We again reach that transitional period when the theatrical cartoon was becoming a scarcer commodity, due to the closure of MGM, the abandonment of the regular release schedule of seven minute shorts at Disney, and the general shift of interest to television. In particular, however, Paramount Pictures (and subsequently, its television successors to its characters) continued to show an interest in promoting the story themes which have been highlighted in this series of articles, portraying both fitness gurus and fatness freaks with equal fairness. Popeye “pops” in four times today, accounting for half of this article’s content, yet offers enough variety so as not to overstay his welcome. Walter Lantz contributes one episode, and eventually, Hanna-Barbera also jumps back on the bandwagon, providing a similar plot vehicles for its own new stars.
Out to Punch (Paramount/Famous, Popeye, 6/8/56 – Setmour Kneitel, dir.) – Returning to the general theme of Popeye’s early Segar strips and Max Fleischer’s Let’s You and Him Fight, Popeye and Bluto prepare for a chance to square off in the boxing ring. At Bluto’s training camp, the burly beefcake doesn’t believe in over-training, lounging in a hammock inside his gymnasium, only batting an occasional swing at a nearby punching bag. At Popeye’s training camp, however, all is activity, as Olive acts as personal coach for Popeye’s regimen of exercise. Popeye works out by jumping rope (only he uses a length of steel anchor chain), while Olive chants out, “Pepper, salt, mustard, cider, you gotta train hard to be a fighter.” Bluto decides to peek in the window to see how the competition is doing. Spying the “rope” trick, he comments, “Wow! I gotta slow that monster down, or he’ll murder me.” Olive instructs Popeye to put in five minutes in punching on the sandbag. Outside, Bluto unhooks the sandbag suspended from a tree limb, empties the sand over a fence, and replaces the contents with various items of iron junk, then waits to watch the fun through a peephole from the other side of the fence. Popeye attempts repeated blows on the bag, but it doesn’t budge an inch. “Guess I’ll has to use me old twisker punch.” Winding up his arm in the usual spiral, Popeye lets his blow fly, knocking the bag off its mooring, and over the fence, all its iron contents landing in a heap on Bluto.
Popeye next works on the extender spring coils mounted to the wall. Outside, Bluto attaches a hook to the wood framework to which the coils are bolted, and pulls it wth a tow rope tied to a motorcycle. Popeye is pulled backwards into the wall, but retaliates with a mighty pull. The motorcycle is dragged through the wall, crashes through the opposite wall, and lands in a well together with its rider. Olive’s car passes the well, with Olive announcing training will wind up with road work all the way to the arena. Bluto again interferes, first by spraying a puddle of axle grease into Popeye’s path, making him exert extra energy in slipping and sliding while getting nowhere. Olive catches sight of Popeye, and lifts the sailor out of the slippery mess to get him back on track. But a water puddle is next on the road, and Bluto adds to it an extra ingredient – a bag of cement. As Popeye steps into it, the cement hardens upon his feet, pinning him motionless to the ground. Popeye tugs with all his might, managing to extricate his feet, encased in concrete blocks. Popeye is forced to trudge the rest of the way to the arena with his feet so entrapped, every step belabored by the added weight of the cement overshoes. Olive proceeds ahead without noticing Popeye’s plight, so that by the time they reach the arena, Popeye is a physical wreck, and collapses on the ground. Inside, the referee is announcing the main event. Olive tosses Popeye into the ring without a second to spare, the cement shoes being the only thing propping him up. As the bell sounds, Olive lifts a corner of the canvas, and slides Popeye into the cener of the ring. With Popeye’s feet neatly weighted, Bluto uses the defenseless sailor as a human punching bag, then knocks him into the ropes. Popeye spirals in a snarl with the ropes, then, as the ropes unwind in reverse, Bluto merely holds out his fist motionlessly, allowing Popeye’s chin to take its blow upon every rotation. A final upper cut sends Popeye so high that Olive has to track his progress through binoculars. Popeye punctures a hole through the canvas floor upon re-emtry, lying motionless on the ground below, as the referee starts the count. Below the ring, Olive finds the prone sailor, and administers the usual dose of spinach. Popeye is revitalized, and the cement blocks on his feet are shattered. He leaps back into the ring on the count of nine, and slowly stalks his way toward Bluto, leading with his chin and holding his gloves behind his back. However, his normally round segmented chin now has the appearance of the same concrete blocks he was previously wearing. Bluto punches at Popeye’s jaw again and again, only to look down and find his boxing gloves in tatters. Popeye finally pulls out his fist, and in one blow, smacks Bluto out of the arena, across the street, and through the skylight of a hospital. Unseen by the camera but represented by sound effects as the camera pans downwards, Bluto crashes through multiple stories of the hospital tower, then emerges from its front door, his clothing torn, his body bandaged and covered in casts and slings, and riding in a wheelchair. At the arena, the press hails the new champ, asking him for a photograph. Popeye obliges, flexing his muscles, which bulge with considerable artistic license, forming the letters, “THE END”.
