When Fred Grandinetti was a young boy he was playing in his Aunt’s outdoor pool. At the bottom of the pool was a dividing line which indicated the feet of the water. Grandinetti was not paying attention and found himself going under! A neighbor saw his trouble and dived into the pool pulling him to safety. Afterward Grandinetti always wore a life jacket whether in a pool or at the beach.
Grandinetti writes that he remembered this incident when developing the television series Drawing With Fred in 1992. Original water safety tips have become a recurring feature on the program which has earned three CONTI awards for excellence in cable programming. Each water safety tip features a creative way to demonstrate the importance of wearing a life jacket.
Although Grandinetti writes, produces and directs each segment he leaves the performing to professional actors.
Cuyle Carvin, whose television credits include Criminal Minds, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Mentalist, Hawaii Five-O, The Brink and NCIS: Los Angeles , appears in water safety tips alongside Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto, Popeye’s nephews, Betty Boop and Eugene the Magical Jeep.
Brandon Stumpf who is featured in the motion pictures 27 Dresses, D.I.D., BEG and The Witching Hour is a model and art teacher. He performed magic and consumed a can of Popeye brand spinach in his water safety tip. Stumpf’s entire family also became animated cartoon characters illustrating the danger of wandering off at the beach.
Musician, actor and model Brendan P. Lynch emerged as smoke from a genie bottle and conjured up a life jacket.
Twins, Joe and Mike Michel, performed magic and produced a cluster of stars. They both agreed wearing life jackets keeps them safe while swimming.
“Obviously I write these segments paying homage to my favorite television programs including I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch and Popeye,” Grandinetti said. “Producing segments with magic effects is not easy. The performers have to learn to remain in place between scenes and the special effects have to look somewhat convincing.
“Fortunately I have worked with two outstanding editors. They are Watertown’s Vatche Arabian and Marc Vadeboncoeur from Goodheart Media located in Raymond New Hampshire.”
The cartoonist’s first venture into promoting water safety was for a series of posters featuring his original character Danny the Lifeguard. With the help of animator Rob Nelson, director Dennis Volpe and voice performer Daniel Mariano Grandinetti produced a Danny the Lifeguard public service announcement. The spot originally aired on Drawing With Fred beginning in 1993 but found trouble finding broadcast time on local television stations. Grandinetti spent his own money to make sure Danny’s water safety messages were viewed during cartoons on both WSBK-TV 38 (Tennessee Tuxedo) and WLVI-TV 56 (Popeye).
In addition to these original segments Drawing With Fred features health and safety tips which originally aired on The All New Popeye Hour.
“When I was growing up children watched Rex Trailer, Willie Whistle, Bozo the Clown, Uncle Gus and Major Mudd discuss safety issues in a very subtle way. Sadly this era of children’s programming is pretty much gone. I feel it is important to carry the torch on a local level,” Grandinetti said.
Drawing With Fred can be seen weekly on The Watertown Community Access Channel. The water safety segments can be viewed on the program’s facebook page located at Facebook.com/DrawingWithFred