It's no secret among Popeye fans that the King Features Syndicate made-for-t.v. cartoons of the 1960's are far inferior to the theatrical Popeye shorts made by the Fleischers and, later, Famous Studios. Television budgets simply could not justify the cost of hiring artists and production personnel that would be able to compete with the more polished earlier efforts. So, for better or worse, an entire generation of kids was raised on this version of the spinach-loving sailor. And the series was both very successful and quite prolific. So surely there must be SOMETHING good about them. . .right?
Well, for longtime fans of the original Popeye comic strip, the KFS cartoons DO accomplish something that no other version did: incorporate original comic-strip characters like the Sea Hag and King Blozo. And although a handful of Fleischer cartoons did feature the magical Eugene the Jeep and the Goons, these characters are more prominent in these later films. And in a way, the exaggerated personalities are a better fit for the stories, which are clearly aimed at children. The animation, as stated above, was made for television. . .and it simply isn't very good. A repeated example that I noticed is how characters's eyes would have pupils in close-up shots, but from a further distance, the eyes were simply black dots. Maybe that's a budget thing, maybe it's just lazy animators. Or more likely, animators who didn't have time to crank out more detailed work on a t.v. schedule.
As a Popeye fan, I do have to say I'm grateful to Warner Bros. for making these cartoons available. As this is a made-on-demand DVR product, the shorts don't appear to be remastered. However, almost all of them look perfectly fine. And considering how limited the artwork and animation were to begin with, I doubt they could look too much better. Unfortunately typical of these type of releases is the absence of any bonus features. All you get is the choice to "Play All" or select individual cartoons. Popeye enthusiasts may want to note that a good number of these shorts were previously available on Koch Visions'Popeye (75th Anniversary Collector's Edition). I admit I have not done a side-by-side comparison for quality, but the duplicated cartoons don't seem to be any better or worse in the new release.
I do hope that after WB finishes off the 60's Popeye (this is just Vol. 1, after all), they will be able to get good copies of the 1940's and 50's Famous Studios cartoons, mainly of which have languished in washed-out public domain hell for many years. But the bottom line for this collection is: If you're a Popeye fan, you'll want to have it and MAY be able to overlook the shortcomings of the material. If you're a parent and want to introduce your kids to Popeye, this is certainly the safest bet (very little violence, no smoking, etc.).