Darlene Foster's Blog

Popeye Village in Malta

Posted on: May 7, 2017

Do you remember Popeye the Sailorman? As a prairie kid growing up without a TV, I loved the Popeye comics. I waited eagerly for the funny papers, as we called them, to arrive in the weekly newspaper. Then in 1980, a movie was made with Robin Williams and Shelly Duval. I loved it too.

A pleasant surprise during our visit to Malta was discovering the film set of the movie. Unfortunately, Robin Williams is no longer with us but the set to the movie still is. The village of Sweethaven rests on the edge of a peaceful cove in Anchor Bay and is now a popular tourist attraction. When we heard about it, we decided to take a bus to Popeye Village. I’m so glad we did. The delightful visit made me feel like a kid again.

The village of Sweethaven built for the 1980 Popeye movie.

To construct this authentic wooden village in Malta, tree trunk logs arrived from Holland, and wood shingles, used in the construction of the rooftops, were imported all the way from Canada. A 165 international construction crew consumed eight tons of nails and two thousand gallons of paint to finish off this incredible set ready for film production in January 1980.

A precarious outhouse.

There are plenty of activities on the site including a boat ride around the bay. Information about filming the movie, movie clips, music from the film and various props are everywhere. The film, directed by Robert Altman, featured his grandson playing the part of Swee’pea. Characters from the story are happy to pose for pictures, answer questions and entertain the guests.

I even got to meet Popeye and Olive Oyle! I didn’t see Swee’pea though.

A Popeye comic museum on site.

The Popeye the Sailor Man cartoon character was introduced by Elzie Segar in 1929. The comic museum displays various Popeye comic strips over the years and brought back great memories.

Great memories of Popeye Village, Malta

This was an added surprise for us! I was humming Popeye the Sailorman for the rest of the day.

Have you ever been anywhere where you have encountered a pleasant surprise?

54 Responses to "Popeye Village in Malta"

Wow! I watched that movie more times than I can count and hooked my nephews on it. I have always loved Popeye. Thank you for sharing. That would be an incredible place to visit.

I’ve been to many places with hidden surprises, but I can’t focus on one at this time.

It was amazing to be there. Glad to meet another Popeye fan.

How interesting Darlene! I am one of many who never turned up their nose at spinach again after meeting Popeye in comics and cartoons! And when living for years north of the 55th parallel in Thompson Manitoba, I would look forward to “Popeye’s” (a burger joint in a trailer by the Burntwood River) opening up for the spring to fall season – with the most scrumptious burgers, with names corresponding to size – Sweet Pea, Olive, Whimpy .and of course the largest was the Popeye. My mouth is watering thinking back!

Popeyes is a great name for a burger place! Glad this brought great memories.

I loved Popeye growing up. Remember Wimpy and all his hamburgers? What a treat to visit the set. Great photos!

Wimpy was such a popular character that a chain of Whimpy Burger fast food restaurants was created because of him and are still very popular in the UK today!

I did not know that! 😀

I remember we went to the Popeye village back in 1990 or thereabouts with our two boys when on holiday in Mellieha. It was so hot that I thought I was going to pass out.

I think it would get very hot in the summer in Malta. We were wise to go in March as the weather was perfect. I bet your boys still enjoyed Popeye Village though. I am so glad they have kept it up. Mellieha looked nice as we passed it on the bus.

What an amazing and beautiful place that is, Darlene, and I love those quaint houses! I used to watch the cartoons when I was young and we always laughed at Olive Oyle, as she was desperately thin and so hopeless. Did you get to see Brutus too and did you have to eat a can of spinach? Yuk!!!

We saw Brutus too. Although I like spinach, I didn’t eat a can of it. I’d rather have it in something like quiche or ravioli etc. The houses were so adorable and it was quite amazing to experience.

Love the photos!

So pleased you enjoyed the photos. I think Amanda could have an adventure there, don’t you?

Yes. Amanda would love it.

How wonderful that the set is still there, it looks incredible. I’ve never seen a movie set in the flesh so it would be really interesting to see this. I haven’t seen the movie but I do remember the Popeye cartoons on TV from my youth. I’ve got the theme tune going round my head now. Great photos by the way.

Glad you enjoyed the photos. I love visiting movie sets that have been saved. At least it’s a good tune to have running in your head.

What a fun discovery Darlene! I definitely remember Popeye from my childhood and the movie with Robin Williams too. I smiled at the Canadian imports to the movie set. My that seems like quite the trek.

It was cool to learn that the roofs were made of materials from Canada! I love fun discoveries like this site!

I love that they have kept this type of a set as a tourist attraction….I grew up watching Popeye cartoons on TV (black and white….before color tv’s were common). I did not see the movie, but am in awe of the set they built….incredible!!

I was so impressed they kept the set for 37 years! And they are always improving it. They were replacing the roof tiles on some of the buildings while we were there. You would just love it!

Love that stuff!! You run across old “western sets” here in Arizona and California from all of the cowboys shows that use to air…but nothing as extensive as this..

Glad you liked it, I thought it was a dreadful waste of admission fee and a very badly presented attraction. It didn’t amuse my grandchildren at all. I advise people to stop and look at it for free from across the bay and then move on!

