Popeye on TV

In September of 1956, Paramount Pictures sold the Popeye film library to Associated Artists Productions for television syndication (while the remaining Famous Studios films were wrapping up production). In theatrical release, the cartoons opened and closed with the Paramount trademark, a mountain with stars around it, preceding the "Popeye the Sailor" title. The mountain, and in some cases, the "Popeye the Sailor" titles, were replaced with the A.A.P. title slide to indicate the television syndicator.

The films premiered in New York and Chicago on September 10, 1956. They were seen weekdays on WPIX, hosted by Captain Allen Swift (who later recorded Popeye children's records impersonating the sailor's vocals) and on WBBM's "Susie Show." In Los Angeles, Tom Hatten of KTLA-TV also presented the films on weekdays, initially from 7:00 to 7:30 P.M. and later in the afternoons. For years, Uncle Gus of WMUR-TV channel nine in Manchester, New Hampshire, hosted "Popeye Theatre" (later retitled, "The Uncle Gus Show").

Practically every station in the United States carried the Fleischer/Famous Studios cartoons, usually with an adult host. According to children's host historian, Tim Hollis, the shows included: "Popeye and Cactus" (Louisville, KY), "Popeye and Janie" (Indianapolis, IN), "Popeye and Pete" (Minneapolis, MN), "Popeye and Randy" (Louisville, KY), "Popeye and the Admiral" (Binghamton, NY), "Popeye Cartoon Theatre" (Mobile, AL), "The Popeye Club" (Atlanta, GA), "Popeye Playhouse" (Miami, FL), "The Popeye Show" (Traverse City, MI), "Popeye, Tick and Tock" (Colorado Springs, CO), "Popeye's Cartoon Circus" (Louisville, KY), "Popeye's Firehouse" (Chicago, IL), "Popeye's Funhouse" (Syracuse, NY), "Popeye's Pals" (Jacksonville, FL) and "Popeye, Wallaby, and Friends" (Butte, MT).

The ratings for the cartoons went through the roof and recouped ten times their purchase cost. Stations were also glowing due to the quick selling of advertising time slots during the Popeye cartoons. The Popeye package was also added to children's shows already on the air. WBZ-TV was having great success with "Boomtown," hosted by Rex Trailer. The show was given a boost with the addition of the Popeye series.

Fast Forward to the 21st Century: "The Popeye Show"

"The Popeye Show" is a half-hour series, which used to air on the Cartoon Network in the USA in the early 2000s. Each episode featured three "Popeye" films produced by the Fleischer and Famous Studios. Each episode also featured restored Paramount openings and closing sequences to the black and white cartoons, which had never before been broadcast on television. This informative and extremely well-made series often discussed the production of the cartoons, trivia, and personnel involved. They were written and directed by Barry Mills, who has done an outstanding job in restoring classic "Popeye" shorts for this brilliant cartoon series.

The text in this section was taken with permission from Fred Grandinetti's Popeye: An Illustrated Cultural History, Second Edition (Jefferson, NC: McFarland &Company, 2004).