Born of Imagination & Inspiration
In his original tale, Little Toot is a pint-size tugboat who spends his days “playing” in New York Harbor, getting in the way of the other tugs that are working hard. He enjoys making figure-8s and blowing big balls of smoke. While his father and grandfather, famous for their strength and bravery, work diligently, Little Toot plays around.
The entire fleet of tugboats worries that Little Toot will never learn to do the job he was born to do. However, when a big ocean liner gets into trouble during a storm, Little Toot must decide if he will continue his childish antics or rise to the occasion and save the day. He is able to signal the other tugs with his smoke — but only he can get over the waves to save the ship. The experience changes him. He summons up his courage and works harder.
Ultimately, Little Toot is rewarded for saving the ocean liner. He returns to a hero’s welcome in New York Harbor—and his father and grandfather beam with pride. Little Toot is a tale of overcoming fear and self-doubt. It teaches several life lessons that are valuable to us all. Work hard. Be responsible. Never quit. Use your imagination. Believe in yourself.
In 1939, Hardie Gramatky saw a little Moran tugboat in New York’s East River not willing to work. The tugboat inspired Gramatky, an artist who was also an animator for Walt Disney Studios from the late 1920s to 1936. He painted several watercolors of the tugboat and gradually wrote Little Toot. It became a Library of Congress children’s classic with five sequels. The story was retold in a 1948 animated short that was part of “Melody Time,” an animated feature by Walt Disney Productions.
Quite by chance, our founder, Christopher Robin Obetz, discovered an old Crosby tugboat in an historic barn in LaBelle, Florida that immediately brought back the life-changing impact of the Little Toot story for him. He left his job in the corporate world to restore the vessel stem to stern. Today he devotes his talents and resources to spreading Little Toot’s life lessons and messages through The Little Toot Foundation and the real-life tugboat that inspired him, docked at the Edison-Ford Marina in Fort Myers, Florida.