Spree Lunch (Paramount/Famous, Popeye, 6/21/57 – Seymour Kneitel, dir.. Jack Mercer, story) – After about a decade hiatus from the series, the late 1950’s saw a gradual return to the Popeye universe of the beloved food moocher of all moochers, Wimpy. This film stands as the high water mark of Wimpy’s resourcefulness at drumming up a free meal in the Technicolor era. Returning to a line of work Popeye had begun in 1934 with “We Aim To Please”, Popeye becomes a restauranteur, opening up a diner for its first day of business. Popeye readies the place for the customers by sweeping up the concrete walkway, then lifting up the entire concrete slab to sweep the dust “under the rug”. Who should drive onto the vacant lot across the street but Bluto, towing behing his vehicle an even longer dining car with even larger sign, opening “Bluto’s Diner” right next door. “That un et-ical”, complains Popeye. “A little competition never hurt anybody”, insists Bluto. “Ya gotta move dat chow wagon”, says Popeye. “Who’s gonna make me?” challenges Bluto. Between these two entrepreneurs strolls a casual Wimpy. “Excuse me, gentlemen”, he remarks. “A CUSTOMER!!”. Popeye and Bluto shout in unison. (After 25 or so years, wouldn’t you think these two would be on to the fact that Wimpy never pays for anything, and realize they need this customer about as much as a hole in the head? But for the sake of plot, it is as if they have never encountered the rotund “gentleman” before, and the war of competition commences.) Both of the rival proprietors begin ringing dinner bells, attracting their prospective patron’s attention. “Right in here for the best meal in town’, claims Popeye. “A seven course dinner for the price of the tip alone”, touts Bluto. But Popeye rolls out to Wimpy’s feet a red carpet. “This is obviously the better beanery” concludes Wimpy in characteristic low-key fashion, and strides toward Popeye’s door while Bluto fumes. Bluto attempts to appeal to a different “appetite” of Wimpy’s by parading with a sandwich sign advertising :5 beautiful waitresses 5″. (Too bad we never get to see them.) Popeye resorts to subterranean subterfuge, somehow getting into the sewer substructure under the city street as Wimpy crosses over to Bluto’s. (Let’s hope Popeye washes his hands well after this maneuver, or it will be his first violation of Health and Safety Codes.) Popeye rotates a manhole cover as Wimpy steps on it, causing the fickle food fiend to reverse course and head back to Popeye’s eatery, without so much as noticing his change of direction. Now Bluto pulls a dirty trick, by towing his diner rig onto Popeye’s lot, placing his own doorway directly across the path Wimpy is walking on. Wimpy enters the wrong dining car, and Bluto tows him and the diner back to his own side of the street.
“What’ll it be, pal?” asks Bluto of his first customer. “I’ll have a hamburger, for which I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday”, replies Wimpy. (Well, Bluto, you asked for it.) In naive overlooking of the fact that Tuesday never comes where Wimpy is concerned, Bluto proceeds to cook up a burger. But before he can serve it, Popeye has uprooted the stool on which Wimpy is sutting, and carries Wimpy astride the seat back to his own diner, placing the seat into his own line of stools. “Me specialky today is baked beans”, laughs Popeye. “I’ll have a generous portion, for which I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday.” (The old line still works like a charm.) Popeye begins prepaing the order, but Bluto, eaves-dropping at the window, substitutes a dish of Mexican jumping beans. A few mouthfuls, and Wimpy bounces out of Popeye’s establishment, across the street, and right back into Bluto’s. Bluto lays a sizzling steak on a metal platter before his patron. But before Wimpy can carve, Popeye traverses the sewer system again (that’s your second code violation), producing a magnet to drag the platter off the counter, back across the street, and into Popeye’s diner. At the window again, Bluto spots a fan, aimed with the right trajectory, to blow the contents of a pepper shaker toward Popeye’s nose. Popeye’s he-man sneeze blasts Wimpy out the door, back to Bluto’s. (That’s three health violations!) Now Bluto serves up a plate of spaghetti. Wimpy digs in, but the plate slides away along the counter, to where Popeye has uprooted the counter from its mounting, tipping the plate over to himself. He swipes the meal and carries it out the door back to his own establishment. Never missing a swallow, Wompy continues to gobble, following the trailing end of the spaghetti across the street and chewing his way almost to Popeye’s front door. Bluto has had enough of being a nice guy, and clobbers Popeye by tossing a trash can at him. (Okay, one health violation for Bluto’s side of the ledger.) While wimpy calmly observes from the middle of the street, Popeye retaliates by tossing at Bluto a small table. Bluto grabs up more ammunition, in the form of a large pail, various foodstuffs, and kitchen utensils and equipment. Popeye does the same. Before they know it, a two-way stream of objects is being flung back and forth across the street, directly over Wimpy’s head, The barrage continues unabated, as Wimpy hits upon a solution to make this situation fit his own needs. While the battle rages on, Wimpy reaches upwards into the passing stream of objects, grabbing a table, a chair, plates, utensils, a bib, and finally, all the food he can eat. There obviously isn’t much traffic on this road, as Wimpy sits down comfortably with his full dinner table in the middle of the street, munching away on his originally-ordered hamburger, pausing only to grab from the stream of objects above him a ketchup bottle, apply some to his burger, then replace the bottle into the passing flow of objects, for the fade out. (Almost surprising that he never found a passing can of spinach amidst that flying food fight, as Popeye’s secret weapon never appeared in the film.)
