On March 16, 1936, Eugene the Jeep made its first appearance in the Thimble Theatre strip that starred Popeye. The Jeep was a yellow creature, somewhat like a dog. But, unlike a dog, Eugene walked on his hind legs and had magical powers.
From Where Did Eugene the Jeep Come?
In the comic strip, Eugene the Jeep’s origin was explained by the fact that Olive Oyl’s Uncle Ben found Eugene in Africa and then gave it to Olive. Animated episodes, however, provided different takes on Eugene.
In animated versions of Popeye, the animators treated Eugene the Jeep largely as a “magical dog.” In The Jeep (1938), Popeye gave Eugene to Olive Oyl and Swee’Pea.
But a few years later in Popeye Presents Eugene the Jeep (1940), Popeye received Eugene from Olive. In the episode, he acts like he had never seen the “baby puppy” before.
Near Misses With Movies
Eugene the Jeep almost made it onto the big screen with Robin Williams in Robert Altman’s 1980 movie Popeye. An early screenplay by Jules Feiffer included Eugene the Jeep.
But reportedly it was difficult to make the magical creature believable in the live-action film. So, he was taken out of the story. Some of his magic remained, though, as the writer gave some of the Jeep’s characteristics to Swee’ Pea in the movie.
But although Eugene the Jeep missed out on that movie, he is still around. For example, he is the school mascot for a couple of high schools.
At one point, Eugene the Jeep was scheduled finally to make it to the big screen by appearing in a 3D Popeye movie directed by Gennedy Tarakovsky (Hotel Transylvania). But Tarakovsky left the project in 2015 after disagreeing with the studio, which wanted a more modern version of Popeye.
The video below features a screen test of animation from Tarakovsky’s film, including an appearance by Eugene the Jeep.
We will have to wait and see whether Eugene the Jeep appears in the final version of the new Popeye film.
What is your favorite Eugene the Jeep story? Leave your two cents in the comments.
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