Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges is a river rapids ride located at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Based on the Popeye comic strips and cartoons, the attraction puts riders in the middle of yet another one of Bluto's attempts at stealing Olive Oyl.
The plot of the attraction has guests start off in Sweethaven, where at first they're going to be boarding the luxurious "Popeye's Cruises", only to find themselves forcibly detoured into instead taking a ride on "Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges", a rafting service that has a terrible reputation. Once onboard, guests are misled by Bluto himself into passing through dangerous rivers, where at the same time Bluto is battling Popeye for Olive Oyl once again. Guests are taken through obstacles such as a giant octopus and Bluto's "Boat Wash" before Popeye is able to obtain a can of spinach and save the day.
Having opened with the park on May 28, 1999, the ride remains quite popular to this day, especially since its ability to get riders soaked comes as a relief to those trying to escape the hot Florida summers.
Adjacent to the ride is a children's playground known as Me Ship, The Olive, which is themed around a fully-explorable boat that contains numerous interactive elements.
Tropes shown in Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges include:
- Ascended Extra: Back in the early days of Universal Studios Florida, Popeye and Olive Oyl first started off as being just walk-around characters in the park, only for them to receive their own ride when the second park opened a mere couple of years later.
- All There in the Manual: Played with. The attraction never directly states what the backstory is, only leaving visual clues in the queue line that guests will often miss.
- Author Appeal: In-Universe. Advertisements for "Popeye's Cruises" in the ride's queue show that one of the cruise's activities is "Spinach Everything" note , and the cruise's restaurant menu consists of things like Spinach Salad, Spinach Soup, Spinach Juice, and Spinach Surprise.
- The Captain: The captain of the advertised Popeye's Cruises is, well, Popeye.
- Catapult to Glory: Popeye gets rid of Bluto when he slingshots him away, by having his suspenders act as the rubber band.
- Cave Behind the Falls: The ride at one point takes guests through a waterfall, that has a dark cave behind it.
- Cool Boat: "The Olive", a giant ship that you pass by during the ride that's also a playground for kids.
- Costume Evolution: When Popeye and Olive Oyl started off as walk-around characters in the park, they were originally "foamhead" characters, but over time were changed to "face" characters that can actually chat with the guests.
- Cutesy Name Town: The location that the riders were supposed to be heading to is called "Paradise Island".
- Derelict Graveyard: The ride path is filled with the remains of several boats, implying this was the fate of those who traveled this way previously.
- Excuse Plot: As you may of guessed, the "plot" of the ride is extremely thin and at its core is just another simple Popeye vs. Bluto episode, but on river rapids this time.
- From Bad to Worse: Guests first start off by being forcibly placed on Bluto's rafts, which are said to be horribly unpredictable. From there, they are tricked into entering the treacherous "Hurricane River", then come across sharks and a giant octopus, before being taken into Bluto's own nefarious "Boat Wash".
- Giant Squid: A giant octopus makes a brief appearance in the cave scene.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: The octopus has glowing yellow eyes that heavily stand out in the otherwise un-lit cave.
- Honest John's Dealership: The queue sets up Bluto's barge rentals as being this.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The name of the path that the riders are deceptively lead into is called "Hurricane River", and it certainly lives up to that name, as it's filled with rough rapids.
- Also, Bluto's Boat Wash, which, as you might expect, is full of squirting hoses, brushes and mops, all sure to get you wet (or wetter).
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: In-Universe example, with "Popeye's Cruises" and "Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges".
- Lover Tug-of-War: A gender-flipped version of this occurs in the Hurricane River scene, when Popeye and Bluto are shown doing this over Olive Oyl, with Popeye pulling both of her arms and Bluto pulling both of her legs.
- Misplaced Retribution: Bluto is not only getting revenge on Popeye, but also the guests, just for supporting him.
- Name and Name: Popeye and Bluto share a part of the attraction's title.
- Obsessed with Food: The attraction and surrounding area really take Popeye's love of spinach to a whole new level. There's numerous cans of it throughout the queue line, and entire rooms full of it on The Olive ship.
- Offscreen Teleportation: All of the characters jump from location to location within an incredibly short amount of time. This is somewhat explained with Bluto at least, as he is shown using his own boat to get around.
- Plot Coupon: As per usual, Popeye needs spinach in order to defeat Bluto, but this time it's gone missing. Swee'Pea appears in both the cave and the boat wash attempting to retrieve it, before finally succeeding towards the end.
- Removing the Rival: Along with getting revenge on him, Bluto tries to steal Popeye's customers by redirecting them to his Bilge-Rat Barge services instead.
- Road Sign Reversal: The ride starts with Bluto swapping the directions of the signs that say "Paradise Island" and "Hurricane River", which leads the riders right into the rapids section.
- Shark Fin of Doom: There's a brief sight gag where you can see a giant hole torn in at the bottom of The Olive ship, and in the hole are two circling shark fins (one of which has a band-aid on).
- Spectacular Spinning: The circular raft vehicles spin constantly throughout the ride.
- This Way to Certain Death: There's numerous shipwrecks scattered around Hurricane River, giving an obvious hint as to how dangerous it is to pass through there.
- Trash Talk: Bluto does this toward the guests as they enter his Boat Wash, complete with an Evil Laugh. A couple of examples:"Ahoy, bilge rats! You don't think your old shipmate Bluto would leave you high and dry, do you?"
"Just between you to me, I think your old pal Popeye is all washed up!"
"There is nothing dirtier than a crew of clean-cut scalawags!"
"Well, well, look what the catfish drug in!"
- Treasure Map: There's a treasure map located on the top level of The Olive ship, with the treasure it leads to apparently being spinach.
- Visual Pun: On the walkway surrounding the attraction, there's a hidden sight gag showing a different kind of "school of fish" - a tiny schoolhouse sitting on the water.
- Water Guns and Balloons: On The Olive ship as well as the bridges around the ride, there's water guns positioned for people (usually kids) to use for the purpose of shooting at the riders to get them even more soaked.
- Water Is Dry: While certainly not for the riders, the characters' clothes show no signs of getting wet, despite all that they've endured in ride.