Adult Fear: Swee'Pea's abduction. One minute, Popeye and his adopted kid are being congratulated by the entire town for getting rid of the hated tax collector. And suddenly, he realizes that somewhere in the crowd, Swee'Pea disappeared.
Auteur License: Robert Altman, best-known at the time for iconoclastic comedies and dramas like M*A*S*H and Nashville, getting the reins to a family musical is a perfect example of this. Because the film wasn't as profitable as hoped and reviews were so mixed, he immediately lost it and while he did a lot of film and TV work over the rest of The Eighties, none of it got mainstream attention until 1992's The Player, which triggered a Career Resurrection.
Wimpy gets to say a few of his famous Catch Phrases over the course of the movie, such as "I'm buying, he's paying" and of course the classic "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
Geezil never misses an opportunity to tell Wimpy that he hates him — or tell other people that he hates Wimpy.
Cole Oyl is very prone to tell people that they owe him an apology.
"You're not thinking of doing [random activity], are you? Because there's a xx cent [same random activity] tax."
Cluster F-Bomb: Pappy delivers a "Cluster 'H.A.' during the rescue mission.
Composite Character: Swee'pea, who has taken on the "fortune-telling" traits of Eugene the Jeep (who was originally going to be in the movie but was dropped; see the What Could Have Been entry below).
Continuity Nod: A lot of them. The movie was criticized for not being very faithful to the original cartoons, but it actually has a lot in common with the original Thimble Theater comic, which it contains a ton of references to.
Cut Song: "Din' We" didn't make it into the final film, though it did make it onto the soundtrack album.
"I'm Mean" and "Children" are missing from European releases. Likely because they contain swear words and Disney handled European release.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The "house of ill re-pukes" that Wimpy takes Swee'pea to in order to bet on horses is not only a place of gambling but very clearly also a brothel. It's never directly stated, but the following dialogue as Popeye and the Oyls enter the place make very little room for doubt:
Popeye: What is this, a house of ill re-pukes? Ooh, who'd bring me infink to this den o' immoraliky? (to Olive) Don't touch nothin', you might get a venerable disease. Lady of "ill re-pukes": Oooh, is that a bed pole you got in your pocket, handsome?
Hilariously Abusive Childhood: It's clear from Popeye's stories from his childhood that pap was not a good father, even before he abandoned him. It's all Played for Laughs, since Popeye seems to either be in denial or is trying to make excuses for his father.
"One thing I remember about me pap was that he always used to throw me up in the air. Yeah, heh heh... but he'd never be there when I come down, you know. Heh heh heh. Boy, he had a sensek'a humor, didn't he? Yeah, that was me pap. I remember the time he gave me a electric eel as a toy. Hah hah hah — eep! Hah, yeah, that was fun. Or, or he'd rock me cradle real, real, real hard and I'd lose me formula. And then he'd say 'One day, you'll be a sailor.' Heh heh heh, that's... that's what I yam today, yeah. Hm. Yeah. Sometimes he'd bounce me on his knee. Heh heh, most o' the time he'd miss, though, 'cos he couldn't see too well with one eye.... heh heh heh, oh, me pap, yeah..."
At Olive and Bluto's engagement party a man can be heard complaining about Olive getting married. This man is Ham Gravy, who was Olive's fiance in the original Thimble Theater comic strip before he was Put on a Bus and Popeye took his place.
Swee'pea's introduction in the movie is a big Shout-Out to the way he was introduced in the comic strip. note In the comic, he arrives in a package addressed to Popeye, and the package makes so many strange sounds that Popeye and Wimpy think it must contain a dangerous animal and are about to kill it when they discover that the package contains a baby. In the movie, Popeye picks up a basket which he mistakes for Olive's, and Olive hears the baby's rattle and is convinced that there's a rattlesnake in the basket, and Popeye opens the basket to deal with the dangerous creature before he discovers it's a baby.
When Rough House asks who's going pay for the burger Wimpy replies "I'm buying, he's paying." This was one of his Catch Phrases in the original comic strip.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Only Bluto could be so stupid as to force Popeye to eat his spinach, and get the mega-knuckle sandwich he so deserves because of that.
Number One Dime: One of Bluto's motivations for villainy (other than "I'm mean, if you know what I mean") is getting his hands on Poopdeck Pappy's treasure. When the treasure is finally revealed, it turns out to be things like pictures of Popeye (Pappy's son) as an "infink", Popeye's baby rattle, his baby booties, and other sentimental memento's of Popeye's childhood.
Origin Story: Like is typical of first superheroic films, this is a tale of how Popeye gets started.
Parental Bonus: The town drunk is named Barnacle Bill, a reference to a Bawdy Song from the early 20th century. "Beware of Barnacle Bill" was the name of an early Popeye cartoon, which contains a cleaned-up version of the song (and with Bluto in the role of Barnacle Bill). Behold!
Popeye also jumps off a ship shouting "Oh, shee-yit!" near the film's end.
Red Eyes, Take Warning: When Bluto sees Olive with Popeye and the newly found Swee'Pea when she arrives late for their engagement party he gets the wrong idea and his eyes glow red with anger, complete with POV shot. See below.
Something Only They Would Say: When Popeye is trying to prove to Pappy that he's his son, Pappy tells him there's only one way he can be convinced. "Eat the spinach." Once Popeye refuses to eat it, whining like a baby, Pappy is convinced that he's his son.
Eugene the Jeep was originally going to be in the film, but he was written out because the special effect would have been too expensive. Eugene was going to be a Living MacGuffin with telepathic powers. The script was rewritten so that Swee'Pea took over this role.