We’ve got another thrilling head-to-head match-up today, folks! In the battle for cartoon supremacy, which cartoon would you say would win, the Old School Popeye cartoons, or the New School Cow and Chicken cartoons? In this truly bizarre and yet oddly epic match-up, we’ll compare the two cartoons’ merits and come up with a winner that it will be impossible (well, maybe not impossible, but possibly somewhat difficult) to disagree with!
Popeye the Sailor has appeared in many cartoons over the decades. I’ll just stick to the ones that were shown in the various television series, and not include ones which first appeared in movie theaters. Though Popeye was created by Elzie Crisler Seger and first appeared in the daily King Features comic strip, Thimble Theatre, on January 17, 1929, the cartoon was first shown on television in a series quite a bit later, in 1960. King Features Syndicate commissioned a new series of Popeye cartoons, but for television syndication. Al Brodax served as executive producer of the cartoons for King Features. It was produced by a number of companies, including Jack Kinney Productions, Rembrandt Films (William L. Snyder and Gene Deitch), Larry Harmon Productions, Halas and Batchelor, Paramount Cartoon Studios (formerly Famous Studios), and Southern Star Entertainment (formerly Southern Star Productions). 220 cartoons were produced in only two years, with the first set of them premiering in the autumn of 1960, and the last of them debuting during the 1961–1962 television season. This first series originally ran from 1960-1962. The 1960s cartoons have been issued on both VHS and DVD.
Then, on September 9, 1978, The All-New Popeye Hour debuted on the CBS Saturday morning lineup. It was an hour-long animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, which tried its best to retain the style of the original comic strip (Popeye returned to his original costume and Brutus to his original name of Bluto), while complying with the prevailing content restrictions on violence. The All-New Popeye Hour ran on CBS until September 1981, when it was cut to a half-hour and retitled The Popeye and Olive Show. It was removed from the CBS lineup in September 1983, the year before Jack Mercer’s death. These cartoons have also been released on VHS and DVD. During the time these cartoons were in production, CBS aired The Popeye Valentine’s Day Special – Sweethearts at Sea on February 14 (St. Valentine’s Day, of course), 1979. In the UK, the BBC aired a half-hour version of The All-New Popeye Show, from the early 1980s to 2004.
Popeye briefly returned to CBS in 1987 for Popeye and Son, another Hanna-Barbera series, which featured Popeye and Olive as a married couple with a son named Popeye, Jr., who hates the taste of spinach but eats it to boost his strength. Maurice LaMarche performed Popeye’s voice; Mercer had died in 1984. The show lasted for one season. For the purposes of this comparison, I won’t include the cartoons in this short-lived series, though they do go to show the long-lasting popularity of this spinach-eating sailor.
Cow and Chicken premiered on July 15, 1997, and ran from then to July 12, 1999, for a total of four season and just 52 episodes. It is one of my favorite New School cartoons, despite its relatively brief existence. It first appeared as a “What a Cartoon!” short, on November12, 1995, and was nominated for an Emmy in 1996 and 1999. It was created by David Feiss, and it’s been produced by Hanna-Barbera and The Cartoon Network Studios. It can still be seen in reruns on Boomerang today.
Category 1 – Main Characters
Popeye (Jack Mercer)
Olive Oyl (Mae Questel/Marilyn Shreffler)
Bluto/Brutus (Jackson Beck)
Swee’pea (Mae Questel)
Wimpy (Jack Mercer)
Poopdeck Pappy (Jack Mercer)
Cow and Chicken
Cow (Charles Adler)
Chicken (Charles Adler)
The Red Guy (Charles Adler)
Flem (Howard Morris)
Earl (Dan Castellaneta)
Mom (Candi Milo)
Dad (Dee Bradley Baker)
I truly love both of these cartoons, so this is a hard choice for me. The over-all length of the existence of Popeye is definitely an argument in its favor as the winner. Jack Mercer displays his awesome voice talents as the voices of Popeye, Wimpy, and Poopdeck Pappy, Popeye’s father. Mae Questel and later Marilyn Shreffler did great jobs as the voices of Olive Oyl and Swee-pea, as does Jackson Beck with the voice of Bluto/Brutus. Mae Questel also played the nonspeaking role of the elderly Aunt Bethany in 1989’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
However, I think Cow and Chicken is a showcase for the voice talents of the actor, Charlie Adler, who does the voices of all three of the top main characters of the series, Cow, Chicken, and The Red Guy, giving Jack Mercer a lot of competition in this category. Also, Dee Bradley Baker has done the voice of Mr. Krabs for the Spongebob Squarepants cartoons, among many others, and Candi Milo also does the voice of Miss Teacher in the series and the voices of many characters from other series. What’s more, Dan Castellaneta does many of the voices of The Simpsons characters, including Abraham “Grampa” Simpson, Barney Gumble, Krusty the Clown, Groundskeeper Willie, Mayor Quimby, and Hans Moleman. Therefore, I’ll declare Cow and Chicken the winner of this category by a slim margin. If I took into consideration the famous catch phrases of the Popeye characters, I might have said Popeye wins in this category, but I’m going to mention them in a different category, Intangibles, later on. Who do you think is the winner of this category? Leave any comments you might want to make below!
