‘Calvin & Hobbes’ Creator Believes There’s ‘No Upside’ to a Movie Adaptation

Published 1 year ago by

Calvin and Hobbes hugging Calvin & Hobbes Creator Believes Theres No Upside to a Movie Adaptation

Those who are already familiar with Calvin and Hobbes, the boy-and-his-tiger comic strip from artist and writer Bill Watterson, are likely also aware of Watterson’s strong position on the subject of merchandising. While there’s no doubt a market for Calvin and Hobbes mugs, T-shirts and plushy toys (as the existence of bootleg versions shows), Watterson said in an interview that he felt all of the merchandising options offered to him would, “violate the spirit of the strip, contradict its message, and take me away from the work I loved.”

Calvin and Hobbes ran for ten years, between 1985 and 1995, and since publication of the last strip there still hasn’t been a Calvin and Hobbes TV show, a video game or a big-budget movie with Spaceman Spiff going on exciting CGI adventures. Since many of the stories (not to mention one half of the title charactered) were fueled entirely by Calvin’s six year-old imagination, it’s possible to imagine a family movie along similar lines as upcoming Ben Stiller comedy The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but will a Calvin and Hobbes movie ever get made?

Perhaps one day it might, but it won’t be with Watterson’s involvement. Speaking in a recent interview with Mental Floss, the artist and writer said that his admiration for film as an art form hasn’t convinced him that the two best friends need the big screen treatment, nor that he should have a go at getting them moving:

“The visual sophistication of Pixar blows me away, but I have zero interest in animating Calvin and Hobbes. 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.”

The full interview, a rarity for the reclusive author, is definitely worth a read, and includes some interesting reflections upon Watterson’s darker days of fighting for legal and creative control of the characters that he created, to the point that he felt “truly scared I was going to lose everything I cared about.” He expressed what seemed like a deep dislike of the concept of someone coming in and taking over his comic strip, which makes it unlikely that we’ll see Watterson giving any studios permission to hire other writers and animators for a Calvin and Hobbes movie during his lifetime.

Calvin and Hobbes duplicator Calvin & Hobbes Creator Believes Theres No Upside to a Movie Adaptation

Given how much weight movies based on comic books currently carry on Hollywood, Watterson was also asked what he thought about the way in which comic books are changing now that their mainstream appeal is growing. Though there’s a definite sense that he’s none too enamored by the advent of the digital age and the effect that it’s having upon comic book distribution, Watterson nonetheless offered up a fairly balanced view of what the future of comic books might hold.

“Personally, I like paper and ink better than glowing pixels, but to each his own. Obviously the role of comics is changing very fast. On the one hand, I don’t think comics have ever been more widely accepted or taken as seriously as they are now. On the other hand, the mass media is disintegrating, and audiences are atomizing. I suspect comics will have less widespread cultural impact and make a lot less money. I’m old enough to find all this unsettling, but the world moves on. All the new media will inevitably change the look, function, and maybe even the purpose of comics, but comics are vibrant and versatile, so I think they’ll continue to find relevance one way or another. But they definitely won’t be the same as what I grew up with.”

No doubt there are fans who are frustrated by Watterson’s resistance to the idea of animating Calvin and Hobbes for the big screen, or giving someone else permission to do so, but perhaps Calvin and Hobbes is one comic strip that doesn’t really need to be turned into a franchise.

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Source: Mental Floss (via /Film)

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  1. Yeah. You don’t whore this. Thanks Bill.

    • +10,000

    • Too bad about no movie, but I 100% understand what Bill is saying, and would agree if I wrote the strip, actually, I think. Calvin and Hobbes was one of the best strips ever, ranking right up there (just to name a few faves) with Beetle Bailey, Hagar The Horrible, Andy Capp, The Wizard Of Id, and BC, as well as the early Doonesbury (through Reagan’s administration, at least) as being some of the best chuckle-bomb, pie-in-my-face-and-loving-it comics I ever split my jaws apart on grinning at them! Not many as good as this one!

  2. Calvin and Hobbes has to my favorite comic and I’m surprised and happy to see an article on it on ScreenRant. I never get sick of it. It’s actually a tradition of mine to read most of the books during the holidays when it’s too cold to go outside.

    While I would be interested to see Calvin and Hobbes in an animated film, I think it’s best they leave it as is. I share the same sentiments as Watterson (obviously not as strong lol), it’ll be weird to hear someone voicing Calvin. There are a couple of individuals on youtube who have actually done some decent fan animated shorts of Calvin and Hobbes, though the voices are always really bad aha.

  3. Totally respect his stance. That said, I always thought the peanuts cartoons were pretty true to the spirit of the strips. Overall, if he doesn’t want to, it’s cool that he’s sticking to his guns

    • Wow was surprised to see Calvin and Hobbes mentioned here too but very happy for my favorite news site to comment on my favorite comic strip. I have the complete collection and actually make it a point to read a couple each day. Stick to your guns Mr. Watterson, I couldn’t agree more.

  4. its a good series if anything the fans “could” animate it

    • I’m heading into an Animation program soon so maybe I’ll give one of the strips a shot. Ones with no dialogue that is lol.

  5. all a studio will need to do is add a extra ’0′ to that check and it might happen one day, just saying.

    • Yeah, all those other times people approached Watterson for licensing deals and threw big piles of money at him worked out fine, after all.

      • anything can happen over time, i.e: disney and star wars

        • George Lucas is the probably the absolute last person who should be drawn up in any analogies with Bill Watterson. Add as many zeros as you like – I think anyone wanting to establish a marketing deal would have a task on their hands even tracking the guy down, let alone getting him to sign anything. I have nothing but respect for that.

