June 4, 2017 posted by Jerry Beck

Popeye Goes Latin – Part 2

What a difference two years can made.

By early 1944, Famous Studios–the former Max Fleischer studios, now under the direct control of Paramount Pictures bean-counters–was getting ready to bid adieu to Miami ad return to New York–where those bean-counters could exercise more control over the product.

The expensive “Superman” cartoons had been allowed to die a natural death, replaced in the program by the “Little Lulu” series. The “Noveltoons” were starting to serve as the vehicle for introducing new characters. And now all the “Popeye” cartoons would be in Technicolor.

On the national level, the Roosevelt Administration was still promoting the Good Neighbor Policy–which was seen as even more important now that we were at war with the Axis.

Since Popeye and Bluto had already visited an un-named Caribbean country where they danced the Conga, it made sense that they might find themselves in a South American country whose melodies were on everybody’s lips–and whose rhythms were on everybody’s hips.

W’ere On Our Way To Rio was the third in the new series of Technicolor one-reelers to be released by Paramount. And, upon seeing it, one could argue that it was the most lushly-animated cartoon to ever have the banner of Famous Studios plastered upon it. (You’d have to go back to the two-reel specials to find more lush animation.

Plotwise, it is almost–but not quite–identical to Kickin’ The Conga Round (1942). However, the differences are telling, and have an impact on the final product.

First off, Popeye and Buto are buddies here – flat-out buddies, not arguing over girls or anything. They’re singing a pleasant little ditty about what they expect to see in Rio – with Popeye even making an hourglass motion with his hands that leaves no doubt in anybody’s mind as to what is on his mind. This ditty–and some comic business with a couple of the local birds–gives this cartoon a friendly spirit to start out with.

Also impressive is a shot of Popeye and Bluto on their bullock, looking over the sight of Rio de Janeiro with a full moon just coming up. There is no sign of the Cristo Redentor statue, but there is Sugar Loaf easily visible.

From there on,the plot becomes predictable. There is an Olive Oyl-ish dancer at a cafe, who brings out some Texaverienne reactions (especially in Bluto). Bluto, hoping to embarrass Popeye, touts him as the “Champeen Samba Dancer of the U.S.A.”

Of course, Popeye does’t know the dance–but once he gets around some spinach, he becomes an expert dancer,imoresses the girl, and beats up on Bluto.

But no, they don’t get hauled off by the Shore Patrol to send time cooling their heels in the brig.

The little details make this cartoon work on a visual level.

First off, this is an adult situation. As we enter the cafe where the action takes place, we see two silhouettes–and then “he” lights “her” cigarette. This harkens back to a days when cigarettes were seen as “cool”, and nobody ever gave a thought to lung cancer or emphysema.

We even get shots of the musicians at the cafe. One is shaking a Chocalho (cho-KAL-yo), a Brazilian analogue to a maraca. The danseuse makes her entrance in a giant Pandeiro (pan-DAY-ro), which is a Brazilian tambourine. (Bluto later uses a regular-sized one to try to trip up a spinach-charged Popeye, to no avail.

The orchestration sounds more lush than would be found on late Fleischer or earlier Famous shorts. (compare this with say Cartoons Aint Human (1943) or even Kickin’ The Conga Round) There seem to be some strings in the orchestra, and an improvement in the sound recording.

The singer is unknown to me at this ime. She seems to be quite conversat with Brazilian Portuguese–and it sounds like it may be her native tongue. It does not sound like either Magie Hines nor Mae Questel (who would take over with the next cartoon released, The Anvil Chorus Girl).

Finally, there’s the song featured. “Samba Lele” was a genuine Brazilian samba, recorded for Victor in the middle-to-late 1930’s by Carlos Gallhardo (gal-YARD-oh). The side was issued–along with four other songs by Gallhardo and an insrumental by Fon-fon and his orchestra, in an “album” of Brazilian music, issued by Victor in 1942 to continue to celebrate their belief in the Good Neighbor Policy.

