Popeye the Sailor
Debut: January 01, 1933
Ended: January 01, 1957

Thimble Theater was adapted into an animated cartoon series originally produced for Paramount Pictures by Fleischer Studios, run by brothers Max Fleischer (producer) and Dave Fleischer (director) in 1933. Popeye made his film debut in Popeye the Sailor, a 1933 Betty Boop cartoon (Betty only makes a brief appearance as she reinacts her hula-hula dance seen in Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle at the local carnival). It was for this short that Sammy Lerner's famous "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man" song was written. I Yam What I Yam became the first entry in the regular Popeye the Sailor series. As one astute cartoon historian has observed, the song itself was inspired by the first two lines of the "Pirate King" song in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, The Pirates of Penzance: "For I am a Pirate King! (Hoorah for the Pirate King!)" The tune behind those two lines is identical to the "Popeye" song except for the high note on the first "King". The character of Popeye was originally voiced by William "Billy" Costello (Red Pepper Sam). When Costello's behavior became a problem, he was replaced by former in-between animator Jack Mercer, beginning with King of the Mardi Gras in 1935. Olive Oyl was voiced by a number of actresses, but by far the most notable was Mae Questel, who also voiced Betty Boop. Questel eventually took over the part completely until 1938. Various actors provided the voice of Bluto, including Gus Wickie, William Pennell, Jackson Beck, and Pinto Colvig. Other characters from the strip would appear briefly in the shorts, including Poopdeck Pappy, Eugene the Jeep, George W. Geezil, and the Goons. Thanks to the series, Popeye became even more of a sensation. During the mid-1930s, polls taken by theater owners proved Popeye more popular than Mickey Mouse. In 1935, Paramount added to Popeye's popularity by sponsoring the "Popeye Club" as part of their Saturday matinee program. Popeye cartoons, including "Let's Sing With Popeye" were a regular part of the weekly meetings. For a 10 cent membership fee, club members were given a Popeye Kazoo, a membership card, the chance to become elected as the Club's "Popeye" or "Olive Oyl" and opportunities to win other valuable gifts. The Popeye series was noted for its urban feel (the Fleischers operated out of New York City), its manageable variations on its simple theme (Popeye loses Olive to bully Bluto and must eat his spinach and defeat him), and the characters' "under-the-breath" mutterings (which began as ad-libs by Mercer, who muttered so that his additions would not alter the timing of the completed animation). The voices for pre-1940 Fleischer cartoons were recorded after the animation was completed, so the actors, Mercer in particular, would improvise lines that were not on the storyboards or prepared for the lip-sync. Fleischer Studios produced 108 Popeye cartoons; 105 of them in black and white. The remaining three were two-reel (double-length) Technicolor specials billed as "Popeye Color Features": Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor, Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves, and Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp. The Fleischers moved their studio to Miami, Florida in 1938 to weaken union control and take advantage of tax breaks. The Popeye series continued production, although a marked change was seen in the Florida-produced shorts: they were brighter and less detailed in their artwork, with attempts to bring the character animation closer to a Disney style. Mae Questel refused to move to Florida, and Margie Hines, the wife of Jack Mercer, voiced Olive Oyl through the end of 1943. In 1941, with World War II becoming more of a source of concern in America, Popeye was (re-)enlisted into the U.S. Navy, as depicted in the 1941 short "The Mighty Navy". His costume was changed from the black shirt and white neckerchief to an official white Navy suit, and Popeye continued to wear the Navy suit in animated cartoons until the 1960s. Popeye periodically wore his original costume when at home on shore leave, as in the 1942 entry Pip-Eye, Pup-Eye, Poop-Eye, An' Peep-Eye, which introduced his four identical nephews. Fleischer Studios was dissolved in January 1942 when Max and Dave were both forced to resign from the company. Paramount purchased the studio and renamed it Famous Studios. Appointing Seymour Kneitel and Isadore Sparber as its heads, production was continued on the shorts. The early Famous-era shorts were often World War II propaganda, featuring Popeye fighting Nazis and Japanese soldiers. In late 1943, the Popeye series was moved to all-Technicolor production, beginning with Her Honor the Mare. Paramount moved the studio back to New York at this time, and Mae Questel re-assumed voice duties for Olive Oyl. Jack Mercer was drafted into the Navy during World War II. When he was unavailable to record his dialogue, Mae Questel stood in as the voice of Popeye, in addition to her role as Olive Oyl. Jackson Beck voiced Bluto in the color Famous shorts, which began to adhere even closer to the standard Popeye formula.

YouTube Videos
Popeye: "I'm Popeye The Sailor Man!"
Popeye: "Olive! I didn't recognize you without your skin on!"
Eugene the Jeep: "Jeep! Jeep!"
Popeye: "(referring to William Tell) I guess he ain't jokin'. I shouldn't be smokin'. I'm Popeye the sailor man! Toot!Toot!"
Betty Boop: "Oh. Looky Looky!"
Olive Oyl: "(Olive is blindfolded. She trips and her head falls into a bucket of water)Olive: Help! Popeye! I'm drowning!"
Popeye: "How did he get into this picture?"
Olive: "Oh help Popeye!"
Popeye: "Im strong to the finsh, Because I eat my spinch! Im popeye the Sailor man!"
Popeye: "Blow me down!"
Popeye: "Don't thinks I blames ya, cause I don't. Nope"
Popeye: "What?! He's not even in this picture!"
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