Nearly three decades before the release of this full-length adaptation, stop-motion innovator George Pal made a 1947 Puppetoon which was also based on Tripp and Kleisinger's tune. The Paramount short was nominated for a Best Animated Short Oscar.
A full-length version of Tubby the Tuba was announced in 1974 by Alexander Schure, the millionaire founder of the New York Institute of Technology. He set up the production at its Westbury, New York facilities, in the Animation Department, Visual Arts Center and Tech Sound Lab of that campus. In order for it to compete with the works of children's film leader Disney, he rounded up a celebrity cast (led by Dick van Dyke), as well as Tripp, the song's writer, and Broadway musician Lehman Engel.
Schure, however, did not know anything about the animation process at the time he started working on it. Because of this, he hired the industry's best artists from the Eastern Seaboard, among whom were Sam Singer from Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse, and John Gentilella from the classic Popeye series. The majority of the final crew were previously members of Fleischer Studios.
Schure found the progress on the new Tubby was very slow, hindered by the tedious frame-by-frame process occasionally encountered in the hand-drawn art. In response, he turned to an interest in the then-young field of computer graphics, and recruited several consultants and scientists from NYIT so that the project could go on. Two of the later crew members were Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith, the future founders of Pixar Studios.
Thus, it should have marked the first time that computers were ever used in the making of an animated feature, but it ended up being done the conventional way after all. When the film wrapped up production, the first test screenings did not do as well as the crew had hoped it would. As a result, Catmull removed Sam Singer's name from the final prints, taking a credit in Singer's place. He later went on to say about the initial reaction to Tubby:
It was awful, it was terrible, half the audience fell asleep at the screening. We walked out of the room thinking 'Thank God we didn't have anything to do with it, that computers were not used for anything in that movie!'
Of director Schure, Catmull's partner Smith observed: "We realized […] that he really didn't have what it takes to make a movie." Neither of the duo were satisfied with what the finished film had to offer.
The feature-length Tubby has been generally forgotten in the annals of animation history since its original run, but on September 11 2006, a small label called Pegasus premiered it on Region 2 DVD in the United Kingdom. To date, it has only received VHS release in North America.