Not that we were unfamiiar with Brazilian music or Brazilian rhythms. Carmen Miranda had come up here in 1939 to appear in the Broadway revue “Streets of Paris”. Her success there led to a contract with 20th. Century-Fox, where she was used to brig some added spice to various of their musicals, with her Brazilian songs, her spirited dancing, her tutti-frutti hats–and her running battle with the English language.

When Carmen came up here, she brought a large catalogue of Brazilian songs with her Not only did she hve her own hits–she was,after all the superstar of Brazilian entertainment–but others’ hits that she made poplar up here. None were more popular than “Mamae Eu Quero”—the hit of the 1937 Carnival season as writen and performed by Jararaca and his Conjuncto. Cartoon fans will recognize this song from its use in the Tom and Jerry short Baby Puss.

She brought her accompanists with her, in the company of the Bando da Lua,who had their own successful career down in Brazil. And she brought her sister, Aurora Miranda – who wound up working for Walt Disney Productions (The Three Callaleros).

All in all, W’ere On Our Way To Rio leaves the viewer with a good feeling–and what can be bad about that?


  • Great, Warners blocked the video. Why are they interested all of the sudden? This isn’t on the Boomerang app.

    • Often when an entertainment video is blocked by the entity owning that property, it means they are readying it for a commercial release of some kind. I heard some time ago that some Famous Popeyes were to be bonus content on a DVD release? The Rolling Stones do this often. They’ll remove a YouTube clip that they themselves are ready to release commercially.

    • Unfortunately, I can assure you there are no immediate plans to release this cartoon (or any Famous Popeye cartoons) as bonus content or in a collection. When and if that becomes a reality I will let you know here on Cartoon Research.

  • The part were Olive sings “Don’t be an icky — be hip, hip, hip” has a tiny hint of New York accent in it, which makes me think the vocalist along with the orchestra was recoded there, while Jack Mercer and Dave Barry’s vocals were recorded in Miami, just prior to the final move back to NYC, and the changeover to Questel and Jackson Beck as Olive and Bluto’s permanent voices (it’s an interesting coincidence that Barry’s first and last vocal turns as Bluto ended up being “Conga” and “Rio” — his deeper baritone on the opening number here really helps get the cartoon off to a strong start in a way I don’t think Beck would have — he could sing, but odds are his voice would have sounded more gravely than what Barry supplied).

    • You may be onto something there,J.Lee.

      Surely some–or maybe all–of the voice tracks for the “Superman” cartoons may well have been recorded in the Apple rather than in Miami.
      I doubt that either Clayton “Bud” Collyer or Joan Alexander would have relished commuting down to Miami to do cartoon tracks–especially as they were doing “Superman” three-a-week out of a NYC radio studio.
      What’s more, as Bugs Bunny reminds us, during the War, civilians were not supposed to do any “un-necessary traveling”.
      So, it’s likely that they stayed in NYC, and did their contributions to the soundtracks there.
      This may go for other voices in the “Superman” shorts–Perry White, et al.

  • This is indeed a great cartoon for its music and its extra care on the animation. I wish I could listen to it again, but yes, the video has been blocked. So release it to us, fully restored already!! By the way, I’d love to hear the original version of “Mamae Eu Quero”, as I only know the wackier version from both the TOM AND JERRY cartoon, “BABY PUSS” and the other version heard in the later Tex Avery cartoon, “MAGICAL MAESTRO”. Conga line music was used in different ways in cartoons. Remember, Elmer’s smoke-puffing vehicle was heard to have rhythm as he heads up to the camp grounds in “WABBIT TWOUBWE”, and I wonder what that tune is that appears as we actually meet the “LUCKY DUCKY” title character of that Tex Avery cartoon, with the muted George and Junior.

    • Speaking of Avery, it’s also interesting here that under Izzy Sparber, Jim Tyer normally gave himself the biggest action scenes to animate in his Popeye efforts as head animator, which usually meant the end fight scene, where he could employ his widest takes and most off-model animation to best effect. Not here though — in “Rio” Tyer opts to give himself most of the initial animation of Popeye and Bluto in their sexual frenzy after Olive begins her song.

