Settings & Music

Still from `Goonland`
An eerie Goon Island inspired by Segar's comics. From Goonland (1938)
Still from `Goonland`
Another shot of the Goon Island
Fleischer Studios "Popeye" cartoons were animated by such talents as Willard Bowsky, Roland "Doc" Crandall, Dave Tendlar, Seymour Kneitel, Myron Waldman, and others. Although the cartoons were done in black and white, they displayed an astonishing attention to the animated detail (both in terms of character designs and backgrounds). Beautiful shadows, rich grey tones, and meticulous ink lines were utilized by Fleischer animators to perfection.

Just like Segar's stories, some Fleischer cartoons such as Wild Elephinks (1933) and Goonland, took place in exotic locations such as mysterious jungles or eerie islands. But the majority of Fleischer "Popeyes" were set in a recognizably urban milieu. Unlike Segar's romanticized stories of "wooden ships and iron men," which took place in coastal villages that existed due to the shipping industries of the past, Fleischer "Popeye" cartoons displayed worn-down buildings, poverty-stricken streets, and rough-edged characters, reminiscent of the Fleischers' immigrant upbringings in Brownsville, New York.

Many Fleischer "Popeyes," unlike their successors from other studios, were very funny musical pictures. Cartoons such as The Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934) and Beware of Barnacle Bill (1935) used popular old songs, written by such talents as George Laybourne, and Carson J. Robison and Frank Luther, respectively, giving them an original, comic spin. Other cartoons like Brotherly Love (1936) and A Clean Shaven Man (1936), used the original songs by Sammy Timberg, often subverting the lyrics through contrasting visual actions. For example, the title song that preaches brotherly love in the cartoon of the same name is undercut, at the end of the picture, by Popeye's unique way of teaching "brotherly love" to a group of street bullies - by literally beating it into them.

Fleischer Popeye Musicals

Poverty-stricken urban milieu with grey, worn-down buildings in the background was typical for Fleischer Studios cartoons in the 1920s and 1930s. Still from Brotherly Love (1936)

Beware of Barnacle Bill (1935)

A Clean Shaven Man (1936)