The success of Toon In With Me has its origins in a certain one-eyed sailor.
It was sixty five years ago this month the Paramount Pictures Popeye theatrical cartoons made their national television debut in 1956.There were adult hosts for children’s fare prior to the release of Popeye’s film library. However it was the overwhelming success of the spinach-eater’s celluloid adventures which kicked the adult hosted format into high gear!
Virtually every city, which acquired the 234 cartoons, used an adult host with a imaginative set. Popeye films were hosted by Captains’, Admirals’ Sailors’, Cowboys’, Cowgirls’ and a wide variety of Uncles! Live audiences were often a part of each program and they had boundless enthusiasm.
Associated Artists Productions (later United Artists) earned plenty of “$pinach” from the success the Fleischer/Famous Studios theatricals had on the small screen. King Features Syndicate, who own the rights to the characters, also profited licensing Popeye and his crew for literally hundreds of products.
While many stations preferred to broadcast color cartoons, the black and white Popeye films aired on television well into the mid 1980s.The original theatrical black & whites were replaced by those ghastly colorized versions in syndication and on The Cartoon Network. However, The Cartoon Network frequently aired the original versions on a show called Late Nite Black and White. The network later produced the critically acclaimed anthology series, The Popeye Show. This thirty minute series aired, for the first time on television, the theatricals with their original openings and closings. They had been long replaced by the Associated Artists Productions logo when initially placed into syndication. Episodes of that series are now sought after by collectors.
Due to audience demand the theatrical cartoons would eventually be released on DVD.
Happy sixty-fifth anniversary Popeye! Your adventures have entertained generations of adults and children on movie screens since 1933, and on TV ever since. You’re “strong to the finich”… and that “finich” is nowhere in sight.
As a tribute: below, a gallery of vintage TV section print advertising from Popeye’s debut years on local TV back in the 1950s.