Comic Con 2012 Exclusive: Genndy Tartakovsky Promises Slapstick Popeye

'I always wanted to make a movie that relies on physical humor,' says the director. Plus: his early thoughts on casting.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


We got out first look at Genddy Tartakovsky’s animated feature Hotel Transylvania at Sony Pictures Animation last month. Sony brought the film to San Diego Comic-Con as well so we got another chance to interview Tartakovsky. We’ll have the complete Hotel Transylvania interview as the film’s release approaches, but we were able to get some news about his recently announced Popeye animated film.

“I want to do it as a physical animated project that really emphasizes the physicality of animation,” Tartakovsky said. “I always wanted to make a movie that relies on physical humor rather than dialogue humor.”

If you grew up watching “Popeye The Sailor Man” cartoons, you’ll remember the kind of slapstick to which Tartakovsky is referring. My favorite was when Popeye was taking a picture of Olive Oil and kept asking her to back up… until she walked off a cliff. (If only she hadn’t looked down, she never would have known she was standing on air.”

“It’s more the comedy coming from not a line of dialogue, but somebody falling,” Tartakovsky continued. “Or if you can imagine Olive Oil sleepwalking on top of roofs and Popeye’s trying to catch her, and all of the funny jokes that come out of that.”

At this point Tartakovsky was not sure whether he could keep Popeye in the period in which he was created (Max Fleischer invented him in the 1930s), but it sounds like he is leaning towards modernizing him. “That’s going to be the most challenging part about it is how to contemporize it. You don’t want to put Popeye in a baseball hat and sunglasses and gym shoes, but at the same time he can’t be a pipe smoking sailor. That would be the challenge of how to make it today but still be authentic and respectful to the past.”

Plenty of comedians can do Popeye’s voice. Robin Williams even played him in the live-action movie, and he’s still around for voice work. Tartakovsky does not know yet if he’ll go with a name or just someone who does a really good Popeye.

“That I don’t know yet. Ideally it’ll just be whoever’s got the best voice.”

Popeye is part of a two picture deal between Tartakovsky and Sony Pictures Animation, so this comes with another Tartakovsky creation on top of Popeye! “I signed a two picture thing with them where it’ll be one of my originals and Popeye, and we’ll see whichever one goes first.”

Tartakovsky also acknowledges the influence of original Popeye animation during his formative years. “t’s something that I definitely loved it when I was growing up. It’s definitely a foundation in my style of animation.”

First up, Hotel Transylvania opens September 28.