The 60 cartoons alone would be worth owning, but the Special Features put this collection in the “DVD Set of the Year” category. The commentary tracks are created by an array of people. We hear from animation historians like Michael Barrier and Jerry Beck and animation creators like El Tigre’s Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua, who watched Popeye when they were kids in Mexico. There is even old audio from interviews of people who worked at Fleischer like Mercer and animator Dave Tendlar. The most interesting and most annoying commentaries are by Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, animator Eddie Fitzgerald, and cartoonist/student/groupie Kali Fontecchio, who annoyingly contributes fawning giggles at almost everything they say. Kricfalusi had a lot to offer, but it’s too bad Fontecchio couldn’t have checked her giddiness, so the rest of us could have enjoyed our limited time with him.
Documentaries on each disc put Popeye and animation into historical perspective. I Yam What I Yam is a great 43-minute retrospective about Popeye with some of the commentary contributors are the likes of cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who wrote the screenplay for Robert Altman’s Popeye, Mort Walker of Beetle Bailey, voice actor Billy West, and Tom Hatten, who used to host Popeye and his Friends in Los Angeles. Forging The Frame: The Roots of Animation 1900-1920 features Bill Plympton, Ray Harryhausen, and Terry Gilliam. “Popeye Popumentaries” focus on all things Popeye: Segar’s strip, the other characters including Wimpy and Swee’Pea, the voices of Popeye, the music, and the Popeye color two-reelers. There is even clarification to why Bluto became Brutus.
Old-time animation fans should enjoy the “From the Vault” features. Six Bray Productions silent films from the teens star characters such as George Herriman’s Krazy Kat and Bud Fisher’s Mutt and Jeff. Nine Out of the Inkwell shorts from the ‘20s have live action interacting with Koko the Clown, a character derived from Max Fleischer’s invention of the rotoscope.
Eugene the Jeep appears on the DVD packaging but isn’t in a short until 1940. However, he might very well have appeared in a cartoon, but chose to remain invisible as there were no orchids around.
The second volume of Popeye cartoons from Warner Home Video is scheduled for release in November 2007.