Perhaps we are easily amused! I usually spend a lot of time in museums, churches and historic sites so this was a nice diversion for both of us. Hubby enjoyed the break.

I love Malta all except for Popeye! Did you like Valletta and its museums?

Loved Valetta and the Museum of Archeology especially. I blogged about it here. https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/the-malta-museum-of-archaeology/
Malta was so amazing.

Darlene, for some reason we missed the Popeye Village when we visited Malta, and I’m glad to see detailed photos of the place. I’m always amazed at the time and money invested in movie sets. When we were there, they had just finished filming portions of the movie “Gladiator.” Are there any of these sets left and are they open to the public? ~James

I didn’t read or hear about any other movie sets. If there had been a Gladiator set to visit, I would have been there! We did visit Gozo where a wedding scene from Game of Thrones was filmed. No set was required as they used the natural wonder of the Azure Window. Unfortunately, the arch collapsed two weeks before we got there! Will post a blog about it soon.

I certainly do remember Popeye and I’m singing the TV theme tune as I type this. I must say I had never heard of Popeye village and had no idea the film was made in Malta, but it looks like the perfect place to visit. Thanks for sharing all your photos.

I too was surprised to learn the film had been filmed in Malta. That tune is catchy, isn´t it?

Wow! What a great share. I had no idea the film was filmed in Malta.

It was a fun discovery. Thanks for stopping by!

I was still acting when the movie first came out, so your post brought back fond memories. Altman was one of my favorite directors. My college roommate was featured in another of his films [Nashville], so it brought back those memories as well.

I had no idea the Popeye set survived, however, or that it was being used as a tourist attraction. How much fun that must have been. Thanks for sharing on the Senior Salon.
xx,
mgh
(Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
“It takes a village to educate a world!”

Glad this brought back good memories. Altman was a great director and it was cool to learn that his grandson played Swee´pea. It was a fun place. I love learning about the background to a movie. Harry Nilson did the music, which I hadn´t realized.

I think I did know that Nilson did the music, but I had long since tucked it away in the recesses of my memory somewhere. I did NOT know about the grandson. Really fun and unusual post.
xx,
mgh

Nice article, Really loved it, you explained it very well, Thank you so much.

I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Dear Darlene, I had to come over because your comment about child wizards (on my blog) made such perfect sense to me. I worry that Enid Blyton isn’t relevant these days, but your comment made me realise none of that matters. Kids want to read about amazing adventures where adults are nowhere to be seen. No wonder your books are so popular.

Thank you so much! Children do need to escape the world of adults hovering, as we did. I appreciate your response and you are always welcome here.xo

Thank you Darlene. I loved watching Popeye as a child. I used to ask the children in school “What was Popeye’s favourite food ? ” and they generally knew the answer “Spinach.” It was a great way to get them to incorporate organic veg in their diet.

Yes, Popeye made spinach popular! How wonderful to use the cartoon as an example of healthy eating. Kids would love that.

Yes. It brought healthy eating to life. 😊

How fascinating! Malta looks unique and lovely, and then the added attraction of Popeye Village – who would have guessed? I liked Popeye when I was a kid too (and love spinach, probably because I started eating it at an early age thanks to Popeye). I wasn’t a huge fan of the Robin Williams movie – I had too much of my own idea of what Popeye was like. However, Robin lived in the same town I did in CA, and I saw him out riding his bike often. Quite a sadness in town when he died. The “Rainbow” tunnel we always drive through from the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County is now named after him.

Robin Williams filmed a number of movies in the Vancouver area including in the small town we lived in. He was often seen at Starbucks or riding his bike along the paths. He always had time to chat and was well loved by the locals. It was a sad day when we lost him. Visiting this site was a nice reminder of a man who put a smile on many folk´s faces.

You describe him exactly. May he Rest In Peace. 💚

What a fun and unexpected surprise. The “village” is adorable and I can’t believe it has been maintained. I used to watch a show called Popeye Theatre when I was a child and I still tell my grandchildren if they want to be strong to the finish, they better eat their spinach.

Good advice for the grandchildren! I was pleased to see they have kept up the site. I think they get quite a few visitors so it is worth it. It was a delightful surprise for us.

Wow, That looks like so much fun! I love the zany, leaning buildings. 🙂

It was fun and the crooked buildings were whimsical.

I read your blog with a big smile. Yes, I have been there too and your great photos brought it straight back. I didn’t know all the facts you had researched and cherish adding that to the feeling of the village.

Hope you enjoyed Valletta as well.
miriam

Glad you enjoyed the post and it brought back good memories. We loved Valletta too and Mosta.

I didn’t know there was a village. That sea, and that name, Sweethaven — so lovely!

They built the village for the movie, then kept it as a tourist attraction. So glad they did.

Darlene, I’m glad you had such a wonderful time in Malta! A few months into our stay there, our Maltese friends spontaneously drove us to the Popeye village at sunset. It was closed, though it was still fun seeing the set from afar, nestled among Malta’s rugged coastline. Even after living on Malta for a year, there are still some sites we missed, so it seems we’ll have to add Popeye Village to that list too.

Paul had heard about before so we put it on the list of things to do. So glad we did as it was a fun stop. You can get a nice view of it from the road across the bay and I’m sure it looked cool at sunset. The bus ride to and from was interesting as well. There is never enough time to see everything!

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