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Animated Children's Philosophers
May 17, 2007 4:48 PM   Subscribe

The Animated Calvin & Hobbes. A fantastic student project. via
posted by graventy (79 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man. That's really great work. I'm assuming the stilted subtitles have as much to do with iffy translation as anything.
posted by cortex at 4:58 PM on May 17, 2007


Nice--but wasn't Bill Watterson actually making an animated Calvin & Hobbes movie at one point? Or is that rumor incredibly dated?
posted by lester the unlikely at 5:01 PM on May 17, 2007


I don't remember exactly what he says in the intro to the 10th Anniversary Book, but it's something along the lines of being horrified of the idea of a TV show. I would assume the same applies to a movie, unless he's changed his mind.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:04 PM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


"doggy origin?"
posted by Skorgu at 5:06 PM on May 17, 2007


Wow, that's really good. It's a perfect translation from the 'real' expressions into movement; it's obvious that they copied the originals very, very carefully, but then brought them to life. I can't imagine him moving any OTHER way... it's just perfect.

Hobbes' gait was a little odd, but I suppose being boneless would do that to you. :)

In watching this, I realized one problem: it would be impossible for anyone to voice Calvin properly. He's definitely a text-only kid.
posted by Malor at 5:12 PM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hey, very nice. That was impressive. And it's always nice to hear Italian being spoken!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:13 PM on May 17, 2007


That was really cool. Thanks for the link.

I wonder what Watterson's take on it would be?
posted by davelog at 5:14 PM on May 17, 2007


I tried to watch it but it's in some funny monkey-chatter language.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:14 PM on May 17, 2007


Wow, that was some pretty great animation, although the . Wish there had been more stuff with Hobbes, though. I've been flipping through a few of my C&H treasuries lately, and I liked how the video incorporated a number of one-off gags from the strips, like Calvin poised over his sleeping parents with a bugle.
posted by good in a vacuum at 5:16 PM on May 17, 2007


Whoops, ignore the "although the ."
posted by good in a vacuum at 5:16 PM on May 17, 2007


"doggy origin?"

Should've been "dodgy", I reckon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:18 PM on May 17, 2007


That was quite well done. I'd love to know more about the background.

*rolls eyes* it's not monkey-chatter, it's gypsy. Jeez, get it right.
posted by quin at 5:19 PM on May 17, 2007


I know nothing about animation but it seems to me that translating illustrations like the comics into something that is animated and looks right must take real talent. Or, at least, a deep understanding of what the original artist envisioned and maybe some luck in the original material being more easily translated than not.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:34 PM on May 17, 2007


In search of Bill Watterson
posted by timsteil at 5:43 PM on May 17, 2007


Awesome. Seeing as how I am reading through The Complete Calvin & Hobbes at them moment (my fiancee gave it to me for my birthday a few weeks ago), this comes at an excellent time for me. The artwork is almost spot on to Watterson's original work and it's very true to the source material. Yet somehow I still doubt he'd approve.

Thanks for the link!
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:49 PM on May 17, 2007


An alternative animated take on Calvin and Hobbes.
posted by mosk at 5:50 PM on May 17, 2007


Yeesh. That alternative take was the pits.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:57 PM on May 17, 2007


mosk: "An alternative animated take on Calvin and Hobbes."

Also well done, but like the alternative ending to Calvin & Hobbes (a seemingly obligatory link in every Metafilter thread about Calvin & Hobbes now) it's not in the spirit of the strip and almost sad. Which I know is kind of the point of both of them, but the part of me which cherishes the free spirit that is Calvin in the original comics dies a little each time he sees them.

Also of interest, the excellent Diesel Sweeties recently did a good take on Calvin & Hobbes in one of its syndicated strips. Well worth a look.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:01 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow, that's some excellent work.
posted by bshort at 6:02 PM on May 17, 2007


I personally love the alternative take. It may be that I'm a douche, though.
posted by maxwelton at 6:03 PM on May 17, 2007


Oh man I used to wish there was a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon so bad when I was a kid. This is really fantastic.
posted by johndog at 6:08 PM on May 17, 2007


Good work in a technical sense and has even captured the right movements. It's just that it's a solution in search of a problem--the original strip is so well drawn that it doesn't need to be animated. Waterson's panels are so perfectly composed and timed that the intervening space between panels is filled in seamlessly.
posted by DU at 6:09 PM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Youtube comments continue to be the lowest form of communication ever. The very idea that a student film, though well done, could somehow not only pull Bill Watterson from his peaceful retirement but also convince him to do something he has explicitly stated would never, ever happen is more than mere wishful thinking.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:16 PM on May 17, 2007


wow. i even liked the voice.

