Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Cartoons Ain't Human" with Popeye (1943)

In this 1943 release Popeye tries his hand at drawing a cartoon for his nephews. But, first he needs an idea. Quickly looking about him he comes up with a few, only to have one of his better ideas “censored” by a human hand. This cartoon was made during the war, and there are a few references in it that may puzzle the viewer who is not acquainted with the history of World War Two on the home front here in the United States.

All in all, we had it pretty good; at least that’s what I have been told. I was born in 1954, when the war had been over for several years. Aside from the “censored” part in this cartoon, there are references to “rationing”, such as when Popeye pulls out his trusty can of spinach; the label on it reads “Spinach – 17 points”.

Another unusual approach to this cartoon; which was not produced or directed by Max or Dave Fleischer; is that Popeye draws himself, and the other cast members of his cartoon, as stick figures. Not much imagination required for that when looking at Olive Oyl. .

While showing the cartoon to his nephews, Popeye acts as a one man band, playing everything imaginable, creating a soundtrack as wild as the cartoon he has drawn. In it, he plays himself, working for Newt’s Zoot Suits, carrying a sandwich board style sign to advertise Newt’s Suits.  Meantime, back at home, Olive is being accosted by the evil landlord, complete with mustache, who wants the rent, or Olive. When Olive literally calls Popeye for help, the usual high jinx occurs.

The only difference is that this time it’s just a cartoon inside a cartoon; so you don’t have to worry about how it all works out. Directed by Seymour Kneitel, and animated by Orestes Calpini and Otto Feuer, this may be one of the most unusual Popeye cartoons ever.

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