It was built as a film set for the production of the 1980 live-action musical feature film Popeye, produced by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions and starring Robin Williams. Today it is open to the public as an open-air museum and family entertainment complex.
The construction of the film set started in June 1979. A construction crew of 165 working over seven months was needed to build the village, which consists of nineteen authentic wooden buildings. Hundreds of logs and several thousand wooden planks were imported from Holland, while wood shingles used in the construction of the roof tops were imported from Canada. Eight tons of nails and two thousand gallons of paint were also used in construction.
In addition, a 200-250 foot breakwater was built around Anchor Bay's mouth to protect the set from high seas during the shooting.
The set was completed in seven months, and filming commenced on January 23, 1980. The film, based on the comic strips by E.C. Segar, is set around the fictional village of Sweethaven where the sailor Popeye arrives in an attempt to find his long lost father.
Although the film was initially perceived to be a failure, Popeye Village remains a popular tourist attraction.
Popeye Village is open to the public seven days a week and, apart from the film set itself, has a number of family attractions for the visitor to experience. There are shows, rides and museums, as well as play houses where children can climb and explore the village. Children may also get to meet the main characters from the show such as Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto and Wimpy.
Set dressings and props
Some of the houses in Popeye Village have been equipped with various items related to the filming, including props used in the film's production.
Each hour on days when the weather permits, visitors can enjoy a twenty minute boat trip around Anchor Bay where one can photograph the scenery and view Popeye Village from the sea.
Situated in the centre of Popeye Village's Lower Complex, visitors can see a twenty minute history and information audio-visual show which includes clips from the actual film and the set's construction. The cinema can accommodate approximately 40 people and has a show every hour.
Popeye Village hosts a variety of functions and activities at certain times of the year, including casual barbecue lunches and dinners.
Performers and animators provide regular entertainment for families while they are visiting the village, and many of these shows interact with the audience. They include:
- Puppet Show. Featuring five Popeye characters and the Puppet Master, the story is fully interactive with the children in the audience.
- Figaro. The barber of Sweethaven creates his miraculous and artistic hairstyles whilst singing happily to classical music.
- Jerry Sprinjer Show. This performance investigates an old secret that has been lurking in Sweethaven. Two "bodyguards" are chosen, and the audience has a chance to ask questions to discover the story's conclusion.
- Popeye and his Friends. A play featuring some famous and not so famous singers, each dance has been choreographed with attention to detail. It is this show where all the Popeye characters gather on stage to sing the Popeye theme song.
- Doctor Graves. Doctor Graves picks a member of the audience to try his experiment on. The audience member is sent to Hollywood.