you know, Bill Watterson was against this type of thing, but fuck. I'm sick of seeing all those car stickers of Calvin peeing on things. I'm glad to see this and all the other loving tributes to Calvin and Hobbes on youtube.
posted by es_de_bah at 6:19 PM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


That was just about perfect.
posted by squidfartz at 6:21 PM on May 17, 2007


tho, on review, I must agree with DU. Watterson was a master (maybe the master) of creating motion with sequential stills.
posted by es_de_bah at 6:22 PM on May 17, 2007


The animation was wonderful. The voice(s) drove me to despair.
posted by deCadmus at 6:27 PM on May 17, 2007


I have to disagree with the love-fest. I thought Calvin's mother was poorly drawn for one, and the script was much too Calvin-centric. The genius of the strip was how he played off the other characters. Here he comes off as a poor Dennis-the-Menace ripoff. And it may be a student project, but I was discouraged from ripping off other people's ideas as a student.
posted by rikschell at 6:38 PM on May 17, 2007


I like this take personally. CG is definitely the way to go here, definitely
posted by delmoi at 6:45 PM on May 17, 2007


Chagrin Falls Movie
Chagrin Falls follows the intersecting stories of two characters; a young, aspiring cartoonist named Jim and his personal hero, Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson.

After Jim finds nothing but rejection peddling his cartoons to local newspapers, he gets it into his head that he can find something- encouragement? advice? answers?- by seeking out Watterson in the reclusive artist's quiet suburban town.

Meanwhile, Watterson himself is living down his retirement in carefully maintained obscurity. But anymore, his days seem to be strangely lacking somehow...

Youth and age, fame and obscurity, art and cartoons; all these threads run parallel in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
posted by geoff. at 6:50 PM on May 17, 2007


I thought this was adorable. As a student project it's quite impressive. I'm torn as to whether or not I actually wanna see a 'real' Calvin & Hobbes send up in the moving pictures medium, however.

For one thing, so far as I know, Watterson appears to have no interest in continuing the lives of his creation beyond what he's already done. He washed his hands of the whole matter at least a decade ago now. The part of me that still has hope for copyrights and protection of artists' works wants to respect and honor Watterson's wishes.

The reason I'm torn is cuz that part of me ain't all that big. There's a bigger part of me that says we've tried this copyright bullshit for about a century, and it just ain't workin.' When something like Calvin & Hobbes enters the social culture of humanity, it's wrong of the artist to deny the rest of us, and it's wrong to the work he created - it gets a life of its own and 'protecting' it does more harm than good - like not letting kids have sex with each other on their senior prom. IT'S THE SENIOR PROM! Let them fuck, for Christ's sake! What's wrong with the parents in this country? I don't understand it. Quit coddling your children when they're practically old enough to graduate, drink, drive, die in the military, and vote - let'em fuck. Sheesh. Besides chances are your perfect child has done far worse than fuck long before his/her senior prom and you may never know the truth, so catch up with reality and smell the fucking coffee.

...where was I?

Oh. And no matter how much work is put into it, there's no way you can take Calvin & Hobbes and put them on the movie screen. The medium chosen by Watterson was comic strips. You'd think it'd translate without a hitch but you'd be wrong. Charles Schultz did it with Peanuts. Fine. It was his thing if he wanted to do that, that's great. I loved the Christmas one and the Halloween one, but that's an out of the ordinary case. Anyone seen the Bloom County animated special? If you have you know what I mean. If you haven't, there's a reason you haven't. Cuz finding a copy of that now is more rare than a picture of Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey having sex on their senior prom. Berke Breathed probably scrounged up every copy he could find and burned them in effigy. God that was trite. I wanna poke my eyes out with sticks, just thinkin' about it.

I appreciate Watterson's effort w/Calvin & Hobbes, and I understand all the heartache and headache he went through with the syndicate and the newspapers and everything. He won his little battle. He took his toys and he went home. He doesn't want people putting pics of Calvin on the back of their Chevy peeing on the Ford logo. Really. He doesn't.

He doesn't wanna make royalties from sales of T-shirts with Hobbes dancing. He doesn't wanna make money off anything but reprints of the original strips and even then he wants it on his terms. I think all this is patently idealistic and naive of him to think he can control his work like this in today's electronic age society, but that's what he wants. I say we let him have his toys and let him sulk in a corner somewhere all by himself.

