You'll probably be reading a lot about this today, but Warner Bros. and King Features have finally come to an agreement that will see the Popeye cartoons released on DVD starting in 2007.
Here's a press release stating details. I would like to mention that animation historian Jerry Beck is involved in the restoration and release of these cartoons.
From an animation history standpoint, this is wonderful news. Max and Dave Fleischer headed up one of the most influential studios of the 1930's. Their cartoons, made in New York and Miami, are far more urban, ethnic, surrealistic and offbeat than the cartoons made in Hollywood. Unfortunately, their cartoons are barely represented in the home video market. There was a Betty Boop VHS set several years ago, but Republic Pictures has not released it on DVD. The Talkartoons, the Screen Songs, etc. are also not available on DVD.
The Popeye cartoons are arguably the best series the Fleischers ever did -- certainly it was the longest lasting -- and it contains work by Willard Bowsky, Orestes Calpini, Shamus Culhane, Al Eugster, Myron Waldman, and others who deserve more attention. The Famous Studios Popeyes, while not as highly regarded, still contain animation worth studying by John Gentilella and Jim Tyer among others. The Popeyes contained excellent voice work by Jack Mercer, Mae Questel, Gus Wickie and Jackson Beck.
Warner Bros. and King Features are to be applauded for making this happen. Let's hope that the companies that hold the rights to other Fleischer cartoons will follow their lead.