Category 2 – Secondary Characters
The following is a breakdown of who did the voices for the noteable secondary characters in the 1978 series, The All-New Popeye Hour:
* Jack Mercer – Popeye, Poopdeck Pappy, Pipeye, Peepeye
* Marilyn Schreffler – Olive Oyl, The Evil Sea Hag, Swee’pee, Poopeye, Pupeye
* Allan Melvin – Bluto
* Daws Butler – Wimpy
* Don Messick – Eugene the Jeep
* Jo Anne Worley – Sgt. Bertha Blast
* Hal Smith – Col. Crumb
* Frank Welker – Dinky
* Frank Nelson – Uncle Dudley
* Julie Bennett – Monica
* Jackie Joseph – Sandy
Secondary Characters – Cow and Chicken
Crabs the Warthog (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker)
Piles the Beaver (voiced by Tom Kenny)
Manure the Bear (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker)
Grandmama (voiced by Bibi Osterwald)
Grandpapa (voiced by John DiMaggio)
Flem’s Dad (voiced by Will Ferrell)
Cousin Black Sheep (voiced by Tom Kenny)
Snail Boy (voiced by Tom Kenny)
Cousin Sow (voiced by Pamela Adlon)
Professor Longhorn Steer (voiced by Tom Kenny)
Sumo Guy (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui)
What sort of question is this–who wins? While I love Popeye’s secondary characters, and while they are voiced by very talented people, come on–when you’re talking about Will Ferrell and Carlos Alazraqui (Reno 911), at least to me, Cow and Chicken OBVIOUSLY wins in this category. With two categories down, can Popeye catch up, or will Cow and Chicken be proclaimed the over-all winner?
Category 3 – Over-All Concept
Popeye is about a squinty-eyed sailor who eats spinach to become super strong when the need arises, like if he has to save his girlfriend, Olive Oyl, or Swee’pea, or has to fight Bluto/Brutus. Also, he has a unique way of speaking, slaughtering the English language and often mumbling, disproportionately muscular forearms with two anchor tattoos, thinning hair, and an ever-present corncob pipe (which he toots like a steamship’s whistle at times).
Cow and Chicken is about a very odd pair of siblings, a cow and a chicken. Which is older? There are different clues in various episodes. Chicken is the older brother of Cow, whose alter-ego is Super Cow. She may have been adopted, one episode suggests, despite the song’s lyrics “Mamma had a chicken/Mama had a cow/Dad was proud/He didn’t care how.” The show is about their life and adventures, and the Red Guy, who does his best to scam or harm them.
I’d say that both shows follow their concepts very well. Popeye sometimes seems more intelligent than at other times, even acting like a detective occasionally when tracking down the whereabouts of Olive Oyl or Swee’pea, but he generally stays true to character. After all, one of his most famous sayings is “I yam what I yam, and that’s all that I yam.” The Cow and the Chicken are usually pretty brainless and are easily tricked by the Red Guy. Their favorite food is pork butts. Their parents are always seen only from the waist down. When Cow becomes Super Cow to save her brother, she always speaks in Spanish; when it’s shown in Spanish-speaking countries and she’s Super Cow, she speaks in English. They both follow their concepts I’d say equally well, making this sub-category a tie.
Popeye has had such a long history, and so many cartoons were made, that it’s a difficult decision for me to come up with a couple of cartoons I like the best. However, I’ll chose from the original series “Astro-Nut,” and “Insultin’ the Sultan.” These are two I remember from their titles alone, and any of the cartoons that feature Wimpy, the Sea Hag, or Alice the Goon are pretty funny.
Cow and Chicken has many episodes I think are pretty hilarious, though some of the humor is possibly above the heads of younger viewers, as there are several double entendres and pop cultural references kids might not know about (or shouldn’t know about). If I was pressed to choose two of my favorite episodes, I’d say they’d be “Chachi, the Chewing Gum Seal,” and “Space Cow.” In “Chachi, the Chewing Gum Seal,” to prove to Chicken that she’s artistic, Cow creates a seal out of chewing gum. Eventually, she wishes that her work of art, affectionally named Chachi, could live, which soon becomes a reality (and then a nightmare when the seal badmouths Cow). “Space Cow” is about a school assignment Cow and Chicken have in which they have to write essays on what jobs they want when they’re older. Since Cow’s essay wins, she gets to live her dream as an astronaut, whereas the runner-up, Chicken, works at a supermarket.
Popeye’s theme song is one of the most memorable ones ever. He’s also been a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, like Underdog. Robin Williams played him in a movie, with Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl. He single-handedly got kids to eat their spinach, because it sure seems to work for him, making him incredibly strong. His laugh is also very unique and memorable, as is his way of speaking. Wimpy has had a chain of hamburger restaurants named after him, and his most famous quote is probably “I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” There has been a ton of merchandising based on Popeye’s character, and I remember there have been, and still are, Halloween costumes of him.
Cow and Chicken’s theme song is very cool, but kind of twisted, also. How does a human man and woman have a cow and a chicken as her children? Why doesn’t the Dad “care how”? Anyway, an intangible other than the theme song is that the animation is way better, being more modern, and the colors are brilliant in comparison. there has been a lot of merchandising for the series, although not nearly as much as for Popeye. Also, though Cow and Chicken was twice nominated for an Emmy Award, relatively few episodes of it were made in comparison, and no movies, unlike in the case of Popeye.
Over-All Thoughts/Ultimate Winner
Both of these cartoons are great, IMHO. I’m looking forward to reading your comments on which of them you consider to be the best, and why. Though I’m very nostalgic about Popeye, I would personally say I prefer Cow and Chicken, because it’s animated better and I have a strange sense of humor. Popeye lost the first two categories, and tied the one on “Over-All Concept.” I’d say it won the “Intangibles” category, though, and I weight that category higher than the others, so I’ll declare Popeye to be the over-all winner. Hey, what other cartoon character, with the exemption of Bugs Bunny, can it be said got kids to eat more vegetables?
What do you think? Am I correct in my decision, or need to get my head examined? Who would you chose as the over-all winner? Please leave your comments below!