“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!” were the very last words in the 3,150th and final Calvin and Hobbes newspaper strip by Bill Watterson that ran on Sunday, December 31, 1995.
In the late 1990s, there were persistent rumors of a Calvin and Hobbes animated project. Watterson had always expressed an awe of animation and what could be accomplished in the medium, while he did state that it would be “scary” to hear Hobbes’ voice in an animated cartoon.
Surely, the many fans thought that Watterson could not just walk away from the delightful characters he had created and must have some other plans for them like a children’s book or graphic novel or even an animated short. However, after seventeen years, it seems apparent that if Watterson was working on any of those projects, he has kept that work to himself.
The official statement from artist Bill Watterson’s syndicate, United Press Syndicate, when asked about an animated project was the following: “I’m sorry, there is no ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ movie in production, and there are no plans for such. Bill Watterson is very much retired from cartooning, and has not indicated to us any desire to return in the foreseeable future.”
Still, the rumors kept cropping up. For a very short time there were cels being offered for sale on eBay from an animated “Calvin and Hobbes” project including one featuring a young girl who looked like Susie Derkins from the comic strip getting hit by a snowball. Were these from an experimental project done by Watterson or were they just the product of a talented fan doing a tribute project?
There was talk that voice artists Tress MacNeille (Babs Bunny in “Tiny Toons”, Charlotte Pickles in “Rugrats”, Dot Warner in “Animaniacs”,etc.) and Charlie Adler (Buster Bunny in “Tiny Toons”, Cow and Chicken in “Cow and Chicken”, etc.) were involved in an ultra secret animation project.
Suddenly, there were postings that Tress had voiced “Miss Wormwood” (the teacher in “Calvin and Hobbes”) and Adler had done Hobbes the tiger with Watterson himself voicing Calvin and his father. Then those postings disappeared from the voice actors’ resumes and other sites.
There was a rumor that Watterson like Winsor McCay was trying to do an animated project solely by himself. It was rumored to be a cartoon series and then a movie of short stories based on stories from the comic and then the project was supposedly abandoned for mysterious reasons.
In a rare interview from “Comics Journal”# 127 (Feb. 1989) with Richard Samuel West, Bill Watterson said: “Animation is an art all its own…. In a comic strip, you can suggest motion and time, but it’s very crude compared to what an animator can do. I have a real awe for good animation… For all my admiration of the art, I really can’t decide if I ever want to see ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ animated.
“I know I’d enjoy working with the visual opportunities animation offers, but you change the world you’ve created when you change the medium in which it’s presented. Books are almost always better than the movies made from them, because there are things books do well and things movies do well, but usually those things don’t overlap.
“The same with comics and animation. Another, more personal reservation I have is that animation, by necessity is a team sport, and the fewer people with input into my work, the better I like it. And, finally, to see it done right, it would also take an awful lot of time and energy on my part, neither of which I’ve got a lot to spare.”
However, with his retirement and seclusion, his fans argued that Watterson would have plenty of time to experiment with animation if he chose to do so.
What might an animated Calvin and Hobbes look like? Recently, animator Adam Brown (Comedy Central’s Ugly Americans) created a fan-made cartoon adaptation of a “Calvin & Hobbes” Sunday strip using Watterson’s own artwork, sans voice actors. He did “Flash to trace and animate the comic, and some simple Photoshop and After Effects for the background.”