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Over the Hedge: From the Comic, to DreamWorks Animation Film, and Beyond
Michael Fry and T. Lewis' Over the Hedge comic strip spawned a DreamWorks Animation gem that's worth a revisit.
Remember comic strips? If you're of a certain age (we mean you, Gen Xers and Boomers), there was a time when Sunday newspapers gifted sequential art aficionados a whole section of glorious, color strips that covered the gamut of genres. It's where Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, Jim Davis' Garfield, Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, and so many more nationally syndicated comic strips became worldwide phenomenoms.
With most newspapers now online, those glorious comic pages are now rare. But there were some late-stage comic strip hits that closed out the era on top, like Michael Fry and T. Lewis' Over the Hedge. Their comedic take on nature versus suburban sprawl launched in 1995 and continues to be featured in papers that still print comics, and online at GoComics. In 2006, DreamWorks Animation turned the comic strip world into a CGI animated film, Over the Hedge (now available to stream on Peacock) starring the voice talents of Bruce Willis, Steve Carell, and Wanda Sykes.
To help draw attention to this unappreciated gem, SYFY WIRE is taking a deeper look at Fry and Lewis' Over the Hedge universe, from comic strip, to movie, and video games.
A Deep Dive into the Over the Hedge Universe
RJ and His Forest Posse
At its heart, Over the Hedge is essentially an anthropomorphic twist on The Odd Couple, just using a raccoon and a turtle as the diametrically opposed friends. Fry and Lewis originally conceived of their story using two pigs, but feedback had them swapping out the species.
In both the comic strip and the movie, there's a shared core cast. The leader is RJ the raccoon, the schemer of the neighborhood (voiced by Bruce Willis in the film) who studies the habits of humans to figure out how to best divest them of their food and resources. Verne (voiced by the late Garry Shandling) is RJ's smart and spiritual counterpart. He's a nerd and more cautious than RJ, plus he battles an allergy to lactose. Hammy is the hyperactive American red squirrel (voiced by The Office's Steve Carell) with a fleeting attention span.
The comic strip has a tendency to mostly focus on the adventures and observations of RJ, Verne, and Hammy as the primary characters, while the Over the Hedge movie introduced a bigger ensemble of woodland creatures and humans so there was a clearer us versus them narrative. Additions include Stella the skunk (Sykes), Lou and Penny porcupine (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara), and Vincent (Nick Nolte), the cranky American black bear.
The Over the Hedge movie reframes the origin story of RJ and Verne, with RJ coming to the 'burbs so he can pay back Vincent the bear for ruining his hibernation stockpile of food. Meanwhile, Verne and his small family have woken from hibernation to find their woods have been turned into a housing tract with a hedge separating the woods from the people. Having to figure out a new normal, RJ arrives with promises of how to navigate the humans (and get their food to pay back Vincent). It soon devolves into the humans trying to smoke out the critters and a war of wills ensue. A metaphor for rampant consumerism versus finding a balance with nature, Over the Hedge has the animals winning (for now) and setting up their new community in the shadow of humanity.
The Over the Hedge comic often features humans doing human things on their side of the hedge, in their houses and parks. While RJ, Verne and their buddies mostly observe them in action, only interacting with them here and there.
In the movie, the hedge is a boundary that protects the woodland creatures from the over-the-top responses that humans make when critters get into their spaces. The worst of them is Gladys Sharp (Allison Janney), the president of the El Rancho Camelot Estates Homeowner Association, who has it out for every non-domesticated animal in her orbit. She hires exterminator Dwayne LaFontant (Thomas Haden Church), the Verminator, to cleanse their neighborhood.
Over the Hedge Ever After
Turning 30 in 2025, Over the Hedge has spawned a lot of merch related avenues. Aside from the tie-in books for the movie in 2006, there have been several comic strip compilation books that bind the strips for easy reading. GoComics is the archival home of every Over the Hedge strip going back to 1995, with new strips posted every day.
There have also been two official video games titles: Over the Hedge for multi-platforms featuring the animation style of the film, and Hammy Goes Nuts. The Game Boy Advance version of Hammy Goes Nuts is a miniature golf game, while the Nintendo DS version has Hammy trying to help Boris the Beaver create a dam. While there hasn't been a sequel to the movie, DreamWorks did include a new short to the home video release of the movie, Hammy's Boomerang Adventure.