You Said a Mouseful (Paramount/Famous – Herman and Katnip, 8/29/58 – Seymour Kneitel, dir.) – Katnip changes nationality for this istallment, dropping his slightly Brooklyn-flavored dialect for mock Italiano. Katnip’s Pizzeria is the most desirable spot in town for a mouse’s residence, with newly-cooked edibles being turned out by the dozens round the clock. And that irresistible smell of oregano! But to rate this kind of digs, one has to keep in shape, to make sure you can outrun the irate cook. So cousin Herman has put his little gray relatives ito a strict regimen of exercise and training, converting their mousehole home into Herman’s Gym. Improvisation has developed mouse-sized exercise equipment. A cork on a spring serves as substitute for a mechanical exercise horse. An olive substitutes for a punching bag. Pulling against springs is accomplished by mounting a mousetrap to the wall and pulling on its spring-loaded trap bar. And a sponge serves as a gymnastics mat. Herman lines up his cousins for daily calisthenics. However, while the rest of his class remain the usual grey look-alikes, one smaller (at least in height) mouse stands out from the crowd. A newcomer, named Chubby, has joined the ranks. He lives up to his name, as he is another of those cartoon bottomless pits, with a never-ending appetite. As the mice proceed through exercise one, bending down at the waist from side to side, Chubby develops his own incentive for bending – standing over a hole in the floor, inside which he keeps a secret stash of cheese morsels, and reaching for a new mouthful of them on every bend. Instructor Herman spots the trick, and surprises Chubby by crawling under the floorboards, causing Chubby to grab his nose when Herman’s head pops out of the hole. “Chubby, someday your appetite is going to get you into trouble”, he says. How prophetic those words, as today is the day. Herman’s next exercise is barbell lifting (accomplished in style similar to Jerry Mouse, with barbells made of two apples mounted on the ends of popsicle sticks. This exercise appeals to Chubby, who has quickly reduced each of his weights to a pair of applecores by inbetween-lift nibbling. But a more promising prize calls to his baser instincts from just outside the mousehole, as the aromas of Katnip’s two latest pizza pies, fresh from the oven, waft into the hole. Chubby floats on air, pulled along by the nose from the aroma trail, and disappears from the gym into the kitchen. As Herman watches aghast, Chubby floats down onto the table next to the first of Katnip’s two pies. Grabbing up a slicing knife, Chubby climbs underneasth the pizza crust. In a twinkling, he has tossed the whole pie up into the air, adding some “English” to his toss to make the pizza spin like a top. Raising the carving knife, Chubby stands below the center of the pizza, and lets the knife cut the pizza into an uncoiling strip of crust and toppings, which he consumes in a continuous chew as the strip unwinds into his mouth. Not yet spying the mouse, Katnip approaches with the second pizza, placing it down in perfect position directly atop the rodent. Animation mileage is saved, as is much effort for Chubby, as this positioning allows Chubby to repeat the identical slicing trick with the second pizza, right before Katnip’s eyes. With a curse in Italian, Katnip sets to pounce on the little intruder. But Herman enters, shoving Chubby out of the way, and substituting in Chubby’s place a pop-up toaster. Katnip’s paws land right in the bread-slots of the appliance, and spring out a few seconds later, a bit over-browned, as most toasters are likely to leave anything put into them.
Herman pushes Chubby (still nibbling on some stray toppings) into the safety of the mousehole. But Katnip has already figured out the little mouse’s weakness, and sets to snare his victim, by tossing into the mousehole a meatball tied to a string of spaghetti. Chubby takes the bait, consuming the spaghetti right out the mousehole. Katnip lies on the floor, his mouth open wide, with the other end of the spaghetti leading straight into his open jaws. Herman sees an opportunity to put a new spin of Katnip’s plan, and before Chubby can reach the trap, Herman bowls into Katnip’s mouth a large ball of Provalone cheese. Katnip is knocked backwards, sliding between a pair of swinging doors leading to the dining area, and gets his head caught by the neck between the doors, making hum unable to swallow. Chubby was unfortunately in the line of fire, and the cheese pushes Chubby right into Katnip’s mouth. But, as the path of escape is edible, Chubby merely chews a hole through the cheese ball jammed in Katnip’s jaws, and is free once again. Herman grabs Chubby by the hand and drags him back toward the mousehole, while all the rotund rodent does is complain, “I’m hungry.” Still not having his hands free, Katnip sticks his tongue through the hole in the cheese, pushing and prying it loose from his jaws. With his tongue still within the ball, Katnip gives the cheese a flip in Herman’s direction. The ball rolls toward Herman, in perfect synchronization to catch Herman in the hole that Chubby ate, rolling Herman away trapped within. Katnip finally extricates himself, and spots Chubby entering his refrigerator, closing the door behind him. In the mere few seconds it takes Katnip to reach the refrigerator and open the door, Chubby has consumed an entire roast turkey previously seen inside the door, which is reduced to skeletal remains. Time for another timely Herman rescue. Herman rolls up the edge of the carpet on which Katnip is standing before the refrigerator, and gives the carpet a swft kick. The entire length of the carpet rolls up behind Katnip, pushing him upwards. Katnip’s head winds up in the freezer box, and Herman shifts the thermostat to quick freeze. Ice forms over the length of Katnip’s torso, stiffening him out rigidly from the freezer door. However, Katnip manages to squirm with his rail, shattering the ice upon it. As if prehensile, Katnip’s tail grabs up an ice pick, and begins working on breaking the rest of his body out of its crystalline prison. Now Chubby has begun gnawing on the end of a long stick of sausage, while Herman vainly tries to pull him away.
