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Popeye at Paramount

February 1st, 2007

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We’ve jumped all around Popeye’s film career this week while ReFrederator has been featuring its Popeye-a-thon. Which brings up the issue of the sailor man’s later, post-Max Fleischer cartoons. Okay, okay, okay — everyone agrees the early weird-ass Fleischer entries are, on the whole, better — BUT — I kinda like the slick Paramount Famous Cartoon Studio installments too. Don’t hate me.

For good or bad, Popeye is more of an everyman in these later films. He has an astounding array of occupations. He has many ordinary homeowner-type concerns. He has a nice suburban house.

[Read more…]

Case of the Missing Nephews

February 1st, 2007

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Our ReFrederator Popeye-a-thon rocks on with “Patriotic Popeye” one of the very last theatrical shorts in the long running series. And it’s actually not bad, although Popeye seems to be on the receiving end of an awful lot of uncle abuse at the tiny hands of his nephews — his TWO nephews. The 1940’s started out with four identical nephews for the sailor man, then we saw their number reduced to three by the early fifties. Now we’re down to a dangerous duo.

I’ve harped on the subject of animated relatives before, but there are still some nagging questions here. What happens to downsized cartoon nephews? Were they offered a money-up-front retirement package, or were they unceremoniously kicked out the studio gates? What kind of employment opportunities are there for pint sized characters bearing an uncanny resemblance to world famous cartoon stars? And who’s missing — Poopeye? Pipeye? Pupeye? Peepeye? [Read more…]

Knots in the Knees

January 31st, 2007

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[Read more…]

Popeye the Sleuthing Man

January 30th, 2007

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Yesterday we showed scenes from Popeye’s first screen appearance — today we’ve zoomed ahead to screen a slick 1950’s incarnation of you know who in “Private Eye Popeye.” Seymour Kneitel directs, and everything just keeps moving along at such a fast clip, before the cartoon is half over we’ve covered something like three continents! One memorable running gag has to do with introducing a limited color pallet (no, really!) and another bit features, far and away, Popeye’s most successful episode of cross dressing!

It’s Popeye-a-thon Week all over here at ReFrederator.

For your free subscription to ReFrederator, click
here, or visit iTunes!

Dave Kirwan

Toot! Toot!

January 29th, 2007

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We proudly initiate our week long tribute to one of America’s beloved comic icons with, umm, a cheater. Paramount immediately rushed “Let’s Sing with Popeye” into theaters when the first animated appearance of the one eyed mariner kicked off a craze that swept the country faster than small pox. This curious little novelty offers us footage from the very first Popeye cartoon, and saves you the trouble of googling all the lyrics to our hero’s deathless theme music.

All of which raises two extremely important questions. First — how did the Max Fleischer Studio get so much so right so early in the game? I mean the song, the voice, the spinach to the rescue dynamic (largely an invention of the animated films, not Elzie Segar’s comic strip original) — everything was there from the start! Few classic cartoon stars were so fully developed for their movie debuts.

Oh, and secondly — what [Read more…]

One Off the Shelf

January 26th, 2007

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Last chapter in our Book Report Week — Frank Tashlin’s “Have You Got Any Castles”, one of those great ‘inanimate-things-come-to-life-late-at-night’ Warner Brothers cartoons. In this case, appropriately enough, it’s books in a library, and, baby, we’re talkin’ puns bigtime. Cringe inducing, groan inspiring, eye roll encouraging puns. Lots of ‘em. I fully expect the air to reverberate with the sound of foreheads flattened by the palms of ReFrederator regulars going “Bulldog Drummin’? Cheesh!”

Pretty funny stuff if you can catch all the reference points — lots of great music too. But since this cartoon is crammed to its sprocket holes with improper ethnic caricatures, it has traditionally shown up in heavily edited versions of any number of lengths. We’re presenting it today in all of it’s politically incorrect splendor (fair warning!)

If you yam, in fact, what you yam, you may well enjoy next week’s ReFrederator theme — five days of Purely Popeye. Grab [Read more…]

Heads Up!

January 22nd, 2007

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The theme around here is Book Report Week, so excuse us as we peruse some library shelves for musty dusty classics that have been transmogrified into jolly, vintage cartoons.

First off is the 1934 version of “The Headless Horseman”, an Ub Iwerks’ ComiColor interpretation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” — released a full 15 years before Walt Disney got around to the same subject matter. This trip out, the whole story has been squished down into eight and a half minutes, focusing on the love triangle of Ichabod, Bram and Katrina, with just enough time for a new twist ending! The Carl Stallings music track is lively, but notice how the Iwerks team is still doing all their storytelling through pantomime (these guys just plain didn’t like dialogue!) I kinda dig the way Katrina is designed, not as a standard issue flapper, but plump and pretty just like Washington Irving’s pus sized [Read more…]

Strange Breed

January 19th, 2007

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The tail wagging end of our Man’s Best Friend Week is a Little Lulu cartoon from 1948, “The Dog Show-Off.” Lulu and a funny looking little boy try to push off the kid’s pooch as a dog show contestant. This gives the Paramount Famous Cartoon Studio an opportunity to drag out every flea-bitten ‘dog breed’ visual pun you can imagine (boxer, bird dog, mexican hairless, spitz — it goes on and on and on…) There’s also a dogs-who-look-just-like-their-human-masters sequence for those who like their animated humor even more literal minded. This stuff is all kinda funny in a groan inducing fashion, but the rest of the cartoon is actually pretty good on it’s own terms. And I love that image of the wet sheep dog!

Not only is “The Dog Show-Off” the end of Man’s Best Friend Week, it was also the end of the Little Lulu series at Paramount — they wouldn’t [Read more…]

Pop Meets Pup

January 18th, 2007

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For those who like their films generically titled we have “Boy Meets Dog” (although, if “Snakes on a Plane” is any evidence, there may not be as many of you as we first thought.) Today’s Man’s Best Friend Week installment is a Walter Lantz production supposedly based on the popular newspaper comic, “Reg’lar Fellas,” although that strip’s “reg’lar” characters hardly appear. This one was also underwritten by Ipana Toothpaste as a kind of low key advertisement — very low key, as it turns out. The story has nothing at all to do with teeth which makes the repeated references to dental hygiene all the more awkwardly inappropriate (and, you know, kinda weird).

Okay, okay, OKAY, you say, but how is the cartoon? Well, pretty good actually — we’re back with 1930’s pixies trying to teach cranky ol’ Papa a lesson in an elaborate dream sequence. Nifty, imaginative stuff, with a lot of [Read more…]

Prest-o Pups

January 17th, 2007

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We’re off to Chuck Jones land today with “Prest-o Change-o” wherein two pooches spend hours and hours and hours sniffing around a magician’s props. Jones trotted out his pair of curious pups in several toons around this time, and of all their appearances, this has always been my pick of the litter.

The big news here is that the rabbit in a hat turns out to be an unmistakable Bugs Bunny prototype (who guffaws with an equally unmistakable Woody Woodpecker prototype laugh!) Since this is a sorta psuedo-Disney mid-thirties affair, the wise guy tormentor receives an eventual comeuppance from his thick-as-a-doghouse tormentee. Had this cartoon been made a couple of years later than 1939, that dumb mutt would never have stood a chance.

Let us know what you think of Man’s Best Friend Week!

For your free subscription to ReFrederator, click
here, or visit iTunes!

Dave Kirwan