Popeye’s 90th anniversary adventures start with launch of new YouTube series

Hearst Entertainment and King Features are celebrating the launch of Popeye’s Island Adventures, an animated short series on YouTube.

The new series is just the start of a year-long campaign for the iconic character as Popeye prepares to celebrate its 90th anniversary next year.

The original animated short series will introduce comic icon Popeye and his friends to today’s digitally native children. The series launch was announced by Hearst President and CEO Steven R. Swartz, Hearst Entertainment & Syndication President Neeraj Khemlani and President of King Features Syndicate C.J. Kettler.

Originally appearing in 1929, E.C. Segar’s Popeye character first debuted in “The Thimble Theatre” comic strip in the New York Journal-American, which was at that time owned by Hearst Founder William Randolph Hearst. 

Over time, the character developed alongside his cast of friends before making his film debut in 1933 and television debut in 1960. For nearly 90 years, the Popeye character has resonated in print and on screen for audiences of all ages.

Popeye’s Island Adventures introduces the spinach-loving sailor man to the younger generation by combining the original squash and stretch animation style with a fresh update on the original characters and storyline. 

The new Popeye has a youthful appearance and more eco-friendly position, growing spinach on the roof of his dieselpunk style houseboat and collecting rainwater in barrels. 

Olive Oyl, the original damsel in distress, is now a shining example of feministic ideals that fans new and old will want to emulate. No longer sitting on the sidelines, Olive is now a strong, independent, and resourceful woman who is at the centre of every adventure. 

Bluto remains the series’ antagonist, but his motives have changed as he pursues Popeye’s spinach in a quest for strength. The new Popeye project will complement the sailor man’s growing online presence; the character currently has close to 10 million followers on Facebook.

“We are thrilled to be bringing Popeye to YouTube and a new generation of kids,” Swartz said.

“It is fitting that Popeye, one of King Features’ original animated characters, is the first of our brands to be reintroduced through short-form video content created specifically for the YouTube audience,” Khemlani said. 

“King Features has a deep library of IP, from Flash Gordon, Mandrake and The Phantom to partner properties like Blondie, Hagar the Horrible and Beetle Bailey and Popeye is taking the lead with the development of new entertainment, merchandising and e-commerce to serve a new generation of fans.”

The debut of “Popeye’s Island Adventures” will kick off an anniversary celebration that includes the return of “Popeye’s Cartoon Club” as an homage to the fan art that E.C. Segar often shared at the end of “The Thimble Theatre” comic strip. 

The campaign invites top cartoonists from around the world to contribute their own Popeye comics. King is also ready to unveil merchandise from more than a dozen new partners from around the world to elevate the iconic sailor at retail in the coming months.

“Popeye is an iconic pop culture character and the responsibility to serve his fanbase while introducing him to a new audience of multiple generations is enormous,” Kettler said. 

“The Popeye 90 Anniversary celebration will include not only the short form animation on YouTube but a relaunch of E.C. Segar’s Popeye Cartoon Club in print, digital and social media featuring some of the most notable talent in cartooning and illustration as well as key partnerships for streetwear apparel and trendsetting collaborations. 

"We look forward to further developing Popeye with additional retail partners, licensees, and longer form storytelling in the future.”

WildBrain was contracted for worldwide management of the Popeye and Friends Official YouTube Channel in May and has since produced new compilations of cartoon favourites including Classic Popeye, Popeye and Son and The Continuing Adventures of Popeye as part of an ongoing strategy to grow the global audience across the platform.

Fans can start watching Popeye’s Island Adventures today and can check out the recently launched website for the latest updates on Popeye’s 90 Anniversary Celebration. 

Popeye.com also features an interactive timeline charting his history and a photo filter feature that allows fans to brand and share their Popeye-inspired strong to the finish moments.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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