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Cartoon Hell #15 – “Me Musical Nephews”

February 22, 2009

Cartoon Hell is TheKarpuk’s attempt to review every single installment in an awful $5 collection called “150 Classic Cartoons” purchased at his local Wal-Mart. Your prayers are welcome.

I'm I nuts or does Popeye have the grammar of a leprechaun?

Am I nuts or does Popeye have the grammar of a leprechaun?

Cartoons often take plagiarism to a high art. If one company succeeds with a cartoon mouse, everyone else will make mascots that resemble him as closely as the law allows.

I mention this because in later years Popeye took care of a cluster of Nephews all resembling miniature versions of himself. Named Peepeye, Poopeye, Pipeye, and Pupeye, these are children destined to learn Popeye’s fighting methods simply to deal with the school yard taunts. Pipeye and Pupeye are borderline, but Jesus Christ, Poopeye? That sounds like a mystery ailment diagnosed on, “House,”, not the name of a human being.

Since anyone reading this is probably at least somewhat acclimated with cartoon history, I won’t belabor the fact that this scenario involves a sailor with nephews who physically resemble him. I respect your intelligence too much.

They look more like dwarves than children.

They look more like dwarves than children.

In “Me Musical Nephews” Popeye is attempting to drift off to sleep while his nephews practice what  looks like an impromptu ragtime band performance. Whenever Popeye succeeds in drifting off to sleep, they break out into some improvised jazz, because if there’s one thing Popeye can’t stand it’s a jazz man.

This is why midgets work in hunting packs.

This is why midgets work in hunting packs.

Popeye gives a half-hearted compliment to the boys, and tells them to go to bed. They immediately subdue him by grabbing each one of his limbs and demand a story. I would not visit nephews who had a trained plan of attack for disabling me.

This is some obsessive compulsive child-rearing.

This is some obsessive compulsive child-rearing.

The condition Popeye gives for telling a story is their preparation for bed. This involves hooks they jump through and come out of fully dressed in night gear, followed by a trip to four matching sinks each with a name above it. Popeye’s sibling must also be military, the process has a creepy Spartan efficiency to it. Their father also apparently had his tubes tied, since having another child would complicate the whole personalized sink affair. No child wants to get a beaten for accidentally using the Poopeye sink.

Would a "Taxi Driver" reference be anachronistic here?

Would a "Taxi Driver" reference be anachronistic here?

It can’t be a normal household, for god sakes, these kids have anchor tattoos on their little arms, and they don’t even have all their permanent teeth in.

After they return, Popeye’s half-ass story consists of the following: “There was big red hooding ride who sat on a muffet and said, ‘Oh grandma, what big feet you have.’ So he chopped off his head with a giant beanstalk and they lived happily ever after.”

The nephews complain, and he sweeps them up in his ham shaped forearms and carts them off to bed. One day that resentment will overflow, and Popeye will most likely be pummeled to death by eight swollen fists.

This will end badly.

This will end badly.

After a passive-aggressive prayer, the quadlings are put to bed, and Popeye goes through his own bedtime ritual. I find it fascinating how wholesome their bed time preparations are, with a complete wash and a separate set of clothing, a callback to a more innocent era. Of course, the fact that Popeye smokes while sleeping reminds me of other strange values of the time.

The quads are not sleeping, they simply sit in their bed looking bored. After a moment, they realize they can synchronize their noises into a steady rhythm, and all hell breaks loose.

The following sequence reminds me that the group Stomp was in no way a new idea when it started getting attention. People like making rhythm out of junk, as our good friend Fat Albert would whole heartedly attest to.

They begin with one sibling running his feet along the headboard, another flipping pages in a book, one beating on a mattress, and the last flicking a loose spring. This progresses very rapidly through everything in the room, so I’ve opted just to list them.

