Animation icon Genndy Tartakovsky is teaming up with King Features to go back to the drawing board on his long-awaited Popeye animated feature, close sources have revealed to Animation Magazine. The Annie and Emmy award-winning, Golden Globe-nominated animation visionary directed Sony Pictures Animation’s hit Hotel Transylvania trilogy and created celebrated series Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack (both Cartoon Network), Primal (Adult Swim) and, in collaboration with Lucasfilm, Star Wars: Clone Wars (CN).
The film was originally announced for the Sony Pictures Animation slate in 2012, a few months ahead of the first Hotel Transylvania flick’s release and just before the studio set an overall deal with the helmer. An animation test for Tartakovsky’s “as artful and unrealistic as possible” CG interpretation of E.C. Segar’s classic character was revealed in 2014 (featuring the voices of Grey DeLisle and Tom Kenny). However, in a 2015 interview timed to the release of the HT2 trailer, the director revealed he was off the project, saying, “I was in love with what we were doing, but I think the studio is going through changes and I don’t know if they want to make the Popeye that I want to make.” Tartakovsky was set to move on to an original story, Can You Imagine? with SPA, but the project was canceled.
The studio later announced that writer T.J. Fixman (Ratchet & Clank) had been brought on to pen a new Popeye screenplay (a previous version had been written by The Smurfs scribes Jay Scherick and David Ronn).
Despite the spilled spinach over the first go at Popeye, Tartakovsky’s talent and the success of the Hotel Transylvania franchise spurred SPA to sign the director on for two original animated features in 2018, described as an R-rated comedy titled Fixed and an epic action-adventure à la Samurai Jack, called Black Knight.
Meanwhile, King Features has been making moves to bring some of its classic comics brands to new generations of fans with refreshed animated updates — as well as expanding acquired brands into the space. New 2D Popeye cartoons, Popeye’s Island Adventures, were launched on YouTube in 2018 to mark the character’s 90th anniversary. Last year, the company announced development of an animated series based on MDHR’s award-winning, retro toon-inspired game Cuphead.