“The Mighty Navy” is significant in a number of ways.
First, it is THE cartoon where Popeye changes from his old-time black sailor suit to Navy Whites – a look he would keep for the rest of his theatrical shorts and the 1960s made for TV cartoons. Though, oddly, in the newspaper comic strip and the Dell and Gold Key comic books (all by Bud Sagendorf) his outfit would never change from that originally designed by creator E.C.Segar.
Having never before seen this (or most of the other WW II Era Popeye cartoons growing up), I simply assumed that the change in outfit was a simple “redesign” that long-running animated characters occasionally go through. Consider the Daffy Duck of the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, and you'll understand what I mean.
But, no! Popeye’s change wasn’t a routine redesign, but the change was because he actually JOINED THE UNITED STATES NAVY, and would remain a navy man for an appreciable period of time. Donald Duck would also be drafted into the ARMY in his shorts of this period.
The hook here is, despite being a “sailor” all his life, Popeye has a great deal of trouble adjusting to the modern navy of the 1940s – and frustrates his commanding officer no end. The Commander appears to be voiced by Warner Bros. cartoon writer Tedd Pierce, who co-wrote this cartoon and was credited as “Ted Pierce”. Pierce used a similar voice to that he sometimes used for the various “Bud Abbott Characters” (cat, rat, etc) that would appear in certain Warner cartoons.
Another item of note, unlike some of the, perhaps unfortunate, cartons that followed, the enemy here was UNNAMED. Their flag even says: “Enemy – Name your own!” That’s because this cartoon was released on NOVEMBER 11, 1941 – less than a month before Pearl Harbor Day, and was certainly worked on for long before that. I suspect the feeling of the time was that we KNEW we were going to war. Just not where and when.
This is a superb way to get around that sticky situation, and true, hardcore Popeye fans could even imagine that the attacking nation was “Nazilia” or “Tonsylvania”.
Notice too, the “conventional sailors” on Popeye’s ship all have the basic look of Max Fleischer’s design for SUPERMAN, another of his theatrical short series. (1941-1942)
This one also has MY VERY FAVORITE VERSION OF THE POPEYE THEME that, unfortunately, only lasted for a short time.
The ending of this carton was so great that I broke into involuntary applause when first seeing it in 2008!
Enjoy Jack Mercer as Popeye in a Max and Dave Fleischer masterpiece, “The Mighty Navy”.