He gave Calvin & Hobbes to Mankind. Then he took them away. Doing an animated show without his permission means it's not gonna be a true Calvin & Hobbes creation - at best it'll be a diluted tribute to the man who gave us Calvin & Hobbes and then took them away, and why should we pay tribute to a guy like that?

If Watterson changed his mind, I might change mine. Then again, I might just think he's a freaking hypocrite who sold out, so I honestly don't see a happy ending here.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:00 PM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


I love the fact that this wasn't in English; I agree with Malor that Calvin can't be voiced, and since I don't speak Italian this didn't count.

This sort of creative reinterpretation is an excellent example of why our current IP regime, which keeps characters endlessly imprisoned within corporations, needs reform.
posted by sy at 7:06 PM on May 17, 2007


Not in the same league, but following ZachsMind's lead: Ever watched the animated Dilbert series? :P
posted by anthill at 7:32 PM on May 17, 2007


I really liked this voice for Calvin, though it was weird to hear anyone other than my dad in this role. My fondest memories of my dad when I was a kid involved either playing chess, watching movies, or reading Calvin and Hobbes. My dad would voice Calvin and I would read Hobbes.

Somehow, hearing Calvin speaking in an adult's voice shifts the perspective from funny to absurdist - in a good way.

Anyhow, the rest of the time my dad was totally bonkers, so I have a particular soft spot for Calvin and Hobbes and the few moments of sane father-daughter bonding that it allowed.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:35 PM on May 17, 2007


lol
posted by taosbat at 7:37 PM on May 17, 2007


Great animation- really true to the original artwork.

The buzzkill:
Watterson would not like it at all.

Personally, I don't want Calvin & Hobbes made into animations/ films. For Watterson's opinions on the matter, his comments in the forewords and anniversary editions speak volumes.

Consider this thread. Does an abridged version of Moby Dick bother you? An animated Moby Dick wouldn't bother me nearly as much as an abbreviated version, because that's a switch of medium. I'm all for the reinterpretation of art, but creating an animated Calvin and Hobbes loses so many of the qualities of the original print medium (which in the info/tv age we are quick to overlook) and gains so little in animated form. It would be slightly more approachable, more mass-media, a little dumbed down, and impose one interpretation on a comic that was genius because it was so open to interpretation.

This isn't like book-to-movie switches which many people already complain about, but much closer to an 'abridged' version of Calvin and Hobbes. An animated C&H would just be too close to the original, and be so much less.
posted by conch soup at 8:27 PM on May 17, 2007


The obligatory Robot Chicken link, but I'm probably the last person on the planet who saw it, meaning you probably already have.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:39 PM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Great Cleveland Scene Article on Bill Watterson.
posted by chlorus at 8:50 PM on May 17, 2007


This is really impressive on a technical level. A lot of talent here.

That said, seeing it animated kind of makes my stomach turn.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:04 PM on May 17, 2007


Watterson does not have the ability to "intend" about his work--and just as well: it has taken on a beautiful life of his own. Thanks for the link.
posted by Ricky_gr10 at 9:33 PM on May 17, 2007


"But if you can offer the world a strip like Calvin and Hobbes, don't you have a responsibility to keep working?"

In a word: No.

In a lotta words: He turned his back on his audience. I think his audience should return the favor.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:36 PM on May 17, 2007


I think Bill Watterson was right to quit when he knew that the time was right. If he had continued the strip and quality had gone down, or if he had sold it out to do cartoons like this one would we remember it for the brilliance it was? Just look at Garfield for an example of what could have happened to Calvin and Hobbes. It makes one appreciate the standard Watterson kept. Hollywood would probably be making the real life version of Calvin and Hobbes right now with a CG Hobbes...*shudders*

While I have to admit this short was well done, I'd rather remember the comic the way that it was. Everything good must end.
posted by rfbjames at 9:41 PM on May 17, 2007


Yeah, quitting while you're ahead in daily comics seems like the right thing to do. Calvin & Hobbes ending was devastating to me when it happened, but bless Watterson (and Gary Larson and Berkeley Breathed... a few times) for having the good sense to end it at its height rather than letting it become a hack job. I mean, older cartoonists revere Peanuts for what the strip was doing forty years ago, but the jokes got old, the characters got stale and no matter how many younger siblings linus got, it started sucking real hard. And now it's "Classic Peanuts." Christ.
posted by renraw at 9:52 PM on May 17, 2007


Aaron McGruder, too.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:01 PM on May 17, 2007


He turned his back on his audience. I think his audience should return the favor.

