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Warner Home Video presents

Popeye the Sailor: 1938-40 (1938-40)

"Now in this picture, I do impossikible stunts that can't be did!"- Popeye (Jack Mercer)

Stars: Jack Mercer, Mae Questel
Director: Dave Fleischer

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for cartoon violence, excessive spinach consumption
Run Time: 02h:48m:17s
Release Date: 2008-06-17
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BA-A- A


DVD Review

Warner repeatedly proves to be the foremost of the major studios when it comes to lavish presentations of catalog material, and their work on animation is no different. After beginning their ongoing Looney Toons sets, they began work on Popeye last year, work that continues with a second dose of 'toons covering the years 1938-40, which takes us up to World War II, which will be the focus of the next set, arriving in the fall. It's a good time to be a Popeye fan; these sets have been excellent, and comics publisher Fantagraphics has been publishing Segar's original comic strips in lavish new editions, which are also a must for the fan.

This set sees a slight softening of Popeye's character, with fewer run-ins with Bluto to trouble him. Much of the action revolves around traditional cartoon plots, with chases and slapstick the order of the day. We see that Popeye is just a generally decent guy, even an animal rights supporter, as he refuses to participate in a bullfight in Bulldozin' the Bull. I can't imagine ever seeing Bugs Bunny refusing to do bodily harm to a feisty bull. Instead of shaking hands at the end, as the bull does with Popeye, we'd see the bull pulverized into a meat counter. In Fightin Pals, Popeye's longing to see old pal Bluto leads him to journey to Africa to find his pugilistic "buddy," now a continental explorer. When you have a good sparring partner, you do what you need to in order to make sure they're okay.

We also get the side characters that helped make the series what it was, with Eugene the Jeep, the weird dog creature that can turn invisible, the freaky Goons, and even Popeye's father, the rather irascible Poopdeck Pappy, not to mention occasional appearances by child of unknown parentage Swee'Pea and Wimpy. Popeye and Olive are usually the center of things, and that's for the best, as the two characters work together so well, particularly as voiced by Mercer and Questel, the definitive talents for both characters. By now, most people of a certain age are pretty familiar with these characters, so there's little to be said to convince you; you either know these cartoons and like them, or you don't. The character designs and inspired vocal performances, along with occasional violence, make these classics of the art form that belong in any fan's collection.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The cartoons are presented in their original full frame aspect ratio, and generally speaking they look excellent. There remain the odd defects in the original source material, but these are rather minor and certainly don't detract from the viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original soundtracks have been cleaned up and sound fine, free of distracting pops or other distractions.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 31 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Featurette(s)
13 Feature/Episode commentaries by various animation historians
Packaging: Digipak
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Short documentaries
  2. Pencil test and storyboard materials
  3. Audio-only materials
Extras Review: Like the first volume, this set includes a variety of commentary tracks from animators and animation historians, which provide a nice range of opinions on the shorts and the characters. Also on board are more of the "popumentaries," short pieces covering a specific topic. The first disc features Eugene the Jeep (03m:17s), Poopdeck Pappy (05m:08s), and Mae Questel, the voice of Olive (08m:38s). The second disc Men of Spinach and Steel (06m:20s). The first disc also includes the longer documentary Out of the Inkwell (47m:17s), which provides a history of the Fleischers.

On Disc 2, we get a hodge podge of stuff, including two bonus shorts, Paramount Presents Popular Science (06m:33s), which looks behind the scenes at Fleischer Studios, and a Fleischer Superman cartoon, The Mechanical Monsters (11m:03s). Following those are a tour through Max Fleischer's teen sketch book (03m:06s), a pencil test from Females is Fickle (00m:31s), a storyboard reel from Stealin' Ain't Honest (06m:13s), a vintage audio recording of the theme song (02m:25s), and finally, an audio interview with Jack Mercer (06m:11s). The Mercer interview sounds like he's reading his answers, but it's certainly interesting to get his account of how he got the job and so on.

Extras Grade: A

Final Comments

Warner delivers the goods again, this time serving up two discs of classic Fleischer Popeye 'toons, along with the usual passel of commentaries, short documentaries, and other goodies. A must for the animation collector.

Jeff Wilson 2008-06-23