Monday, 18 March 2013

I Told You There Ain’t No Ghosts

A basic, but neat, little trick is used in a fight scene in the Popeye cartoon “Shiver Me Timbers!” (1934).

Popeye, Olive and Wimpy mix it up with some ghosts. The drawings of multiple heads and body parts are nice to begin with. But instead of using them in some kind of cycle, not only are the drawings mixed up a bit, and shot on both ones and twos, the drawings are in positive and negative. It’s an efficient use of the artwork and looks like the fight is flashing on the screen.

Williard Bowsky and Bill Sturm receive the animation credits. Of note is this is the first cartoon where the opening title card reads “Adolph Zukor presents”. It wasn’t until many years after childhood that I learned that Adolph Zukor had nothing to do with the making of these cartoons.

As usual with an early Fleischer Popeye, the gags in the climax fight come at you quickly. Popeye kicks some bony skeleton butt to the tune of “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” which is always a plus for me. Is it any wonder kids liked Popeye over Mickey Mouse? It’s like comparing Elliot Ness to Lassie.


  1. Famous Studios would remake this (more or less) as the final Popeye theatrical, Spooky Swabs.

    Comparing the two shows how much little animation tricks like this contribute to the personality of Fleischer shorts (as opposed to the straighter, less imaginative Famous ones), and also how much Wimpy brings to the table even in cartoons where he doesn't have much to do.

  2. Willard Bowsky absolutely loved this kind of stuff, from "Minnie the Moocher" through "Small Fry" and "Wotta Nightmare", his first cartoons after the studio moved to Miami.

    The Zukor credit showed how popular the Popeye cartoons had become. Zukor was in charge of East Coast production at Paramount's Astoria studios (Jesse Lasky had the gig on the west coast), but he didn't take a credit on the Fleischer cartoons until after the success of the sailor man was obvious, and then took credits on all the Fleishcer films (I used to believe his name came off the credits in '39 because he had either left the studio or because of that other guy named Adolf stirring things up in Europe. But apparently it was because the Fleischers had left New York and were outside of Zukor's jurisdiction that the change to "Paramount Presents" was made in the opening titles, a change that remained through the studio's closing in 1967).