Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto, and Wimpy in WE AIM TO PLEASE (1934) – Onions are beautiful things

WeAimToPlease

Popeye and Olive Oyl open a diner by doing a charming rendition of the title song. Then Popeye moves the entire restaurant down the block when Olive decides to change locations.

Unfortunately, the new location brings in all sorts of riff-raff. Wimpy offers to gladly pay on Tuesday for a hamburger and a pickle today (I saw that one coming a mile away). Then Bluto tries to mooch a meal, and Popeye tears up most of the restaurant getting back at Bluto (saw that one coming, too).

Apparently Popeye ends up selling out to Bluto, because everyone reverses their roles a year-and-a-half later in the cafe-themed What – No Spinach? (1936). Didn’t see that one coming.

On a rating scale of 1 to 4 spinach cans, I give this cartoon: CanCanCanCanHalf

POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS ALI BABA’S FORTY THIEVES (1937) – Another Popeye storybook delight

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(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

This cartoon, released one year almost to the day after the success of Popeye’s previous color landmark, Sindbad the Sailor, is perhaps a teeny notch down from its predecessor, just as The Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races is a tad-paler sequel to A Night at the Opera. But in each case, the good stuff in either movie is so good, must we quibble?? (Anyway, when that credit/cave door opens and the swanky theme music starts, I admit I’m suckered in every time.)

Naturally, the movie starts with Ali Baba (Bluto, typecast again) singing a song, this one about how he and the thieves are tough, rather than how he tamed a bunch of hyper-monsters. Having a bunch of braggarts sing is a bit New Kids on the Block “Hangin’ Tough” compared to singing about the wild animals you’ve tamed, so Bluto automatically starts off a bit lagging here.

Instead of Popeye sailing on a generic ship, here he starts off with a slightly topical reference, as a soldier at the Coast Guard Station. (Typical of the Fleischers’ attention to detail, they even show the sun gleaming off Popeye’s bald head.) Wimpy sits about a Spruce Goose-like contraption that Popeye launches upon getting word of Ali Baba’s shenanigans. Olive Oyl comes along for the ride, and the Goose literally bounces all over the globe before crashing in the Middle East.

The trio traipse through the desert, encountering some anachronistic gags predating the style of Bugs Bunny’s 1955 Sahara Hare. (Like Bugs, Wimpy sees a very elaborate mirage — in this case, a table laden with food.) Eventually, Olive collapses (but not before Popeye briefly props her up like a camel), as does Wimpy. Popeye threads himself and the other two together as a makeshift tire and rolls into town.

They enter a café, and one of the few outright racist gags of the movie occurs when Popeye is handed a menu in Arabic (which of course he can’t read), until it’s pieced together as a jigsaw puzzle into English. (But Jack Mercer’s chattering here, and elsewhere in the movie, is terrific.)

Popeye and Olive hear a radio broadcast in which the announcer warns of Ali Baba’s arrival by reiterating A.B.’s theme song. (Like Ali Baba needed product placement?) Everyone and everything go into hiding (a clock hides his hands away, even), including the radio after it’s finished its announcement.

Ali Baba’s gang enters and leaves so quickly, they’re literally just a blur. Popeye slows down Ali Baba long enough to try to fight with him, but Ali hangs Popeye from the ceiling as a chandelier and makes off with Olive and Wimpy. Popeye escapes and fuels up a camel (!) to catch the gang.

Ali and his crew enter and close their cave, but Popeye uses his pipe as a blowtorch to cut open an entrance. The cave, like that in Sindbad the Sailor, is another 3D delight for the eyes. In the cave, Popeye finds Olive (forced to do the thieves’ laundry) and Wimpy (chained up just beyond reach of Ali’s huge meal, though of course he manages a few steals). (Gotta love Ali’s guttural sounds when he eats, too — he makes Wimpy look a model of etiquette.)

Ali Baba catches Popeye and throws him to the thieves, who pass him around like a wiffle ball and then dangle him just above a man-eating shark. In the nick of time (surprise!), Popeye remembers his spinach can and tells it to “Open, sez-me!” In a series of extremely satisfying gags, Popeye subdues Ali and his thieves and has them lead a victory parade for himself and his pals.

