Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor

The two-headed giant
Watch out for the two-headed giant!

Three Technicolor Popeye two-reelers (Popeye Color Specials) came out in the thirties, with POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS SINDBAD THE SAILOR (1936) being the one that’s full of monsters and creatures.

Giant snake monster
Giant snake monster!

In this 16 minute story Sindbad the Sailor (Bluto) lives in a castle on an island full of chained creatures, including lions, vultures, reptiles, apes, dragons and even a two-headed giant. He also has a pet roc that he sends to kidnap Olive Oyl and sink Popeye’s boat, which is sailing past the isle. Popeye gets to fight the roc (which he serves up like a big roast chicken), the giant and, with the help of his spinach, he finally has a brawl with Sindbad.

The roc!

The story is mainly told in song, with Sindbad proclaiming himself to be the greatest sailor and a most remarkable, extraordinary fellow. (He even namechecks King Kong!) The characterisations are straightforward and fun, with anarchic, rubbery, Fleischer-style animation that is loose and free, with no effort to mimic reality. This short also showcases some impressive scenes using the Fleischer Studio’s ‘setback process’.
Here’s a little background info on the ‘setback’ rig: it consisted of a forced-perspective, miniature set mounted on a turntable. This served as the background to the cel art that was held in a vertical glass plate. The turntable would be rotated incrementally behind the cels, creating the effect of a ‘tracking shot’, with the 2D animated character, in a side-view walk cycle, traversing a quite realistic-looking 3D environment.

The ‘setback process’ in action
The roc takes off!

Interestingly, Ray Harryhausen credited POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS SINDBAD THE SAILOR as an inspiration for his movie THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958). Ray’s movie featured a dragon and a roc – and a sequence was planned set in a valley of serpents, but this wasn’t shot. In the Popeye cartoon, however, Sindbad sings about going into a Valley of Serpents and we see him make two big, green snakes faint simply by giving them a ‘dirty look’.

Sindbad and two serpents
Sindbad gives the serpents a dirty look
Popeye serves up the roc!
Popeye serves up the roc!

The short has a creepy (at least for modern audiences) running gag featuring Wimpy chasing after a yellow duck with a meat grinder, presumably wanting to grind it up alive to make a hamburger!

Wimpy wants the duck
Watch out, duck!

This Popeye short was deemed culturally significant by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

So many critters!
Lots of creatures!
A dragon!
Just some of the creatures on Sindbad’s island!

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