The Magical Legacy of Johnny Gruelle
Approximate Time: 30 minutes
Common Sense Films
This documentary debuted on PBS Station WILL-TV (Urbana/Champaign, Illinois) on Thursday, June 6, 2013.
On June 14, 2009 hundreds of people, including a Japanese tour group, descend upon a normally subdued Midwestern town to bid farewell to the Raggedy Ann & Andy Museum. This collection now has a new home at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York where the siblings will sit amongst their peers in the National Toy Hall of Fame. The transition is bittersweet; dedicated fans from all over the world have made the pilgrimage to Arcola, Illinois for 20 years to participate in the Annual Raggedy Ann & Andy Festival. Not only are these fans honoring the legacy of these American cultural icons, they also pay tribute to their creator, the illustrator Johnny Gruelle.
Johnny Gruelle was born in Arcola in 1880 and lived there until the family moved to Indianapolis two years later. His father, R.B. Gruelle, was a well-known landscape and portrait artist. Johnny’s upbringing included a deep appreciation for the arts and literature. Among those having a great influence over the young man was poet and writer
James Whitcomb Riley, a close family friend. Over time he developed a keen sense of storytelling, eventually honing his skills as a political cartoonist for several newspapers. In 1910 Johnny Gruelle moved his family to New York were he joined the staff of The New York Herald, creating a popular
Sunday comic strip, “Mr. Twee Deedle.”
Johnny Gruelle created Raggedy Ann when his daughter, Marcella, brought him a faceless old rag doll she found in her grandmother's attic. Johnny drew a whimsical face on the
tattered doll and named her after two James Whitcomb Riley
poems, “The Raggedy Man” and “Little Orphan Annie.”
Tragedy strikes the family when Marcella suffers from the side effects of a small pox vaccination and dies at the age of 13. Based on the tales that Johnny would tell his daughter of her toy companion, he illustrated the “Raggedy Ann Stories,” published in 1918, and the United States Patent Office granted Johnny final approval for his “Raggedy Ann” doll. Over time Raggedy Ann would become a part of popular American culture and through books, toys and cartoons Raggedy Ann and her mischievous little brother would achieve popularity worldwide.
Today, Arcola is still considered home by the Gruelle
family. With the museum now closed, "The Raggedy Friendship Gathering" continues to attract visitors from around the globe who honor the memory of Johnny Gruelle and keep alive the legacy of two of the most beloved childhood companions in literature.
This documentary delves into the artistic origins of the
Gruelle family and brings to light many of the little known
stories and facts surrounding these two icons that came to
be loved by millions. The audience will get to witness and
understand the connection that so many have with Johnny
Gruelle’s lovable creations. Cameras roll as these fans
gather at the museum for possibly the last time. They recant their stories and share their feelings about the end of an era. Interviews with Joni Gruelle and her husband Tom bring history to life through family photographs and nostalgic stories of the past and present.
The Filmmakers - Common Sense Films
Rob Hill, Producer/Director
Rob majored in Motion Picture and Television Production at the University of Southern Colorado. In 2002 Rob directed, edited and wrote the Emmy nominated documentary, The Fort Fisher Hermit. The film also won Best Documentary Feature at the Hollywood Digital Film Festival and is distributed
internationally. The National Academy of Television Science nominated Rob for the prestigious Rising Star Award in 2007.
In 2011 Rob received an Emmy nomination for editing the PBS documentary BATTLESHIP NORTH CAROLINA: The Showboat Legacy, which he also produced, directed and wrote. Currently he is
working with KCET-TV, the nation’s largest independent public television station located in Los Angeles, producing the documentary series REPLAN IT with Jock Brandis. REPLAN IT is a dynamic documentary series that completely alters the viewers’ perspective on sustainable technology. Developed by Common Sense Films, REPLAN IT follows the work of Jock Brandis at the Full Belly Project, the world’s leading expert in appropriate technology. Rob has significant experience working with some of today's most advanced digital video technologies. He beings his technical experience to Wilmington's film community and is an active member of the Cucalorus Film Foundation's Board of Trustees.
Richard Sirianni, Executive Producer
Richard Sirianni is a partner and the Executive Producer at Common Sense Films. His 33 years of entertainment experience encompasses project and story development, writing, budgeting, business plan preparation, casting, post-production, home video distribution and live event production. He joined the Wilmington film community when he produced The Chester Story. The feature film starring
Desperate Housewives co-star Teri Hatcher premiered theatrically in 2003 and was released internationally under the title, A Touch of Fate. Richard served as Executive Producer on Reception to Follow, one of the first independent films broadcast on The Sundance Channel, and has worked on numerous feature films and television shows such as Bonfire of the Vanities, The Freshman and Miami Vice. During this time we worked for directors and producers such as Taylor Hackford, Michael Mann, Brian DePalma, Andrew Bergman, Gordon Parks and Fred Caruso. At Common Sense Films, Richard served as the Executive Producer on a number of PBS titles such as the Emmy Award-nominated documentary, The Fort Fisher Hermit: The Life and Death of Robert E.
Harrill, Battleship North Carolina: The Showboat Legacy, RePlan It with Jock Brandis and Raggedy: The Magical Legacy of Johnny Gruelle, with the two latter titles scheduled to be released in late 2013.
Kinny Landrum, Composer
Kinny Landrum is a composer, arranger, producer and keyboardist who has worked with such unusually diverse people as Leonard Bernstein, Carly Simon, Jimmy Cliff and David Lynch. He was the synthesist on the seminal TV show Twin Peaks, which won a Grammy Award. He has scored a
number of feature films that have played worldwide, with stars such as Teri Hatcher and Diane Ladd, and won the Movie Music Award at the Garden State Film Festival. He has scored numerous documentaries, such as Thoroughbred and Living The Story, for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award. His songs appear on albums by many diverse artists and he has written music extensively for commercials. He orchestrated the Broadway show In My Life. And he studied with Oscar-winning composer John Corigliano (The Red Violin, Altered States) while earning his Master’s Degree in Music. Kinny also teaches at the Filmmaking Certificate Program for Bluegrass Community and Technical College and is the president of Electrical Fire Music, Inc.
Production Company: Common Sense Films
Director: Rob Hill
Narration: Vicki Long
Writers; Craig Rogers, Richard Sirianni, Rob Hill, Cullen Lea
Producers: Richard Sirianni, Rob Hill
Associate Producers: Joel Wooten, Cullen Lea
Music Composer: Kinny Landrum
Executive Producers: Richard Sirianni, Akiko Miyamoto
Videographer: Rob Hill
Sound Mixer: Joel Wooten
Editor: Rob Hill
Post-Production Sound: Alex Markowski
Public Relations: BEP Communications Group K.K., Akiko Miyamoto
Joni Gruelle, Tom Wannamaker, Susie Patridge, Daniel Harshbarger, Dana Duloff, Akiko Miyamoto, Doris Sanchez, Alice Hubert, Diane & Jed Ashton, The Ashton Family
The Raggedy Ann & Andy Museum
Simon & Schuster
The Strong Museum of Play
The Amish Interpretive Center
The Project Gutenberg Collection
Kiminori Minami, GEO JAPAN
Charles & Cheryl Platt
Robyn & Anthony Amato
Cathy & Tom Corbin
Peggy Jannelle Elkins
In Memory of Megumi Takayama
Copyright 2013 Common Sense Films, LLC