The following is played:

Their mouths.
A toy boat, in the style of a clarinet.
A series of what look like liquor bottles. I don’t know what juveniles would keep in such bottles.
A pair of pants with suspenders, in the style of a bass.
A piece of pipe ripped off the foot of a bed, in the style of a saxophone.
Bed springs, like a steel guitar.
Spoons on a trash can, in a drumming-type manner.
A tiny piano, making the player a tiny pianist. If you don’t get it, ask your uncle to tell you the dirty joke.
A fishing rod and a toy ship, in the style of a violin. This one stretches my  suspension of disbelief.

This picture is actually upsetting to me. No really, I'm uncomfortable looking at it.

This picture is actually upsetting to me. No really, I'm uncomfortable looking at it.

The playing of an old fashioned pesticide sprayer as a trombone may have been innocent to audiences of the time, but to me it looks like a little kid huffing fumes. We truly live in a depraved age.

A coffee pot and a balloon, it’s weirder than it sounds actually.
Drumming on firewood.
Drumming on a fireplace.
Drumming on a skull.
Drumming on a wall.
Drumming on a picture of a bell.
Drumming on a radiator.
Using the radiator as a whistle.
Snapping a drape.
Slamming a window.

Tonight the part of Louis Armstrong will be played by four surly white children.

Tonight the part of Louis Armstrong will be played by four surly white children.

Then they start hopping from instrument to instrument in some sort of jazzy chinese fire drill. If I caught four kids doing this after bedtime, I’d be too busy being impressed to punish them. These little guys aren’t nuisances, their musical prodigies.

Popeye keeps his powder dry for just such a situation.

Popeye keeps his powder dry for just such a situation.

When the noise finally alerts Popeye, he whips out a terrifying black-powder rifle he had to have bought off a Civil War veteran. I stand corrected in my belief that Popeye always responds to problems by punching them. Sometimes he responds by threatening to shoot them.

Popeye stomps on glass just to remember what it's like to feel, man!

If I caught the fish in the background there, I'd consider it an dark omen.

Popeye responds to the ruckus by assuming his radio was left on. True to form, he smashes the hell out of it, breaking all the components inside when it doesn’t cease in its jazzy ways. Popeye stomps on glass bulbs with his bare feet, the man is clearly unhinged.

And of course a moment before he opens to door to the quads room they all hide their instruments and pretend to sleep. This launches the classic cartoon scenario where one side tries in vain to catch the other misbehaving. Since they display all the signs of being little Mozarts, the quads are clearly up to the task of outsmarting a sailor with an anger management problem.

Since he’s an uncle, and not really their legal guardian, he eventually gives up on trying to catch the little bastards and starts the age-old technique of blocking them out.

Popeye can actually tear reality apart. Good to know.

Popeye can actually tear reality apart. Good to know.

Popeye does have an inspired solution though. Being super strong, he can actually grab the edges of the screen and drag a circle wipe to end the cartoon. He then puts his bed within the darkness so as to get some sleep. In essence, Popeye is strong enough to create pocket universes. That audacious bastard!

The cartoon should have ended there, but I guess it didn’t have enough oomph, so the quads appear, and send him bouncing into the movie theater.

He won damn it, why can’t Famous Studios give him his victory? Bastards.

UNPC Moment:

It’s weird, but this cartoon was pretty wholesome. The closest we get to inappropriate is a shot of a gun and Popeye’s smoking.

Rating: Genuinely Good

Yeah, that’s right, I’m approving of this film. The music is damn catchy and the animation is surprisingly inventive. Famous Studios, and later Paramount, pumped out an amazing amount of cartoons, most of them Popeye. Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.

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One comment

  1. This was one of my favorites of Famous’ early crop of B&W Popeye cartoons after the Fleischers’ deal with Paramount went kaput and all the Miami guys had to go back up to NY again. Many of these cartoons during that period in 1942-44 have some very quick-paced gags and timing that since dropped drastically by the 1950’s. This cartoon is the best example of what the studio was capable of at the time, let alone one of the few instances that Popeye never ate his spinach too, which I often like more than the usual love-triangle plots that the Popeye series is known for.



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