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Trivia / Popeye

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  • 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!
    • The same can be said even earlier at one point for Jack Mercer voicing Bluto.
  • Box Office Bomb: The 1980 film's budget was $20 million and grossed $49,823,037 domestically, and $60 million worldwide. Even with this high gross, Paramount and co-producer Disney considered this movie to be a flop due to not reaching the expected gross target, plus it received mixed reviews from critics. Subsequently, Paramount bosses Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg would jump to Disney within 5 years. Screenwriter Jules Feiffer did not have another screenwriting credit on a full-length film until the end of the decade (and that movie is Feiffer's last film), and it's the last film Robert Evans produced before a cocaine trafficking conviction sent his life and career downhill for the 1980s. No other attempts to bring Popeye to the big screen have materialized since this film.
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  • 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 
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  • 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).
  • Development Hell: In March 2015, production on the CG animated movie was postponed due to creative differences between Genndy Tartakovsky and studio execs. As of 2018, the project appears to have been cancelled completely.
  • 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:
    • 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.
    • 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.
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    • Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp narrowly 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.
    • Popeye's corncob pipe had to be dropped in recent animation so children wouldn't smoke by imitating him.
  • Follow the Leader: The 1980 film 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 film has been accused of being this, though there were a few more animated shows/specials (such as the short-lived Popeye and Son Saturday morning cartoon in 1987) and video games afterward, and the original shorts were rerun on TV well into The '90s, and beyond.
  • 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. As of 2019, this is slowly being averted by the Warner Archive , which is releasing the color Famous shorts on DVD and Blu-Ray.
    • All known copies of Popeye and the Pirates have a jumpcut when Popeye is changing out of his drag disguise, removing the part where Popeye throws the cannonballs he was using as breasts overboard, suddenly cutting to Popeye out of his disguise and the pirate captain climbing back on-board with the cannonballs in his mouth.
    • The licensed Nintendo game has never seen a re-release outside home computers of the 80s, arcade, and NES.
  • Looping Lines: In the 1980 film, Robin Williams had to re-loop all of his dialogue twice because test audiences couldn't understand what he was saying.
  • 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.
  • Old Shame:
    • The film was Robin Williams' first major starring role, and he made light of it for the rest of his life.
    • Even Robert Evans, the film's producer, admitted his regret in making it.
    • 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 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 Latin American Spanish dub of the 1980 film was recorded in Los Angeles, as opposed to Mexico City, where the original series was recorded.
  • Permanent Placeholder: The iconic Popeye theme, "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man", was meant to be a placeholder song, but it ended up becoming so liked, that they used it as his real theme anyway.
  • 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.
  • Real-Life Relative: In the live action film, Swee'Pea is played by Wesley Ivan Hurt - Robert Altman's grandson.
  • Screwed by the Lawyers: The All-New Popeye Hournote , and Popeye and Son are two of the few shows that are not part of the Hanna-Barbera library. The rights are owned by Hearst Entertainment, who owns the rights to all original TV productions that feature King Features Syndicate characters.
    • This also applies to the previously mentioned arcade game (as well as its NES and home computer ports). While Nintendo owns the rights to the source code of the NES versionnote , King Features owns the characters.
  • 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.
  • Talking to Himself: In 1939's Its the Natural Thing to Do Jack Mercer voices both Popeye AND Bluto.
    • The same can be said for 1945's Shape Ahoy where Olive's voice Mae Questel voicing both her and Popeye.
  • 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: The live action film was hit by this.
    • The script went through rewrites during the production, and writer Jules Feiffer expressed concern too much screen time was being devoted to minor characters. He also found fault with Harry Nilsson's songs, feeling they weren't right for the characters.
    • The original inflatable arms designed for the muscle-bound Popeye did not look satisfactory, so new ones were commissioned and made in Italy, leaving Robert Altman to film scenes not showing them until the new ones arrived. Altman also had the cast singing their musical numbers live — contrary to standard convention for a movie musical where songs are recorded first in a studio and lip-synched — causing sound quality problems.
    • Robin Williams also had to re-record his dialogue after running into trouble with his character's mumbling style, a by-product of talking with a pipe in his mouth, and his affinity for ad-libs also led to clashes with the director.
    • Producer Robert Evans was arrested for trying to buy cocaine, and as a result was removed from the final stages of production.
    • During filming the scene at the end where Pappy throws Popeye the can of spinach, Ray Walston hit Williams in the head so hard, that he required several stitches in his scalp and delayed filming for several weeks.
    • The partnership with Walt Disney put pressure on the production to keep the film family-friendly, including cutting a fleeting profanity uttered by Williams in one scene.
    • The final battle involving the octopus led to more headaches when the mechanical beast failed to work properly. After the production cost rose beyond $20 million, Paramount executives ordered Altman to stop and return to the U.S. with what he had.
  • 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:
    • 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 by Warner Bros..
    • Regarding the 1980 film, the parts of Popeye and Olive Oyl were originally intended for Dustin Hoffman and Gilda Radner. Lily Tomlin was also considered. Hal Ashby was the first choice to direct (he left after Hoffman dropped out). Jerry Lewis, Louis Malle and Mike Nichols was also considered. 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.
    • The sailor, nemesis and love interest were all supposed to briefly cameo in the universally acclaimed Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The scene had to be dropped due to producer's inability to secure the rights to the characters.
    • 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.
  • The Wiki Rule: The Popeye Wiki.
  • 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.


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