A freed Katnip returns to the fray with vengeance, swinging a large carving knife. “En Guarde”, he challenges. Herman matches his weaponry with the sausage, fending off Katnip’s lunges, each swing resulting in a slice of meat being carved off the sausage end. Chubby places himself in opportune position, not moving a muscle except for his jaws, as each sausage slice lands neatly in his mouth. Herman feints backward, and takes up a new defensive position, atop a dish of spaghetti and meatballs. Using what is left of the sausage as a golf club, Herman tees off, knocking a pair of meatballs directly into Katnip’s eyes. Then, Herman takes aim by bending back a wooden paddle board for lifting pizzas, and swats a large lump of raw dough at Katnip. The dough flattens Katnip out to near-pancake shape against the wall, and Katnip, completely covered in dough, lands on the floor below. Who should happen along but Chubby, who mistakes the lump for another pizza. Chubby takes a hearty bite upon the crust edget – sending Katnip shrieking in pain to the ceiling. Now Herman physically pushes Chubby from behind into the mousehole. But Katnip will now take either meddling mouse as a target, and slams down the tines of a fork, catching Herman between a pair of the tines. Chubby now watches aghast, as Katnip prepares to use Herman as principal ingredient for his latest Italian recipe – mousestroni soup. Just as Herman is to be dropped to his doom, Chubby emerges from the hole, and improvises a devilishly-clever plan. Feigning an Italian accent, Chubby pretends to wave a farewell to “Hermanio”, adding that he will “tell-a your family in Italia that you was brave-a to the end.” “Italia?”, reacts Katnip in surprise. Catching on quickly, Herman gets the idea of Chubby’s trick, and plays along to the hilt, waving, “Goom-bye, my little goombah.” “Scusa, please”, asks Katnip politely. “You goombaf from Italia?” “Si, si”, answers Herman. Chubby also answer in Italian affirmative. “Paisanos!” shouts Katnip, ecstatically happy to encounter new friends from the old country. “We gonna have one big-a celebrash’”, declares Katnip. Herman is so happy at Chubby’s ingenious masterstroke, that he plants a kiss on Chubby’s cheek like a true European. The final scene has Katnip and the whole mouse family dancing around Katnip’s newest fresh pizza pie (set to the hit tune “That’s Amore” from Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis’s newest feature), with Katnip singing lines such as “You’ll eat my pizza pies till they come out-a you eyes.” As the song concludes, Chubby steals the curtain line, burying his face in cheese and sauce from the pizza pie, yet still uttering his favorite phrase – “I’m hungry.”
Chew Chew Baby (Paramount/Famous, Noveltoon 8/15/58 – I. Sparber, dir.), has been extensively reviewed in one of my first posts for this website, “Unhealthy Appetites”. It concerns a glutton whose overeating habits are not something to merely politely overlook, as his menu consists exclusively of one specific delicacy – Man! The title character is a pygmy cannibal. In this unusual macabre comedy, definitely not for that faint-hearted, a tourist on safari through pygmy country jokingly tells the pygmy, “If you ever get to Cincinnati, look me up.” The pygmy makes a mental note of this invitation – as he is already envisioning the tourist in a pot. Shortly after arriving home, the tourist responds to a knock at the door, to find the pygmy (who has flown all the way there by twirling the bone entwined in his hair like a helicopter propeller). As a man of his word, the tourist finds himself with an unexpected house guest, and sets up a mat and pillow for the pygmy in a corner of his bedroom, with anticipation of showing him the town in the morning. He names the little visitor “Chew Chew” because of his humongous lower jaw and mile-wide toothy grin that resembles a bear trap.
During the night, Chew Chew’s stomach rumbles with unsettling ferocity. As the tourist sleeps, Chew Chew douses his arm in catsup. Just as the pygmy is about to dig in, the tourist awakens, and asks “What’s eating you?” Caught in the act, Chew Chew fakes that he has a toothache, and a trip to the dentist is planned for the next day. At the dentist’s office, Chew Chew begins to realize that there are plenty of additional appetizers on the hoof in this community that deserve investigating – and sampling. While the tourist lounges in the waiting room, the dentist places Chew Chew in the chair, asking him to open his mouth “wider…
wider…wider”. A loud metallic snap is heard – though the camera mercifully shifts view back to the waiting room. The tourist looks in, and presumes Chew Chew’s treatment is done, taking him by the hand to show him Cincinnati’s sights. Behind them, the dentist’s office is eerily vacant, as the dentist’s drill slowly swings back and forth, left dangling with no hand to guide it.
First, lunch is in order (though the tourist does not realize that Chew Chew has already had a between-meal snack). At an automat, the tourist concerns himself with the entrees and pies appearing in the coin-operated windows. Chew Chew instead favors the human hand setting a pie in place inside one compartment. Reaching his own hand through the opening, he grabs hold of the attendant’s hand, pulling him out through the small hole. Again unseen by the camera, the same loud “snap” is heard – and there is no one around to fill the empty window with a new dessert.
