Eugene the Jeep and Popeye

Popeye Dog

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.

  • Mork and Happier Days
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  • World’s Greatest Dad (Missed Movies)
  • Is Your Job Your Life?: Lessons from A Folk Singer & Al Pacino
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    Mork and Happier Days

    The world is saddened today by the news that Robin Williams has passed away. He was such a part of our lives that everyone has their own favorite movie scenes or performances, and I cannot add much that you already do not know or that you cannot find elsewhere.

    But Williams is one of the few performers where I remember the first moment I saw him. And I was blown away. As a kid turning on Happy Days, a show that was in its fifth season and showing signs of old age, I suddenly saw something completely new. This strange alien character called Mork and the actor playing him was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. The next day at school, everyone was talking about him and his appearance on the Happy Days episode called “My Favorite Orkan.” Here is a scene with Henry Winkler as Fonzie and Robin Williams as Mork.

    Robin Williams and Mork, of course, got their own spinoff series which I followed until that one went into its own old age. In many ways, I feel Williams and I grew up together, as I enjoyed his juvenile antics but then got to appreciate his more serious adult work in movies I’ve written about in different contexts like Dead Poets Society (1989), Insomnia (2003), and the underrated World’s Greatest Dad (2009).

    It is very sad to hear how he passed, but I am very thankful he lived and gave us so much. Rest in Peace. Na-nu Na-nu.

    What is your first memory of Robin Williams? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    O Me, Does That Apple Commercial About Poetry Sound Familiar?

    apple commercial robin williams
    You may have seen Apple’s new commercial for the iPad. The commercial romanticizes the electronic product, showing how people around the world use it to achieve their dreams — while a familiar voice talks about poetry and quotes Walt Whitman.

    The voiceover is from Robin Williams, and you might also recognize the words. The voiceover is taken from the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society, which was directed by Peter Weir. It is a wonderful scene about the importance of poetry. Here is the original scene.

    The Whitman quote is from the poem “O Me! O Life!“: “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” The poem appeared in Leaves of Grass.

    As a fan of the movie who was moved by the teacher’s speech, I am not sure what I think of it being transformed into a commercial. I am not sure Walt Whitman really meant that we should go buy a commercial product. But maybe the commercial will inspire someone who has not seen the movie, so who am I to judge?

    What will your verse be? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    World’s Greatest Dad (Missed Movies)

    world's greatest dad

    When my local Blockbuster was going out of business and selling off its stock of DVD’s, on various visits I watched the stock dwindle except for the stack of copies of World’s Greatest Dad (2009). I did not return to the store on the last day it was open, but I suspect that every movie may have been sold expect for the copies of this movie.

    Perhaps because movie-goers initially expected a light-hearted mindless Robin Williams movie, the film did poorly at the box office too. It is unfortunate that so few people have seen this movie, although I understand that World’s Greatest Dad is not for everyone. If you are easily offended or only want to see run-of-the mill comedies, skip this movie. But if you enjoy dark comedies and want something different, check it out. The way World’s Greatest Dad divides viewers is shown by the Rotten Tomatoes ratings, which show a 60% rating from audience members but a more respectable critics rating of 88%.

    It is hard to describe the movie without giving too much away, but Williams plays a high school teacher and aspiring writer who is the father of one of the most obnoxious teenagers ever portrayed on film. When a tragic accident occurs and Williams tries to protect the person involved, he sets forth a chain of events that turns his life around. After he finds some success and happiness based on a lie, he begins to question whether he is really happy. Some characters are exposed as insincere, but considering that much of the film is set in a high school, is that a surprise? Ultimately, the movie asks questions about when love and friendship are real and when they are fake. And these serious questions are addressed in a funny, dark way.

    Robin Williams has made some interesting choices as an actor, including exploring a darker side in such movies as Insomnia and One-Hour-Photo. While his character in World’s Greatest Dad is not as sinister as his character in those movies, in some way the movie is more disturbing than those because it mines something deeper and dark in modern American life. The film is not for the whole family and some may find parts offensive. It is rated R due to discussions of sex (and a little Robin Williams nudity), not due to violence.

    There are not many likeable characters in World’s Greatest Dad and there are few, if any, laugh-out-loud moments. But throughout the film, you might notice a chuckle in your throat trying to get out as the film goes from one “I can’t believe they did that” moment to the next. Ultimately, the movie, directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, shows it has a lot of heart and it makes you think. But if you prefer something that is unlikely to offend or challenge you, then you should look elsewhere.

