Calvin and Hobbes alive and dancing; Bill Watterson grants rare interview as documentary hits screens

Orange and black aren’t just for Halloween or hot new Netflix titles, but also the primary colors of tigers such as Hobbes of “Calvin and Hobbes.”

For anyone who grew up with newspapers from 1985 to 1995, Bill Watterson’s comic strip about a boy and his stuffed tiger and their adventures together carried them all to an imaginary wonderland.

And it’s all coming back to us now. Like right now.

A new documentary, Dear Mr. Watterson, examines the impact and influence of Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes.” And the cartoonist himself has granted a rare interview to Mental Floss.

If you want to jump for joy, break out into dance, then, well, animator Adam Brown already has something to second your emotions. Roll the clip!

In an excerpt from Watterson’s Mental Floss interview, he talks about the state of comic strips today, as well as his admirers who create animated tributes:

Where do you think the comic strip fits in today’s culture?
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.

I’m assuming you’ve gotten wind of people animating your strip for YouTube? Did you ever mimic cartoonists you admired before finding your own style?
Every artist learns through imitation, but I rather doubt the aim of these things is artistic development. I assume they’re either homages or satiric riffs, and are not intended to be taken too seriously as works in their own right. Otherwise I should be talking to a copyright lawyer.

In response, Brown wrote:

“This is meant as an homage, but it’s also about the artistic development of animation. I don’t think it should be taken too seriously as a work in its own right, but I like how it turned out and I want to share it with people! The frames referenced work as animation keys, even if they weren’t intended to be. I don’t think it detracts from the original to see them in motion. While the copyright of ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ belongs to Bill Watterson and Andrews McMeel Universal, I believe this is fair use based on the following:
-There’s no profit, advertising or otherwise.
-The use is transformative, not just derivative.
-The characters from the comic are redrawn, not copied. One of Watterson’s paintings was modified for the background.
-There’s no harm to the publisher’s ability to exploit the work. (Just the opposite… Everyone should buy the full collection… it’s great!)…

Related: Alex Beam of The Boston Globe writes that perhaps the best thing for us to say to Watterson regarding his creation is simply this, “Thank you.”

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →

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