More disappearances take place. A passing motorist giving a hand signal has hand grabbed by the dark hand of Chew Chew. Snap! A clothing mannequin in front of a tailor’s shop disappears in a snap in a case of mistaken identity – and this time we see Chew Chew do the snapping, only to spit out the fake a few moments later as not to his liking. On a bus, two riders in choice seats again disappear before the watchful eye of the camera in another sudden, thankfully blooodless “snap”, then the pygmy offer the seat to his tourist guide. “First seat I’ve had on this bus in 32 years!”, quips the tourist. The tourist finally introduces Chew Chew to an old acquaintance he encounters on the next corner. Chew Chew has become brazen about the whole thing, and snaps up the old friend before the tourist is even finished with the introduction. “No, no. I said meet him, not eat him,” says the tourist – then stops cold, realizing what he just said. As the tourist turns green, he looks down Chew Chew’s throat to see if his friend is still there – and almost gets his own head bitten off. The pygmy pursues the tourist with wild and crazed eyes back to his house, inside the home, and finally back out into the street. Borrowing a major plot idea from Tex Avery’s “Crazy Mixed-Up Pup” (1954), the tourist is run down in the middle of the street by a passing truck An ambulance arrives, the medic concluding that an immediate transfusion is needed. The only other subject around is Chew Chew, who is grabbed and made the unwilling donor for the procedure. Perhaps this blood should have been pre-screened for match and purity, as it has unexpected side effects. While Chew Chew is left considerably weakened, the tourist’s eyes open, developing that same crazed look as the pygmy had during the pursuit, and the tourist’s jaw extends to proportions massively larger than that of his pursuer. Chew Chew’s own jaw can only drop to the floor at this intimidating sight. The pygmy flees in terror, as the tables are turned. The tourist/cannibal draws closer, closer, closer, and with a repeat of the “snap” sound effect, the screen flashes in black and white like a lightning bolt, and “The End” appears in large letters on the screen for the fade out.
Popeye’s Pep-Up Emporium (King Features, Popeye, circa 1960 – Jack Kinney, dir.) With the coming of Popeye’s theatrical shorts to the TV market. King Features Syndicate wisely saw opportunity to jump on the bandwagon for bigger royalties, by producing its own massive series of new Popeye shorts for the small screen, through a wide variety of studios and directors. Jack Kinney was one of the most prolific, though his product, as reviewed before in these articles, could vary all over the map from delightfully witty to absolutely incomprehensible. This one would rank as somewhat better than average, and with superior animation for his unit.
Returning to a twice-visited theme from the theatrical days, Popeye is once again in the gymnasium business. His new enterprise boasts the eye-catching title of the episode, with his TV commercial making the claim, “We fix flats – slats – fats”. The ad unflatteringly uses photos of Popeye’s neighbors – Olive, Wimpy, and even Bluto (redubbed “Brutus” for the TV episodes, but we’ll call him Bluto here for the sake of consistency) in swimsuits, as examples of what not to look like. (Did Popeye obtain clearances before using these pictures? Otherwise, I smell a lawsuit.) At his establishment, Popeye personally coaches his two prime pupils, Olive and Wimpy. Olive again wears the sailor’s outfit last seen in “Gym Jam”. Popeye himself abandons his past use of a gym shirt, instead performing his services in his full usual outfit of navy white. Wimpy foregoes uniforms altogether, and merely sweats it out in his t-shirt and shorts. Olive performs bending and stretching exercises, while Wimpy performs lazy-man’s chinning – again on a low bar, with his feet never leaving the floor. Olive develops a severe case of cramps, her muscles tying in knots everywhere – even to the tip of her nose. Popeye unravels the nose knot, snapping Olive back to her old self. “Lucky for you I belong to the sea scouts”, he quips. Wimpy shifts to pushing and pulling exercises, drawing to himself and pushing away a table with a plate full of hamburgers. He believes in putting it on and taking it off at the same time. Olive still has no end of difficulty in exercising with dumbbells, extending each lift above her head, but not getting the hang of the release, allowing the dubbells to drop back down upon her noggin, producing a row of lumps. She complains this will ruin her coiffure, and she doesn’t need muscles on the brain. Wimpy moves on to push-ups.
However, his belly is so round, that it again never rises from the floor, with Wimpy rocking on its fulcrum like a see-saw. Time for filming of another commercial, and Popeye demonstrates his amazing strength by lifting a massive barbell. Jack Kinney repeats himself from Goofy Gymnastics, reusing the gag of a moth landing on the upraised barbell. The weight becomes too much to hold, but this time, Popeye does not crash through the floor himself, but merely drops the barbell out of his grip, letting it smash through several floors below as in the Goofy eposode and Heckle and Heckle’s Pill Peddlers. From amidst all the commotion below rises out of the hole the recognizable bulk of Bluto. Ho socks Popeye across the room. In passing, Popeye jostles the speed control of a mechanical horse Olive is riding, setting the contraption into gallop mode to Olive’s dismay. Olive is thrown into a wall rack, hopelessly stuck in a backwards and forwards curl between several horizontal poles of the rack. Bluto approaches to free the damsel, stepping squarely on the head of the prone Popeye. Fortunately, Popeye’s spinach can has rolled nearby, and Popeye inhales a mouthful through his pipe. As Bluto questions the vibrations under him with “What’s this? An earthquake?”, Popeye knocks him sky high. As Bluto still had a grip on Olive’s ankles, Olive is also flung upwards, reprising her usual position upside down, with legs caught in the parallel rings suspended from the ceiling. Popeye finds Bluto, who has landed on the trampouline. Popeye jumps on, bouncing Bluto to the ceiling again. Bluto lands on a rowing machine, and decides a quick exit is in order. “Stroke. Stroke”, he says, tugging at the oars, and somehow propelling the “craft” across the floor. Unfortunately, he reaches the hole left in the floor by the barbell, and falls back into his own apartment, with a cry of “Man overboard!” Popeye then remembers he forgot about rescuing Olive. Somehow, the spiach can has ended up in Olive’s pocket, and she pulls it out, determining “I guess I’d better help myself.” One mouthful, and she is free, skyrocketing across the room, to land on the back of Popeye. Envigorated with strength, she twists one of Popeye’s legs, while emitting a Tarzan yell. Popeye concludes for the curtain line, “I guess I teaches ‘em too good.”