Well, that's certainly a selfish point of view. Believe it or not, Watterson's work was about Watterson, and the art he wanted to make--not you or anybody else. He didn't 'turn his back' on anything, he simply completed a work of art. That you feel abandoned speaks more to your inappropriate feelings of ownership for something you didn't create than to the artist's intent.

What I love most about Bill Watterson (aside from his remarkable comic strip) is that he is a true artist--his work was about the art he was creating, and that's it. He found being commercially successful, while gratifying in a number of ways, to be as much of a burden as a blessing. He's really always been about the work itself, and I think it's absolutely great that he ended C&H when he felt like he was done. Like everyone else, I was devastated, but I'd far rather have ten years of outstanding work (ten years!!) than twenty or thirty diluted by declining or uneven quality, or the gradual loss of inspiration and joy.

I'm curious what he's been working on since, and if we'll ever see anything by him again.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:58 PM on May 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I have to join the dissenters about the animation--though well done, blech. Calvin's voice is only in my imagination!
posted by LooseFilter at 11:00 PM on May 17, 2007


I used to love love love love Calvin & Hobbes. then I suddendly did get over it.

you know, maybe Watterson did, too.
posted by matteo at 2:16 AM on May 18, 2007


Just look at Garfield for an example of what could have happened to Calvin and Hobbes.

WT-??! Link to funny Garfield from the past...?
posted by dreamsign at 3:38 AM on May 18, 2007


When something like Calvin & Hobbes enters the social culture of humanity, it's wrong of the artist to deny the rest of us, and it's wrong to the work he created

Watterson does not have the ability to "intend" about his work--and just as well: it has taken on a beautiful life of his own.




"The artist does not create for the artist: He creates for the people and we will see to it that henceforth the people will be called in to judge its art."



Yeah. He actually did say that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:18 AM on May 18, 2007


Calvin's voice in this clip captures the mischievious six-year old side of his personality, but wouldn't be suited for his extremely eloquent and articulate adult side. No voice actor could play to both.
posted by painquale at 5:16 AM on May 18, 2007


It gave me a little thrill, but at the same time I don't feel great about it being done without Watterson's blessing. I also agree with good in a vacuum that it needed more Hobbes. Interesting link, anyway.
posted by teleskiving at 5:19 AM on May 18, 2007


It's a pretty simplistic view that Watterson turned his back on his audience, it's also pretty wrong. He made a decision to end the strip before it became a caricature of itself.

Go to the library and look at the Peanuts archive, look at the original strips from the 1950's. It had a very different tone than strips in the years prior to Schulz death. Check them in the 70's and 80's as well. By that point the look and tone had changed but it was still good work. In the years prior to his death he was just churning out caricatures. He may as well have outsourced it to India.

Waterson also changed as a cartoonist and illustrator during his Calvin and Hobbes career but he never let himself get to the point where he was just churning out strips that could've been made with illustrator templates and generic gags. If anything his illustration skills and his technique got much better and innovative but he never lost his ability to channel a precocious 6 year old boy and his tiger.

I would love it if Waterson felt the muse come back to him for another run at Calvin and Hobbes but I would hate it if he just came back for the money and churned out marketing materials for a toy company.
posted by substrate at 5:44 AM on May 18, 2007


The voice in the cartoon was the most wrong part about it in my opinion, it was way too childish. I don't think the people who made that film really knew any 6 year olds. A real 6 year old voice would have worked, the eloquence that Calvin occasionally displays between bursts of hyperactivity and willfulness would work in much the same way a middle aged British voice works for Stewey on Family Guy.
posted by substrate at 5:49 AM on May 18, 2007


I know this was just a student project, but it still amazes me how across-the-board awful Italian voice actors are, especially given how pleasing Italian voices (stereotypically) tend to be.
posted by kittyprecious at 5:52 AM on May 18, 2007


WT-??! Link to funny Garfield from the past...?

Some of the early Garfield was markedly different from the factory-farmed stuff we're getting today. Jim Davis was once a scrappy no-name drawing a sarcastic and funny little strip about a fat, lazy, misanthropic cat.
posted by cortex at 6:37 AM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


"...it still amazes me how across-the-board awful Italian voice actors are..."

