Trivia / Popeye

  • Acting for Two: At one point in the 1940s, Popeye's actor, Jack Mercer, was drafted. What did Paramount do? Have Olive's voice actor, Mae Questel, do a nearly flawless impersonation of Popeye!
  • Cash Cow Franchise: Originally. With decade upon decade of comic strips, countless comic books, and hundreds of animated shorts shown in movie theaters and TV, not to mention the live-action movie, Popeye was one of the heavy hitters in his heyday. As The '80s progressed, however, he became much less popular, aside from baby boomer nostalgia. The "Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits"note  restaurant chain? Used to be Popeye's very own eatery, but not anymore. (Actually, the claim is that the chain is named for The French Connection's Popeye Doyle but the sailor was used in the advertising for a while.)
  • Cross-Dressing Voices: Popeye's voice actor, Jack Mercer, had to briefly leave the studio to serve a tour of duty during World War II. In his absence, Mae Questel voiced Olive Oyl and Popeye, and you can't tell the difference. note 
  • 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 "Kids" are missing from European cuts (likely because they contain swear words and Disney, which had only started releasing PG movies the previous year, handled the European release).
  • Digital Destruction: The Warner Bros. releases of the Black-and-White Fleischer and Famous Studios cartoons ALMOST avert this. For the most part the cartoons have been restored beautifully and are very clean with no real DVNR damage to speak of; however, damage DOES still show up in some cartoons, minor line thinning and erasing, though you'd have to purposely look for it to really notice. Volume 2 plays this a bit straighter as they goofed in recreating a couple of title cards and some shorts suffered digital interlacing, though this has been rectified by a DVD replacement program. The Color Specials are somewhat straighter examples, but not by much:
    1. Popeye Meets Sindbad is a beautiful restoration, save for some unusual color alterations that turn up the pink, blue and turquoise, for example Sindbad's outfit was originally purple, here it's bright blue.
    2. Ali Baba for the most part averts this with the colors much truer to the original 1937 colors, save for an odd glitch in the cave scenes, where the purple is turned up considerably. John K. makes note of this on his blog.
    3. Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp nearly averts this. The print is an excellent restoration with no noticeable damage or DVNR, though it seems a lot of the colors have been turned up in this release.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • At the height of his popularity, Popeye developed a strong following among children. King Features Syndicate, as a result, forced the character to be a better role model for kids. Poopdeck Pappy was soon created as an outlet for some of Popeye's old vices.
    • The All New Popeye Hour by Hanna-Barbara fell victim to this as the show was under the strict FCC guidelines of the time. Popeye and Bluto could no longer punch each other in the face, nor could they fight over Olive, and Popeye had to provide some sort of lesson in each episode, usually either health or safety tips.
  • Follow the Leader: The movie adaptation was Paramount Pictures' attempt to cash in on two then-recent success stories. The studio wasn't able to get the film rights to Annie, an extremely popular musical adapted from a comic strip, and executives also noted the recent success of Superman: The Movie, an adaptation of a popular comic book. Paramount owned the rights to Popeye, a comics character with super-strength, so they decided to build a big-budget movie musical around him.
  • Franchise Killer: The 1980 movie adaptation has been accused of being this, though there were a few more animated shows/specials (such as the short-lived Popeye and Son Spinoff Babies Saturday morning cartoon in 1987) and video games afterward, and the original shorts were rerun on TV well into The '90s.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: All of the black and white Fleischer and Famous Popeye cartoons (and the three Fleischer color specials) are on DVD, but the color Famous Studios shorts have yet to see an official home video release, and are otherwise only available in old public domain copies or bootlegs. Likewise, some of the 1960s made-for-TV Popeye cartoons are on DVD, but not all of them.
  • Marth Debuted in "Smash Bros.": Some people that are unaware of the series comic roots tend to forget that Olive Oyl was one of, if not the main character of Thimble Theatre, and has been around for much longer than Popeye, 10 years before he even appeared in the comic.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: In contrast to his voice work as the thuggish bully Bluto, his later voice actor Jackson Beck (better known as the narrator for the Crest "Cavity Creeps" commercials and the intro to G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero) was considered nothing short of a professional and a gentleman by everyone who met him in real life. When Popeye fan club president Fred Grandinetti asked Jackson Beck to reprise his voice role as Bluto for a TV interstential for his Popeye show, Jackson not only gladly reprised the role, but even did it free of charge!
  • Old Shame: The film was Robin Williams' first major starring role, and he made light of it for the rest of his life.
    • During the production of Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, Billy West described his role as "the hardest job I ever did, ever" and the voice of Popeye as "like a buzzsaw in your throat."
