Yes, it’s true! It was exactly 10 years ago today I posted the first new article on this new format of Cartoon Research. “Cartoon Research 2.0” was what I called it back then. 3,246 posts later – here we are.
I started the idea for a “Cartoon Research Co.” back around 1996, set up an LLC, got artist Leslie Cabarga to create me a logo and stationary (remember that?). I also grabbed the URL then, even though I had no idea what to do with it. I was still a full time employee at Nickelodeon and later Disney Television Animation. In 1999 I went freelance, and fooled around with the idea starting a Cartoon Research website.
In February 2000, Cartoon Research went live as a combination news feed, data base and overall resource. Here was the website’s main page in May 2000:
In 2004, I combined my online efforts with Amid Amid’s (who was doing a similar Animation Blast website) to create the Cartoon Brew blog. For the next nine years (2004-2013) Amid and I co-wrote CB. During that period, this Cartoon Research website stood still – frozen with its basic information and data bases available, my daily updates posted on Cartoon Brew. It looked like this for 9 years:
For a variety of reasons my partnership with Amid came to an end at the beginning of 2013 – and on February 13th 2013, I returned to reboot and renew Cartoon Research as a group blog (or a “multi-author blog”). And we’ve been doing that ever since – for ten years.
Cartoon Research, for me is dedicated hobby, a “labor of love”. In some ways I can see its become my life’s work. I spend more time with it on a daily basis than I should. No money is made by my running this website (the ads you see at the top or on the right column are “freebies” that I give to projects I’m involved with or friends I want to support). This is simply a website I want to see, one that I want to read, and one that I think needs to be here on the internet.
I’m quite proud of being its “editor/curator”. But every once in a while I give serious thought to slowing down or stopping the page… but I’m not sure if I can stop. It may be a lot of work, but it’s forever “in my blood”.
I want to thank all the contributors to this page, over the years. It’s become a great body of research – with over 3,000 posts of good solid information, new discoveries, and even trivialities worth a look.
I also want to thank our loyal readers: Those who regularly pipe in to add or correct, or those who just enjoy reading it without comment, daily or weekly. We do this for you.
That all said, I might need some help to keep this going. See the the yellow box at the bottom of this post for more details.
I didn’t want this to just be a commemorative post with no “real content” – so we interrupt the 10th Anniversary festivities with a small post I was going to do at some point – another one of those “Things I Promised Not To Tell”, for all you Famous Studio Popeye fans out there.
POPEYE, THE ACE OF SPACE (1953)
Back around 1981, I was working for United Artists, in their home office at 729 7th Avenue. A spaghetti western had opened in July that became a box office sensation – Comin’ At Ya in 3D. It’s success launched a second 3-D Movie fad in the 1980s that spawned such masterpieces as Jaws 3-D, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn and the animated feature Starchaser: The Legend of Orin.
Warner Bros. had quickly rereleased House of Wax in response to the Comin’ At Ya success in 1981. There was talk of United Artists re-releasing MGM’s Kiss Me Kate – the most prestigious 3D film they had rights to in their library. When I suggested adding the Popeye theatrical, Popeye The Ace of Space, as an added attraction… I was laughed at!
The fellow in charge of UA’s shorts subjects at the time (Arthur Reiman) was convinced I had no idea what I was talking about. He insisted there was “no 3D Popeye cartoon” in the library. The next day I showed up at his office with a Xerox copy of the movie poster! (Remember, in those days we didn’t have the internet, Google or IMDB to quickly access such information). Despite this proof, he was convinced that United Artists did not have the film itself in 3D. He immediately called up Bonded Film in Fort Lee (where apparently, at that time, all the Popeye negatives were kept) to call in the negative and have it inspected at a lab.
I watched his smug face turn serious when the person on the other end of the line told him they had TWO negatives of Popeye The Ace of Space. Did he want to inspect neg “R” or neg “L”? I quickly suggested one was the right eye, the other the left.
Both negs were brought into New York, and I was able to visit the lab to look at the successive exposure negatives myself! My biggest thrill was seeing the black & white (Technicolor) frames of the Paramount opening logo – and the words “A Stereotoon” that appeared on the Popeye title card. For me in 1981 it was mind blowing.
All that said and done – the studio decided not to make new prints and made no plans to re-release the cartoon. I suppose the legalities between UA releasing a cartoon with a Paramount logo and the who-knows-what might happen with King Features over promoting a Popeye short… they just let it lay.
A few years later at one of those fabled Meadowlands Film Collector conventions in New Jersey, my friend Sam Sherman (movie distributor and former editor of Screen Thrills Illustrated magazine) was there selling B-Westerns and serial chapters in 16mm… I asked if he had any 16mm cartoons – he only had one for sale, a Popeye. I bought it. It was a Technicolor print of Popeye The Ace of Space – with the original titles.
My friend, 3D expert Eric Kurland, says its a print of the ‘right eye negative’… Can you imagine if we ever found a 16mm print of the left eye? In fact, I never compared the print to the AAP TV prints… Hmmm…
I used this print to “restore” the cartoon run when it aired on Cartoon Networks’ The Popeye Show (Season 1, Episode 13, December 24th, 2001). We grafted my 16mm opening and close to the Turner Broadcasting master they had. Here is a link to that Cartoon Network episode.
For this post, I just made a new HiDef scan of my 16mm print. Looks like the color faded a bit… but we can fix that. Enjoy!
About the film itself – I’ve seen it several times in 3-D, on the big screen, where it was run twice at Jeff Joseph’s World 3-D Expo at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, in 2006. In fact they even ran it with Those Redheads From Seattle – one of the films it was originally paired with (it was later paired with the historical drama Sangaree – see advertisements below).The two Famous Studios cartoons (the other one is Boo Moon (1954) with Casper) are superb examples of animation in 3-D. Seeing them in 3D is a revelation – a completely different experience (especially when screening them in a theater) from the flat versions.
There are those who consider the two Famous cartoons as the best of the 3-D bunch (I do) – The Woody Woodpecker, Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck shorts are really standard story fare (with a few “gimmick” shots to enhance them). Disney’s Melody is also a stand out – especially as its the only one of the bunch that gives dimension to 50s cartoon stylization (with UPA-esque designs).
Both the Casper and the Popeye have scenarios set in outer space – a conscious story decision that shows how these two films were conceived from scratch to be in 3D – as the far away star-field backgrounds loan depth to the visuals from the outset.
Paramount’s animation staff was already familiar with spacial layout and settings, as they had animated for the Fleischer “stereo-optical” films in the 1930s.It’s not so much things heading toward the camera – those things are a little corny – it’s the simple shots that dazzle in 3D viewings. Kneitel understood that. He uses 3-D the right way, as a window box that dazzles with depth. Lots of full fast paced action would be too much for the eye – note that much of the film has the characters standing still, with visuals happening around them or behind them.
Popeye spends much of the time standing in front of the “Cosmic Ager”, “The Electronic Distintegrator” and the “Atom Apple Smasher”; steering the space ship; scat singing in his boat-car… these things are unexciting viewed “flat”. But in 3D, with deep depth behind the foreground character, it visually pops.
I hope you get a chance to see Popeye The Ace of Space in 3D – in a theater – someday. I guarantee you’ll like it a lot better. It’s a real treat.
Meanwhile, here’s a few other images from my Popeye file – enjoy!