Sunday, 9 August 2015

The 1980s Animated Cerebus Project

"Add One Mummified Bat"
from The Animated Cerebus Portfolio (1983)
Art by Dave Sim

(from Animation Anecdotes #199, posted at Cartoon Research on 13 February 2015)

Cerebus, an independent comic book featuring a barbarian aardvark, began in 1977 and became a three hundred issue graphic novel ending in 2004. It was written and drawn by the controversial and talented Dave Sim.

"The original idea was to do something like Howard the Duck," said Sim in a 1992 interview, "A funny animal in a world of humans. But I didn't want to do a modern-day one because it would be too close to Howard. So it was either a science-fiction Howard the Duck or a barbarian Howard the Duck. I tried to do Cerebus so that it looked like the whole issue was drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith except Cerebus, who I wanted to look like he was drawn by Chuck Jones. Because I thought that hadn't been played with. When they were doing Howard the Duck, Howard was always rendered with the same kind of texture as everybody else. I wanted Cerebus to look like an animation cel in the middle of a realistically drawn comic book."

In the 1980s, Sim sent me a nice letter and some information about a five step program he had designed to perhaps have Cerebus become an animated special. The story would detail events happening before the first issue of the comic book so as not to interfere with the continuity already established.
  • Step One was to produce a portfolio of three highly rendered storyboards of possible segments of the animated film.
  • Step Two was to do additional storyboards.
  • Step Three was to hire an animation studio to animate those ten-minute segments for possible use on cable television or direct sale to the fan market.
  • Step Four was to use those animated segments to get a commitment to back an hour-long Cerebus project.
  • Step Five was to hire an animation studio to do the job.
"If any of the five steps collapsed, I won't pursue the project any further," wrote Sim, "My goal is to produce an animation film without a single heart-warming moment. If I had been Don Bluth doing The Secret of Nimh, I would have done two hours with the Dom DeLuise crow and dropkicked the rest of it into the nearest trash bin. Sort of gives you an idea of where I'm coming from on this."

Like many such independent projects, this one died fairly early in the development process.

Jim Korkis is an internationally respected animation historian who maintains the Cartoon Research Blog.


Max West said...

I believe a Cerebus animated film would have been fun to watch.

Jose de Leon said...

The portfolio as animated GIFs:

Will Collier said...

Back in the 90's, somebody put these together into MPEG files with a bit of computer-assisted animation and sound effects (including a Spock quote, if my memory serves). Dave printed instructions for downloading them in Aardvark Comment.

I had the files once upon a time, but I'm guessing they didn't survive to my current computer. I'll look around for them, though.