Why A 'Calvin & Hobbes' Animated Series Isn't Happening (Ever)
"Intellectual property" or "IP" is a term many of us who grew up on the Internet are deeply familiar with. Everything has crossed over into everything regarding mass media and other products. Any character has a chance to be a cartoon, movie, live-action TV show, action figure, t-shirt as a stand-alone IP, or tagging up with another. The fact you can get a t-shirt of anime Velma flashing her Scooby Snacks, while Goku gives it a thumbs-up but not free healthcare is the most American thing of all time. Anything goes, officially licensed or not.
This includes newspaper comic strips. Man, oh man, did the Sunday funnies love to branch out to other mediums and merch. Peanuts has been adapted to several cartoons, movies, snow cone machines, and even shills good-grief'n life insurance.
The typically non-capitalist The Boondocks got an animated series. Garfield is E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.
Yet one comic strip omission remains uncartooned for TV, streaming, or movie theaters. A comic strip that has been touted, celebrated, acclaimed, and all that artistic integrity stuff. I'm talking about Calvin & Hobbes.
So why is C&H creator Bill Watterson's decade-long syndicated strip not given the big animated treatment? Well, it's simple. Bill doesn't want to do it. He even turned down George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.
Contrasting his similarly orange cat colleague, Hobbes is the anti-Garfield when it comes to merch and crossing over into other media. While there is certainly commercial appeal, Watterson claimed in The Calvin & Hobbes 10th Anniversary Book that he didn't license his creation out of fear that an abundance of merch would reduce the interest and value of the comic strip itself. This isn't unfounded as Garfield's looming presence in pop culture has become a joke itself, and that the omission of the title character in his own strips actually made them funnier.
But that doesn't mean Watterson hates animation. Far from it. In an interview with Mental Floss, Watterson says that he is blown away by Pixar and enjoys animation greatly, but frankly, he doesn't see any personal benefit in turning his work into an animated movie or series.
"If you've ever compared a film to a novel it's based on, you know the novel gets bludgeoned. It's inevitable because different media have different strengths and needs, and when you make a movie, the movie's needs get served," said Watterson. "As a comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes works exactly the way I intended it to. There's no upside for me in adapting it."
Others have also mentioned that Watterson was concerned about Calvin having his own, distinctive, audible voice rather than whatever was in his head. He does have a point. Right now, since he's only been in comic strip form, Calvin sounds like whatever you want to sound like. But if I were to show you this comic panel:
Your mind would be about to hear weird sex confessions in Adam West's Shatner-speak, Kevin Conroy's Shakespearean gravitas, Christian Bale's throat-thresher speak, or whatever Batman actor voice your brain favors.
So yeah, we will never get an official Calvin & Hobbes cartoon, but we can sometimes get great fan homages:
And we will always have bootleg car decals of Calvin pissing.
"I figure that, long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality." - Bill Watterson, 2013
Top Image: Bill Watterson