Weight For Me (King Features, Popeye, circa 1960 – Gene Deitch/Halas and Bachelor co-production). Halas and Bachelor, the studio from England who brought the British isles its first home-grown animated feature,”Animal Farm”, from time to time found various work in the TV market. They were recruited for a small number of films in the King Features Popeye output, exhibiting some superior animation for the series, often with some clever plot ideas. The exact mechanics of their involvement in the project are not well documented by any credits – in fact, it is possible they were commissioned in a farm-out of episodes by a studio already doing its own farm-our work for the TV project – Gene Deitch’s Rembrandt Films of Czechoslovakia. Gene gets “Supervising Director” credit, and his producer, William Snyder, also takes production credit, while the only remaining screen credit places all “Animation” in the hands of Halas and Bachelor, with no staff members named. Perhaps Gene’s small studio was unable to keep up the heavy pace, and simply hired its own outside help. The Halas and Bachelor product is generally far superior to Deitch’s own in draftsmanship, with no glaring animation errors as often plagued Gene’s own directly-overseen projects. And its directing abilities often seemed sharper-timed than a Deitch production, on a more even keel than the frequent alternation between sequences timed too fast and sequences timed too slow in some of Gene’s productions.
A 300-pound Olive Oyl? Yes, the girl most typically known for being like Foghorn Leghorn’s proverbial road between Fort Worth and Dallas (no curves) develops massive bulges in all the wrong places, when Popeye and Bluto/Brutus ship out together on a long ocean voyage. Upon their return home, they find that Olive became so lonely, she turned to eating as a pastime – and developed into a mammoth. She learned to eat like a horse – and has even developed the whiny to go along with it. Her character design is itself hilarious, as her movements exhibit the rubberiness of blubber, and her face takes on grotesque qualities when panting, crying, or salivating at food. Popeye’s first reaction is to run out to obtain half a dozen reducing machines to get her back to normal. But Bluto has the opposite reaction. While Olive bemoans that Popeye desn’t love her for herself anymore, Bluto plays up this belief, siding with Olive. “The nerve of that little runt. Criticizing your pretty figure that way.” To Bluto’s eye, as Olive now nearly matches his own bulk, Olive has “never looked better”. Bluto sets his sights upon countering anything that Popeye can come up with for a reducing program. He first sits Olive down on the couch, and consoles her with a box of rich chocolate nougats. Olive’s eyes light up in delight, but before she can take her first bite, Popeye returns, grabbing for the candy in her hand, and gets his fingers bitten into instead of the candy. “I’m tryin’ ta help ya, Olive. No more chocolates”, says Popeye, kicking the box out of Bluto’s hands and the sticky nougats onto his face.
Popeye begins with a few miles of road work for Olive. Olive pants and puffs, barely able to keep up the pace. Before she can fall from exhaustion, she is picked up on the seat of a tandem bicycle built for two, propelled by Bluto, and the two of them roll forward, running right over Popeye, while Bluto invites Olive for a “good thick ice cream soda”. At the malt shop, she is served the treat, which Bluto says will make her “feel like a new woman”. Drooling, Olive replies with gusto, “Mmmmmm, you said it!” Popeye repeats his feat from “Spree Lunch”, lifting the bar stool on which Olive is sitting off of its mounting, and carrying off the stool with Olive aboard back home. At the house, Popeye has set up a bicycle with its rear wheel elevated by a metal support frame, to render it stationary. Olive again puffs and puffs, claiming she’s tired. Bluto appears outside the window, and slips a stick of wood under the axle of the bike to raise it off of the stationary mounting. The bike now freed, it darts forward, taking Popeye along for the ride, and smashing him flat against the opposite wall. Bluto again offers to pile on the calories, grabbing away Olive with an offer to treat her to a steak dinner. Popeye does some grabbing back, placing Olive into a roller machine, squeezing and squashing her with up and down movements from each side. ‘She don’t have ta exercise if she don’t wanna”, Bluto declares, pulling her from the machine. He tells Olive to sit this one out, while he teaches that little runt some manners. However, the seat he chooses for her is another form of roller machine with rollers on a circular drum, and Olive, as she settles atop the machine, activates the “On” lever. The machine starts spinning her atop it in a barrel-roll, as she calls for help. Bluto is too busy attempting to finish off Popeye, lodging Popeye’s head between the vertical rollers for some painful head-squeezing. Popeye splutters, “Hey, cut it out”. Fortunately, after several strokes of the device, it catches hold of Popeye’s spinach can inside his collar, pushing the can upwards instead of Popeye’s head, and squeezing it open, so that its contents are compressed into Popeye’s mouth. Transformation time, as Popeye’s forearms convert into miraculous moving roller wheels in their own right. “No more exercises, baby”, Bluto tells Olive, now pulled from the roller wheel. Not if Popeye can help it, as he brings his roller-arms into a clamp around Bluto’s torso. Bluto goes through the wringer, not losing weight, but being flattened like a pancake. Popeye applies a somewhat gentler pressure, and catches Olive in the grip of his arms. (My, Popeye, aren’t you getting a little personal in contact with Olive’s physique?) Olive is again repeatedly squished up and down. As results start to be seen, she begins to roll around and around one of the rotating arms – until she rolls off and out, reduced to her normal skinny tubular figure. :Ya did it Popeye”, she cheers, admiring her restored normal dimensions in the mirror. Popeye points Olive’s attention offscreen, indicating the presence of another satisfied customer. Across the room, with the leather strap of a reducing belt machine around his waist, vibrates Bluto, now reading a book on how to exercise. With everybody else skinny again, Bluto has finally realized it may be time for him to take off a few pounds, as he closes, to everyone’s laughter, with the age-old curtain line, “If ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
