Fans of theme parks rave about attractions and theme park lands that truly immerse Guests into their favorite movie or intellectual property. Contemporary examples of this are the World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Toy Story Land, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

As immersive and detailed as these theme park lands are, they still are at best facades screening large show boxes. What if there were a place you can visit that quite literally placed you in the middle of a fully, three dimensional movie set. This little known place actually exists. It is Popeye Village, also known as Sweethaven Village, situated near the actual village of Millieha in Malta.

Popeye Village Panoramic View of Anchor Bay

Popeye Village is the actual movie set used by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions for Robert Altman’s film “Popeye,” shot in Malta. It is the only film set from that movie still in existence within Europe.

The movie Popeye, staring Robin Williams as the led character and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, is a 1980s live-action musical failed to be successful at the box office. Forty years later visitors and die hard fans of the Popeye the Sailor cartoons can visit this, now, open air museum that has been preserved to its original glory.

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The fictional village of Sweethaven started construction in June 1979 and lasted for approximately seven months. To protect the movie set from high waves crashing into the coastline, a big breakwater was built in Anchor Bay. Over 160 construction workers from various countries worked to build the village consisting of nineteen, colorful cottage sized houses. The filming commenced on January 23, 1980, and wrapped on June 19, 1980

Popeye Village Colorful Buildings Seen From the Ocean

Sweethaven’s rustic seaside-styled structures were constructed with imported wooden siding and roof materials with nearly two thousand gallons of paint giving the village the lived-in feel. To this day, many of the houses and structures display movie props seen in the feature film. Early identifiable buildings are Olive Oyl’s house, Popeye’s cabin, the firehouse, the dentist’s office, the post office and many more.

Visitors also come to the village to meet world famous cartoon figures. Characters from the show, such as Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto, and Wimpy are constantly walking around the village. Throughout the years, many shows are held in the village, but the most special event is the Wedding of Popeye and Olive. The unique and rare feature about the Popeye Movie Village is the fact it still exists since typically after a large movie production, in-situ sets of this nature are often demolished and preserved only on film.

Popeye Village Barber Shop Building

Outside the structures, there are numerous props from the movie scattered throughout the village. Scenically aged boats set the tone as one enters the village. The village now boasts a 40-seat cinema that plays clips from the movie and behind-the-scenes footage showcasing the construction of the village’s sets.

Popeye Village Silversmith and Post Office Buildings

In an effort to preserve the village, that was essentially left in place by the movie studios after the movie flopped at the box office, local entrepreneurs realized the potential of the village by having a fully realized village iconically perched at the edge of the coastline.

Popeye Village Characters Dancing In the Street

True to form, as seen in theme parks, actors dressed as characters from the movie can be found wandering around the attraction. Popeye Village, referred to by the locals as Sweethaven, has become a popular venue in Malta used for private parties, weddings, and corporate events when it’s not being utilized on a daily basis as the open air museum.

For fans of uniquely themed attractions, Popeye Village is a one of a kind opportunity to visit and wander around a purpose-built, in-tact movie set making this one of the top themed travel destinations we can recommend!

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J. Daniel Jenkins THEME PARK TRAVEL
About the Author J. Daniel Jenkins, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP is a licensed Architect and a former Walt Disney Imagineer with over twenty four years of Commercial + Themed Entertainment design, design mangement, and A&E subject matter expertise. Jenkins, President | Owner of Holihoon Media LLC, is also the Founder | Chief Editor of themeparkarchitect.com who's goal is to teach individuals about theme park architecture, engineering, and design, how to become theme park architects and designers, and discuss themed entertainment centric topics and travel.