Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Fleischer Popeyes: "We Aim To Please"!


Open for business, with a song and a dance!
This episode of the Fleischer Popeye cartoons opens at a diner, run by Popeye and Olive, which is just opening for the first time. The two sing the song, "We Aim to Please," dancing in unison, and extolling the virtues of their menu. After their song, they look around for customers, but don't see any. Olive points out a spot down the street with lots of foot traffic, and tells Popeye she thinks that would be a better location. Popeye agrees, and pushes the diner down to the end of the block (we're finally back to Popeye demonstrating his strength earlier in the cartoons!). Olive's happy with the new location.

Wimpy and Bluto are hungry, and can smell the food from across the street.
How will they get a free meal?
Across the street from this new location, Wimpy and Bluto are hanging out on the corner. Bluto eyes the place suspiciously, but Wimpy, upon smelling the aroma coming from the diner, tells Bluto he's going to "...obtain a hamburger without the necessary fee." He strolls across the street to the diner and enters it, to Popeye and Olive's delight, and sits at the counter, promising to pay Popeye Tuesday for a hamburger today! Popeye considers it, and decides to accept this, flipping a burger off the griddle over to Olive, who catches it on a piece of bread, adds pepper and a second slice of bread, and tosses it back to Popeye, who serves it to Wimpy.

Wimpy adds another dime to his bill as he saunters out.
Wimpy takes a bit and starts to walk away, helping himself to a pickle from a jar on his way (even though the sign indicates they're a dime each), and promising again to pay on Tuesday. Popeye presses a button on the register, and up pops a tab reading "In the red 20¢." Wimpy returns to the street corner with his burger and pickle, and Bluto decides he's up to the challenge.

The menu reads as if Popeye had said the various items.
Bluto stomps into the diner and sits down at a table, slamming his fist into it and demanding service! Popeye goes to take his order, and Bluto demands a clean tablecloth (admittedly, it's awfully dirty for a diner that's just opened!). Pluto pulls the tablecloth off (without disturbing the items on top of it) and throws it away. Popeye counters by hitting the tabletop himself, sending the items flying upward, then producing a clean tablecloth from under his shirt, which he puts on the table before the items land again! He then presents Bluto with the menu.

Ninja Olive, master of bread slicing!
Pluto looks over the menu (everything's a dime, and as you can see, the menu items all have puns, although I'd imagine it's written as Popeye would say it). Pluto orders himself a half-dozen sandwiches, which Olive starts preparing by slicing a ham and loaf of bread (she could give a ninja a run for their money with her execution of the bread slices, done in mid-air, putting each in two piles, and then shuffling them together to make the sandwiches! She then deals them out across the cafe to Popeye, who catches them on a plate and hands them to Bluto.

Bluto demonstrates his ability to do card tricks with sandwiches.
Bluto continues the cards theme by spreading the sandwiches out on his arm, then flipping them as if performing a card trick before flipping them into his mouth and gobbling them down. Popeye then does some sleight-of-hand to produce Bluto's bill for 60 cents, and Bluto tears it into tiny pieces before making them disappear. Popeye demands payment, but when he holds out his hand, Bluto pours mustard on it and then causes Popeye to slap the mustard on his own face! 

Popeye doesn't take lightly to his customers tearing up their bill.
Popeye wipes the mustard off and then responds by tying a napkin over Bluto's face, and then punching him, giving Bluto a black eye, which he shows Bluto with a mirror. Bluto takes the mirror and sets it on Popeye's nose before hitting Popeye across the room, flying over a row of tables, bouncing off the wall, and flying back again to Bluto. Popeye then hits Bluto to the other side of the diner, where the cash register hits Bluto on the head!

Perhaps Bluto should've rethought using the register on Popeye!
Pluto takes the register and starts hitting Popeye over the head with it, but the cash drawer keeps popping out and hitting Bluto as well. Finally, the register breaks, and Popeye catches all the coins inside it (since everything on the menu is a dime, one presumes it's all dimes). Popeye pockets the change, and the two start battling away in a blur. Wimpy walks in, sees the fight, and as objects start flying through the air over him, he plucks them out, catching a burger and mustard.

Popeye gets a kick out of his spinach!
Bluto has Popeye on the ropes, and punches him over to the counter, where he lands on a stool by Olive and starts spinning. Olive thinks fast and grabs a huge can of spinach (already opened) with two forks in it, and Popeye starts gobbling it down. It takes effect (turning one arm into what's presumably a mule's leg or horse's leg, complete with horseshoe), and Popeye starts singing "We Aim to Please" and he starts hitting Bluto repeatedly (with thunderstrike sounds with each blow) before Bluto goes flying to a wall with hooks on it, where he hangs from one hook and is transformed into baloney, which Popeye helpfully tacks a sign on it (60¢, the most expensive thing in the diner now). Popeye and Olive sing the last line of the song, and we iris out.

Bluto's luck has taken a turn for the "wurst"!
This was a fun Popeye cartoon, especially since some of the elements missing from the last one (a demonstration of Popeye's super-strength even without the spinach, a punch transforming something into something else) are back again. I don't know if the "We Aim to Please" song was written especially for the cartoon, or if it had been used elsewhere prior to this cartoon (I know that many of the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies in the early days used songs from the Warner Brothers catalog, presumably to help promote them), but Wikipedia notes that the Fleischers would often hire outside songwriters as well as using staff songwriters to compose originals. 

It's nice to see Wimpy using his "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" line in this cartoon, it would become his signature line in the series (as it was in the comic strip). It's odd to me that in this entry, the hamburgers are prepared on regular slices of bread, yet during the fight between Popeye and Bluto, the burger Wimpy grabs out of the air is on a bun! Odder still is that burgers were being prepared before any customers were even in the diner (one presumes that this diner would fail, as Popeye and Olive weren't running it in later entries).

In the comic strips, the regular diner shown was Roughhouse's Cafe, with Roughhouse being a pretty large man. I believe at some point, Popeye became a partner in the cafe, or at least provided some money to Roughhouse. Wimpy was a regular at the cafe (as was everyone else, as it seemed to be the only restaurant in Sweethaven, the location of the strip), as was George W. Geezil, who hated Wimpy (for the mots part). Neither Roughhouse or Geezil made appearances in the cartoons that I'm aware of, although Roughhouse's Cafe and Geezil did appear in the live-action Popeye movie.

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