Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
With the third volume in the Popeye series, Warner Home Video rounds out the rest of the black and white Popeye cartoons from the 1940s. There’s 32 theatrical shorts featured on two discs as well as a gaggle of extra material. The cartoons on this disc cover the transition from Fleischer Studios to Famous Studios, as well as Popeye’s transition from civilian life to active duty with the United States Navy. It’s a must-have for fans of the spinach-eating sailor as well as classic-animation buffs.
The first disc features a variety of mishaps and misadventures with Popeye constantly looking after his bumbling, alcoholic father as well as the infant Sweet Pea. Popeye’s nephews Pip-Eye, Pup-Eye, Poop-Eye, and Peep-Eye even show up for one adventure. Why any parent would allow a man with such a violent nature to care for their children is beyond me, but I have to admit Popeye does seem to care for the little guys. He apparently even went so far as to take them all out to get matching anchor tattoos! Rounding out the regular cast is Popeye’s main squeeze, Olive Oyl and of course, Bluto, who is always trying to steal Olive away from Popeye, whether she likes it or not.
The second disc is pretty much filled with wartime cartoons, as Popeye re-enlisted with the Navy just a few months before the U.S. got involved in World War II. The cartoons are still very entertaining if you aren’t bothered by propaganda and are willing to overlook the astonishingly racist depictions of Japanese soldiers. Wow! I’ve seen a few wartime cartoons and I knew that racism was much more prevalent in those days, but I still wasn’t prepared for what I saw here. To call them non-politically correct would be like saying that Minnesota gets “a little chilly” in the wintertime. Nevertheless, they are a product of their time and should be viewed as such. Parents, just make sure you’re in the room with the kids if you allow them to watch these. You may want to explain a few things.
While large portions of the material contained on these discs harkens back to a very different time in America when men were men, women were objects, and anyone who wasn’t white was the devil, the beauty of the animation cannot be overlooked. These cartoons are classics, plain and simple, and they have been lovingly restored for this collection. I’ve seen a few old cartoons from this era on television or VHS, and they’ve never looked better than they do here. As I said earlier, they belong in the collection of any fan of the golden age of animation.
Speaking of the golden age of animation, there are a variety of special features on these discs, including commentary by animation historians, directors, and in some cases, the children of the folks who created these cartoons in the first place. There are also three documentaries focusing on Popeye and the roots of animation, as well as three Fleischer-produced Out of the Inkwell shorts featuring Koko the Clown from the 1920s. The documentaries are just as entertaining as the cartoons and they’re informative as well. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.