THE FLEISCHER/FAMOUS STUDIO BLACK AND WHITE POPEYE SHORTS

Introduction
By John V. Brennan

Well, blow me down!      My love for the black and white Popeye cartoons began way back when I was an infink and looked like a baby.  New York's local station WPIX (which then became the WB, and then the CW) used to air Popeye cartoons for years.  Then, one day, Uncle Sam, in the form of the Federal Communications Commission, decided that children's programming wasn't ejimikational enough, and demanded all television stations to comply with new rules.  So Popeye was out, as were the Little Rascals, and in was some boring stuff no kid of my generation could possibly relate to except to make fun of it. There were times later in life that Popeye would air very early in the morning, and I would wake up before school to catch it. I was always disappointed when they showed the color Popeyes from Famous Studios.  I got up early to see the black and white ones, and I considered myself lucky if they played one out of three in the half hour time slot.  For me, the black and white Popeyes were magical.

     Years later, Ted Turner, whose wisdom is only second to the FCC, decided that the black and white Popeyes needed to be colorized.  I used to tape them off cable, thinking I could just turn the color down and I would have my old black and white Popeyes again.   But even when I did that, the cartoons did not look the same.  Alas, in order to colorize the old shorts, they were literally redrawn frame by frame, and the artists (I use that term as loosely as huminkly poskible) were very careless.  Gone were not just many little details (things would disappear because the artists were too lazy to draw them) but also the amazingly detailed backgrounds and three-dimensional effects.  

     But now Black and White Popeye is back in all its glory on DVD, and I am finally able to watch them again the way they were meant to be seen and in the order they were originally released.  So I created a section dedicated to these cartoons that I love so much.

     There is a page devoted to each year, from 1933 through 1940, with 1941 through 1943 broken up in a different way because of the circumstances the cartoons were made at that time.  Every Popeye short gets a mention, some only a line or two long.  Some of my favorites are given full reviews in a Spotlight section, which is also reserved for some historically important Popeye cartoons.  Luckily, the historically important ones turned out to be amongst my favorites too.  All the non-spotlighted shorts are grouped together in the "In-Betweener" sections of each page.  Many of my favorites wound up being mentioned in the In-Betweener section, because it is difficult to come up with fresh things to say about every single Popeye cartoon.  (I wish I understood this before I started my Tom and Jerry section!)  There are also reviews of three special "color" Popeyes made at the same time as the black and white cartoons.

     I don't think the black and white Popeye cartoons are the funniest ever made.  That distinction goes to the classic Warner Brothers films.  I think the violence in MGM's Tom and Jerry series, as well as in Tex Avery's MGM cartoons, is better timed and therefore funnier.  But the Popeye cartoons are probably the quirkiest, most distinctive-looking and possibly the most downright addictive of all the cartoon series we now consider classic, and their release on DVD is a reason to celebrate with several choruses of "We Aim to Please", "Strike Up the Band for Popeye the Sailor" and "I Wanna Be a Lifeguard". - JB

Popeye 1933     The Secret Vortex