Saturday, March 02, 2013

J. Wellington Wimpy's Solaris

Even though it doesn't feature any of Fleischer's patented 3D backgrounds, Shiver me Timbers! is another one of my favourites.  Probably something to do with tackling a trusted genre like the mythic ghost ship.  For some reason, ghost cars don't work as well.


No Popeye opening theme this time, just straight into the plot.  We start with shots of the ghost ship on which the entire plot depends: first, a long shot, and then a ... middle shot?  A middle shot of the ship, with a spooky bat shadow crawling across it.  Another Fleischer touch.  And then... we pan left to see Popeye, Olive and Wimpy, apparently on vacation.  What's nice about these is that they can just place Popeye and Olive anywhere without a lengthy explanation.  Wimpy's the first to spot the ghost ship, and he's not too thrilled about it.  Olive gets scared next, but Fearless Popeye marches right up to it, eager for his next big adventure.  He just better pray there's no ghost captain of the ghost ship!  Can't touch that!
Next scene: the hull of the ship, whose attempts to scare off potential boarders proves too alluring after all.  The sign morphs from saying "Ghost ship - Beware!" to "KEEP OFF!", then back again.  Some of the boards of the ship tap out xylophone notes, and a rope ladder lowers so everyone can climb aboard.
Olive votes for getting out of there, but Popeye wants to "investigate."  I mean, it's not like they have anything better to do, right?  Who wants to see a cartoon about a picnic?  Unless it's a ghost picnic, no one.
They climb the ladder: first Popeye, then Olive, then Wimpy... easy!  This is a classy cartoon.  Besides, there's an even better reason for Wimpy to go last.  As Wimpy brings up the rear, the ladder starts vanishing on him.  Wimpy runs afoul of the ship's giant eye, tries to climb back down, and notices the ladder's gone away on him, so upward he goes.  He ends up clinging to the side of the ship, as the ladder completely vanishes on him before he can get on to the ship, so Popeye and Olive have to pull his fat ass aboard.  "It's rocking!" Olive and Wimpy say in unison... I think.  And so, it's not just an awesome, labor-intensive perspective change.  The ship comes to life and sets sail out to sea in its ravaged, completely unseaworthy condition.  The music gets terribly somber as the ship heads out to sea, and there's a part with a French horn that John Williams surely loves.  Also, notice the ghost-shaped cloud!


Close enough.  Popeye begins his investigation.  The ship's floorboards mess with his mind, playing xylophone notes that used to run rampant through '30s cartoon soundtracks.  Popeye slows his pace, then gets in touch with his inner Nancy Boy.  Worth it just for that.  Then, like Sideshow Bob and the rakes, Popeye gets hit by an extra-long floorboard when he steps down on it, and he totally loses his cool.  Not only that, he lost his hat!
Cut to Olive and Wimpy.  Olive's tired of her separate investigation already, and wants to find Popeye.  Wimpy tries the nearest door.  Two ghosts greet him at the door.  The one on the right looks like your traditional Devil-esque demon, and the one on the left looks like Moe the Bartender!  Damn.  There's a joke there someplace... you know, something like, one's a hideous demon, the other's not Moe the Bartender.  Anyway, Wimpy very definitively says "There is nothing in there."  On to door #2, where Wimpy eyeballs a big pile of hamburgers.  Wimpy very definitively says "The search is temporarily discontinued."  Unfortunately for Wimpy, he's in for a shock, as they're ghost hamburgers.  Wimpy tries to bite the first one, but it vanishes from his hand, much more slickly than the ladder.  Wimpy clamps his teeth together trying to get the second one, but it vanishes as well.  Wimpy manages to swallow the third one, but the damn thing floats right out of his mouth!  I don't know how easily Wimpy's heart gets broken, but this run in with ghost hamburgers surely did it.
Cut to Olive, who's clearly given up on Wimpy and has decided to strike off on her own.  Not a good idea, as the ghost ship has a rather devious plan for her.  She gets knocked down into the belly of the ship by a giant hook, and she lands into a barrel full of flour.  She still looks like Olive, just completely white.  She tries to grab onto a shelf, but the shelf's got buckets of water on them, so now she's got a mixture of flour and water on her, and she now looks either like a walking loaf of bread, or a big sticky ghost.  And she can't talk, of course, because her mouth is stuck shut from the flour and water paste.
Back to Wimpy, who steps out of the hamburger room.  Ghost hamburgers are flying away around him like flies on a cow.  Lol.  Popeye bumps into Wimpy and almost pounds the crap out of him, until he sees it's Wimpy, so he just shrugs him off with a "Get lost!" hand gesture.  Oh, snap!  Well, might as well be honest about it.  Nobody likes Wimpy that much.  Wimpy sees flour-covered Olive climbing up to the top level of the ship and screams "Look!  A ghost!"  Olive tries to say she's not a ghost by running at them, waving her arms and howling.  It doesn't work.  Popeye grabs a ghost-beating stick, hands one to Wimpy, and takes off after Olive.  I love the animation at 3:50 to 3:51.  I'm not ashamed to say it.  Popeye chases Olive around the ... the ship's main office.  Damn.  Okay, so I don't know my nautical terms.  Olive gets her voice back and says to Popeye "It's me!  It's me!"  She's not a me!  Elaine's a me.  Olive ends up next to Wimpy, who decides to finally use the ghost-beating stick Popeye gave him.  Popeye and Wimpy get into a Stooge kind of shtick as they end up beating each other over the head instead of Olive.  Popeye ends up grabbing Olive by the neck and thrashing her around, far worse than Bluto ever did, I think.  That part's no good, but she's just a cartoon character.  And look!  It got the flour off!  Popeye stops thrashing Olive around, and holds her up by her neck.  Popeye says to Wimpy, "I told you there ain't no ghosts!"  It's at this point when the ghosts decide to disagree...


