Executive Meddling: The reason the film exists. Paramount wanted to cash in on the success of Snow White. But they forced Fleischer to imitate Disney, and it shows.
Troubled Production: Many staffers, including animators Shamus Culhane and Grim Natwick, recall that the film had a lot of behind the scenes troubles that ended up hurting the quality of the film;
To begin with, it had a deadline that was far too short—production began in May 1938, and it was due Christmas 1939; this is less than half of the four years of production that went into Snow White, the film it was meant to emulate to begin with.
A studio that was under equipped to take on the challenge of making a disney-like feature length animated film (many of the staffers weren't familiar with the West Coast style of animation pioneered by Disney), not helped by an influx of east coast and west coast staffers who were at odds with each other on their approaches to animation, and the studios decision to hire amatuer, apathetic miami art students, as well as newcomers who received a few hours worth of cram-course art training resulted in sloppy inking and bad-inbetween work (explaining the films very uneven animation quality). The Fleischers move to a new studio in Miami also resulted in many of their talented employees in New York getting left behind (including Betty Boop voice actress Mae Questel) with the few who did make the move becoming homesick, as well as putting up with the hazards and quirks of florida (such as many mosquito infestations).
A feud between story artists over which direction the story would take—it was planned as a Bing Crosby vehicle at one point, and at one point Popeye was intended to be the star of the film, with its tone being more cartoony, as Max Fleischer actually did not wish to follow the Disney approach to animated films. Both of the previous stories were thrown out and rewrote by west coast storymen, particularly ex-warners staffer Cal Howard.
A feud between Max and Dave Fleischer themselves over whether Dave himself or another person would compose the films score.
The fact that the film was being made in the Fleischer's new studio in Miami, Florida (which was far too small to hold the 700+ staffers needed to complete Gulliver) meant that if any equipment broke down, it would have been very difficult to get it fixed in any reasonable time. The lack of film industry in Miami meant that unless they wanted local actors to use or to use their woefully inadequate amateur orchestra (which was impeding the sound quality of the shorts from mid 1938 and onward) they had to outsource recording sessions to west coast studios (which they did for Gulliver, Mr. Bug Goes to Town and the Superman Theatrical Cartoons).
In the end, while the film did well at the box office (making about $3 million), Paramount deliberately discounted the money the film made in Europe before World War II broke out there, meaning the film had much overhead left to be paid, leaving the Fleischers in the red. Critical reaction was also mixed, with a cruel remark from rival Walt Disney quipping "We can make a better film than that with our second-string animators".
Popeye who was originally going to BE Gulliver in the film is King Little as well as King Bombo's spies Sneak, Snoop and Snitch.
What Could Have Been: The film was meant to be much more in the Fleischers' traditional style, but Paramount threw their original screenplay into the trash and forced them to make the film more Disney-like.
At one point there were plans to have Popeye in the role of Gulliver.
Ted Danson Mini-series
Real-Life Relative: Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen were, and still are, married at the time of their portraying Gulliver and his wife.