STRONGER THAN SPINACH: THE SECRET APPEAL OF THE FAMOUS STUDIOS "POPEYE" CARTOONS (paperback)
Until now, the Famous Studios Popeye cartoons have never really been given a fair treatment by animation writers and historians. Authors have concentrated on the earliest Popeye cartoons from Fleischer Studios because those films broke new ground in technique and humor, and on the made-for-TV cartoons of the 1960s because many of them are so awful. The Famous Studios cartoons are often just mentioned in passing.
But from 1942-1957, Famous Studios, a division of Paramount Pictures, produced Popeye cartoons that have a fan-following to this day. These cartoons were shown on TV during the Baby Boomers' formative years and continue to be shown on cable and satellite channels today. In fact, they are the longest running cartoons in television syndication.
Many of the kids through the years who grew up watching the Famous Studios films have found that the films grew up with them because these cartoons were originally made to entertain adult movie-going audiences, before they were sold to TV and broadcast as kiddie fare. So, they contain adult themes, humor that uses verbal and visual double entendres, and mature sensibilities. They also, of course, are full of slapstick and are just plain fun. So, unlike some childhood joys that are left behind, the pleasure of the Famous Studios Popeye cartoons gets even stronger the older one gets.
The Secret Appeal of the Famous Studios Popeye Cartoons explores the reasons for that. It sets Famous Studios in historical context and explains why the creators working there made the films they did. Then the changes the creators made to the three main characters - Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto are examined, along with Famous Studios' emphasis on sex and romance, tension and suspense and violence, and moral confusion - it's often hard to know who to root for in the cartoons, Popeye or Bluto! Amid the puns and the slapstick, there was a lot more going on. And it's the "more" which makes the films endlessly fascinating.
Eleven cartoons are explained in depth, and then all the Famous Studios cartoons are scanned to uncover the magic elements they each contain. The The Secret Appeal of the Famous Studios Popeye Cartoons ends by exploring the ways the films could have influenced other cartoons, comic books, and even feature length movies.
The Secret Appeal of the Famous Studios Popeye Cartoons is a must read for anyone who has ever enjoyed Popeye cartoons and/or is interested in the character's history. And, perhaps even more importantly, it's a lot of fun, too!
This is a mind-boggling book - over 300 pages (with copious endnotes) that
really give the avid Bluto fan something to sink his teeth into. It is
written so beautifully that you can just tell that Steve had the time of
his life writing it - and the reader will find it difficult to put down.
But most significantly, it is the first time Bluto is given his due
importance, and Popeye is revealed again and again for the chump that he
is. Members of this group will rejoice that for once our man is described
like this: He had manly good looks and a swashbuckling twinkle in his eye.
He was the attractive rogue to Popeye's clueless, cartoony-looking Boy
Scout. And he knew how to use the chiseled features of his face and body
to full advantage. This Bluto was The Handsomest, Sexiest, Cartoon Male of
The book introduces the characters like they've never been introduced
before, then proceeds to describe 11 cartoons in depth - and I mean depth!
Twenty pages, with every moment in the cartoon explored in a full
paragraph or more, with a studied analysis of what the creators were up to
and what metaphors were in play (e.g. the lifeguard's sandwich in "Beach
Peach"). The final hundred pages are entitled "The Rest Of The Cartoons,"
with every single episode described in varying depth from a line or two
("insect pests and the nephews get the short end of the stick") to three
pages. Steve's amazing power of insight is displayed at every turn.
I urge you, implore you, to get ahold of this book and have a read. It's
not only entertainment, it's a reference work that you will be consulting
for years to come. And at long last Bluto and Popeye have been put in
their proper perspective! Charles Brilvitch Bluto's He-man Club (Yahoo Group)