This article is about the character. For the comic story, see Swee'Pea!.
Scooner Seawell Georgia Washenting Christiffer Columbia Daniel Boom, also known as Swee'Pea, is a character in E. C. Segar's comic strip Thimble Theatre and in the Popeye cartoon series derived from it. His better-known sobriquet suggests the flower known as the sweet pea. In fact, the nickname "Swee'Pea" was originally a term of affection used by Popeye. Before the baby came along, he would at times address Olive Oyl that way, as in the cartoon We Aim to Please.
Creation and development in Thimble Theatre
In the comics, Swee'Pea is a baby left on Popeye's doorstep, in the July 24, 1933 strip. Popeye adopts and raises him as his son, or, as he puts it, "boy-kid". Initially, Swee'Pea's speech consisted entirely of the sound "glop" but, a few years after he was first introduced, Swee'Pea apparently aged enough to speak normally and could throw punches if he had to; however, his appearance remained that of a crawling baby.
As Popeye's popularity greatly grew, he would be given his own animated adaptation by Fleischer Studios. Swee'Pea was regularly portrayed as being in the care of Olive Oyl, although it was not made clear in Fleischer's continuity if Swee'Pea is Olive's biological or adopted son. In the comics, Swee'Pea is a foundling under Popeye's care. Later sources, mostly in the cartoon series, say that Swee'Pea is Olive Oyl's cousin or nephew that she has to take care of from time to time.
Following the takeover of the Popeye animated franchise by Paramount Studios in 1942, Famous Studios made drastic changes which abandoned almost all traces of Thimble Theatre and focused largely on plots involving Popeye, Olive, Bluto in something resembling a love triangle, without many other characters appearing and with very few shorts deviating from that setup. As such, Swee'Pea was largely absent, but would end up being the only other Thimble Theatre character besides Wimpy and Poopdeck Pappy to appear in these shorts, however his appearances were limited to only a handful of shorts out of the 122 that were produced, and most of his appearances were only in flashback scenes of Fleischer, with only a few cartoons ever having him be drawn by the Famous Studios staff.
Popeye's first TV series
Swee'Pea returned to regular appearances in animation in the 1960s Popeye television series, where he was once again a recurring character. Like in Thimble Theatre Swee'Pea was fully capable of speech despite being a toddler and he even had his own recurring segments with Popeye that would start with his foster father telling him a story.
The All-New Popeye Hour
In 1978, Hanna-Barbera Productions, with King Features Syndicate, would produce a new Popeye television series, The All-New Popeye Hour. Unlike the previous show, this series had higher-quality animation and was more akin to Segar's work and Fleischer cartoons than other Popeye animations. Swee'Pea remained largely unchanged and would make regular appearances. He also gained a new gimmick in that whenever he ate spinach, he temporarily became a superhero. Swee'Pea also made his first appearance alongside his step-cousins Pipeye, Peepeye, Poopeye and Pupeye in the moral segments at the end of certain episodes, where he and his cousins would be taught a lesson by Popeye while avoiding acting like the irresponsible Mr. No-No.
Popeye's first movie
In the 1980 live-action film, Swee'Pea is portrayed by infant actor Wesley Ivan Hurt (Robert Altman's grandson). There, he is endowed with the clairvoyance powers of Eugene the Jeep, who was originally intended to appear in the film. In this version, Swee'Pea is found on the doorstep of the Oyl home where Popeye lives as a boarder and both he and Olive end up raising the infant. Swee'Pea's name is explained in the film as being a combination of 'Sweethaven' and 'pea'.
Popeye and Son
In 1987, the latest animated series focusing on Popeye was produced, entitled Popeye and Son. The series was unique in the Popeye franchise for taking place later in Popeye's life, where he and Olive Oyl finally got married, settled down and had a son of their own (a notable change considering the rarity of having well-known cartoon characters actually move on with their lives). Surprisingly, Swee'Pea was completely absent and no mention was about his whereabouts, presumably with the character of Popeye Junior replacing him, or that Swee'Pea himself grew up to live his own life.
In 2004, a CGI-animated TV movie titled Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy was produced by Mainframe Entertainment for Lions Gate Entertainment and King Features Entertainment which featured Swee'Pea accompanying Popeye in his search for his own long-lost father Poopdeck Pappy.
Swee'Pea would re-appear in IDW Publishing's revival of the Popeye comics in 2012 as a recurring character. Like in the cartoons and some comics, Swee'Pea is a magnet for trouble who finds himself in dangerous situations that Popeye has to get him out of.
Swee'Pea is a small toddler whose attire consists of yellow shirt that is too big for him along with a sailor's cap, much like the one Popeye wears. Swee'Pea's design has not changed much (if at all) since his debut, although occasionally he may be depicted wearing a U. S. Navy cap like the one Popeye wore during World War II.
During his few Famous Studios appearances, Swee'Pea's design was heavily altered, with him bearing no resemblance to his original depiction and wearing red baby clothes instead. This depiction however would never be used again after the Famous Studios era.
Swee'Pea was originally a son of the royal family of Demonia. After Swee'Pea's birth father was killed, Swee'Pea was made the Crown Prince of Demonia, but as he was of royal birth, he needed protection from his evil uncle who wanted to eliminate him and take control of the country. To save him from such a fate, Swee'Pea's mother left him on the doorstep of the Oyl home knowing the trustworthy sailor who stayed there would protect him. After finding the abandoned baby, Popeye proposed the name Swee'Pea for the child; Olive objects, saying it sounds ridiculous, and he retorts "Well, what were you going to call him? Baby Oyl?". Eventually, the couple officially decide to name him "Swee'Pea", a term of affection Popeye regularly uses.
Swee'Pea and Alice
Alice the Goon, originally a slave of the Sea Hag, who was now a friend of Popeye's, reappeared in a flower dress and hat to visit Popeye and pals. However, her visit is interrupted when townsfolk believe that she is a hairy monster that will hurt their children. Popeye then decides to make Alice Swee'Pea's official babysitter to show that she wasn't so scary after all and was good with kids despite her not being human. Ever since, Alice and Swee'Pea have been close friends, with Alice often serving as a maternal figure for Swee'Pea.
Swee'Pea's Mother: Taking the Baby Home
On a particularly uneventful day, a mysterious woman arrives who is none other than Swee'Pea's mother seeking to take her baby back home.
Swee'Pea's gallery can be viewed here
- "Sweet Pea" was elsewhere used by Popeye as a pet name for Olive Oyl.
- In November 19th, 2004, the National Council for Adoption in New York City hosted an event where Popeye officially adopted Swee'Pea in a ceremony officiated by Judge Greg Mathis, legally making them father and son.
- In a 2016 comic strip story involving alien clones, Popeye put an anchor tattoo on Swee'Pea's head to make sure he would always be able to tell Swee'Pea apart from fake Swee'Peas.
- Popeye | The Home of Popeye the Sailor Man website
- Don Markstein's Toonopedia Popeye page
- Swee'Pea at the Internet Movie Database