This might be a strange complaint for a Popeye cartoon, but my only problem with the movie is that it is perhaps too gaggy. I liked the straight-faced fairy-tale style of Sindbad the Sailor a little better; this movie’s sometimes-peculiar jokiness seems to pave the way for the irony-laden CGI cartoons of the 2000’s. That said, it’s still a delightful cartoon on all counts.

On a scale of 1 to 4 spinach cans, I give this cartoon:  CanCanCanCanHalf

POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS SINDBAD THE SAILOR (1936) – More fun than even a cartoon should be allowed

BANNER

The following is my entry in the Fairy Tale Blogathon, hosted by Movies Silently from Nov. 9 through 11. Go to http://moviessilently.com and read enjoyable critiques of movie versions of classic fairy tale stories!

Poster-for-Popeye-the-Sailor-Meets-Sindbad-the-Sailor-1936.

(WARNINGMajor spoilers abound!)

One of the nicest memories of my marriage has been taking my wife, ordinarily not a cartoon fan, to see the Disney cartoon Beauty and the Beast when it was first released in 1991. Within five minutes, she had her arms clasped across the seat in front of her, staring starry-eyed at the screen. She later told me that the movie made her feel like a kid again.

I got the same effect watching Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor. It looks and plays like a children’s storybook come to life.

That’s not to say it at all sacrifices the characterizations we’ve loved up to this point. Popeye is still blustery but well-meaning, Olive Oyl is in her finest damsel-in-distress mode, Wimpy remains single-minded in his pursuit of food, and Bluto, is…well, he’s still Bluto, if not by name.

Sindbad

Here, Bluto serves as the titular villain, Sindbad the Sailor. He is afraid of nothing and nobody, and he introduces himself with an elaborate song in which he claims he “doesn’t like to brag” and then has a fine time doing so.

Olive

Into Sindbad’s milieu sail Popeye, Olive, and Wimpy, and Sindbad catches sight of them in his telescope, which has the remarkable ability to zoom in on a close-up of Olive Oyl’s legs (if that’s your idea of a good time). Sindbad sends one of his island’s domesticated monsters, a huge bird, to destroy Popeye’s ship and capture Olive for Sindbad.

SindbadPopeye

You can easily guess which sailor is going to win this whizzing contest. But it’s not the destination that’s so delightful in this movie as it is the little detours along the way. The cartoon’s first minute or so, which introduces us to the nasty animals that Sindbad has turned into pets, immediately launches into a fairy-tale otherworld, as does the cave through which Popeye saunters to find Olive (an eye-popping 3D landscape courtesy of Max and Dave Fleischer, the producing/directing team behind the groundbreaking early Popeye cartoons).

And as comic “punctuation,” there’s the lovely running gag of Wimpy holding a meat-grinder and following a wayward duck around the island in the hope of gruesomely scoring his next meal.

Wimpy

The cartoon isn’t as all-out funny as most Popeye entries, but the exotic setting and the eye-bathing colors more than make up for that. Watching this cartoon, you’ll be too busy keeping from swooning with child-like glee to laugh anyway.

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor is a delightful and groundbreaking precursor to the fantasy world of Walt Disney’s Snow White (released one year later). Nearly 70 years after its making, it was chosen for preservation in 2004 by the National Film Registry — whose membership is obviously made up of a number of kids at heart.

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On a rating scale of 1 to 4 spinach cans, I give this cartoon:  CanCanCanCan

Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Wimpy in SHIVER ME TIMBERS! (1934) – A ship-shape adventure

ShiverMeTimbers

Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Wimpy run ashore on an island and come across an old wrecker marked, “Ghost Ship – Beware!” Olive and Wimpy don’t want to get near it — but how intimidating can a ghost ship be when it plays the Laurel & Hardy theme as a come-on? Naturally, as soon as the trio boards the ghost ship, it sets sail, and the stowaway ghosts do their best to scare the passengers.

A wonderfully atmospheric “horror cartoon,” with lush animation throughout (pay attention to the “ghostly” Olive, among other delights). A real treasure.

On a rating scale of 1 to 4 spinach cans, I give this cartoon: CanCanCanCan