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Granpa title screen.jpg
Screen shot of the title card
Directed by Dianne Jackson
Produced by John Coates
Written by John Burningham (book)
Starring Peter Ustinov (as Granpa)
Emily Osborne (as Emily)
Music by Howard Blake
Sarah Brightman
Wroughton Middle School Choir
Distributed by Channel 4 (broadcast)
Universal Studios (VHS)
Release date(s) 31 December 1989 (1989-12-31)
Running time 26 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Granpa is a British family-oriented animated film that adapts a picture book by John Burningham. Produced by TVS for Channel 4 Television in 1989, it was released on VHS by Universal Studios in 1994.

An expensive film to produce, Granpa is hand-illustrated with coloured pencil, imitating Burningham's style in the book. It was directed by Dianne Jackson, who had previously adapted The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (1978), a wordless picture book, as an exceptionally successful family-oriented animated film (1982). Howard Blake, who wrote the music for The Snowman, wrote the music and the script for Granpa, which is referred to as an "animated children's opera". The voices of Granpa and Emily are by Peter Ustinov and Emily Osborne.

Granpa won the Prix Jeunesse International award for excellence in children's television programming in 1990.


The animated film is an adaptation of the children's picture book Granpa, written and illustrated by John Burningham and published by Jonathan Cape in 1984. Burningham won the Kurt Maschler Award, or "the Emil", from Maschler publishers and Booktrust, which annually recognised the author(s) of one "work of imagination for children, in which text and illustration are integrated so that each enhances and balances the other."


The film celebrates the relationship between a small girl named Emily (voiced by Emily Osborne), and her kindly but ailing grandfather (voiced by Peter Ustinov), along with a dog. Emily's playful innocence is contrasted with Granpa's increasing frailty. Aware that he will not be around for much longer, he shares his memories of adventures and days gone by.

These memories are vividly brought to life by her grandfather's tales, beginning with a description of Granpa's childhood and youth in the early part of the 20th Century. Other adventures include a chivalrous tale of Saint George and the Dragon imagined on a bedcover, a fishing trip which ends with a journey down the Thames pulled by a blue whale, a trip to the seaside which culminates in a re-enactment of the Battle of Britain and a Noah's Ark-influenced story, where Granpa's house is submerged and the pair have to accommodate exotic animals. The final jungle section, in which monkeys steal Granpa's storybook, is left intentionally incomplete.

As the seasons pass, Granpa grows frailer, and eventually Emily is left alone with an empty chair and the old man's loyal dog. She leaves the house with the dog and climbs a hill. As they travel, a group of children from her grandfather's stories join them.


The musical score was written and composed by Howard Blake and is almost in the form of a miniature opera, with many of the tales within the animation sung by the lead characters, along with children from the Wroughton Middle School choir (winners of BBC Choir of the Year) and a forty-piece orchestra (the Sinfonia of London).

The end title song "Make Believe" is performed by Sarah Brightman and has the theme of "Auld Lang Syne" as a counter-melody. The song was released as a single at the time.

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