In a very rare interview, the creator of one of the most beloved comic strips of all time explains why he's shied away from the big screen.
The saga of Bill Watterson and his critically acclaimed, immensely popular strip about a boy and his stuffed tiger is legendary among comic-strip enthusiasts and even pop-culture enthusiasts, in general. Watterson launched Calvin and Hobbes in 1985, grew it into one of the most popular strips on the comics page, broke new ground with changes to the comic-strip format and sold millions of anthology books, only to abruptly close up shop in 1995. Both during the initial run of Calvin and Hobbes and in the years since, Watterson steadfastly resisted licensing merchandise for the strip. Apart from a few unlicensed curiosities (you've seen those bumper stickers), all you can buy from the world of Calvin and Hobbes is the strip itself.
Watterson also resisted adapting his characters into other media. Even as Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and Garfield creator Jim Davis were making boatloads of cash and earning new fans by licensing holiday specials, videogames, animated series and even (in Davis' case) feature films, Watterson steered clear of ever animating his characters. Even now, in an age when animation studios like Pixar are producing iconic work, he still resists the idea, and he explained why in a very, very rare new interview with Mental Floss.
"The visual sophistication of Pixar blows me away, but I have zero interest in animating Calvin and Hobbes," Watterson said. "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. As a comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes works exactly the way I intended it to. There’s no upside for me in adapting it."
Watterson also took some time to address the sequel and spinoff-happy media culture we live in at the moment, and in so doing offered up a somewhat updated explanation as to why he didn't continue Calvin and Hobbes beyond its first decade.
"Well, coming at a new work requires a certain amount of patience and energy, and there’s always the risk of disappointment. You can’t really blame people for preferring more of what they already know and like. The trade-off, of course, is that predictability is boring. Repetition is the death of magic," he said.
Though Watterson could have probably delivered entertaining Calvin and Hobbes strips for years beyond when he actually chose to stop, there's something very special about the finite nature of the strip, especially compared to the seemingly infinite nature of some of its contemporaries (how long will Garfield go on?). It still feels very much like the clear vision of one man, and that's the way Watterson likes it. So, unless one of his heirs gets excited about an adaptation decades from now -- and that seems like something Watterson would try to avoid even from beyond the grave -- it looks like Calvin and Hobbes will always only exist to us in its original, pure, comic-strip form.
What do you think? Is Watterson right to keep the comic strip a comic strip, or is he missing a tremendous filmmaking opportunity?
(Via Mental Floss)