Break out that can of spinach… With Hotel Transylvania under his belt, veteran animation director Genndy Tartakovsky is busy at work developing a new, 3D, big-screen take on the classic Popeye cartoon, and he tells ETonline that he plans to make the character more "contemporary" while keeping the action "really cartoony" with plenty of "physical comedy."
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"Basically it's kind of taking the Popeye that I grew up with, that I think we all grew up with, and definitely making him contemporary -- but still retaining everything that we loved about him from the past," says the 43-year-old director of such animated hits as Star Wars: Clone Wars, Samurai Jack, The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter's Laboratory, adding, "It's fully CG-animated."
The pipe-clenching, eye-squinting, spinach-loving sailor man first appeared in the Thimble Theater comic strip in 1929 and quickly gained popularity with his own series of cartoon shorts and spinoffs. Director Robert Altman even attempted an offbeat, live-action version of the cartoon in 1980 starring Robin Williams – and his Popeye was not a big fan of the potent leafy greens.
"It's a groundbreaking show, the kind of animation they did, and it's really imaginative," says Genndy of the classic series. "So we're starting with that style of animation and kind of updating it the way it would feel today, but [the original cartoons are] definitely the influence. … It's funny and inventive the way they moved, and I think we're so far away from that now. How often have you watched something and laughed at the way someone walks?"
The Russian-born director's animated feature debut for Sony Pictures Animation, Hotel Transylvania, was full of non-stop cartoon movement and mayhem balanced with a solid emotional foundation, and he explains of taking on Popeye, "Really the whole reason I wanted to do it was a physical comedy – a physical animated comedy where the action is really cartoony, the acting's cartoony -- it's going to have heart and emotion, but it's really about the animation, and that's where the humor comes from, rather than the dialogue."
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Of course, spinach is the source of Popeye's super strength when it comes to battling his nemesis Bluto and the bad guys, and Genndy promises, "It comes in pretty early. He doesn't realize it's given him powers, and then later he connects it. But it's definitely a huge part."
Popeye is expected to hit theaters in the fall of 2014.