I rather liked the school teachers voice, myself.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:46 AM on May 18, 2007


I can't believe how selfish some people are (okay, one person) about the fact that Watterson stopped drawing C&H.

Personally, I believe C&H was one of the best, if not the best, comic strips to grace the funny pages. It was generous of Watterson to share it with the rest of us, and in my opinion, it was equally generous of him to stop when he did.

All too often, comics, shows, movies, and other forms of entertainment are dragged on way longer than they should be. Garfield is the best example in the comic strip world. Everyone I know (and many people in this thread) agree that it stopped being funny years ago. But it continues to be drawn and published, despite how obvious it is that Davis has just been phoning it all in for ages.

I don't want to be left with that same impression of C&H. It ended while there was still life in it, and for that reason, I will have nothing but fond memories of it for the rest of my life. It's the best possible move that Watterson could have made, along with his refusal to give in to demands for merchandising.

Sure, it sucks that he stopped making the strip. But I'd rather have things the way they are, if the alternative is being surrounded by C&H lunchboxes, suction-cup window-cling Hobbes toys, an over-done animated series, and two horrible half-CGI movies.

(Though I did always really want a stuffed Hobbes.)
posted by CrayDrygu at 8:47 AM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


The Italian voice actors in the Nazi Robot Attack video also bothered some people.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:57 AM on May 18, 2007


I watched this with the sound down, and have decided (not that anyone would care) that this is the definitive way to animate comic strips going forward, if you're going to go through the trouble of animating them: subtitled with no spoken dialogue.
posted by davejay at 8:57 AM on May 18, 2007


Actually, the entire Watterson story is the final convincing counterargument to the Cory Doctorow Theory of Copyright.

The guy created a fantastic body of work, admired by all. Funny, sad, emotional, nostalgic without ever being twee, it's among the best that comics have had to offer.

And the aw3sum CREATIVE COMONS LOL REMIXXX THE FUTURE power to the people!!! FREE CALVIN FROM THE CHAINS OF COPYRITE endeavor? Has been a boy's penis, peeing on a Ford logo, forever.

A billion penises. A billion ford logos. Forever.

In fact, it is now difficult to find anyone from age 10-20 who, upon being shown a picture of Calvin just standing there, doesn't ask, "where's the Ford logo?"

And this is with the author spiritedly defending his work using every means necessary.

An anecdote. My ex-father is one of the last artisan cast paper artists, making giant sheets of sculptured paper artwork.

One day, fooling around with clay, he made a perfect rendition of Calvin & Hobbes dancing. Absolutely brilliant; if you looked away you could swear it moved.

Lacking anything else to do, he made a fantastic cast paper piece out of it, made two copies, and sent one to Bill Watterson, asking him for permission to make a limited edition of 25 pieces, with royalties going to Watterson.

He was turned down instantly, no explanation. He said, well, okay, how about this one copy that I didn't send to you? The reply came back: destroy it.

Watterson pays people to make sure that any and all business inquiries are terminated immediately. Even work that is true to, and celebratory of, the spirit of his characters.

Would the world be a better place if my ex-dad and everyone else could do what they liked with Calvin? No; we would have a swamp of knockoff crap that dilutes the canon, in which dim gems would all-too-infrequently glitter in the murky depths. The vast majority would be incomprehensibly bad crap, just as we see with the LOL COPYRIGHT FIGHT THE MAN Mickey Mouse remixes. Has anyone seen any Mickey Mouse remixes that weren't bitterly ironic, vicious or just plain bad?
posted by felix at 9:20 AM on May 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


Felix, I think your anecdote argues the exact opposite of what you say.

You seem to be saying that because there are tons of bad Calvin & Hobbes ripoffs that we are obliged to do without the beautiful Calvin & Hobbes ripoff that your dad made. I say that's a bad trade. And it presumes that we actually have the option of a world without bad Calvin & Hobbes ripoffs, which we obviously do not.

It seems to me that the only thing Watterson's stance has prevented is the creation of good stuff like your dad's sculpture or this animation. It sure as hell hasn't kept the world safe from Calvin peeing on Ford logos.

You're arguing that since there will be lots of crap Calvin & Hobbes ripoffs, we should ban all Calvin & Hobbes ripoffs. How is that different from saying "look at all the sucky Star Trek books filling the shelves at Barnes & Noble. Science Fiction should be outlawed, because most of it is crap."

