Popeye (found unfinished cancelled animated film based on comic strip; 2010s)
The film's teaser poster.
Date found: 22 Jul 2022
Found by: Chip Butty
Popeye The Sailor is a cartoon character, originally created by E. C. Segar for the publisher King Features Syndicate. Originally conceived as a background character in the comic strip Thimble Theatre, Popeye eventually became a breakout character and a cultural icon, spawning a media franchise that spans toys, cartoons and TV shows, as well as a theatrical live-action movie released in 1980 starring Robin Williams as the eponymous character.
A second theatrical movie, this time an animated feature, was in development in the Early 2010s by Sony Pictures Animation, directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, best known for the Cartoon Network shows Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack, as well as the Hotel Transylvania film series, also produced by Sony. However, due to creative differences, Tartakovsky left the project early in production, leaving the project indefinitely on hold.
In 2010, film producer Avi Arad announced that a film based on Popeye was in the works at Sony Pictures Animation. A year later, it was announced that Jay Scherick and David Ronn (who penned The Smurfs in 2011) were writing the screenplay for the film
In 2012, it was announced that Genndy Tartakovsky, who had recently directed the then-upcoming Hotel Transylvania for Sony, would helm the project. While promoting Hotel Transylvania, Tartakovsky said he plans to make the film "as artful and unrealistic as possible." Not long after, Sony announced a release date for the film for September 26th, 2014, which would later be pushed to 2015, then to 2016.
Test Animation and Tartakovsky's Departure
On September 18th, 2014, Tartakovsky released an animation test for the film, which was uploaded on Sony Pictures Animation's YouTube channel. As a fan of the character since childhood, Tartakovsky stated that the test animation is "(...) just something that kind of represents what we want to do" and "couldn't be more excited by how it turned out."
The animation test received critical praise, however, despite the positive feedback, Tartakovsky departed from the film's production in March 2015 to work on another film Can You Imagine? (which would later be cancelled).
"Basically, it’s dead. We were so successful with it, our test and the story we’d put together. But at the end of the day, they wanted a new Popeye and I wasn’t willing to go where they had in mind. (...)"
With Tartakovsky's departure, Popeye was removed from the studio's release schedule. However, despite the setbacks, Sony announced in January 2016 that T.J. Fixman would be re-writing the script. That would be the last that the public would hear about the film under Sony's supervision.
In May 2020, it was announced that King Features Syndicate, rightsholder of the Popeye franchise, would revive the project, this time around without Sony's involvement and that Genndy Tartakovsky would return to direct, though he later stated that he was not yet working on the film as funding would still be needed. Tartakovsky later said in July of 2022 that the film is no longer happening.
For a while, the test animation was the only material from the film to have ever been released. Some stills of the animatic were eventually shared on Genndy Tartakovsky's Instagram account, in 2021.
Just 24 hours after Tartakovsky's interview on the website Decider, in which Genndy would confirm that the film was completely cancelled, an animatic of the film was uploaded to YouTube by a user named "Chip Butty." The upload wouldn't receive much attention until four days later, Sony would block the video, but many mirrors of the animatic have been preserved. As for how "Chip Butty" may have obtained their copy of the animatic, it's been theorized that "Chip Butty" may have been a former Sony Pictures Animation employee that once worked on the film, and after learning about the film's cancellation may have uploaded the animatic out of frustration.
- A common misconception stemmed from the movie's cancellation, in which it was rumored that Sony Pictures cancelled Popeye in favor of the critically panned The Emoji Movie. However, these rumors are false, as The Emoji Movie was only conceptualized and began production after Sony outbid other studios on the project pitch, in July of 2015, several months after Genndy Tartakovsky's departure from Popeye.
- The animatic's YouTube upload had the description "POP 11 22 13 APML Screening", which implies that the animatic was shown in a private screening on November 22nd, 2013. The APML acronym is yet to be deciphered, although it is speculated that the first letters stand for the initials of Amy Pascal, at the time the chairperson of Sony Pictures;
- Popeye is voiced by an uncredited Tom Kenny, in both the test animation and the animatic. Kenny would later play a robot version of the character as a cameo appearance in the fifth and final season of Samurai Jack, which began production shortly after Genndy Tartakovsky's departure from the Popeye movie. Aaron LaPlante, who voices Bluto in the animatic, would later voice Spear in the Adult Swim series Primal, also by Tartakovsky.
- Sony Making a CG Popeye Film in 3D ComingSoon.Net
- Sony Pictures Animation and Arad Productions Set Jay Scherick & David Ronn to Write Animated POPEYE, PR Newswire (Archived)
- Sony Pictures Animation and Arad Productions Set Jay Scherick & David Ronn to Write Animated POPEYE, Variety
- | Sony Pushes Genndy Tartakovsky's Popeye Back to 2015, A113 Animation (Archived)
- Sony Animation Sets Slate: ‘Smurfs’, ‘Transylvania 2,’ More (Exclusive), Hollywood Reporter
- Sony Pictures Releases First Glimpse of Genndy Tartakovsky’s ‘Popeye’, Hollywood Reporter
- Genndy Tartakovsky’s Vision For ‘Primal’ Season 2? Create The Lovechild Of Bugs Bunny And ‘Heavy Metal’ Magazine, Decider
- Sony Pictures Animation Brings In T.J. Fixman To Write ‘Popeye’, Deadline
- Article announcing the film's cancellation. Retrieved, July 28, 2022
- Genndy Tartakovsky's Instagram post with pictures of the Popeye animatic Retrieved, July 28, 2022
- Emoji At Center Of Bidding Battle Won By Sony Animation; Anthony Leondis To Direct, Deadline, Retrieved, July 28th, 2022