    • The song Mamae Eu Quero was preformed during the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics held in Rio and is usually preformed during Carnival in Rio.

    • The original version of “Mama Eu Quero” by Jararaca and his conjuncto can be heard on YT, from several channels. Best transfer is from “1000amigovelho”, which will also give you discography if you want it.

      Carmen Miranda sings it in “Down Argentine Way”, in glorious Technicolor. And that number really got AROUND!
      Somebody’s put up a clip-fest on YT with clips of the song as rendered–to render meaning to tear apart!–by Carmen Miranda, Harpo and Chico Marx, Cass Daley, Jerry Lewis, Lucille Ball, and Tom and Jerry.

  • Great post, James.

    Nuts, I was hoping to see a GOOD print of Rio, once and for all. If Warners is so interested, how about unleashing restored early-mid 40s Popeye color shorts to home video? Rio and Marry-Go-Round are must-haves. Not to mention Tyer animation in several other titles.

    In other news, turquoise jewelry works surprisingly well on Popeye.

    • I have posted an additional embed with a standard Cartoon Network print of W’ere On The Way To Rio above. And I will keep updating this post with fresh embeds every time the video is removed.

  • What I’m wondering is who did the singing voice for Olive in We’re On Our Way To Rio? Sounds like a popular Brazilian singer at the time who was singing in Brazilian Portuguese. If I also remember this was after Margie Hines left Famous Studios after voicing Olive Oyl in The Marry-Go-Round and before Mae Questel returned to do Olive Oyl’s voice in The Anvil Chorus Girl. Also they were planning to have a restored version to be aired on Cartoon Network’s The Popeye Show before it was cancelled in July 20, 2003.

  • Easily my fave (non-Fleishcher) Popeye! It is an all-out musical—with TWO musical #s!! It never bothered me, once, about B & O having different voices. You’ve explained the samba song…but what about the title tune!? Just wayyyyyy TOO wonderful a film!

  • I always felt that “Rio” was a nod to the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope “Road films.” It sort of follows the formula of two buddies traveling together and then having a rivalry of the exotic woman (Dorothy Lamour/Olive).

    • I’ve also felt that it seemed to be a riff on the “Road” films, though it would be two or three years later when Bing and Bob went on their own “Road to Rio.”

    • also from paramount, before this cartoon was made, we had bing and bob at the beginning of Road To Morocco, singing the theme on a camel…

  • “It has been removed or blocked from being seen by several internet browsers – but if you are one of the lucky ones who can see this you are in for a treat!”

    Huh? How does THAT work? Isn’t a video blocked on ALL browsers when the copyright owner blocks it?

    • I have no idea how You Tube works – I only know I can see Steve’s embed on my computer…

    • The title of the video and preview image show up fine for me, but when I try to play the video it says “This video contains content from Warner Bros. Entertainment, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.”

    • I assume it shows for Jerry because it was uploaded from his account.

    • Yeah, I believe DGM is right here, Jerry. Most likely the video shows on your computer simply because you’re the uploader and you’re logged into your YouTube account. I doubt anybody else in the world can see it.

  • By the way, no one gets hauled off by the Shore Patrol in this one. That was “Kickin’ the Conga Round”.

    • Apparently Popeye learned his lesson from last time and got himself a better conclusion for once!

  • I’ve always felt that Popeye looked strangely rotoscoped in the post-spinach dance shot just as his giant maracas turn back into hands and he continues dancing.

  • Carmem Miranda’s struggle with english language was part of her character. She actually had no accent at all, as long as I know.

  • [i]”This harkens back to a days when cigarettes were seen as “cool”, and nobody ever gave a thought to lung cancer or emphysema.”[/i]

    Of course, there are gags in various cartoons involving characters coughing/choking on cigarette/cigar smoke (including one in Warners’ “Catch as Cats Can” where the Crosby parrot puffs cigar smoke in a coughing Sylvester’s face, while – with ulterior motives – lecturing him on his health… the irony seems to have been intentional) and many warnings against *children* smoking cigarettes (until they were “old enough”, I guess) e.g. “Wholly Smoke” and the “Pleasure Island” sequence in “Pinocchio.”