Any sufficiently compelling artwork will enter humanity's collective creative commons and be remixed. And 95% of those remixes will be crap. Both of those sentences are brute facts about human nature and trying to legislate them out of existence is like trying to pass laws against people having sex.
posted by straight at 9:43 AM on May 18, 2007


I hated that. Didn't seem like Calvin to me at all. And the voice. Yuk.
posted by brautigan at 10:07 AM on May 18, 2007


And the Watterson debate? Sheesh! The guy created something amazing, it gave pleasure to hundreds of thousands. His creation started when he started it and ended when he ended it. Simple as that. Noone can or should make demands on him for this. I more than fully respect Watterson's right to protect Calvin and Hobbes. Their place is on a white page not in stuffed animals, mugs and collectable sculptures. And I don't need any more stories, the last strip was perfect and left things as they should be. Gone Exploring.
posted by brautigan at 10:22 AM on May 18, 2007


Good stuff here...
posted by brautigan at 10:37 AM on May 18, 2007


From an animation perspective, I thought this was mediocre at best. The timing, spacing, and inbetweens were pretty weak: every move felt like a straight linear blend between two of Watterson's drawings. The drawings themselves were reproduced well, but there's a lot more to animation than good draftsmanship.

To be fair, it's student work, and can't be compared to the work of a team of professionals. Evaluated on those terms, it's a remarkable achievement. But Watterson's drawings have a vitality and energy to them that was completely sucked away by the stilted movement in this case. If I were him, I wouldn't want this done to my work either.
posted by otherthings_ at 11:07 AM on May 18, 2007


You're arguing that since there will be lots of crap Calvin & Hobbes ripoffs, we should ban all Calvin & Hobbes ripoffs. How is that different from saying "look at all the sucky Star Trek books filling the shelves at Barnes & Noble. Science Fiction should be outlawed, because most of it is crap."


The Star Trek books are deeply licensed, edited, and drawn from a distinct, fairly rigorously maintained canon. So that's not a great analogy.

What's a great analogy here -- perhaps lolcats? If the first guy to do a lolcat had copyrighted that, then the world would be a sadder place, for sure. Certainly there's been a flowering of activity related to lolcats beyond 4chan or SA or whereever it showed up.

But Calvin & Hobbes is qualitatively different from lolcats. There are some things that benefit from canon extension, and some things which don't. Putting everything into the creative commons box is no better than putting nothing in.


Any sufficiently compelling artwork will enter humanity's collective creative commons and be remixed. And 95% of those remixes will be crap. Both of those sentences are brute facts about human nature and trying to legislate them out of existence is like trying to pass laws against people having sex.


There's good sexual activity and bad sexual activity. Priests + schoolchildren, brothers + sisters are in the latter category. In this case I think there's a compelling artistic interest in keeping Calvin & Hobbes static.
posted by felix at 1:24 PM on May 18, 2007


But Calvin & Hobbes is qualitatively different from lolcats. There are some things that benefit from canon extension, and some things which don't. Putting everything into the creative commons box is no better than putting nothing in.

1. There's no way to know ahead of time which are which. What do we do, say "Attention all artists. You may only steal stuff that Felix thinks is lame."

Is it possible that someone could make a wonderful, worthwhile work of art based on Calvin & Hobbes? Yes.

2. The worst has already happened. Those Calvin Peeing stickers are everywhere. I hate them. I'd watch Michael Myers' Grinch movie three times in a row if it would make the Calving Peeing stickers all disappear. But what are you gonna do? Watterson tried as hard as anyone has to keep total artistic control and even he couldn't prevent the crassest, ugliest re-using of his artwork. If your work touches a chord with people, they will reuse it, remix it, repurpose it. That's just the way the human artistic impulse works.
posted by straight at 1:44 PM on May 18, 2007


But Calvin & Hobbes is qualitatively different from lolcats. There are some things that benefit from canon extension, and some things which don't. Putting everything into the creative commons box is no better than putting nothing in.

What bugs me about this argument is the presumption that by giving weak sanction to non-canonical interpretations of we're somehow fundamentally damaging the canon, which doesn't seem true.

People railed against Van Sant's shot-for-shot remake of Psycho, and reviews were mixed for the old Psycho II, for example—both reinterpretations in one way or another of what could be considered the inviolable canon of Hitchcock's original work. People did or didn't like either, for a variety of reasons, but I don't see anywhere the call for destruction of the original film as a result of the later riffage.

Likewise Calvin & Hobbes—Watterson's original work stands triumphant as what it is, no matter how many pissing Calvins get bootlegged.

