Plot: What’s it about?
The term icon is used far too often, but in the field of animation, Popeye is a true icon. The sailor man with the anchor tattoo, oversized forearms, and love of spinach is a character almost anyone could recognize, regardless of age or location. His pipe and short temper probably wouldn’t go over if he was a new creation these days, but Popeye has won over generations of fans and continues to be a beloved character. In this four disc collection from Warner, we’re taken back to some of the earliest shorts with the kind, but ill tempered sailor, created at the legendary Max Fleischer Cartoon Studio. These vintage cartoons from 1933-38 show us Popeye in his prime, surrounded by the usual cast of colorful characters. See Popeye and Bluto go toe-to-toe time and time again over the affections of Olive Oyl, while Wimpy simply tries to find his next hamburger. These classic cartoons still hold up and were a pleasure to revisit in this collection.
I have loved Warner’s classic cartoon releases, from The Flintstones to Wacky Races and beyond. Now I can add another great character to the list, as Popeye has been given the four disc treatment. This release compiles sixty cartoons from 1933-38, plus throws in a slew of bonus materials to keep even the most demanding fans satisfied. As I watched these episodes, I couldn’t help but marvel at how varied the stories seem, even though the premise is the same in most. But in the hands of skilled writers and animators, the same story can be told countless times and never seem rehashed. The characters help things of course, since Popeye, Bluto, Olive Oyl, and even Wimpy are well crafted and effective. Now, Popeye stands as one of the true icons of animation and with good reason, as seen in these cartoons. I had so much fun with this collection and if you’re even a casual fan of classic cartoons, you won’t want to miss Popeye the Sailor: Volume One.
Video: How does it look?
These cartoons are presented in full frame, as intended. Aside from two color cartoons, they’re all in black & white and look good, if a little worn. The prints run the spectrum, some look more than decent and others have a lot of scratches of debris, but none look that bad, all things considered. Could they use a clean up? Of course, but for cartoons of this vintage, I think the ones found here look solid and fans should be pleased overall.
Audio: How does it sound?
The mono soundtracks sound good, much clearer than I had expected. I heard very little unwanted noise, so harshness or hiss never prove to be concerns. I will say that, as expected for seventy year old mono soundtracks, the audio is thin, but in this case that is almost unavoidable, I would think. The soundtracks provide solid audio and no serious problems, which is all we can ask here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The extras kick off with The Story of Popeye the Sailor, a piece that runs over forty minutes and chronicles the character, from the start through the various changes. This is a well done look at the character’s run, with a host of knowledgeable speakers who shares their perspectives on the phenomenon. From comic strip creators to actors to animators to voice talent, you’ll hear from a lot of folks who either worked on Popeye or were inspired by the character. Forging the Frame: The Roots of Animation runs about half an hour, with a focus on the origins of animation, quite an engaging watch. You’ll also find a number of “Popumentaries,” which are brief, but focused featurettes with folks back from the main documentary. Some of the people interviewed also return to provide audio comments on selected cartoons, which is a welcome move. Of course, between all the featurettes and the commentaries, some insight is repeated, but that is par for the course. Each disc also provides other vintage cartoons from the Fleischer studio, sure to delight fans to no end.