Like other highly anticipated films that didn’t materialize, such as Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon or Darren Aronofsky’s Batman, the shelved Popeye movie has disappointed fans who were eager to see it come to fruition.
Popeye Movie: Spinach has become inseparably associated with Popeye, the legendary muscular sailor who has left an indelible mark on popular culture. Popeye was brought to life by Elzie Crisler Segar and made his debut in the King Features comic strip Thimble Theatre in 1929. Throughout the years, both animated and live-action adaptations have reimagined this beloved character. Sony Pictures Animation had intended to release a new Popeye movie in 2015, but unfortunately, the project encountered obstacles and ultimately did not come to fruition.
According to information from Cancelled Movies Fandom, the decision to cancel the Popeye movie was influenced by Sony’s prioritization of The Emoji Movie and disagreements over creative direction. The film was set to be helmed by director Genndy Tartakovsky, who is recognized for his work on acclaimed animated series like Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory, and The Powerpuff Girls.
In a 2015 interview with Cartoon Brew, Genndy Tartakovsky discussed the challenges faced during the production of the Popeye movie. He mentioned that there had been a successful screening that received positive feedback from everyone involved. However, the project encountered various other issues that ultimately led to its cancellation.:
“At the time, it was also during the culmination of the Sony hack, and there was a sense that something significant was about to unfold. So after the screening, I didn’t receive a response from them, which felt unusual considering the positive atmosphere. Typically, we would have a meeting, discuss the film, and receive notes. However, they held a meeting amongst themselves, and that was the end of it.”
“Later on, I personally met with Amy Pascal, who was then an executive at Sony Pictures Entertainment, and said, ‘Look, I’m a big boy. I can handle it.’ Her response was, ‘Look Genndy, we love you, but we don’t like Popeye.'”
Genndy Tartakovsky also mentioned that although his own Popeye project was not being pursued, there were still efforts to make a Popeye movie. The endeavor to bring Popeye back to the animated screen is being undertaken by a small animation studio named King Features. In 2020, it was reported by Cartoon Brew that Genndy was collaborating with King Features on the film.
If a live-action Popeye movie were to be made, Flea, the bassist of Red Hot Chili Peppers, has expressed his interest in playing the iconic role. Taking to social media, the musician and actor shared his desire to portray the spinach-eating cartoon sailor.
“If a good director decides to make a popeye movie, I’m your man,” wrote Flea, who played a bounty hunter in the new Disney+ Star Wars series Obi-Wan Kenobi.
In 1980, Popeye made his debut on the big screen in a live-action musical directed by Robert Altman, with Robin Williams portraying the iconic sailor. However, as of now, there are no known plans to create another Popeye film. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm expressed by Flea and his followers could potentially influence producers to reconsider the idea and explore the possibility of a new Popeye movie.
It seems for now our best chances are with King Features and their upcoming Popeye project.