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Dear Mr. Watterson
IMDB Rating: 6.3/10 from votes
Release: 18 May 2014 (Netherlands) /

Dear Mr. Watterson

Genre: Documentary
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Synopsis: Of American newspaper comic strips, few great ones have been so short-lived, and yet so enduring in the public, than "Calvin and Hobbes" by Bill Watterson. This film explores the strip, its special artistic qualities and its extraordinary lasting appeal decades after its conclusion. Furthermore, the film explores the impact of Bill Watterson, a cartoonist with high artistic ideals and firm principles who defied the business conventions of a declining medium. Although he forwent a merchandising fortune for his strip, various associates and colleagues speak about how Watterson created a legacy that would be an inspiration for years to come. Written by Kenneth Chisholm ([email protected])

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Critic Reviews

I'm going to start this review by saying I am far from being the biggest "Calvin and Hobbes" fan in the world. Among comic strips, "Peanuts" is my first love. However, I do have a deep appreciation for the "Peanuts- esque" quality that is present in "Calvin and Hobbes", where the child sees the world through a unique lens that is evident there is wisdom beyond his years. Even the main character, a male child with a distinctive striped shirt, is a flattering nod that I can appreciate.

So, I watched this documentary more from the perspective that I am an outsider looking in, wanting to know what motivated the characters in the strip and the artist behind the characters. Sadly, I did not get much, if any, of these. In fact, I didn't learn anything that I didn't already know from even a cursory reading of the comics. It seems to me a documentary exploring the impact of a comic strip on the would have been better served by an exploration of the creator, Bill Watterson, and how the characters came about and what they say about him.

I understand that Watterson is very difficult to reach, and keeps mostly to himself. However, even from the perspective of someone who isn't a superfan, I think it's disingenuous to simply regurgitate what's already known. Besides, the filmmaker titled his documentary as an address to "Mr. Watterson." Seems to me that the documentary should have made the attempt to explore his story more.

One last thing I wish to mention, and that is the issue of licensing involved with the comic strip characters. Charles "Sparky" Schulz, the creator of "Peanuts", may have been just as difficult to really get to know and understand as Bill Watterson is, and it's evident by what is known about both men that the comics and characters they created were deeply personal to them, and each man wanted to protect their characters. However, Schulz still allowed his characters to be licensed, whereas Watterson famously does not. I don't know if this was the intention of the filmmaker, but it seemed like there was an unfair, and unjust, portrayal that "Sparky" sold out, and that Watterson stands on higher ground. I like how Schulz's wife Jean gave a little bit of insight into why her husband made the decision he did to license the characters, but still it seemed as though it was a shot at Charles Schulz's own legacy in order to build up Watterson's, and I am not convinced that Watterson would go so far as to criticize Schulz for doing that, especially considering the impact "Peanuts" had on "Calvin and Hobbes."

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