    [i]The part were Olive sings “Don’t be an icky — be hip, hip, hip” [/i]

    Does anyone have the full lyrics to the English-language version of Olive’s samba lyrics? Incidentally, it took me ages to make out one of the lines in the opening song, before I eventually realised it was “each neighbor should try to be good…” – a more direct reference to the Good Neighbor Policy than even in Disney’s South-of-the-Border films.

    This cartoon was profiled on Cartoon Research a while ago, I think when it had been recently restored. We had a brief discussion about who animated which scenes, something I’m interested in for any and all of Tyer’s cartoons at Famous. Based on posts by Bob Jaques on his blog (and his comments when this was posted before), and my own comparisons with other scenes, the breakdown seems to be:

    Jim Tyer – Olive flirting with Popeye during her first song/dance, final shot of Olive and Popeye with switched clothes – also Olive smashing her knee-cymbals together?
    Ben Solomon – opening sequence: the song and ride to Rio, most of Olive’s solo dancing shots, the first shot of Olive’s second song/dance (dancing up to Popeye), Popeye protesting to Olive and doing his awkward tap-dance, second half of Popeye’s successful samba dance
    William Henning – Popeye and Bluto’s reactions to Olive’s first song/dance (including Bluto’s seal impression), first half of Popeye’s successful samba dance
    4th animator ??? – most of Olive’s second song/dance, including Popeye and Bluto’s reactions, and Bluto dragging Popeye up to meet Olive at the end

    Not sure who animated the uncanny-valley band, and I’m not certain on a lot of Olive’s scenes because of her simpler character design (compared to her two she-sick suitors).

  • The “Broadway Samba” lyrics to “Samba Lele” also appear in a 1941 Paramount musical short, COPACABANA REVUE, which would pre-date this cartoon. This short used to run on the old public TV series “Matinee At The Bijou” back in the 1980’s. Not sure though if it originated in that short or perhaps an earlier feature film. Paramount made lots of musicals and musical comedies back then

  • As a Brazilian myself, I always find interesting to learn how the world saw my country in the past. Americans usually associate Brazil to conga, atlhough to this day Brazilians have absolutely no clue of what the hell is conga. I believe this happened because the word “conga” sounds somewhat similar to “samba”, and americans are way more familiar to conga than to samba.

    Olive is actually singing a samba and it seems to have been written by a Brazilian, being a mix of the folk song Samba Lelê and an actual samba. Althought the Samba Lelê lyrics talk about samba, the melody itself is possibly from spanish origin and originally does not resemble samba at all.
    Olive sounds fluent on portuguese, but her accent sounds more like Portugal portuguese than Brazil portuguese. Somewhat like Carmen Miranda, that wasn’t actually Brazilian but Portuguese. Although raised on Brazil, she had some of the portuguese accent of her parents.

  • This is one of my favorite Popeye cartoons, as are Walt Disney’s Latin-inspired musicals. The music is just great. I never knew about “Samba Lele” but it stayed in my head for a lifetime. Now I have to have the whole Galhardo album. Thanks, James and Jerry!

  • Carlos Galhardo’s Samba Lele lyrics

    Entrei na roda do samba, samba, samba, samba lelê
    Eu sou moleque bamba e agora que eu quero ver, oi
    Entrei na roda do samba, samba, samba, samba lelê
    Eu sou moleque bamba e agora que eu quero ver

    Samba lelê tá doente-te, tá de cabeça quebrada-da
    Samba lelê tá doente-te, tá de cabeça quebrada-da

    Eu já sou de fato bamba
    Não preciso de muamba
    Sou o rei, sou coroado
    No batuque sou formado

    Entrei na roda do samba, samba, samba, samba lelê
    Eu sou moleque bamba e agora que eu quero ver, oi
    Entrei na roda do samba, samba, samba, samba lelê
    Eu sou moleque bamba e agora que eu quero ver, oi

    Samba lelê tá doente-te, tá de cabeça quebrada-da
    Samba lelê tá doente-te, tá de cabeça quebrada-da

