Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Tits & Sand: Popeye’s Arabian Nights

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When I was a kid1, the Italian national TV, RAI, featured regularly the original 1930s Popeye the Sailor cartoons. For some mysterious reason, the cartoons were not dubbed, and so we kids simply enjoyed the action and the comedy, missing the word-play and jokes. But we got it all the same.
And indeed, when much later the cartoons were finally dubbed, the dubbing job was so lame, we simply decided the originals were better.

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Some of the best originals are now in the public domain, so I put three of the best on a DVD and used them as Christmas-card substitutes for a few kids I know.
bca64gqc8And a friend told me she won’t show Popeye cartoons to her kids, because these cartoons are violent and racist, and also encourage smoking, and her boys would grow up as little fascist pipe-smoking punks should she submit them to such a bad influence.
I was basically treated like one peddling spinach-stuffed neo-Nazi propaganda.
Which sort of made me go “Uh?!” and started a long (and in the end, useless) discussion about historical perspective and the fact that kids, being usually smarter than parents often credit them, usually are quite good at telling make-believe, funny violence from real-world, the-hurting-kind violence.
I don’t know anybody that ever got into a fight because of the nefarious influence of Popeye the Sailor.

But the three cartoons, now…
z_car_11In the second half of the 1930s Max Fleischer’s Studio produced three Popeye Color Specials, based on popular stories from the Arabian Nights, and thus they fall in this blog’s category of Tits & Sand entertainment, despite the dramatic lack of the first ingredient.
The three two-reel movies are Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1936), Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves (1938), and Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp (1939). These were high-profile features, and were sort-of Fleischer’s response to the growing presence and popularity of Walt Disney’s products.
The first two feature the special Fleischer “Steroptical” process of 3D filming (aka Tabletop) and were, when I first caught them on the telly as a kid, quite amazing.
Interestingly enough, Ray Harryhausen quoted the first of the movies as a direct influence on his The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

And here they are, in a single playlist, for your festive entertainment.
And, going back to my earlier reminiscence, getting the dialogue, in these three stories, is really a plus!

I take no responsibility should you or your kids turn into pipe-smoking, spinach-munching, brawl-happy members of the Navy or the Coast Guard.


  1. yes, kid memories again, isn’t it boring? 
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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “Tits & Sand: Popeye’s Arabian Nights

  1. Popeye cartoons were very funny, and iconic. Moreover, Bianconi press in Italy has published tons of Popeye’s stories written by Italian authors, widening the original narrative universe created by Segar.
    However, I think that it may be inappropriate for kids – not because of its contents, they can always be explained to children, and they’ll also start to learn that the values of the past may differ from those which are followed in present times. The reason is that maybe this kind of cartoons could be a bit too old for contemporary kids in terms of narrative language. There are tons of good cartoons that can ignite children’s fantasy, and they are being produced nowadays – this avoids the problem of the gap that children may feel.
    Just to be clear, I don’t think that they are too old to be fun, and that old books can’t be read nowadays – but cartoons are linked to the level of technology used, and it is normal for a child to be attracted to something more familiar, just like -I don’t know- the Mexican movie The book of Life.

    Like

  2. I grew up watching these because they’re public domain. My kids (6 and 8) think they’re *hilarious*. But we also read Arabian Nights and watch Ray Harryhousen films quite a bit, so maybe they’ve had the right kind of exposure…

    Like

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