Friday, September 21, 2012

The Fleischer Popeyes: I Yam What I Yam!

002-01Before getting into this cartoon, a brief note about running times: When these cartoons were being made, animated cartoons were made to pretty much whatever length the animators wanted to make them. For example, the first cartoon in the series was 7 minutes and 34 seconds, while this one clocks in at 6:04! The next few in the series are 6:18, 6:53, 5:56, and 6:06. It would be much later that running times for animated shorts became standardized.

002-02For this second Popeye (and the first to be labeled in the Popeye series by the title card), we begin with the familiar ship in the background, with doors sliding open to reveal the title of the cartoon -- but the music is still "Strike Up the Band," as it was for the Betty Boop pilot!

The cartoon proper then starts, with Popeye singing his theme song, but slightly altered as follows: "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man (toot!), I'm Popeye the Sailor Man (toot!), "I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam, "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man (toot!)." As he sings, we see it's pouring down rain, and he's on a small boat, which is being rowed by Olive Oyl, and in the back sits Wimpy, making his debut appearance in the cartoons, reading a menu and eating fish -- which he pulls out of the water whole, puts into his mouth, and then extracts the bones! As Popeye continues to sing his song, lighting strikes our hero to no effect. In fact, Popeye grabs himself a handful of lightning bolts, punches them, and throws them into the water, where they drown! In the skies above, the clouds assume humanoid form, see what Popeye's done to their lightning, and run off, leaving a perfectly clear and sunny sky.

002-03 Olive's starting to get very angry about rowing, when suddenly, the boat springs leaks like crazy! The boat starts to sink, but fortunately, they arrive at an island, which Popeye just walks ashore to, while Olive rows herself to the beach (with Wimpy pulled along by a chain that's attached around both their waists). This is not only apparently a deserted island, but it's a desert island, literally, with cacti everywhere, as well as a few trees here and there. Popeye walks up to one row of trees and starts punching away at them, sending them all flying up into the air, and coming down to earth again, forming a log cabin (a pretty major transformation punch).

002-04Olive and Wimpy enter, Wimpy first telling Popeye, "Come on in for a duck dinner -- you bring the ducks." This is, of course, a line lifted directly from the original comic strips. Wimpy's voice is very different from the voice we're used to hearing coming from him -- it's more of a twerpy voice, as opposed to the almost put-on highfalutin' voice he'd later get.

002-05Popeye walks off in search of food or something, but once he's away, the trees surrounding the lob cabin are revealed to be Indians in disguise (there's also another cabin in the background that's also a disguised Indian). Popeye, unaware of this, continues to walk on.

002-06He's approached by one Indian who keeps saying "Hello!" to Popeye, finally getting too aggressive, causing Popeye to knock him down and bellowing, "Hello!" back. Next, another Indian sneaks up behind Popeye and hits him with his Tomahawk, but the weapon simply breaks apart, and Popeye gets irked, using his "twisker punch" on the Indian! Now, when Popeye does his twister punch, we expect that when his fist hits the target, the entire target goes spinning around with his fist, but this time, it's just the brave's nose. It's still enough to knock him out, though.

 Next, Popeye comes upon a group of braves firing arrows haphazardly at a small pond full of ducks. Since the braves aren't even getting close, the ducks aren't even paying attention to it -- except when one duck is hit by a bunch of arrows on his butt, he simply spreads them out like a turkey or peacock, and struts off to "Turkey in the Straw." Popeye spots some arrows on the ground and bends them so that they're curved, and walks to the pond. When he gets there, the ducks all dive under, but Popeye simply walks into the pond, and then walks out again, all the ducks in his arms. When the braves see this, they grab the last arrows (the ones Popeye curved) and shoot them, but the arrows curve back to hit them in the behind (which conveniently has a target printed on their clothing anyway).

002-07Meanwhile, the Indians around the log cabin have it entirely surrounded, and start trying to break in. Olive starts calling for Popeye, but then the doors on each side start to come in! Olive leaps up and spreads her long legs apart, putting one foot on each door! Meanwhile, Wimpy is eating something, and the trap door underneath him comes up with Indian braves underneath it, but they can't keep Wimpy held aloft long! Finally, they toss Wimpy out of the window, and they invade the cabin! Wimpy, taking a rather aggressive approach for him, pulls a convenient cactus away from the direction of the cabin and lets it go, sending a stream of needles flying inside! This causes the Indians to respond by firing a bunch of arrows that strike the cactus, replacing all the needles. Wimpy decides the better part of valor is to run like heck away!

002-08Meanwhile, Popeye is walking toward the cabin, the ducks following him. Wimpy meets up with them, and tells Popeye about the Indians. Popeye runs back, leaving Wimpy with the ducks, so Wimpy pulls out a large napkin, ties it around his neck, a swell as a fork and knife, and drooling, starts chasing the ducks, who flee. At the cabin, Olive's still calling for help, even though she seems to be doing a dandy job of defending herself! By the way, I should note that Olive's voice is a bit deeper than we're accustomed to it being, too!

Popeye approaches the cabin, despite the hailstorm of arrows being fired after him, and finally he looks back and yells, "Ya oughtta stop that on accounts of somebody might get hurt!" He gets to the cabin and tries the door, but then an arrow hits him on the behind! He goes to see who shot that, but then one hits him from the other side of the cabin! This continues back and forth a few times, until Popeye leaps up, causing th two archers shooting at him to hit each other! Then, a bunch of braves attack our hero when he lands back on the ground, and a huge fight starts! Popeye's even tossed out of the big fight for a second, but he picks himself up, and wades right into it again! He grabs them all in one hand, and punches them away - and when they land, they turn into Indian head nickels.

002-10Inside, Olive's still asking for help, despite being able to defend herself. Popeye gets more arrows shot at him, and finally, he walks up to the archers, and despite all the arrows sticking in his body, pulls out his can of spinach, grabs a mouthful, chews it up, and then puts the can itself into his mouth, swallowing it whole! Next, he inhales deeply, shooting all of the arrows out of him, and then hits the first brave in the line, sending all of them tumbling like dominoes!
Olive calls him her hero, but then the big chief shows up from behind the rocks! Popeye gives him one punch, and transforms him into Ghandi! The chief's clothes end up landing on Popeye, leaving him decked out as the big cheese (literally, it says it on his war bonnet), and Popeye sings, "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man! (toot! toot!)" before we iris out.

002-12Now, this was an odd one, wasn't it? There's no reason for the title of this cartoon to be "I Yam What I Yam," because the only time that even plays into it is when Popeye sings it at the beginning. Even the whole scene at the beginning with the small boat at sea and then arriving on an island doesn't really fit the rest of the cartoon, does it? If they'd encountered jungle warriors or something, it would've fit better. Of course, there's the whole ethnic stereotyping of the Native Americans, but honestly, it's no worse than other cartoons of the era (and I can think of at least one Looney Tunes cartoon that's much worse). I'm not trying to say it's not offensive, mind you -- it's just a product of its era. I have to admit some surprise that the Indian chief would get Punch Transformed into Ghandi, though -- clearly, the Fleischers weren't just making these for kids, who wouldn't have gotten that joke at all!

0001spinach0001spinachSo what's my rating for this one? Well, we're still lacking the proper "punch" to the spinach eating, and in fact, it doesn't really seem like someone who could grab lightning in his bare hands should've needed the extra strength from spinach to deal with the arrows and archers! So... I kind of have to give this one two cans of spinach out of five.

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