The Wonderfully Weird World Of ‘Pete-Roleum and His Cousins’ (1939 Animated Short)

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This film was made to be shown in the Standard Oil exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Showings were accompanied by narration delivered “live” that would match the pre-recorded narration in the film, so that the stage narrator would ask a question answered by the screen narrator, and vice versa.

Portions of this film are silent to permit an accompanying speaker to narrate some of the images.

IMDB

Synopsis: An oil drop named Pete takes the viewer on a wonderfully strange journey narrating the virtues and necessity of petroleum as his cousins entertain throughout.

Message: Modern civilization is only possible because of petroleum. Without it humanity is doomed to the barren ruins of a once great culture.

Memorable Quote: ‘Oil turns the wheels of industry! Cools and heats! Makes paradise on earth!’

Pete Roleum and His Cousins is a notable animated short for a number of reasons:

– The irony of leftist/progressive (and future blacklisted) Joseph Losey shilling for the ‘oil men’ and the petroleum industry as writer, director, and producer.

– The innovative puppetry and three-dimensional sets developed by Broadway designer Howard Bay.

– The idiosyncratic stop-motion animation work of Charley Bowers.

– The early use of technicolor in an animated film.

– And, the musical sequence featuring the song, Something to Sing About by Oscar Levant.

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