I was watching a box set of old cartoons. I had a revelation.

Warner Archive in recent years put out restored and remastered collections of the old Max Fleischer POPEYE animated shorts. My favorite is the first collection focusing on the black and white episodes from the 1930s. Anyone who’s ever seen the old Betty Boop shorts know how wildly weird and wacky a Fleischer short can get…and Segar’s characters are already so strange that they work beautifully in said format.

But it was the voice acting that sparked me. According to bonus features on the set, the voice actors were often just given a very loose brief on what to say and were encouraged to ad lib and improvise as inspiration struck. Many of the shorts are filled with their running commentary and biting remarks on the silly plots and bizarre twists of each short.

Were Popeye and Olive Oyl proto Riffers? :thinking::slightly_smiling_face:


It was a great approach, and the rough animation (outside of rotoscoping) helped make it possible. In the cartoon Hold that Wire, Popeye and Bluto sang to each other as they tightrope-walked closer to exchange blows. I always got a kick out of that scene.


A lot of older cartoons did the same sort of adlibs. It works best when the cast is together and plays off each other.