Couldn’t help notice the release of the 3rd Popeye The Sailorman DVD box set as it covers 1941-1943. This is because I have a huge interest in cartoons made during the WW2 era (and also black and white cartoons).
Though I was never a Popeye fan, I was more interested in the documentaries on the set as I know very little of the Fleischer studios– the ones who made the Popeye cartoons (Betty Boop, Superman, Koko the Clown, etc.).
Turns out the Fleischer cartoons are unfortunately underrated/unsung
I consider the Fleischers as the Pixar of American animation’s golden age. They were experimenting with animation (sound, rotoscoping and 3D) as well as producing it as a beautiful, filmmaking artform (take a look at the atmosphere they created in their Superman cartoons).
I instantly became a fan of Popeye
The character design has got to be the greatest I’ve ever seen. And the attention to detail: realistic (and comical) physics and lots of exaggeration all drawn by hand. It’s obvious that content was king in the Fleischer studios because their plots and storytelling didn’t disappoint. And Popeye is so cool.
I also like how the backgrounds were laid out and faded just enough to not interfere with the characters yet you are still able see its beautiful artwork.
Back to the war time stuff
Since my sole exposure to war time propaganda cartoons is Warner Bros, it was a treat to see the new perspective used by the Fleischers; military life. In this case, Popeye in the navy.
If you can look past the ethnic stereotypes and accept that they were (somehow) the norm back then, then you’ll appreciate this set as much as I did.
One of the extras is a Fleischer toon from 1929 explaining how sound is put on film. Very cool to see how it was done back in the golden age (I’m sure it’s on YouTube somewhere).