Hunger Strife (Lantz/Universal, Fatso Bear, 8/10/60 – Jack Hannah, dir.) – Fresh from the ranks at Walt Disney, Jack Hannah would adapt from the lush budgets of the Mouse House to the more conservative fare at Lantz. Some shortcuts were definitely in order, resulting in a habit of often repeating shots within the same cartoon, and other simplifications of character design and animating “on the twos”. A few embarrassments would occur, but overall, Hannah often managed to maintain a respectable product. He would make significant strides in developing to star status Gabby Gator for the Woody cartoons, and also in taking the sagging property of the cat character “Doc”, created by Alex Lovy, and endowing him with some memorable personality. But Hannah also decided to bring some of his own “brainchildren” with him, Disney copyrights or no, and attempt to infuse them into the Lantz menagerie. His “Sam and Simian” pilot film (aired on the Woody Woodpecker show) bears a striking resemblance in personality to Chip ‘n’ Dale. Even more unmistakeable in resemblance were his three cartoons featuring Fatso Bear – a direct lift of the Humphrey Bear/J. Audobon Woodlore series which had been his last area of development for Disney. Willoughby (the little guy with the big black moustache) from the Lantz stable inherits the ranger role, while Fatso is nothing short of a simplified-line redesign of Humphrey, complete with the identical grunts and nervous run-around-in-every-direction signature reaction to trouble.
Opening day of the tourist season at Peachstone National Park finds Willoughby answering the call from headquarters to “get things started”. He does so, by turning a fire-hydrant valve to start the Old Reliable geyser erupting, and opening the tap on a water cooler at the top of a cliff to create a waterfall. As Ranger Woodlore would always do at the start of a season, Willoughby blows a bugle to rally a meeting of his “troops” – the park bears. As did Woodlore in “Grin and Bear It”, he invites the bears to enjoy the feed from the tourists as long as they behave themselves. But Fatso, who misses inspection to rummage out of a trash can, is over the weight limit. “Attention” calls Willoughby. Fatso attempts to hold his chest out high. “At ease”, calls Willoughby. Fatso’s “chest” drops to the ground as a shapeless layer of blubber. “You’re just a big bucket of lard”, says Willoughby, calling ‘em as he sees ‘em. He orders Fatso to forego the tourist’s feast, and maintain a strict diet consisting of (a) breakfast of one poppy seed and one-half glass water, (b) lunch of two dried beans and one-half leaf lettuce, and (c) dinner of one teaspoon broth from a boiled sunflower seed. If you think this sits well with Fatso, think again.
At the first opportunity that presents itself, Fatso is raiding a picnic basket. He piles the contents into a mile-high sandwich, and is about to take a chomp, when Willoughby pops out from between two lettuce leaves, to scold, “Naughty boy. You’re forgetting your diet.” Next, Fatso pilfers a watermelon. He cuts a triangular wedge out of what appears to be an uncut rind, but is surprised to find no red fruit attached inside. He looks in the hole cut in the rind, and is bombarded by a stream of watermelon seeds. The arm of the ranger emerges from the hole, waving a finger at him, as the ranger’s voice is also heard. “Watermelon is fattening!” Fatso tries another picnic basket – but Willoughby’s inside this one, too, and lets Fatso take one between-meal snack – a red hot chile pepper. As Fatso recovers from breathing fire, he discovers he is not the only looter of the picnic grounds. A gopher burrowing a path through the ground slips up on the same picnic basket, and slowly carries away atop the furrow of ground he has dug a whole ham. Clever Fatso lifts away the ham, replacing it with a rock of equal weight so the gopher won’t get wise. Fatso then grabs a picnic blanket, and attempts to settle down for a feast, tying the corners of the blanket around his neck like a bib. “Uh, uh, Fatso” says the ranger at a distace, standing at the valve handle to the fire hydrant. Willoughby turns the valve handle again, and Old Reliable erupts directly under Fatso’s ham, sending it shooting upwards atop the water stream to the level of a clifftop above. At the summit arrives the gopher, still oblivious to Fatso’s switcheroo. Popping out of his hole, he sees his own ham bouncing on the water stream of the geyser, then looks up to see the rock substitute he’s been carrying. Angry, the gopher switches the objects again, placing the rock atop the geyser water. At this cue, Willoughby shuts off the hydrant valve – and the rock falls squarely upon Fatso’s head to teach him a lesson. Fatso tries one last basket, and comes up with a large jar of honey. This will suit him fine – but a passing bee (bearing quite close resemblance to Hannah’s own Spike the Bee) also finds the treat attractive, and rallies the forces of the swarm from the local hive. A chase ensues, leading Fatso to commandeer a rowboat and row out to the middle of the lake with his prize, one jump ahead of the bees – until a passing trout leaps out of the water, and gobbles up the whole glob of honey in one gulp, placing Fatso back to square one again. The film closes with tourist season ending, and Willoughby again rounding up the bears for inspection. Again there is one absent from the line. Fatso is bringing up the rear, scrawny, weak, and dilapidated, a shadow of his former self. As if entirely oblivious to being the cause of it all, the ranger coldly comments, “Fatso, you’re a mess. Have you been dieting?” Fatso stares at the camera pathetically, then bursts out wailing and crying on the ground in a tantrum of frustration, for the iris out.
