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Disneyland is a massive tourist theme park powered by an immense back catalogue of globally renowned multi-million dollar films. By contrast, Popeye Village is the ramshackle former set of one not particularly successful film made by the very same Disney Corporation more than 30 year ago. It really should be rubbish. Oddly, it’s not! And we love it!
In fact, though more than enough years have passed for your little ones to be entirely oblivious to Popeye, his story and the Disney film, they can have a cracking day out at what was Sweet Haven Village in the 1980 film. You’ll find it in the northwest corner of the island close to Mellieha Bay. It’s in a truly spectacular spot! How they got permission to build here is a total mystery! Maybe they didn't?
When the production team set to work, presumably with planning consent in place, the project represented a massive investment. There were 165 men working flat out for more than seven months to create this hamlet of 19 wooden buildings, not to mention a 200ft long breakwater that was installed to protect their precious new creation from getting battered by the sea.
Disney had signed up one of the men-of the-moment Robin Williams to star as the main man - the ‘sailor man’, in fact, complete with massive forearms and anchor tattoo. And though the box office was hardly set alight when the musical blockbuster was released, you could argue it was a decent investment. The film cost $20 million to make but brought in $50 million in the United States and a further $10 million in other countries. Sadly, the critics were not as happy as the paying public and the film was widely slammed in reviews.
The late Robert Altman directed the film that tells the story of our hero searching for Poopdeck Pappy, his long lost father. He happens upon the village where he makes friends with a large, burger-munching man called Wellington Wimpy and rents a room from Olive Oyl, the woman who is to become the love if his life.
Throughout the movie, the sailor’s motto is ‘I Yam what I Yam’ and that’s how Popeye Village presents itself today. Sure, there are bigger, better, much more expensive and more exciting white knuckle theme parks but this one is small, simple and has enough going on to offer an excellent family day out.
The buildings are meticulously maintained although some enhancements have been carried out for safety. After all, the village was only ever intended to be a short-lived backdrop for a film shoot.
Mixed in among and around the wooden buildings you’ll find plenty of fun activities to try including: boat rides around the bay, silversmith demonstrations, wine-tasting, an open-air beach lido with shower and lifeguards, inflatable trampolines and slides just offshore in the sea and a terrific kids’ pool with climbing frames and slides. This is sensibly positioned under a large sunshade to prevent them from getting burned.
There’s also a fun park with plenty of rides too. Once you’ve paid admission to the village, entry to the Fun Park is free but the tokens for the rides cost extra.
Characters from the film wander around saying hello to the kids and posing for pictures in between staging regular musical performances down by the sea. Swimming is very much part of the activities so pack your costumes or shorts and head for Popeye Village.
Standard adult Admission is €12.50 with a slight reduction to €10 for children aged three to 12-years-old.
To find Popeye Village, follow signs for the Gozo Ferry as Anchor Bay sits on the main route to the port. Alternatively, there are several bus routes with a stop right outside the entrance.
Address: Anchor Bay, Mellieha
Phone: +356 2152 4782
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