November 19, 2001 (2001-11-19) – July 20, 2003 (2003-07-20)
The Popeye Show is a cartoonanthology series that premiered on November 11, 2001, on Cartoon Network. Each episode would include three unedited Popeye theatrical shorts from Fleischer Studios and/or Famous Studios. The show was narrated by Bill Murray (not to be confused with the film actor), who would give the audience short facts about the history of the cartoons as filler material between each short. Animation historian Jerry Beck served as a consultant and Barry Mills served as writer and producer. A total of 45 episodes were produced, consisting of a total of 135 shorts.
Prior to the premiere of The Popeye Show, most television airings of theatrical Popeye cartoons bore the logos of Associated Artists Productions, the company that bought the films from Paramount Pictures for television distribution. This is due to the films having been sold in the 1950s, when most movie studios did not want to be associated with television. As a result, A.A.P. was required to replace the original Paramount logos with their own. For The Popeye Show, efforts were made to present these films as close to their original theatrical form as possible: some of the cartoons shown were copies that actually had their original Paramount titles intact, while others needed to have their original titles simulated through the process of digital video editing.
The show focused mostly on the Fleischer Popeye shorts and early Famous Studios shorts that were originally filmed in black-and-white. For all episodes, the first two shorts were from this era. Sometimes the third cartoon would be a color cartoon from Famous Studios, but on many occasions an entire episode would entirely be made of black-and-white cartoons. While selecting the color entries that would air, the only ones that were initially selected were those that were in the Turner vaults with their original titles. The only color cartoons to have their original titles recreated were those shown in the last episode of Season 3, and all episodes of Season 4.
In season 1, an original copy of Popeye, The Ace of Space (1953) with its original titles was shown for the first time on TV. This particular cartoon was originally shown in 3D, and therefore had a unique opening sequence. It also had a unique ending sequence that was not shown on syndication prints because it involved the Paramount logo being formed from the smoke of Popeye's pipe. The black and white short The Hungry Goat (1943) was kept from being shown in earlier seasons because it required extra attention to recreate the ending as close to original as possible. The original ending involved Popeye's nemesis in the short, a goat, laughing at Popeye while watching the end of the very cartoon they were in, and, like The Ace of Space, involved the Paramount logo.
The 1945 short Tops in the Big Top, which did not open with the standard Popeye theme music, but had a rendition with a circus theme, had its original soundtrack restored for the program. Similarly, a version of W'ere On Our Way to Rio (1944) was prepared with the opening soundtrack restored, but the show was cancelled before it could be included in any episodes.
Two episodes from Season 1 were initially skipped, and did not make their TV debut until reruns. The reason was because the two episodes had cartoons that the executives at Cartoon Network would not pass for unedited airings. Episode #10 was originally supposed to have Popeye the Sailor, which was a Betty Boop cartoon in which Popeye makes his theatrical debut. This particular cartoon had a scene at the carnival where Popeye and Bluto play a ball-toss game where the target is an African Americanstereotype. Episode #11 had the short Happy Birthdaze, in which Popeye murders his Navy buddy Shorty in a scene that is usually cut from TV broadcasts. When Episode #10 finally aired, I Eats My Spinach replaced Popeye the Sailor, while Episode #11 aired with no changes made, and Happy Birthdaze was shown uncut.
A later episode featured an unedited version of the World War II themed Spinach Fer Britain (1943), a cartoon in which Popeye battles Nazis. This particular cartoon is rarely shown outside of any scheduled airings of The Popeye Show.