via footage from four earlier Popeye cartoons. But again, the Fleischers don’t cop out; they unite the footage seamlessly, even going to the trouble of blending old and new backgrounds and re-recording some of the excerpts’ soundtracks. (The most astounding example is the footage from the debut cartoon Popeye the Sailor , which excerpt includes the mutterings of Jack Mercer, who did not provide Popeye’s cartoon voice until 1935.)
The kid gets the message; he opens up a can of spinach and wolfs it down whole. Ten points to anyone who can guess what happens to the bully.
If all cheaters were this skillfully done, they probably wouldn’t be called cheaters.