  • The Other Darrin: Popeye went through several voice actors in the run of theatrical shorts. His first, William Costello (AKA Red Pepper Sam) was fired due to his ego getting to his head, and he became impossible to work with. And for "Be Kind to Aminals", the studio inexplicably hired Popeye's radio voice actor, Floyd Buckley, to voice him. Jack Mercer would assume the role of Popeye for decades starting with "King of the Mardi Gras", but on one occasions where he was not available, another voice actor briefly substituted for him, and even Mae Questel would substitute for Mercer now and then!
    • Olive Oyl and Bluto also had rotating voice actors. Bluto is especially notable for having two major actors throughout the theatrical run: Gus Wickie for the bulk of the B&W cartoons (and before that he was voiced by William Pennell), and Jackson Beck for the Famous Studios shorts, both bringing very distinct interpretations of the character. Pinto Colvig also briefly lent his voice to Bluto in the later B&W shorts.
  • The Pete Best: William Costello was Popeye's original voice until his firing. He was replaced by Jack Mercer who would voice the character for nearly fifty years afterward.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Bill Irwin as Ham Gravy in the live-action movie; he was an absolute nobody in 1980.
    • Also, Dennis Franz as Spike, one of the toughs in Sweethaven.
  • Short-Lived Big Impact: E.C. Segar's pioneering run of the Popeye comics (unless you count the preceding Thimble Theater comics) didn't even run for a decade before his death in late 1938. But he ultimately created one of the most beloved cartoon franchises of all time, which is still running to this very day.
  • Throw It In!: Much of Popeye's signature mumbling in the Fleischer cartoons was ad-libbed by Jack Mercer (after the animation had been completed!) Mae Questel was no slacker in the ad-libbing department either.
  • Troubled Production: In March 2015, production on the CG animated movie was postponed due to creative differences between Genndy Tartakovsky and studio execs.
  • Typecasting:
    • Shelley Duvall is the only actress on Earth who could nail the role of Olive Oyl. One reviewer called her "eerily perfect". Robert Altman even told her it was the role she was born to play when he offered it to her.
    • As Ham Gravy, Bill Irwin's miming skills come in handy as he looks like he's actually getting cartoonishly pummeled by Bluto.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • The iconic Popeye theme was meant to be a placeholder song, but it ended up becoming so liked, that they used it as his real theme anyway.
    • Shamus Culhane, during his brief tenure on Popeye, proposed making an episode entirely about Wimpy, exploring his personality and obsession with hamburgers. Max Fleischer shot down the idea as "too psychological".
    • The Fleischer Studios Popeye cartoons came dangerously close to having every one of their shorts becoming a Missing Episode; when Fleischer signed the contract for the series, the negatives would be contractually obligated to be destroyed by the end of their run on it (namely 1942, the same year Famous Studios took over the series). Fortunately, by some fluke of fate, the cartoons were all spared, and ended up airing on TV for decades, and eventually all of their cartoons got released on DVD.
    • Regarding the 1980 film, the parts of Popeye and Olive Oyl were originally intended for Dustin Hoffman and Gilda Radner. Hal Ashby was the first choice to direct (he left after Hoffman dropped out). Randy Newman, John Lennon and Leonard Cohen were in the running for the composer slot before Harry Nilsson was hired. And the character of Eugene the Jeep was originally going to be in it, but was written out because the special effects would have been too expensive. The script was rewritten so that Swee'Pea took over Eugene's role of a Living MacGuffin with telepathic powers.
    • Nintendo's Super Mario franchise, probably the most significant in video game history, was essentially made with original characters because the company lost the rights to make Popeye arcade games and had to retool what they already had into Donkey Kong... Ironically, Nintendo did produce a Popeye video game a year later, which was a moderate success.
    • Originally there was going to be a claymation DTV film directed by Will Vinton, but due to him losing his studio in 2002, the film was given to Rainmaker Entertainment who made it into a CGI direct to DVD film, Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy.
    • Some sources claim that the Popeye franchise only exists because a scientist Misplaced a Decimal Point when reporting the amount of iron in spinach. This claim is false. There was no erroneous decimal point. Segar created Popeye and later added spinach.
  • Write Who You Know: Would you believe that Popeye was based on a real person whom E.C. Segar knew in his younger days, a local vagrant named Rocky Fiegel? Olive Oyl was based on Segar's schoolteacher (with her cartoon voice taking inspiration from actress ZaSu Pitts), and Wimpy was based on William Schuchert, the manager of the Chester Opera House where Segar worked, and a nice man who shared Wimpy's fondness for hamburgers. Wimpy's full name was inspired by Wellington J. Reynolds, one of Segar's art instructors. In the cartoons, Dave Fleischer wanted Bluto's voice to resemble that of the character Red Flack in the 1930 film The Big Trail, played by Tyrone Power Sr.