    Eu já sou de fato bamba
    Não preciso de muamba
    Sou o rei, sou coroado
    No batuque sou formado

    Free translation
    I stepped on the samba circle, samba, samba, samba lelê
    I am the guy and now I want to see
    I stepped on the samba circle, samba, samba, samba lelê
    I am the guy and now I want to see

    Samba lelê has been hurt, his skull cracked
    Samba lelê has been hurt, his skull cracked

    I am already a bigwig
    I don’t need any tricks
    I’m the king, crowned and all
    Graduated on the drumming

    I stepped on the samba circle, samba, samba, samba lelê
    I am the guy and now I want to see
    I stepped on the samba circle, samba, samba, samba lelê
    I am the guy and now I want to see

    Samba lelê has been hurt, his skull cracked
    Samba lelê has been hurt, his skull cracked

    I am already a bigwig
    I don’t need any tricks
    I’m the king, crowned and all
    Graduated on the drumming
    “Roda do samba”, that I translated as “samba circle” is, well, a circle formed by people playing and dancing samba. To this day the most traditional way of playing samba, and it has been inspired by both african and european tradition, mainly from Portugal and Spain. Actually, just like in USA where we had jazz as “western” music influenced by African sensibilites, the more modern and popular samba, that went on to become Brazilian most popular music until some decades ago, was Brazil’s analogue to jazz, being something like african music molded to european (and even american, as most samba musicians like Noel Rosa, Donga and Cartola were greatly influenced by jazz) culture.
    “Bamba”, that I translated as both “the guy” and “bigwig”, means an expert in something, usually associated to samba, but not only exclusive to it.
    “Agora eu quero ver”, that I translated as “Now I want to see” (literal translation) is used like a challenge, meaning something like “now I want to see who’s good”, inviting others to the samba circle.
    “Muamba” I translated as “tricks”, as this is how the word is used on the song. But that’s not the actual meaning of the word muamba, that means contraband. It was a poetic license by whoever wrote the lyrics.
    “Batuque” I translated as drumming, again a literal translation, although “batuque” on this song means samba in general.

    Another folk music inspired by the same Spanish melody that originated Samba Lelê is the mexican El Palo Verde, that can also be heard on Aaron’s Copland El Salón Mexico and is way closer to the original folkversion of Samba Lelê, before it was turned in an actual samba.

    • Oh, and if you, as a historian, ever use any info provided by me, please, give me credit. Although I’m not a historian, I love talking about the real culture of my country, beyond stereotypes, and I will be happy to explain every Brazilian reference in all those old and amazing cartoons. I would love to collaborate and “desmystify” Brazil for the world.

      My real name is Pedro Penaforte and although I’m young (28), I was raised by people that embodies the old Brazil that old cartoons (and comics) liked so much but sometimes didn’t understand. Sadly, this Brazil is mostly dead and buried, although samba still struggles.

  • I love this cartoon. I wish I knew what I could do to get the rest of these theatrical Popeye cartoons restored and released. (As if anything I could do would help!) I know that these are not the ground-breaking innovative cartoons the earlier ones were, but they are still special. And certainly, as “We’re On Our Way to Rio” proves, there are some real gems in the bunch.

    Anyway, I keep thinking someday the voice of the Brazilian Olive Oyl in this cartoon will be discovered.

    And to Jerry and everyone else who does the research on these things, thank you so much for your work and keeping such an amazing part of our history alive!

  • By 1946 Famous was using RCA sound recording, while at Fleischer’s, it was Western Electric, so there is your difference in sound quality experience explained.

  • I see that I’m two years too late to the party but a Google search revealed this cartoon is available on the Daily Motion.
    The samba beat-down given to Bluto was on my mind as was the old black and white Popeye with the live action kid being picked on by the bully. When he sends him flying, it always cracks me up!

  • Many thanks to all of you for the info. My grandfather was DAVE BARRY and did the voice of Bluto in this and a number of other Popeye features. Fascinating to read this history!
    I have compiled a collection of SOME my grandfather’s voice and other work. Enjoy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *