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Will this eye-popping CG animation test power up Genndy Tartakovsky's "Popeye" ?

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Will this eye-popping CG animation test power up Genndy Tartakovsky's "Popeye" ?

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Everyone knows that Popeye is " ... strong to the finich 'cuz he eats his spinach."

But what was this Sailor Man like before he discovered that those leafy greens gave him amazing strength? And what were Popeye's early days at sea like? And where exactly did he get that anchor-shaped tattoo?

That's what Genndy Tartakovsky aims to find out with that feature-length "Popeye" project that he's currently developing for Sony Pictures Animation.


Genndy Tartakovsky in his office at Sony Pictures Animation

"Popeye holds a special place in my heart," Tartakovsky explained during a recent conversation. "When my family and I first moved to the United Stated from Russia in the 1970s, Max Fleischer's black & white Popeye cartoons were among the very first pieces of animation that I got to see while watching television. And I just loved how physical they were, how wild the humor was in those shorts."

"To be honest, I think that it was those black & white Popeye cartoons that put me on the path to becoming an animator," Genndy continued. "And -- of course -- it didn't hurt that, when I finally went to film school, one of my animation instructors was Gordon Sheehan, this 90 year-old who had actually worked on some of these black & white Popeye shorts when Fleischer Studios was still based in New York City."

So imagine Genndy's reaction when he was approached by Sony Pictures Animation as he was wrapping up "Hotel Transylvania" to come direct a Popeye feature film.


Copyright Sony Pictures Animation. All rights reserved

"Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed working on 'Hotel Transylvania.' And my team and I are having a great time right now working on 'Hotel Transylvania 2,' " Tartakovsky stated. But I can't wait to get my shot at making a movie about Popeye."

So what would a Genndy Tartakovsky version of a Popeye movie be like? He describes this yet-to-officially-be-greenlit project as " ... a film that would have the same sort of crazy physical humor that we put into 'Hotel Transylvania.' Only this movie would have 10 times as many physical gags."

Through the script for this film is still being written, Genndy clearly envisions his version of a full-length Popeye animated adventure as being an origin story. It would feature Popeye having run-ins with his classic nemeses, Bluto and the Sea Hag. Not to mention cameo appearances by that memorable moocher, Wimpy.


Copyright Sony Pictures Animation. All rights reserved

"And while the Fleischer shorts had a lot of great dialogue -- I actually picked up a lot of bad grammar from watching these cartoons as a kid," Tartakovksy laughed. "The movie that I'd really like to make here would have half the dialogue that you typically have in a full-length animated feature. I'd really like the physical humor, the uniquely comical way that these characters move -- the sort of stuff that you can only really do in animation -- carry this picture."

Are you not quite clear on what Genndy is looking to do with his Popeye project? Here. Below is a ... Well, it's not a test for this proposed movie. Nor is it a scene from the finished film. It's more of a window into the world that Tartakovsky wants to take us to. A place where a version of Popeye exists that would appeal to contemporary audiences while still being respectful of this film's original source material. Which is those great black & white shorts that Max Fleischer Studios churned out from 1935 - 1940.

And you wanna know the amazing part (And -- no -- I'm not talking about Eugene the Jeep) ?  It's that -- after you finishing watching this piece of nearly finished animation that Genndy & his team put together -- you're going to think "What a great 3 minute-long clip."

But here's the thing: That Popeye clip is really only 1 minute & 15 seconds long. Tartakovsky crammed so much comedy & action into this short sequence that it seems longer. Which means that a full-length animated feature that took this approach to Popeye would be a real feast for the senses. An everything-INCLUDING-the-kitchen-sink celebration of comic mayhem.

"Don't worry. I'd still like my Popeye feature to have a lot of heart," Genndy said. "There's still his relationship with Olive Oyl and his Dad to explore. But what I'm really looking to do here is take what made those old Max Fleischer shorts great and then create the sort of film that contemporary audiences could enjoy. Show them the version of Popeye that I fell in love with when I was a kid."


Copyright Sony Pictures Animation. All rights reserved

So when does this highly promising motion picture officially begin production? Well, as I stated earlier in this article, Sony has yet to lock a release date. In fact, the last time this studio updated its release schedule, "Popeye" had slipped from being a 2014 release to a 2015 release.

"I'm kind of hoping that the reaction from animation fans will be so loud & so strong that Sony will be eager to put 'Popeye' into production," Genndy continued. "That way, once we finish working on 'Hotel Transylvania 2,' we just move on over and begin working on 'Popeye.' And then have that film out in theaters in a year or two."

Which -- you have to admit -- is a pretty bold move by Hollywood standards. But "Popeye" is clearly a passion project for Tartakovsky.


Copyright Sony Pictures Animation. All rights reserved

So if you like what you see in this Popeye proof-of-concept, why not help make Genndy's dream a reality by sharing this footage with a few Facebook friends? Or -- better yet -- Tweet this story out so that Sony will then realize that there really is an audience out there for a movie whose title character says things like "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam."

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on September 18, 2014

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