Friday, 23 November 2012

The Oyl Neighbourhood

The background art in the old Fleischer cartoons is a real treat. Let’s look at a few of them from the start of the Popeye “The Man on the Flying Trapeze” (1934). Everything in an early Popeye is warped and bent, of course, including the streets.

By the way, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility to have a ramshackle house on a lot with a picket fence in a downtown core. I’ve seen pictures of downtowns with tall buildings, car dealerships, and so on, that have expanded and taken over what were residential areas. But not all the homes have been pushed out and a few still sit on what has become prime commercial real estate.

My favourite part of this operetta is the neighbourhood kids and cat, all doing kind of a clog dance in unison and singing. The cat is as human as the kids, and it sings and dances.

It’s not a great Popeye. The conflict is contrived. The bad guy is mute and it’s not his fault Olive’s being a won’t-go-all-the-way tramp again and dumps Popeye to run after him. There’s a nice cycle animation of a rolling ship to open the cartoon and, of course, the singing, dancing neighbourhood cat.

Willard Bowsky and Dave Tendlar get the animation credits.


  1. "Not a great Popeye"? Pshaw! One of the best of the Fleischer series, I'd say. At least Olive picked somebody besides Bluto to be unfaithful to Popeye with for a change!

  2. This is one of a few early Popeyes which try to tie the story around a song, both familiar and original. "Beware of Barnacle Bill" was a later attempt by Bowsky, in even more of a musical format (and the studio's second go-round with the song), while Seymour Kneitel would do "Brotherly Love", where the song is more designed to fit an original storyline, instead of the other way around.

  3. If there's one thing about this film that will drive someone up a wall, it's the constant repetition of the song, "The Man on the Flying Trapeze". Personally, this is one of my favorite Popeye shorts.