July 18, 2013
Calvin & Hobbes doc gets trailer, release date
by Jean-Patrick Grillet
Bill Watterson never cared for unsolicited, ecstatic praise from peers or celebrities, but he’s about to get 89 minutes of just that in an upcoming documentary, Dear Mr. Watterson. Directed by Joel Allen Schroeder, the film will recount the legacy of Calvin and Hobbes, the comic strip Watterson created.
Ardent fans know that Watterson refuses to sell any Calvin and Hobbes rights, and that he refuses to do any press. Those fans need not get too excited; Watterson will not appear in the film, nor will any new adventures featuring the 6 year old Calvin and his stuffed tiger. Hobbes.
Rather, based on the trailer, the film will feature artists and writers reminiscing over their first encounters with the comic strip, and how it influenced their own work and lives. It doesn’t seem as if the film will even attempt to be a biopic of the elusive Watterson, which is a relief, though some skeptics have wondered about the purpose of the film is, and if the $120,000 in Kickstarter money will produce something more than just a bunch of creative types geeking out over a comic strip. I can’t speak much to the latter question, but the film does indeed serve a purpose.
For this short blog post, I had to do some research, because—GASP—I’d never, ever read a Calvin and Hobbes strip before today. As a child, my father drowned me in an ocean of great French language comic strips. Just as I ridiculed my friends for believing that Steven Spielberg created Tintin, I am now receiving similar flack for never having read the great American cartoon. But upon viewing those artists geek out in the trailer, and especially after scrolling through a dozen pages of Google Images, reading the strips as fast as I could, laughing out loud at Calvin’s great conclusive statements, I’ve come to realize that the purpose of this film is not only to pay homage to Watterson, but also to save poor, unfortunate souls like me.
Walt Disney built a media empire through his own drawings and re-tellings of classic fairytales; consequently, his is now one of the most recognizable names on the planet. But far too many of those same people are ignorant to the same amount of happiness and joy contained in Watterson’s static images that re-tell and unravel philosophical aphorisms, mathematical theories, and, of course, the wondrously complicated science that is a child’s imagination. Having spent the day reading Calvin and Hobbes, I feel the way Calvin once did on a day that he had Hobbes photograph him: “On the off-chance I decide to do something responsible with my life, I’ll need to establish a fictitious childhood,” one in which I read all of Watterson’s genius.
Dear Mr. Watterson hits theaters on November 15th; I’ll be buying a copy of Calvin and Hobbes to keep on my bedside table as soon as I get off work.
Jean-Patrick Grillet is an intern at Melville House.