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 become 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 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 is 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 an underground 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 are told that the President will join them after he is done enjoying the comics page of his newspaper.
Featured comic strips
Characters from the following comic strips appeared in the 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
- Steve Canyon
- Tim Tyler's Luck
- Jack Mercer, best known for being the voice of Popeye, provided the voices of Popeye and Wimpy in this movie; Bob McFadden and Corinne Orr provided all the other voices.
- This movie marked the first time that Steve Canyon, The Phantom, Tim Tyler, or Flash Gordon appeared in animation.
- The submarine in which the prisoners escape is similar in appearance to that in the 1968 movie Yellow Submarine, which was co-produced by King Features Syndicate.
- In the 1980s, the cartoon series Defenders of the Earth would feature Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician and The Phantom together again as freedom fighters against Flash Gordon's nemesis, Ming the Merciless.
- Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter at the Internet Movie Database