...and in spectacular fashion, I might add!  I get the feeling M. C. Escher might have been inspired by this part, at least for Demon World III or whatever the hell one he did.  He did one of a whole globe covered with a matrix of interlocked demons and angels.  Anyway, four ghosts and our three protagonists get into a giant Fight Hurricane.  Somehow it's not enough, so a giant hypno spiral fills the screen, much like in Rollercoaster Rabbit.  And then, the Fight Tornado vanishes into a tiny invisible singularity.  I love false endings like that.  But there's two minutes left to go, and Popeye hasn't eaten the spinach yet, so the ghost ship has some more deviltries planned for our trio.
Olive yells "Popeye!  Where are you?"  As it turns out, he's being suspended from a rope, and getting bashed against two of the ship's sails.  Pan down to Wimpy who's suffering a fate similar to the one he suffered in Popeye meets Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves when he's tied to a post and forced to watch someone even more gluttonous than himself eat hunks of beef and drink flagons of mead.  This time, he's stuck in an endless loop with a walking table with a chicken on it.  Oh, I just can't bear to talk about it.  Cut to Olive who's tied up and getting milk dripped onto her bare feet.  A ghost places two kittens at her feet and... oh, it's too gruesome.  It's Bridge Ahoy! all over again.
Back to Popeye who's stopped swinging back and forth, and is just trying to massage his sore head and ass, when a giant floating knife cuts his rope.  Popeye crashes through a wooden ceiling and lands on the ship's deck.  He mutters to himself, "Hey, what is this, anyhow?"  Just then, a ghost fades in, sneering at Popeye.  Popeye tries to punch the ghost, but ghosts don't get punched so easily.  His fist goes right through the ghost!  The ghost starts laughing.  A second ghost appears; same thing happens!  Popeye manages to grab the third ghost, but the other two start hitting Popeye about the head with pots and pans and a rolling pin.  Reminds me of the two albino spirits from that second Matrix movie.  How the hell do you kill those things?  Popeye's in a tight spot!  Popeye looks Stage Right and sees a walk-in ice box and makes a run for it.  The ghosts follow him in.  Popeye runs back out and locks up the ice box and... thank God!  It works!  The ghosts freeze and turn into giant ice sculptures of their former selves.
Now that things have calmed down with the help of the jingle bells, they're about to get crazy again, as Popeye runs afoul of a chorus line of skeletons, dancing to hot jazz music, no less!  "Hey, you over there!  What's your name?" Popeye says, among many other things.  He's in full mumble mode now!  One skeleton breaks free from the chorus line, reaches into the ship's boiler, and pulls out a fireball, which it hurls at Popeye like a giant bowling ball.  You probably could have guessed this, but I love the musical accompaniment to that part.  A trilling trombone, perhaps?  Carl Stalling couldn't have done better... okay, that's probably not true.  The skeleton laughs, and we pan down to the waves.  The ship emerges from the waves, where the skeletal mental patients have taken over the asylum.
But apparently Mother Nature isn't all pleased with this sailing abomination, as a giant bolt of lightning morphs into an axe that cuts one of the ship's sails.  Cut to Popeye who gets two sails landing behind him in an 'X'-shaped formation.  We'll leave the logical inconsistency of that alone for now, and note that Popeye's not a man that scares easily, but when a sail almost crushes him like the front of a house almost crushing Buster Keaton, he gets a little shaken up.  He shakes as he reaches for the comfort of spinach.  Fortunately, he's able to eat the spinach, despite the fact that he's got the shakes so bad he almost doesn't get it into his mouth.  Time to whoop some ghost ass.  First, the skeletons.  He beats one skeleton so bad it turns into two pair of dice.  Keeping on the game theme, another turns into a bunch of pool balls that get knocked into holes in the ship's deck... frankly, that's just confusing.  Apparently, all the ghosts have been pacified in the ice box, so it's just skeletons for now.  But then, the ocean wants a piece of the action, so an oceanic fist hits Popeye from the side of the ship, then a lightning bolt, then another ocean fist.  Then, a small rain cloud comes down to attack Popeye!  It's all washed up before it gets there.  Then, a giant screaming face emerges from the ocean instead of a fist, so Popeye punches that too.  The ocean water turns into Mt. Fuji, and we cut to the ocean, full of thousands of Mt. Fuji peaks, which all slowly calm down until the ocean is completely serene.  The sun comes out, and it's going to turn into a nice day finally.


Is this the end of excitement as we know it?  Maybe, but Popeye's still got to get this crazy ghost ship back to land, so he takes the wheel, and Olive joins him on his right, and Wimpy with his whole chicken joins him on his left.  Popeye starts singing the ending theme, and puts his arm around Olive in the middle of it.  This is one of the greats.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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