And there's the basic question: how do you define the qualitative difference between the set of things that do and the things that do not benefit from para- or non-canonical or unofficial or unauthorized interpretation? Is it simply a question of whether you like the original, or whether you judge the original maker to be inimitiable, or whether you dislike the interpretations? On whose aesthetic or moral authority is that judgement made? Does there exist a predictive power that can tell us, before reinterpretations exist, whether or not they will be worthy?

Watterson has legal rights to control his work according to the law; and he has the fuzzier artistic right to approach the non-legal question of how he would like people to treat his work; but he ultimately has no control over whether people will want to reinterpret his work, either commercially or for pure artistic or academic reasons, and I think it's pure fussiness to suggest that it'll ever be otherwise, or that it should (in anything but a personal, emotional sense) be otherwise.

Everything is fair game, regardless of the legal consequences. Not Watterson, nor anyone else, will ever have control over the ideas they prompt in the minds of the people consuming their work.
posted by cortex at 1:47 PM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't buy the "waterson turned his back on his audience" argument that some people have used here. More than anything else, I consider the entire run of Calvin and Hobbes to be a single, cohesive work of art. He told his story, gave it to the world, and then went home. I don't think it's reasonable to expect more from the man.

As for reinterpretations and so on, it doesn't make a lot of difference to me. I'm amused by the parodies, but I'd be pissed off at any big commercial venture based on the strip. But, I've got a simple solution for that: I wouldn't go see it. I wouldn't talk about it. I would ignore it, because that's the worst thing you can do to any peice of media; not condemn it, not fight it, just ignore it. I'm likely to do the same for any product being sold based around any adaptation of the comic.

I am, however, interested in calvin and hobbes riffs and references within other peices of art. This is the difference between dealing with calvin and hobbes, the work of art that Watterson created, and dealing with calvin and hobbes, the cultural phenomenon surrounding it. The former is a closed book, as far as I'm concerned. The latter is still ongoing, still interesting.

So, I won't buy a calvin t-shirt, I won't see a movie. But I'll laugh at the robot chicken sketch, and I'll appreciate the bitterness in calvin going on medication, doing his homework, and hobbes becoming just a stuffed animal.
posted by Arturus at 4:06 PM on May 18, 2007


If your work touches a chord with people, they will reuse it, remix it, repurpose it.

Yes yes, and the internet will route around all damage, and information wants to be free. Which is why we pay our $29 a month for DSL and are overloaded with ads and spam filters. The problem with Doctorowist Maximalism is that there are precious few functioning examples of great works being reused, remixed or repurposed in a convincing, positive way.

What bugs me about this argument is the presumption that by giving weak sanction to non-canonical interpretations of we're somehow fundamentally damaging the canon, which doesn't seem true.


Quality control is very important to certain canons, especially those where detail is a defining element. Star Wars, for instance -- everyone laughs derisively at the Christmas Special. Why? Because it doesn't feel right, and it weakens the canon. The Matrix sequels. The original? Fantastic at the time. Once polluted by the Burly Man scene and the we're all going to die rave in the sequels? Less interesting: canon damage.

Some canons don't care. Lolcats, 'ALL UR BASE', every Internet meme is pretty much based around canon multiplication.

But art like Watterson's is deeply detailed, cohesive, and emotionally engaging because of that cohesion and attention to detail. Tell me you're not discouraged and depressed whenever you see Calvin peeing on a Ford logo, and further that it doesn't, on some level, modify your Calvin & Hobbes experience.

Watterson has legal rights to control his work according to the law; and he has the fuzzier artistic right to approach the non-legal question of how he would like people to treat his work; but he ultimately has no control over whether people will want to reinterpret his work, either commercially or for pure artistic or academic reasons, and I think it's pure fussiness to suggest that it'll ever be otherwise, or that it should (in anything but a personal, emotional sense) be otherwise.

I don't think anyone's suggesting mind control. Merely that legal rights aren't axiomatically bad. As long as Watterson has some means by which to push back -- even a little -- on bad canon multiplication, then the world's probably a better place. Certainly calling him selfish, as others have done in this thread, is a little hypocritical.
posted by felix at 4:07 PM on May 18, 2007


straight writes: You're arguing that since there will be lots of crap Calvin & Hobbes ripoffs, we should ban all Calvin & Hobbes ripoffs. How is that different from saying "look at all the sucky Star Trek books filling the shelves at Barnes & Noble. Science Fiction should be outlawed, because most of it is crap."

