Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter, also known as The Man Who Hated Laughter, is a 1972 (shown on October the 7th) American animated one-hour television film that was part of the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. This film united characters from almost every newspaper comic strip then owned by King Features Syndicate in one story.
This film marked the first time that Steve Canyon, The Phantom, Tim Tyler, or Flash Gordon appeared in animation. In the 1980s, the cartoon series Defenders of the Earth would feature Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, and The Phantom as freedom fighters united against a common enemy, Ming the Merciless.
Professor Morbid Grimsby is an evil genius who has won the prestigious “Meanie” award six years in a row; to guarantee a seventh, he plots to eliminate all laughter by getting rid of the Sunday funnies, with the aid of his henchman Brutus.
Popeye is given a job as captain of the Professor’s yacht, the SS Hilarious, and all the characters from the humorous comic strips are informed that they have won a free ocean voyage upon this boat. Once out at sea, the boat is pulled to a remote island by the Professor’s tractor beam, and in the chaos Popeye’s stash of spinach is lost at sea; thus, he and all the passengers are prisoners of the Professor.
Being a huge fan of the Sunday funnies, the President of the United States takes action by calling together the heroes of the adventure comics (the ones from King Features Syndicate) to rescue the prisoners. Unfortunately, the rescue attempts go wrong, and the adventure characters also end up as prisoners.
The prisoners eventually decide that the only way to free themselves is to make the Professor laugh, to convince him that the world needs laughter. They put on a talent show which fails to have an effect, but then the younger characters get him to laugh by showing him his own reflection in a mirror while he’s trying to scare them; the Professor has a change of heart, and decides to let everyone go.
At that moment, however, a volcano on the island begins to erupt; the Professor uses his submarine to get the comic characters off the island, but it gets stuck in a cavern. Popeye finds his spinach in the water, eats it, and frees the submarine. The story ends with the comic characters and the Professor being treated to a party on the White House lawn; they’re told that the President will join them shortly. Unbeknownst to the guests, he is actually at that moment enjoying the comics page of his newspaper.
Characters from the following comic strips appeared in this movie:
- Barney Google and Snuffy Smith
- Beetle Bailey
- Bringing Up Father
- Flash Gordon
- Hi and Lois
- The Katzenjammer Kids
- Little Iodine
- The Little King
- Mandrake the Magician
- The Phantom
- Prince Valiant (cameo)
- Steve Canyon
- Tim Tyler’s Luck
Written By: Bud Blake, Dik Browne, Milton Caniff, Billy DeBeck, Rudolph Dirks, Lee Falk, Fred Lasswell, George McManus, Alex Raymond, Lou Silverton, Otto Soglow, Mort Walker, Chic Young and Dean Young.
Directed by: Hal Seeger and Jack Zander.
Voices by: Bob McFadden, Jack Mercer and Corinne Orr.
Music by: Elliot Chiprut.
Produced by: King Features Syndicate.
The voice-over actor of the Phantom was by Bob McFadden.