Hagar the Horrible may be invading television.
The classic newspaper comic strip about a bumbling Viking and his wife and two children is being developed for television by Fresh Off the Boat writer and producer Eric Ziobrowski and The Jim Henson Company and the strip’s syndicator King Features. No network has been mentioned in conjunction with the project yet.
Hagar The Horrible first appeared on newspaper funnies pages back in 1973, the creation of cartoonist Dik Browne. The strip is currently being written and drawn by Browne’s son Chris. It detailed the daily travails of a Viking who just can’t get used to the changing world around him, often serving as an allegory for changes in the modern world. In addition to Hagar’s wife Helga, and their two children Honi and Hamlet, the strip also features Hagar’s best friend and chief lieutenant on his Viking raids, Lucky Eddie, the druid Dr. Zook, the monk Brother Olaf and others.
What’s interesting is how Deadline described the animation process for the show.
The series will be made using Henson Digital Puppetry Studio, a proprietary animation technology that allows Henson’s puppeteers to manipulate animated characters in real time, allowing for an organic, spontaneous performance.
Although a rather thin description of the animation process, it sounds reminiscent of something that Jim Henson was experimenting with back in the late 1980s. For his NBC anthology series The Jim Henson Hour, Henson introduced a new Muppet character in the show’s “MuppeTelevision” segments named Waldo C Graphic, a computer-generated character who was manipulated in real-time by a puppeteer using a special motion-capture rig that looked like an oversized mitten with a number of wires coming off it.
At the time of The Jim Henson Hour, Henson was beginning to show some fascination with computer-generated imagery and what it could be to him as a storyteller. The opening to the show partially contained CG elements and the “set” from which he hosted the show was mostly virtual. The Waldo character was another extension in that fascination.
Unfortunately, Henson himself never got to further experiment with the technology. The Jim Henson Hour was cancelled by NBC in the summer of 1989 and Henson tragically died less than a year later. Waldo’s only other appearance was in the Muppet*Vision 3D Disney theme park attraction. I can’t recall the technology ever being used in the intervening years, so it is nice to see his company returning to a form of puppetry that Henson was starting to develop all those years ago.