In reply, felix pointed out that the Star Trek stuff is licensed up the wazoo, and that therefore straight's is a bad analogy. I'd also argue that what's really wrong with the analogy is that his hypothetical antagonist says Science Fiction should be outlawed as a result. But SF is a genre. Not a specific creation within a genre. No one is saying comic strips should be outlawed. But the creator of Calvin & Hobbes was saying he didn't want to license his creation. And more power to him. He's under no obligation to do so.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:43 PM on May 18, 2007


Bill W. made 'em take it down. i'm glad i missed it, i think.
posted by RedEmma at 8:53 PM on May 18, 2007


Yes yes, and the internet will route around all damage, and information wants to be free.

But this is an observable fact. Watterson has defended Calvin and Hobbes as vigorously as the law allows, and yet Peeing Calvin is everywhere. I'm not entirely clear what you're even asking for here, but I suspect it's impossible.

The problem with Doctorowist Maximalism is that there are precious few functioning examples of great works being reused, remixed or repurposed in a convincing, positive way.

That's just what I said. At least 95% of it is crap. Precious few are any good. But those few are precious.

Of all the people writing plays in the 16th century, there's only one whose plays are still widely performed, still filmed as movies. Only one. And where did he get the story for Hamlet? Oh, that's right. He stole it.

Like every generation before us, we're going to have to wade through enormous steaming piles of crap to find our generation's Shakespeare. That's just the way it works.

Quality control is very important to certain canons, especially those where detail is a defining element. Star Wars...The Matrix sequels...

But see, this is utter fantasy with no relation to the real world. You've just admitted that not even creators can be trusted with this meaningless Quality Control you're imagining. If George Lucas and the W Brothers can't be trusted to decide what deserves to be part of their canons, who can? You?

Canon is decided by consensus after the fact. Not by censoring ahead of time what you think is gonna be crap.

Watterson's a genius, but even he can't predict what someone else might do with Calvin and Hobbes.
posted by straight at 9:22 PM on May 18, 2007


"Canon is decided by consensus after the fact. Not by censoring ahead of time what you think is gonna be crap."

The author of a copyrighted work or the holder of a trademark who chooses to not grant license to others to use his creations is not censoring anyone. To conflate Watterson's legal right to grant or not grant such licenses with 'censoring' is absurd. The public does not have an automatic and inalienable right to appropriate other people's creations.

"Watterson's a genius, but even he can't predict what someone else might do with Calvin and Hobbes."

He's clearly not interested in what anyone else would do with his creation.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:54 PM on May 18, 2007



Yes yes, and the internet will route around all damage, and information wants to be free.

But this is an observable fact.


OK, go read your COOL FREE! Cory Doctorow e-books, and I'll cuddle up with some Pynchon, and let's agree to disagree.
posted by felix at 10:03 PM on May 18, 2007


To conflate Watterson's legal right to grant or not grant such licenses with 'censoring' is absurd.

Sure. But to conflate Watterson's inclinations toward how his work should (or, more to the point, should not) be reinterprated with the idea that he has any say in the greater scheme about whether people will want to, or whether what they make would have worth, is also absurd.

Definitely, people saying Watterson shouldn't have "stopped" Calvin & Hobbes because they want more of it are being silly. He can stop any time he likes, and he can decline to license it to others.

But the idea that he should have any reasonable capacity to stop people from wanting to play with the inspiration his work has caused is pure foolishness, legal rights bedamned. The notion that his feelings matter one bit—and that his opinion of the matter is even measurably correct in any sense—depends on a constructed context that is nowhere near axiomatic to actual human artistic/creative instincts.
posted by cortex at 10:40 PM on May 18, 2007


Speaking of, the link's now dead. The student project has been taken down at Bill Watterson's (or his representative's) request.
posted by ShawnStruck at 9:11 AM on May 19, 2007


But the idea that he should have any reasonable capacity to stop people from wanting to play with the inspiration his work has caused is pure foolishness, legal rights bedamned.

Did I mess in this conversation anyone mentioning the interesting fact that Europe has an IP law called "moral rights" that is distinct from copyright and allows an author/creator some control over the creation even when someone else holds the copyright? This is interesting because it separates out the economic/big business part of IP from what I think is Watterson's main motivation here (as an example).
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:52 PM on May 19, 2007


Oh, Bill. Don't you know that YouTube is a many-headed hydra that can hardly be suppressed? For those (like myself) who missed the original there is, of course, another.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 4:57 PM on May 22, 2007


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