Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Eat the "HO-REN-SO"

Wow. My off-handed heads-up to Jerry Beck about Sammy's extremely keen Popeye pachinko machine ended up on the Cartoon Brew blog to be read by lord knows how many people. I'm rather buzzed by this machine, not because of any great love for pachinko, but because of the new Popeye anime used for the display. Some Japanese studio has done a very nice job with the characters, closely following King Features' Fleischer-based merchandising design guides. For one reason or another, E. C. Segar's characters have been hanging in limbo for a number of years now. The battle between King and Warner Brothers over the classic Max Fleischer cartoons (King owns the characters, WB owns the cartoons) has so far prevented them from being released to DVD. King has tried to fill in the gap by releasing a DVD set of their wholly-owned 1960s Popeye TV cartoons (which I enjoy) and then produced a not bad CGI mini-feature last year, Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy. But none of this has really counted for much. The pachinko anime suggests another potential path for KFS. A Popeye series produced in Japan, based on, or at least inspired by, Segar's original stories would probably be a Saturday Morning winner, appealing to both the anime crowd and those with more cartoon-y tastes (like me). And as I mentioned to Jerry Beck, the rubbery Fleischer style lies at the root of manga and anime thanks to Popeye fan Osamu Tezuka, the godfather of both medium in Japan. Given Japan's love of classic American animation, I have to imagine that a Japanese-produced Popeye series would be truer to the spirit of the Fleischer cartoons than most American attempts (anyone remember Popeye and Son?? Good lord! (choke)).

A limply-disguised Popeye cameo appearance in Osamu Tezuka's Lost World
(1948). Is the bee a reference to Popeye artist Bill Zaboly's signature? Who knows?


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