Berkeley Breathed's OPUS is returning to a new syndicated newspaper strip AND to a screen near you! EEEEK!
Published at: Sept. 1, 2003, 7:56 a.m. CST by staff
Hey folks, Harry here... I have glorious news for you. The other day while driving around Austin, this freakish Orange cat darted in front of my car becoming certain roadkill.... Only, this was no ordinary feline, it was one of them cartoon cats. Not Garfield... Not Fat Freddy's Cat... and most certainly not frickin' Heathcliff. No this was BILL THE CAT, and Bill, who usually was unintelligible was knocked stoned concious and coherent. I was thrilled as... I'm a huge fan of his strips.
You see, when I was a kid, for a time beginning in 1977 my parents became Arts and Crafts folks, doing Leatherwork and Bronzework which they sold across the street from the University of Texas here in Austin. Growing up in the shadow of U.T., which whupped the shit out of New Mexico's Aggies last night 66-7! HOOK 'EM! Anyway, given I had free rule over the Campus, Le Fun and the Texas Union Theater, there were always plenty of free copies of THE DAILY TEXAN laying about. What does that have to do with anything? Well, you see often as I ate my GOURMET HAMBURGERS beneath the offices of the SCIENTOLOGY folks, I would read the Comics Page of THE DAILY TEXAN. Among the very first strips that I couldn't really comprehend, because it was beyond a 6 or 7 year old was Berkeley Breathed's ACADEMIA WALTZ which he did while a Student at the University of Texas. While I might not have had the best reading comprehension skills at the time, I certainly loved the art and comic aspects that I was picking up.
A few years later when BLOOM COUNTY debuted, I was up to speed and enjoying it thoroughly. Then on a black day in 1989, Berkeley Breathed decided to be lazy and stop doing a Daily Strip, thus plunging the Newspaper Comic Strip world into mourning. However, he didn't completely abandon us like Bill Watterson did! He created a Sunday only strip called OUTLAND which I loved for about 6 years until he decided that... well, we weren't worthy of genius anymore and he shut down the strip completely in 1995. The world was plunged into despair.
Reduced to FAMILY CIRCUS and MARMADUKE with only CALVIN & HOBBES to comfort us... the world treaded water. Then CALVIN & HOBBES left us, and the cold chill of the North Atlantic began a shivver over the Comic's Pages that had few bright spots... what with the passing of Schultz nearly destroying all hope recently.
Well, Bill The Cat brought hope... What hope is there? A fool's hope, perhaps? Nay, this is not hope, this be the truth! Beginning sometime close to Thanksgiving of THIS YEAR... Berkeley Breathed is creating a Sunday-only strip called OPUS. Now you might be thinking... What's the biggie? If you are, you're a 'tard and need to wear diapers, but the Biggie is... When Berkeley retired Opus and crew back in 1995, no popular successful comic strip had ever been voluntarily retired when he did it. Thus starting a HORRIBLE TREND, which Watterson followed. Well... Since then, none of the strips that decided to cease being strips, have ever returned or had those characters come back in any newspaper form... so this is a first! In talking with Bill, I learned a bit about what Opus has been up to this past decade.
He couldn't say much, but apparently Opus' beloved mother was eaten in a spectacular incident not long ago involving a birthday gag gone awry with an elephant seal. That and the paternity suit Opus is facing from Ann Coulter over an egg has left him completely a mess.
Meanwhile... OPUS is a movie over at DIMENSION FILMS that is set to be directed by the man-god Berkeley Breathed and apparently he'll also be writing. Production is supposed to be started sometime before Christmas. Bill said that Berkeley is directing then writing the film, because he cannot do things the normal way.
When I asked Bill how Berkeley was planning on bringing OPUS to the screen, he said that the savant Berkeley was thinking of standing on a stage with a single spotlight on him, reading the story as he does for his kids. The plan was that this would keep costs cheap enough that Breathed would maintain most of the control over the project, but apparently he was overruled and due to an animation test that Eric Goldberg directed the animation for, it will be 3D aka Computer Animation. Eric Goldberg was that genius that did the Genie in ALADDIN btw. Bill said that this should be the consummate penguin movie! Just to make sure, I consulted with a penguin I knew and here was his reaction... Oh well, looks like he's decided to hide his footage. Darn! I guess that confirms it!
When I asked Bill who the voice for OPUS was, he said that they have no clue. In fact he was hoping I had a really great idea for a voice for OPUS. Well, I have to say, that personally in my mental interior monologue, David Niven always provided the voice for the world's greatest Penguin. However, due to mortality, I think that's a bad suggestion. Personally, I think I'd love to see Ewan MacGregor be the voice of OPUS - in DOWN WITH LOVE, his voice play work was great, and I'm convinced he can provide a voice for Opus that could range from all of the penguin's multiple personality shifts. For you apes that haven't seen DOWN WITH LOVE, consider Ewan's voice in BLACKHAWK DOWN... in both films he didn't sound an itsy bitsy bit British. SO -- Who do you think would rule as the voice of OPUS?
I tried to reach Berkeley Breathed to confirm all of this stuff I learned from his Cartoon Cat, and he said in a very loud and clear voice... "No COMMENT! ahem," then he started screaming at an assistant to get Bill front and center. But by that time Berkeley got to Bill, all he got out of him was "THPPFFT!" My bet, is we'll have all of this confirmed in a couple of weeks when Berkeley tired of the hot lights gives a full confession to having killed Laura Hunt or... or he'll cough up all the above information in a nice and tiddy press release that begins with, "Harry Knowles was right God Dammit!" Ok, I doubt he'll give me the satisfaction, but he can't escape the truth... this will come back to haunt him, and he'll never trust that cat again!