You can watch Hunger Strife on B98.tv
Do Or Diet (Hanna-Barbera, Yogi Bear, 12/12/60) – In a quite similar situation to the last cartoon, Hanna-Barbera manages to come up with a much happier ending for the bear. Another opening day at Jellystone of the tourist season – and Ranger Smith seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He complains to an assistant ranger that’s he’s not getting any younger, and, while he can brace himself for the annual tourist invasion, forest fires, and kids putting chewing gum in the drinking fountains, he can’t face another season of you-know-who. As if to confirm that his foretelling of a bleak future is destined to become a reality, a veterinarian sent to the park for an annual checkup on the bears reports that one fat one tossed him out of the cave the minute he applied a cold stethoscope to his chest. Who else but Yogi? Smith accompanies the vet back to the cave to complete the physical, but fills in the vet along the way on the details of the character he’s up against. Hearing of Yogi’s never-ending mooching of picnic baskets, the vet comments that he cured a similar case in Yosemite once – by convincing the gullible bear into thinking he had to go on a diet. “Doc, you gotta try it on Yogi”, Smith begs.
At the cave, despite Yogi’s attestations to being “healthier than the average bear”, the vet gives one listen to Yogi’s chest, and diagnoses, “That’s not good”. Yogi dismisses his bulging midriff as “just a few calories that slipped down and lumped up.” “I’m afraid you’ve got it”, the doctor insistst, “Picnicitis.” The only cure, a strict diet of bear-type food – those infamous “nuts and berries” that Yogi so dearly hates. Yogi goes into a delightful mode of overacting, “Struck down in my prime!” he wails. He tells Boo Boo to go away, as it might be catching. The doc cautions if he eats anything from a picnic basket, he might “kick the bucket”. “I will remember, sir”, responds Yogi with decided over-eagerness. The ranger is convinced the trick has worked like a charm.
Boo Boo says he’ll help Yogi adhere to the strict diet, as he doesn’t want to see Yogi “go away”. Yogi replies that on a diet of nuts and berries, he wouldn’t have the strength to get very far. However, he reveals to Boo Boo that he knew all along it was a trick, as there is no such thing as Picnicitis. Knowing the Ranger must have been behind it in his annual battle of wits, Yogi puts into action a plan of retaliation for the Ranger’s attempt to mess with his head. As Smith happily receives a call from the park superintendent announcing intention to conduct an inspection at the park, Smith relaxes, realizing he’s as ready as he’ll ever be, with Yogi under control. A second call, however, jerks Smith back into the world of reality. A bear is lying across the highway at the North gate, with traffic backed up for three miles! Rolling to the scene in his jeep, Smith begs Yogi to get up, saying “Do you want to get run over?” “That’s the general idea, sir”, saus an unmoving Yogi. “When one has Picnicitis, there’s nothing to look forward to.” Smith is forced to drag Yogi off the road bodily, commanding the drivers to get that traffic moving. Smith races back to the ranger station, worriedly asking if the superintendent has arrived yet. No, but another emergency call has – a bear is threatening to jump off Lover’s Leap. “Tell him to wait!”, yells Smith, and hops into the jeep again. At the edge of Lover’s Leap, Yogi teeters and totters before a horrified crowd below. “Don’t jump”, calls Smith from the base of the cliff. “It’ll ruin me!” Never hesitating, Yogi gives a hop, into the ether. “Hold it. Yogi, hold it!” the panicked ranger shouts, racing to directly below the path of Yogi’s fall. “I can’t hear you, sir” calls out the falling Yogi. Calculating the Ranger’s moves like a precision instrument, Yogi lands squarely atop the Ranger. His own fall is safely broken, while Smith is driven into the ground as if hit by a pile driver, only his hands protruding from the ground.
Back at the station again, a distraught Smith takes his only consolation in the fact that the superintendent still hasn’t arrived. But a knock at his door leaves Smith with little to say but, “Oh, no!” Yogi, in even a better piece of overacting than before, crawls in the door on his knees, begging the Ranger for just one little picnic basket before he cracks. “No one will ever know. I’ll take it to the woods. You’ll never see me again!” “Stop” says the Ranger, about to crack up himself. “I can’t take it any more. I’ll get you a picnic basket.” Yoyi confides to the audience: “Milo Brandy [play on words on Marlon Brando] is pretty good, too.” Smith returns with a basket chock-full of “liverwurst sandwiches, chocolate cake, ice cream tortonis.” “Thank you, sir…Ice cream what?”. responds Yogi “Never mind! Just go in the woods and get lost!” commands Smith. Smith’s name is called aloud from across the room. The superintendent has arrived, just in time to catch Smith in the act. “How can we expect the tourists to follow the rules, if the chief ranger sets a bad example?” No amount of explanation about “that bear” will satisfy the superintendent, who insist that the bears are not to blame, as they’re just dumb animals. Yogi leaves with Boo Boo on this note, explaining to him that he received the picnic basket because the Ranger decided to take pity on this “poor dumb animal”.
Do or Diet is not available for free on the internet… but we thought it would be fun to watch Yogi eat something healthier than your average pic-a-nic basket:
The sixties serve up more feasts and famines, next time.
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