One name kept coming up. Ellen Thomas said “Homer Groening”. Will Vinton said “Homer Groening”.Bill Plympton said “Homer Groening”. What was the question? Dennis and I were asking them who we should know about in Portland film history.
From the Seattle Times obituary for Groening, in 1996.
Homer P. Groening was born Dec. 30, 1919, a U.S. citizen in Main Centre, Saskatchewan, the son of Mennonite farmers. He spent his youth in Oregon.
He earned the rank of Eagle Scout and was a co-founder in 1936 of Camp Pioneer at the base of Mount Jefferson. He graduated from Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., in 1941.
He met his wife, Margaret, at Linfield. They married in 1942.
Mr. Groening flew a B-17 over Europe during World War II and participated in the D-Day invasion, winning a Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war, he returned to Portland and joined the Botsford, Constantine and Gardner ad agency as a production assistant.
He was called up again to fly transport planes in Korea.
Upon his return, he became a vice president at the ad agency, working on accounts such as Jantzen, Pendleton, Olympia beer, Idaho potatoes and Western Hotels. He started his own agency in 1958.
“He was an absolute creative genius,” said former Advertising Federation President Mick Scott, who worked with Mr. Groening to found the American Advertising Museum in Portland.
When film caught his interest, he taught himself the craft.
“He was a one-man show,” said his daughter, Lisa. “He did the producing, writing, shooting, sound recording, editing, directing and narrating.”
Among his film clients were Jantzen, Timberline Lodge, Johnson Motors, Eastman Kodak and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
He won numerous Golden Eagles, given by the Council on International Non-Theatrical Events (CINE), and awards from the Advertising Association of the West and the American Film Festival.
He produced a string of films about water in all its forms, including “Get Wet,” “Getting Wetter,” “Psychedelic Wet” and “Study in Wet.”
Mr. Groening’s son, Matt, said he received creative encouragement at home, in part because his father was a cartoonist himself. Mr. Groening took colored pencils and sketch pads home to his five children. He would make up the beginning of a story and his children would finish it.
When young Will Vinton stood in Portland with his brand new Oscar in 1975, wondering if he should stick around, he took a page from Homer Groening, and decided to stay.
One consequence of that decision…..
Travis Knight and Mark Gustafson next month will be in LA nervously waiting for the moment they open the envelope for Best Animated Feature. Both artists are former Will Vinton Studio employees, mentored by Will, who was in turn inspired by Homer.