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Popeye the Sailor


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Characters & Voices
Popeye - William Costello, Jack Mercer
Olive Oyl - Mae Questel
Swee’ Pea - Mae Questel
Bluto - Gus Wickie, Pint Colvig, William Pennell
Wimpy - Jack Mercer, Lou Fleischer, Frank Matalone
Poodpeck Pappy - Jack Mercer
Pupeye - Jack Mercer
Peepeye - Jack Mercer
Pipeye - Jack Mercer
Shorty - Arnold Stang
Popeye was created in 1929, and has been around in one form or another ever since. He first appeared on television in 1956, when old movie shorts starring the squinty-eyed sailor were shown in syndication. These old cartoons showed Popeye's daily activities, which included a general routine of wooing his lady love Olive Oyl, fighting with Bluto over Olive’s affections, losing, then eating spinach halfway through the fight and subsequently knocking the daylights out of his rival.

As an outsider to this love triangle, the hamburger-obsessed Wimpy would try, often successfully, to manipulate all three of them in order to get a free lunch. But perhaps Wimpy's poor physique versus Popeye's bulging muscles were an early message for a not-yet-health-conscious America. Each episode usually ended with Popeye singing his familiar theme song which touted the wonders of spinach.

"I'm strong to the finish, 'cause I eats me spinach.
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man!"

In 1960, Popeye The Sailor was the first show to feature Popeye cartoons made just for television. These episodes were more fleshed out, featuring characters from the comic strip that hadn’t been included in the big screen segments, such as the Sea Hag, Roughhouse the cook, Prof. O.G. Wottasnozzle, and Geezil. Viewers were also treated to episodes starring the rarely seen Sweet Pea, Poopdeck Pappy, Eugene the Jeep, and Alice the Goon. For some reason, Popeye’s nemesis on this show was named Brutus, though he looked suspiciously just like Bluto...

The oddly-proportioned seaman (can elbows that small support forearms that big?) made his next appearance in 1978 with The All-New Popeye Hour on CBS. This series was broken up into different segments: The Adventures of Popeye, Popeye’s Treasure Hunt, Popeye’s Sports Parade, and Dinky Dog. The latter segment starred a huge mutt and had little or nothing to do with Popeye or any sort of maritime activity.

Because of the changing times, these episodes featured less fighting and more trickery on the part of Popeye's nemesis, who was back to being called Bluto. Each episode also featured a public service portion, in which the spinach-eating swabby would educate his nephews Peepeye, Pupeye, and Pipeye on topics such as home safety or sensible dieting. In one such segment, Popeye explained what a bad habit smoking was, and how he only used his pipe for “tooting” at the end of his theme song.

In 1980, the series was shortened to a half-hour and rechristened The Popeye and Olive Comedy Show. Two new segments were added: Prehistoric Popeye, which showed us a Cro-Magnon version of the sailor eating Jurassic spinach, and Private Olive Oyl, which chronicled the adventures of Olive and Alice the Goon as privates in the Army. CBS decided to retire the beloved boatman in 1983.

The network brought back the mumbling marine back one more time in 1986 with Popeye and Son. Popeye and Olive had gotten married, bought a house, and raised a nine-year old son named Popeye Jr., all without aging a day.

Bluto had, of course, married as well, and he and his wife Lizzie had produced young Tank. As you can imagine, Popeye Jr. and Tank were often at odds, which would prompt the elder Popeye to intervene and teach his son how to solve his problems without fighting. My, how times had changed.

The many incarnations of Popeye are a tribute to the character's universal appeal. Spawning a myriad of cartoons, a feature-length live-action film, and even a fast food chain, this one-eyed, oddly-formed, and violence-prone son of the sea endured through several generations of viewers, all of whom could relate to being the underdog.
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