In the early 2010s, Genndy Tartakovsky was both creative and financial. Long praised for projects like “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Samurai Jack” and the stunning “Star Wars: Clone Wars” shorts of 2003-2005, its bold animation instincts were matched by the series’ formidable box office.” Hotel Transylvania”. Suddenly, he turned to a longtime passion project.
“Popeye” had become comic book royalty via the King Features syndicate, and the sailor’s 1929 debut almost immediately proved ideal for mixed media. Max Fleischer adapted the character in a series of popular Paramount Pictures shortswhich existed in some form of production from 1933 to 1957, when the character sold everything from candy cigarettes to… of course… canned spinach. A 1980 Film directed by Robert Altman notoriously nearly killed the master filmmaker’s career, but in some ways helped create the comic book-to-film medium that remains so popular today. “Popeye” even became a video game pioneer.
Tartakovsky, who quotes Fleischer host Gordon Sheehan as “the very first teacher”, he became determined to return the squinting sailor from Altman-induced movie prison, bringing him renewed relevance via goofy CG animation in the “Transylvania” lore. In 2012 he was attached to direct “Popeye” for Sony Pictures Animationthe studio even going so far as to go out test footage and a hype reel in 2014 to promote the film. Unfortunately, Tartakovsky and the studio ultimately wanted very different things from the people of Sweethaven.
“We did a screening, and it was great. Internally, everyone was super happy with it. I think it was also exactly what King Features wanted. We had a great reaction,” Tartakovsky said. said in a 2015 interviewnoting that it all coincided with the infamous Sony hack. “After the screening, I didn’t hear back from them, which was weird because everyone was so positive. Usually we meet and talk, and take notes. But they had a meeting alone , and that’s it. I just got a call saying how awesome it was, which still makes me suspicious. If they just call you and say it’s awesome, it’s something happens, because they didn’t offer any notes. Later, I personally went to see [Sony Chairperson] Amy Pascal, and said, ‘Look, I’m a big boy. I can take it. I just need information. And she said, ‘Look, Genndy, we love you, but we don’t love Popeye.'”
Eventually, the project was abandoned and all material related to its production remained in Sony’s possession. In 2022, the full animatic for Tartakovsky’s “Popeye” suddenly appeared on YouTube, and was just as quickly taken down. Fast fans, however, got to see (and in some cases archive) footage of a young Popeye (Tom Kenny) chasing his lost father and his place in the world, sent on an ocean adventure with Olive Oyl (Grey Griffin), encountering sea creatures and sky pirates. Maybe one day Genndy Tartakovsky’s “Popeye” can be enjoyed in some form.