    {Missed Movies is our continuing series on good films you might have missed because they did not receive the recognition they deserved when released.}


    Did you love or hate World’s Greatest Dad? Leave your two cents in the comments.

  • Mork and Happier Days
  • Eugene the Jeep and Popeye
  • O Me, Does That Apple Commercial About Poetry Sound Familiar?
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    Is Your Job Your Life?: Lessons from A Folk Singer & Al Pacino

    U.S. Department of Justice
    The New Yorker recently published a sad story by Jeffrey Toobin about the prosecution of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, and how the fallout from the case affected a young Justice Department lawyer named Nicholas Marsh, who committed suicide. (Casualties of Justice, Jan. 3, 2011).

    The media is all over a story until suddenly the story disappears, and it was that way with the Sen. Stevens prosecution.  There was extensive coverage of the case against Ted Stevens, who was charged with failing to report gifts of reduced rates on renovations to a house. While the case was pending, Stevens lost reelection in 2008. Then the media coverage died down. But the Stevens case did not result in a conviction, and the Attorney General’s Office ultimately asked for all charges to be dropped against Stevens because prosecutors breached ethics by failing to disclose information indicating Stevens may not have been guilty. Stevens died in a plane crash in Alaska in 2010.

    Nicholas Marsh was one of the prosecutors in the Alaska investigation that resulted in nine successful convictions revealing corruption in the state political system. Although Marsh participated in the Stevens case, Toobin wrote that apparently Marsh had nothing to do with the unethical actions by his fellow prosecutors. But because of Marsh’s involvement in the case, officials removed Marsh from his high-esteem position and moved him to a lower-prestige department. Meanwhile, the Office of Professional Responsibility continues to investigate the conduct of the Stevens prosecutors. 

    Even though Marsh may ultimately be cleared, the stress from the ongoing investigation took its toll on him. Depressed and unsuccessfully fighting his demons, in September 2010 he hanged himself in the basement of his suburban Washington, D.C. home. Married less than five years, he did not leave a note for his young wife.

    It is tragic to think of Marsh feeling his life was crashing down as his career identity was crumbling. Maybe he could have left town and started over again and eventually been happy again. But one suspects that for whatever reasons he felt like he could not get away.

    In an earlier post about life lessons, Chimesfreedom discussed Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book, Denial of Death.  In the book, Becker explained that people identify with things — be it possessions, esteem, organizations, sports teams, etc. — to give meaning to their lives and to give us defense mechanisms against our fears.  Many of us identify ourselves by our jobs. And, as has happened frequently to far too many people in the last several years during the recession, if we lose a job we feel we lose our entire identity and our defense mechanism against our fears.

    Railroad Workers The story about the Stevens case reminded me of a song by folk-singer and activist Charlie King.   King is a good performer, full of stories and good songs about social issues.  One song, entitled “Our Life is More than Our Work,” has common-sense lyrics reminding us something we often forget when we get wrapped up in our own worlds: “You know that our life is more than our work / And our work is more than our jobs.”

    The song reminds us that we are not our jobs.  Additionally, we each have work to do during our lives that is beyond our jobs. But even that broader work is not the whole of your life.

    The New Yorker story about the Alaska prosecution also reminded me of Insomnia (2003), a movie that focuses on a criminal case in Alaska involving questionable professional ethics that haunt the lead character. Insomnia is a very good movie about a Los Angeles detective played by Al Pacino who goes to Alaska to investigate a crime. While there, he is unable to sleep from the constant daylight and from being haunted by his past choices. The movie, directed by Christopher Nolan, features excellent acting by Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, and a creepy Robin Williams. It reveals how our jobs can take us down a well-worn path where we feel we do not have control.

    Most likely, there were other factors contributing to the Nicholas Marsh tragedy besides the ethics investigation, and it is ridiculous to think that lessons from an action movie or a folk song could save a life. But music and movies can make us think about our lives and maybe change our attitudes a tiny bit. And that’s something. As Charlie King sings, “Think how our life could be, feel how our life could flow / If just for once we could let ourselves go.”

    King, Charlie – Our Life Is More Than Our Work

    {Our Life Is More Than Our Work – Charlie King}

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