#156) Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936)
OR “Hey World, I Yam What I Yam!”
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Class of 2004
The Plot: Three times the length of an average “Popeye” short (and the first in color), Popeye the Sailor (voiced by Jack Mercer) finds himself in an epic showdown with the legendary Sindbad the Sailor (as “played” by Bluto, voiced by Gus Wickie). Sindbad kidnaps Olive Oyl (voiced by Mae Questel), and Popeye must save her. But first he has to get through Sindbad’s island, filled with wild animals and monsters and very realistic set pieces. Good thing he always carries a can of spinach.
Why It Matters: The NFR mentions Popeye’s popularity in the ‘30s, “matched only by Mickey Mouse”, and then calls this short a “classic” and praises the sets. And that’s about it.
But Does It Really?: If you’re going to have only one “Popeye” short on the Registry, this is a good choice. It has all the conventions you want (Bluto kidnaps Olive, Popeye eats his spinach, Wimpy is Wimpy), plus the animation is an impressive undertaking of scope and presentation. Its inclusion is a no-brainer for me. The whole short is, well, strong to the finish.
Shout Outs: Sindbad states that Boola would “frighten King Kong”, an ape that definitely didn’t exist in the 17th Century. Speaking of, what’s the time frame on this one? Did Popeye time travel to the Abbasid Caliphate? Or is Bluto just claiming to be Sindbad in an Emperor Norton-type scenario?
Everybody Gets One: While not his only NFR appearance, it should be noted that Jack Mercer was the official voice of Popeye from 1935 to his retirement in 1980. Stage actor Gus Wickie took over the voice of Bluto from William Pennell for a brief time in the ‘30s, but he got the short that counts. And that’s Dave and Max’s brother Lou Fleischer as the voice of Wimpy.
Wow, That’s Dated: Dynamos as a major power source. And that’s the danger of getting permanent tattoos.
Seriously, Oscars?: The first of the two-reel Popeye Features, “Sindbad” was nominated for Best Animated Short Subject, but lost to Disney’s “The Country Cousin”. Enjoyable to be sure, but nowhere near as impressive an undertaking as “Sindbad”. A Popeye short never won in this category.
- No, that’s not a typo. The name of the title character is “Sindbad” with the extra D. It’s an acceptable alternative to “Sinbad”, no doubt an alternate translation from the original Arabic.
- I know it’s a rough print, but the cast list only lasts for, like, two frames. Where’s Orson Welles when you need him?
- This film makes use of the Fleischer “Steroptical Process”; backgrounds built from live action models with the animation superimposed over them. It gives a sense of dimension and depth similar to Disney’s multiplane camera.
- For those of you keeping score: Number of NFR films directed by Oliver Stone: 0. Number of NFR films featuring J. Wellington Wimpy: 1. (2019 Update: With the inclusion of “Platoon”, this is no longer the case, but for 15 years this stat was absolutely true!)
- Speaking of, despite his love of food being on display in this short, Wimpy does not say his classic line “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
- I thought Popeye could only perform feats of strength after he’s eaten his spinach. Yet he breaks down a brick wall earlier in the short with no problem. Did he switch to Kool-Aid?
- Is Popeye a ventriloquist or does he project his thoughts?
- I’m sure some Lit major out there is pissed that this version doesn’t follow the Sindbad legend too closely.
- Where does Boola the two-headed giant fit into God’s plan?
- Personally I don’t care for canned spinach. I prefer the leaf kind.
- The Fleischers made two more “Popeye Features”: 1937’s “Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves” and 1939’s “Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp”. Both followed this film’s structure of Popeye walking through live-action miniatures and beating up characters from the Arabian Nights.
- Ray Harryhausen cites this film as an influence on his own take on the Sindbad lore, fellow NFR entry “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”.
- “A live–action film adaptation of Popeye? I know, let’s get the guy who directed ‘The Long Goodbye’!”
- I guess we were going to have an animated film sometime in the last few years? Popeye may be stuck in development hell for a while.
- But seriously, is Popeye still a thing? Do kids know who he is? I watched him growing up, but that don’t mean nothin’ these days.