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'Popeye' Set Special Feature Highlights Voice Actors

26 Jul, 2007 By: Billy Gil

SAN DIEGO — The special feature “Sailor's Hornpipes: The Voices of Popeye,” included in the four-disc Popeye the Sailor Vol. 1: 1933-1938 set, was previewed at this year's Comic-Con International, just a few days shy of the set's release.

The special feature takes viewers from original Popeye Billy Costello, to the brief tenure of Floyd Buckley (who took over when Costello proved too difficult to work with), to the third and most well known Popeye, Jack Mercer. While working as a story creator and cartoonist at Fleischer Studios, Mercer would imitate Popeye. A woman he worked with suggested he try out for the part.

Those interviewed in the featurette said Mercer contributed a great deal to the stories and feel of Popeye, ad libbing gags into Popeye's infamous mutterings.

Still, more Popeye voices would follow, including Mae Questel (Olive Oil, Betty Boop), who stood in when Mercer served in the military in the 1940s. Maurice LaMarche played Popeye during the 1980s incarnation “Popeye and Son” and Billy West (“Ren and Stimpy”) took over the gravelly voice in a 2004 CGI-animated Popeye film “The Quest for Pappy” (out on DVD from Lionsgate).

“You never do get used to it,” West said in the featurette. “You sound like a chainsaw.”

The 60-episode, four-disc set includes, for the first time on DVD, short subjects from the 1930s and '40s shown in their original black-and-white format. The shorts also are shown without the logo from AAP (the company that bought the rights to the “Popeye” theatrical shorts in the 1956 from Paramount Pictures) that accompanied the end of the cartoons when shown on TV.

“It's like you've never seen them before,” Jerry Beck, a consultant on the DVD set, said of the AAP-free, color-free shorts. “They look like they were made yesterday.”

Warner Home Video releases the set July 31 for $64.98.

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