The character of Popeye, associated characters and merchandising rights are owned by the Hearst Corporation through its King Features Syndicate subsidiary. The cartoons themselves are the property of Time Warner through its Turner Entertainment subsidiary.
These cartoons were originally produced by Fleischer Studios (by arrangement with Elzie Segar and King Features Syndicate) and distributed to theaters by Paramount Pictures. In 1942, Paramount took over Fleischer Studios and the animation studio was reorganized into Famous Studios which took over the Popeye series.
In 1956, Paramount sold the black and white cartoons to television syndicator Associated Artists Productions for release to television stations. Shown with a.a.p. logos replacing the Paramount logos, these cartoons were enormously popular. The color Popeye cartoons were sold to a.a.p. in 1957 at which point the theatrical Popeye series was discontinued. In 1958, a.a.p. was sold to United Artists. UA was absorbed into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to create MGM/UA in 1981.
In 1983, MGM/UA Home Video attempted to release a collection of Popeye cartoons on Betamax and VHS tapes, but the release was canceled after MGM/UA received a cease and desist letter from King Features Syndicate. After Ted Turner's unsuccessful attempt in 1986 to absorb MGM/UA, Turner sold the production and distribution operations and kept the MGM film library including the a.a.p. library. Time Warner bought Turner in 1996.
In 1999, home video rights to the Turner film library were reassigned from MGM/UA Home Video to Warner Home Video. Through the years, both Turner and Warner were unsuccessful in convincing King Features to allow the cartoons to be issued on home video. Unauthorized public domain and King Features authorized made for TV Popeye cartoons were issued in the meantime on DVDs. Over 1,000 people signed an online petition asking Warner and King Features to release the theatrical Popeye cartoons on DVDs.
In 2006, Warner Home Video and King Features Syndicate along with KFS' parent company Hearst Entertainment finally reached agreement allowing for the release of the theatrical Popeye cartoons on home video. The original Paramount logos appear on these cartoons because Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures cross-licensed each others' logos in a deal which also involved Paramount-distributed John Wayne movies originally released by Warner Bros., and therefore preserving the artistic integrity of the original theatrical releases.
The DVD volumes are being released in the order the cartoons were released to theaters.
While Volume One is a four-disc set, Warner Home Video has 'retooled' its release schedule so subsequent releases are two-disc sets beginning with Volume Two. The reason speculated is that the restoration of the later black-and-white cartoons is taking longer than expected.
Volume One of the series had the "Intended For Adult Collector And May Not Be Suitable For Children" advisory warning, which was the exact same disclaimer the "Golden Collection" Looney Tunes had on volumes 3-6. Volume Two didn't have that disclaimer, but Volume Three, featuring three banned Popeye wartime cartoons, possibly will. Volume One had 60 cartoons, Volume Two had 31, Volume Three will have 32, and the other four will have 27.