In 1995, the highly successful animated series Garfield and Friends had run the majority of its course and would ultimately be approved for seven seasons. On the lookout for something new on the CBS Saturday morning lineup, producers approached Bill Waterson, creator of the acclaimed Calvin & Hobbes comic strip. Waterson was wrapping up his series, saying, "It's always better to leave the party early." Despite the cries from newspapers and readers alike, he refused the risk of running his creation into the ground.
While he had anticipated retiring to paint, the idea of a cartoon fascinated him. Waterson had always admired the artistry of animation, saying in a 1989 interview with The Comics Journal, "If you look at the old cartoons by Tex Avery and Chuck Jones, you'll see that there are a lot of things single drawings just can't do. Animators can get away with incredible distortion and exaggeration." Since he had won his freedom on Sunday comics pages with his sabbatical in 1991, he decided he could use this as a chance to experiment artistically again.
Calvin & Hobbes would end its newspaper run on December 31, 1995, and fans eagerly awaited the first episode of the animated series the next September as kids went back to school. After months of hangups working with Waterson's perfectionism and him being reportedly "very scared" to choose voice actors, the show aired to critical acclaim. Waterson's writing and initial sketches combined with new flexibility and background music to bring Calvin alive. Sequences of riding wagons and sleds down hills were applauded, as were the leaps in computer technology to incorporate the backgrounds Waterson imagined. Subject matter and Calvin's famous intelligence merited the series the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Animated Program twice, beating out the incumbent Animaniacs.
Despite the success of the series, Waterson would stand by his principles in licensing. Producers were furious that they could not capitalize on the audience with Hobbes dolls, G.R.O.S.S. memorabilia, or action figures of Spaceman Spiff, Stupendous Man, and other personae of Calvin's creation. After only two seasons, the show would be cut off to be replaced by a cheaper, wholly educational lineup.
Waterson headed into retirement and refused to answer any questions about a possible Calvin & Hobbes film.