Thunderbean Animation's Popeye Original Classics From the Fleischer Studio

Click on the picture to order As we all impatiently wait for King Features Syndicate and Time Warner Corp. to strike a deal and finally release classic Fleischer (and Famous Studios) "Popeye" cartoons on DVD, Steve Stanchfield and his Thunderbean Animation studio have decided to give the one-eyed sailorman the treatment he truly deserves. In colaboration with his new distributor (Mackinac Media), Mr. Stanchfield has compiled all of the public domain Fleischer "Popeyes" and released a magnificent collector's edition DVD, which looks better than many "official" studios' cartoon DVD releases. This DVD set includes the following B&W "Popeye" episodes:

Little Swee'Pea (1936)
I'm In the Army Now (1936)
The Paneless Window Washer (1937)
I Never Changes My Altitude (1937)
A Date to Skate (1938)
Customers Wanted (1939)
Me Musical Nephews (1942)

"I Never Changes My Altitude" and "The Paneless Window Washer", animated by Willard Bowsky and Orestes Calpini, count among the best "Popeye" cartoons ever made. They feature superb character designs, astounding animation, beautiful use of perspectives, voice actors' witty under-the-breath mumblings, and, of course, hilarious and energetic fistfights between Popeye and Bluto. Seymour Kneitel's "Little Swee'Pea" is also a great Fleischer short. The cartoon displays some amazing three-dimensional backgrounds, an illusion achieved through the Fleischers' innovative Stereoptical Process. "A Date to Skate", although "Bluto-less," is a true Fleischer gem (according to many fans, the best Fleischer "Popeye" film), which contains Jack Mercer's (Popeye) and Mae Questel's (Olive) funny and intelligent under-the-breath puns and an interesting example of the Fleischeresque self-reflexive approach to animation. "Me Musical Nephews" is a fast-paced and fun musical cartoon, featuring wild animation gags and a very original "cartoony" ending. Even though the short was made by the Fleischers' successors - Famous Studios, it retained the frantic rhythm, upbeat energy, and the visual aura of the late Fleischer output. All black and white cartoons on this DVD set have an excellent, crystal-clear visual quality, fantastic sound, and restored original Paramount Studios opening and closing logos.

The DVD also contains all three well-known two-reel Three-Color-Technicolor "Popeye" specials, based on The Arabian Nights:

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936)
Popeye Meets Ali Baba and His 40 Thieves (1937)
Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp (1939)

Prior to the Thunderbean/Mackinac DVD release, these three cartoons had been issued on countless poor-quality, cheap-transfer public domain video tapes. But, on this DVD set, the Fleischers' two-reel specials look better than they ever did on the home video market. The first two films, animated by Willard Bowsky's unit at the Fleischer Studios, display beautiful Stereoptical (3D) backgrounds. Compiled from some of the best existing 35mm and 16mm material, they are breathtaking eye-candies that give us viscerally powerful viewing experience. Not only are these films visually astonishing, they also have great adventurous stories, fantastic animation, lots of fast-paced action, and voice-actors' incessantly humorous ad-libbing.

As if all this is not enough, this DVD set is loaded with rare bonus material, which includes:

*Rare Interviews with Jack Mercer (voice of Popeye), Mae Questel (Voice of Olive Oyl), Jackson Beck (Bluto/Brutus), animators Shamus Culhane, Gordon Sheehan and Rosalie Waldman
* A Number of Still Galleries: Original animation art, Storyboards, Posters and rare behind the scenes photos and Stills from the Popeye Picnic
*A visit to Chester, Illinois- home of Popeye
*Original Fleischers' "Sing Along with Popeye" (1933)
*A documentary: Tour of the Fleischer Studios from 1939
*Soaky TV commercial
*Pencil tests
*A rare recording by the first voice of Popeye (William "Red Pepper Sam" Costello)

I would buy this DVD even if Warner Bros and King Features Syndicate came to an agreement to finally release the copyrighted Fleischer/Famous "Popeye" library on DVD. This set is, by far, the BEST compilation of public domain Fleischer "Popeyes" and is worth every cent of its price (actually, $9 is a bit too cheap for the set of this quality). Thank you Thunderbean Animation and Steve Stanchfield for giving Popeye the respect he deserves (when his official companies seem unwilling to do so).

Gordan Calma