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Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938, Vol. 1 (4 Discs) (1933)

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Studio: Warner Home Video
Genre: Classics, Kids, Animated, Classic Comedy, Animation
Running Time: 540 min.
Languages: English
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Synopsis
In 1933, a squint-eyed sailor with outsized forearms danced a hula with Betty Boop--and began one of the great series in American cartoon history. Popeye had made his debut in Elzie Segar's comic strip "Thimble Theater" four years earlier, and the jump to animation only increased his popularity: by 1938, he rivaled Mickey Mouse. During the '30s, when Disney was creating lushly colored, realistic animation, the Fleischer Studio presented a gritty black-and-white world that was ideally suited to the bizarre misadventures of Popeye, Olive, and Bluto. The animators ignored anatomy, with hilarious results: Olive Oyl's rubbery arms wrap around her body like twin anacondas, and her legs often end up in knots. Exactly what Popeye and Bluto saw in this scrawny, capricious inamorata was never clear, but they fought over her endlessly.

As the series progressed, the artists grew more sophisticated: in "Blow Me Down" (1933), Olive does some clumsy steps to "The Mexican Hat Dance;" one year later, in "The Dance Contest," she and Popeye perform deft spoofs of tango, tap, and apache steps. The stories are little more than strings of gags linked by a theme: Popeye and Bluto as rival artists; Popeye and Olive as nightclub dancers or café owners. But the minimal stories allow the artists to fill the screen with jokes, over-the-top fights, and muttered asides from the characters. Cartoon fans have waited for years for the "Popeye" shorts to appear on disc, and the Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938 was worth waiting for. The transfers were made from beautifully clear prints with only minimal dust and scratches. The set is loaded with extras, including eight "Popumentaries," numerous commentaries, and 16 silent cartoons. It's a set to treasure. (Unrated, suitable for ages 10 and older: violence, tobacco use, ethnic stereotypes) --Charles Solomon



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