Published on July 5, 2016
Popeye the Sailor is an American animated series produced and syndicated by King Features Syndicate TV that was released in 1961 with 220 episodes produced The episodes are grouped by the production studios of Larry Harmon Pictures, Rembrandt Films/Halas and Batchelor, Gerald Ray Studios, Jack Kinney Productions, Paramount Cartoon Studios, and Italy-based animation company Corona Cinematografica.
In the late 1950s, the original Popeye theatrical shorts released by Paramount Studios from 1933 to 1957 began airing in many television markets and garnered huge ratings. King Features Syndicate, who owned the print rights to the “Popeye” name, did not earn any money from the syndication of the Paramount theatrical Popeye films. In order to capitalize on Popeye’s television popularity, King Features hastily commissioned a new series of made-for-television Popeye cartoons. Al Brodax served as executive producer of the cartoons for King Features’ then-newly created television production and distribution division (now known today as Hearst Entertainment, named after King Features’ parent company, the Hearst Corporation). Jack Mercer, Mae Questel and Jackson Beck returned for this series, which was produced by several different animation companies (Gerald Ray Studios, Jack Kinney Productions, Rembrandt Films/Halas and Batchelor and Larry Harmon Productions).
Famous Studios, which produced the theatrical entries from 1942 to 1957, also returned, although by this point they had been renamed Paramount Cartoon Studios. The series was produced using the limited animation technique, whose production values contrasted sharply to their Popeye theatrical counterparts. The artwork was streamlined, simplified for television budgets, and the entries were completed at a breakneck pace. 220 made-for-television cartoons were produced in two years; in contrast, 231 theatrical cartoons were produced in 24 years.Several minor changes were made for the characters. Though World War II had ended 15 years prior, Popeye still retained his white Navy uniform (except in Barbecue for Two, in which he wears his original clothes). Olive Oyl’s appearance was a hybrid of different incarnations; while her outfit reverted to the Fleischer years of a red turtleneck, long black dress and huge shoes, her hair retained the mid/late 1940s and 1950s makeover initiated by Famous Studios (except in Barbecue for Two, in which she uses her Fleischer/early Famous Studios design, and Hits and Missiles, in which she wears her later Famous Studios clothes).
The biggest change was to Bluto, whose name was changed to “Brutus”. At the time, King Features believed that Paramount owned the rights to the name “Bluto”. King Features actually owned the name, as Bluto had been originally created for the comic strip; however, due to a lack of thorough research, they failed to realize this and reinvented him as Brutus to avoid supposed copyright problems Realizing their mistake, King Features began to promote Brutus as an entirely new character. His demeanor was altered slightly and his physical appearance was changed from being muscular to morbidly obese. In addition, the sailor/Navy uniform was replaced with an enormous blue shirt and black pants. Many entries lifted storylines directly from the comic strip, resulting in the inclusion of many characters not seen in the theatrical releases, including the Sea Hag, Toar, Rough House and King Blozo. Like their theatrical counterparts, the made-for-television series was also a big ratings success. Popeye the Sailor aired in syndication in the United States into the 1990s. Notably, the 1960s shorts would mark the final time Mae Questel would voice Olive Oyl.