The television-based director is best known for creating Cartoon Network hits Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack, as well as garnering acclaim for his Star Wars: Clone Wars series. Later this year sees the release of the director's first feature animation Hotel Transylvania.
Originally created by E.C. Segar, Popeye first appeared in a comic strip in 1929. Initially a walk-on character, Popeye became the star of the strip and in the thirties Max and Dave Fleischer began to produce animated Popeye cartoons for Paramount Pictures which were hugely popular and ran through the forties and have been reproduced and in syndication ever since.
This will be the second film outing for the mumbling sea-dog, with a well imagined but ultimately ill-judged 1980 live action musical directed by Robert Altman and starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall.
This news does raise questions as to why Popeye would be a preferred choice for the established director, who is known for strong visual flair and a credibly unique approach to animation, or why the studio would think this would be a property eagerly sought out by audiences: Popeye's "adventures" largely consist of him losing his beanpole love, Olive Oyl (via slapstick), to the charms of/kidnapped by (delete where applicable) gruff nemesis Bluto, with our hero having to compete in a feat of strength to win her back; all aided by downing a steroid-like can of spinach.
Tartakovsky is certainly a talent, but he would likely deserve a whole bag of Oscars if he were able to translate this into a feature that offers anything in the way of thrills or a well-paced runtime's worth of interest, unless perhaps a severe dose of "re-imagining" is on the cards.
As charming and loved as the vintage Popeye outings have been, it's hard to imagine many reacting to this announcement with much fevered excitement. And I stress vintage as I don't think anyone is reminiscing about the infuriatingly eighties Popeye and Son.
Tartakovsky's feature debut Hotel Transylvania will be released in the UK October 12th.