Saturday, September 20, 2014

Popeye the voyeur

I thought of trying an experiment with some of the early Fleischer animation: to make gifs on slow speed (with no idea of exactly how much it's being slowed down). This one came to mind, not because I particularly like it but because Olive's frenetic dancing might look sort of interesting if her stringbean arms and legs were flying around in slow-mo.

What I like about this, aside from its overwhelming sexiness, is the fact that she seems to dance in one spot while the room moves under her - no mean trick. Watch the saloon patrons in the background, and you'll see that while they're completely static, their expressions are quite amusing. Backgrounds in these cartoons were always imaginitive and done with a lot of care, though I think they were purposely minimal to avoid distracting the audience. I won't get into the 3D rotoscope thing yet - or did I already? Bish-bosh, it's just too many Popeyes, too many gifs (to paraphrase an old Hungarian proverb).

This is one of the few Popeye cartoons where he actually says "Arf, arf, arf," like he did in the original Segar comic strip. Popeye soon evolved past such things, developing his "ack-ack-ack-ack" laugh and the bizarre scat-singing version of "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man" (which I can't reproduce here - I'm working on an imitation of it for the grandkids). He also muttered to himself in perversely funny ways that were generally not scripted, followed by an exclamation of "Woaawwwwwww!"

Olive dances with great elegance in spite of, or because of, the spittoons caught on her enormous feet. I always thought Olive was perfect for Popeye - there is not one thing about her that is appealing or attractive or charming in any way - she's just plug-ugly, though something must have happened somewhere along the line to produce Swee'Pea. My favorite move here is the Windmill, also called the Egg Beater. Slowed down, you can see some of the tricks the animators used, the shadows falling quite realistically on the floor (try finding that today!), the little lines drawn to indicate a blur of speed or the impact of the spittoons on the floor.

Sadomasochism at its finest. Along with her plug-ugliness, Olive is not just plucky but brutal, obviously needing no protection from any man in spite of all her irritating mock-flirtation. Slowed down, the violence is even more horrible, but you also get a better view of those beautifully-drawn shadows, lending the cartoons an air of reality which the audience would not even consciously notice. The other thing is, and I have no idea why they did this, in the first twenty or so Popeyes, everyone constantly bounces up and down. Animation was still relatively new then, and stillness must have seemed like the equivalent of dead air on the radio. Everything must be in motion at all times. Slowed down, however, it does look a little bit like heavy breathing. Popeye the voyeur.

Popeye, with no teeth, a popped-out eye, a grossly-deformed chin and grotesque forearms, not to mention tiny pimple-like elbows and knees, went on to become one of the most beloved cartoon characters in human history, proving personality can overcome any obstacle. Or so they say. I think it was the violence.

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
    It took me years to write, will you take a look

La Bottine Souriante - Le Reel de Pointe-Au-Pic