This weekend I finally got my hands on the newly released and restored Popeye the Sailor DVD set, featuring 60 cartoons from the Fleischer period (1933-1938). And boy are they great. I've never been a die-hard fan, but I'd consider myself a convert. For what one might say is a pretty repetitive formula (enter Popeye, Olive Oyl in distress, enter Bluto, fist-fights, walloping, more fist-fights, enter Spinach and theme, Popeye saves the day), the shorts are incredibly inventive for their time. The animation, scene-planning, musical timing, luscious backgrounds---heck, everything about them are a pleasure to watch. I found myself freeze-framing in several spots to appreciate the keyframes.
I haven't gotten through all of them yet, but one in particular, Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor (1936), really caught my attention. I won't link to YouTube because the color and compression are just awful by comparison. It's one of the few Technicolor and long format cartoons included in the DVD set. While it's not the funniest of the bunch, there are some great monsters and ugly expressions coming out of Bluto in particular. So, during some freeze-frames, I did a little sketching. Which you will find below. I find this to be a fun exercise, especially to study the cartoon forms.
Ha! I just realized I didn't even draw Popeye. Oh well. I'd recommend the set to all fans of early cartoon animation. I wrote an earlier post which included links to some of the buzz on other animation blogs.