  6. hour 1/2 2d animated calvin and hobbes = best thing ever.
    Cmooooooooon.
    Cmooooooooon.

  7. So glad that he’s sticking to his guns. I love the strip and still read it on GoComics every day, as well as owning several of the books. I do wish that Bill would come out of retirement and give us MORE Calvin and Hobbes as I would love to see Bill’s take on Calvin in the internet age. Heck, he could even start his own site to publish the strip daily and not have to worry about losing creative control. I’d pay a subscription fee to have access to brand new Calvin and Hobbes strips!!

  8. The comics stand really great on their own. Why dilute the series by turning it into a franchise? And I dunno, somehow the idea of Calvin or Hobbes actually having a voice sounds bizarre to me. I think anything they did would seem weird, because I can’t even imagine what they’d sound like. And I’m not at all sure that the nuance and social commentary in the strips would really come through in a movie anyway. Good on you, Watterson.

  9. I never liked Calvin and Hobbes; it was completely uninspired and overated. The popularity of the comic is due solely do to nostalgia. Not spawning another contemptible and uninspired franchise can only be a good thing.

    Hopefully this newspaper fluff will stay where it belongs – in the trash.

    • Yep just like your comment

    • Wow–never expected to find anyone who didn’t like C & H! Time for me to make a ginchy Calvin Face! I am afraid, while certainly entitled to your opinion, that you are very likely in a minority, but to each his own.

    • You spelled “Garfield” incorrectly, John.

      • Dude you crack me up!!

        • Good to see you again, Greenknight – it’s been a while!

  10. Bill Watterson is awesome, I’ve been a huge fan of calvin and hobbes since I was a kid. No movies please.

  11. as much as it bums me to not see a animated or live action movie to calvin and hobbes , Im glad ot see the creator take a stand and rather not see one made rather than have a butchered adaptation (I.e. dragonball evolution) to a comic strip I loved as a kid, I would rather go out and buy the between 80-120$ huge set of all the calvin and hobbes works and revisit them that way instead of a cheaply done film

  12. Glad he’s still sticking to his guns. I think I learned a lot of professional integrity from Watterson, Thank You! He is a refreshing voice in this world of selling out.

    “I figure that, long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality.”-Watterson

    Ugh, that’s sad. I hate those decals, they don’t represent him at all. I’m already trying to introduce Calvin and Hobbes books to my young kids. That’s how they’ll remember Watterson.

  13. it would be terrible if they tried to put calvin and hobbes into a movie. but what else would you expect from the great bill watterson? love this guy.

  14. I’ve never seen one man with so much conviction. I’m glad he is sticking to his guns. I, on the other hand, so sorry to say this, probably would have sold out long ago.

    He’s a better man than I.

  15. It’s probably a good thing that there isn’t going to be a movie anytime soon, because Hollywood might have someone write a lot of unnecessary fart jokes, toilet humor, and pop culture references. Then, it will becaome the next target for the people on thatguywiththeglasses.

    • Misspelled become.
      Sorry.

  16. It’s great he’s sticking to his guns but honestly, I have no opinion one way or the other because I’ve never heard of Calvin & Hobbes. Must be an American thing, like you guys wondering what the hell we were talking about if the Brits on this site started talking about Desperate Dan, Dennis The Menace or The Bash Street Kids.

    • You really ought to check it out. It’s special, as evidenced by Watterson’s incredible resistance to the almighty dollar in a land where the dollar is more important than God, the planet or one’s own mother.

    • Dennis the Menace I know and love. I used yo identify with a combo of him and Charlie Brown at times when I was a little kid.

  17. My Aunt in Scotland used to send me the British comics — loved ‘em. But the British Dennis the Menace is not the same as the American one.

  18. that’s really true of him to make a stand to the SELL OUTS…I love it! IAM so inspired by this… even today I give away my internet art films On DVD for free to the kids in the area that I live in…I like for the kids to be inspired by my work…not for ticket sells…..R.G.

  19. Thank goodness, it’s always refreshing when someone knows when to say “no thanks”. One of the best comic strips of all time in my opinion.

  20. although I admire Watterson’s stance on ‘selling out’ I don’t agree on his deciding to not make a few tv ‘specials’….Charles Shultz gave us the timeless Charlie Brown’s Christmas and introduced the beloved Peanuts to new fans year after year…if done right and with Bill’s creative control, he could do the same…he could donate profits to charity if he was so inclined…he brought his creations into this world, now it seems he just wants to jealously guard them…c’mon Bill, play nice and share…the world needs more of your twisted genius like never before!

  21. Was an animated TV show ever made? If not, I’m shocked. It would be a great half hour, I’m sure.

  22. A Calvin and Hobbes CGIed movie could be epically great but only if the creator has 100% control of how it would work because otherwise we get additional crap like what The Lorax turned into.

  23. Creative integrity is going to be as extinct as the print comics he was talking about….

  24. Calvin & Hobbes and Peanuts both got me into drawing comic strips. Amen Bill Watterson, stick to your guns; it’s your baby, care for it and be proud of ‘the Masterpiece’ you created. I own the Complete Calvin and Hobbes Hardcover and I loan it out to anyone who wants to see ” Real Art!” I could see Pixar killing it to death, with way to many sequels.

  25. “… hasn’t convinced him that the two best friends need the big screen treatment.”

    The guys don’t. Need the BS treatment, that is.

    The Big Screen and today’s youth need them!