Movie Review: Dear Mr. Watterson (2013) #atozchallenge

This is my entry for “D” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “D” documentaries I’ve reviewed are Dark DaysThe Day the Series StoppedThe Day the Series StoppedDecoding Desire, Dolphinsand Don’t You Forget About Me.

Title: Dear Mr. Watterson
Release Date: November 15, 2013
Director: Joel Allen Schroeder
Production Company: Fingerprint Films

I read and loved Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes as a child and young adult.  Along with Bloom County and The Far Side, I consider Calvin & Hobbes part of the last golden age of newspaper comics.  The comic actually premiered on my 12th birthday, November 18, 1985, and I remember the first comics I read were the debut of Calvin’s babysitter, Rosalyn (May 15, 1986 according to Wikipedia so not long after the strip began).  I read the newspaper comic and the many book compilations faithfully until the last strip on December 31, 1995.

This movie is made by and for other people who loved Calvin & Hobbes.  A lot of it is just people talking about how much they loved the comic and what it meant for them, which doesn’t make much of a good documentary.  But there are good segments as well, particularly interviews with comic strip artists who were inspired by Bill Watterson.

The movie also focuses on Bill Watterson’s influences, visiting his hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio that is actually recognizable as the background of Calvin & Hobbes strips.  Visits to the local library to see Watterson’s early work in Chagrin Falls’ newspaper and Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University, the archive that holds Watterson’s orignal artwork for Calvin & Hobbes, show the development of Watterson’s artistic style.  The film also discusses Watterson’s influences, particularly Little Nemo in Slumberland, Krazy Kat, Peanuts, and Pogo.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this documentary is the discussion of Watterson’s notable opposition of licensing Calvin & Hobbes for merchandising. Stephan Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swine, offers an interesting theory that Watterson feared losing control of his art.  Berkeley Breathed, creator of Bloom County and a contemporary of Watterson, also offers interesting insights, including sharing a letter Watterson mailed to him with a comic mocking Breathed for licensing his characters for toys.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

Once you get past all the people just talking about loving Calvin & Hobbes, there are some interesting insights into process of making a comic strip and hints about the famously publicity-shy creator’s life.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

This documentary is similar in theme and style to Don’t You Forget About Me, where young fans of John Hughes’ movies sought to connect with him and express the importance of the movies in their lives.

Source:  Amazon Prime Video

Rating: **1/2

2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

A Song and a Story: Done to Death Songs #AtoZChallenge

Today’s songs for A Song and a Story have a number of things in common:

  1. I first heard them while traveling – repeatedly during the trips – and forever associate the songs with that vacation.
  2. Both of these songs are arguably bad songs, and definitely annoying for many people to hear.
  3. Despite not being all that good to begin with and then overplayed to death I still love these songs.  They’re so bad, they’re good.

The first song is the most notable – and notorious song – by jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin:

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

It’s the summer of 1988 and it was time for my family’s routine camping trip on Martha’s Vineyard.  My mother couldn’t get time off work, but since my sister was now an adult, we decided to take our camping trip without parental supervision for the first time.  As we drove around the island that week, we listened to the local radio station, WMVY, and heard several promos for an upcoming performance by Bobby McFerrin.  The radio station also played his song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” repeatedly that week.  We enjoyed the unique a cappella style and the funny lyrics, and it became the special song for that vacation.

As far as I knew, Bobby McFerrin was a local musician on Martha’s Vineyard and no one else would know who he was.  I was pleased to know this “secret” song. A month passed, I went back to school, and then suddenly “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was EVERYWHERE.  Seriously, if you weren’t around in America in the autumn of 1988, you have no idea how ubiquitous this song became.  And just as quickly it became massively popular, it also became fashionable for people to hate “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

But for me, it will always be that special, obscure song, played on Martha Vineyard’s radio station.

The next song is from a decade later.  In 1998, I spent six weeks traveling in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, and Paris.  And for the majority of this trip, my daily activities were scored by the Danish pop band Aqua and their song:

Doctor Jones

“Doctor Jones” played from every loudspeaker as I circled Ireland.  On buses, in restaurants, in pubs, and out on the street.  I saw the band perform the song on Top of the Pops on the tv in the hostel common room.  When it wasn’t playing on a stereo, it was playing in my head, and I even heard people involuntarily singing “a yippee ay yay, a wah-hah” under their breath.  By any standard, this was a terrible song, but the people of Ireland and Britain had raised it to the top of their charts.  I found it so comically bad, I started to like it ironically, and then non-ironically.

When I got back home to the States, my experience was the opposite of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”  Despite being a #1 song in Ireland and the UK, no one I knew in the US ever heard of it, nor would they ever hear of it unless I played it for them.  And I did.  I even put it on a mix tape for Susan, and I guess it didn’t offend her too much, since she still married me.

2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – A Song and a Story

A: Always on My Mind
B: Baby Come Back and Baker Street
C: Cheek to Cheek

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.