Researching animation history never ends for those of us who are endlessly fascinated by the films of the golden age and the people behind them. The internet era has allowed us to find lost cartoons, rare shorts and films we never knew existed. Case in point: this 1945 Navy training film produced at Warner Bros. Cartoons featuring cartoonist Robert Osborn’s character Grampaw Pettibone. I’d never come across anything about this one (embed below) in all my years of research. Carl Stalling’s music, Treg Brown’s effects and Frank Graham’s narration are unmistakable. Not sure who’s doing Grampaw’s voice. A more complete, time-code free version has been posted at CriticalPast.com.
I checked in with a few friends and all had interesting observations and factoids concerning this film. Amid Amidi told me that “Grampaw Pettibone debuted in January, 1943 in an issue of the “BUAER News Letter” (later “Naval Avaiation News”). The character was created by Commander Spencer “Seth” Hubert Warner and designed by cartoonist Robert Osborn, who also created “Dilbert” for the Navy. (We’ve posted about him before on the Brew.) Osborn continued drawing the character for the Navy until he passed away in 1994.”
About this film, Mark Kausler weighs in:
“Grampaw Pettibone was used in several other Flight Safety UPA films, I didn’t know that Warner Animation did any with him. Bobe Cannon did Grampaw in the other cartoons I’ve seen, but the animation here seems to be in the Rod Scribner school, without his gift for cartooning. The acting reminds me of the Snafu animation in “Fighting Tools”, where he shifts his head rhythmically on the lines “I ain’t no boob and I won’t be trapped…” It looks like Paul Julian did some of the backgrounds, especially that one with the arrow looking like TP all over the buildings.”
Mike Kazaleh hypothesizes:
“Cool film. I’ve never seen this before. The animation of Grampaw is all Ken Harris. The layouts look like Dave Hilberman’s work. Paintings are probably by Paul Julian. I’m not 100% sure who directed this. Possibly Frank Tashlin. If so, it may have been made slightly earlier than the 1945 date at the beginning, as Tashlin left the studio in 1944.”
Cartoon music historian Daniel Goldmark found this among Carl Stalling’s papers:
“Not only is that a Carl Stalling score, but the original handwritten score still exists; the title for the short on the top of the score is “Flight Safety.” The rest of the written score is pretty standard, except for the handwritten note at the end from Stalling to Franklyn : “Milt: This is a serious cartoon which, no doubt, you have discovered before now– Carl” Clearly Stalling (and Franklyn) had to tone down the comic music elements when doing training films (as opposed to the Snafus, Hooks, etc.).”
Amid suggested a comparision:
“Here’s the UPA short Join-Up Collisions. Look at the difference between how UPA (Bobe Cannon) interpreted the character (embed below) and the Warner Bros. version (above). It’s fascinating to see these two studios animating the same character, and how different their approaches were.”
Additional information on these films is gratefully accepted in our comments section below.
(Thanks, Jon Cooke)