Tucked away in the small European country of Malta is a place you’d probably never expect to find in the real world– Popeye’s Village. Also known as Sweethaven Village, it is an ideal family-vacation spot and one of Malta’s major tourist attractions. The fun park is modeled on the theme of the favorite children’s cartoon character, Popeye the Sailor Man. Interestingly, this village was the actual set used by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions to shoot the 1980 film Popeye, based on the comic strips by E. C. Segar.
At Sweethaven, you can expect to see models of all the main characters of the popular children’s cartoon – Popeye the Sailor, Olive Oyl, Bluto, Swee’Pea and Wimpy. You can also go on joy rides and visit play houses, puppet shows, museums, and cinema sessions featuring the film Popeye and the construction of the set. You can even star in your own film, record it and take it home. But that’s not all, there are a host of other things to see and experience, like face painting, balloon modelling, storytelling, open-air barbeques, crafts and Wii games. There’s also a mini golf course and a free wine tasting for adults. The season-specific activities are a huge hit as well, these include water trampolines, play pools and boat rides during the summer, and a Christmas Parade along with Santa’s toy town in December.
Photo: One Big Photo
Although Popeye was created way back in 1929, the popularity of this character has remained intact through the decades. I remember many happy hours of my childhood spent watching reruns of the old 1960s Popeye cartoons on TV; it was the only way my mother could get me to eat Spinach! The film version was made by Robert Altman starring Robin Williams, and was shot at Sweethaven in 1980. The construction of the set started in 1979 and it took seven months to build with the help of 165 workers. There are 19 real wooden buildings, the materials for which were imported from Holland and Canada, because Malta doesn’t have any forests. The all-wooden village was constructed to give it a 1920s look and feel. 8 tons of nails were used to make the structures stand, and 2000 gallons of paint to make them look cartoony. They also built a huge breakwater in Anchor Bay, to protect the set from high seas.
Photo: Popeye Malta
Popeye village is well-connected and a short bus-ride away from Mellieha Bay. The Fun Park is accessible all year round, but opening times vary according to the season.
Photo: Compton & Wright