Some comic strips put their definitive stamp on the public consciousness. Peanuts inspired television specials which have become beloved to generations. Garfield spawned cartoon shows and a movie. The Far Side effectively owned the daily desk calendar market for a decade. Li’l Abner was a successful Broadway show. Pogo was the star of a Chuck Jones cartoon.
And then, of course, there’s Footrot Flats. The story of a bachelor farmer and his dog, Dog, it was heavily praised for, among other things, its treatment of cartoon animals. Much as Get Fuzzy did years later, the animals in Footrot Flats were actual animals; they didn’t talk, but some of them thought in English so that the readers could understand them.
After first being published in 1976, F.F. grew to become one of the most beloved comic strips of the 1980s. It finally ended in 1994 for a variety of reasons, not least of which was the death of the creator’s beloved dog, who had been the inspiration for “Dog” in the strip.
Footrot Flats had dozens of books which sold millions of copies and was the inspiration for a theme park. Two of its most famous fans were Charles Schultz (of the above-mentioned Peanuts) and Jim Davis (of the above-mentioned Garfield). It even had its own feature-length film, “Footrot Flats – the Dog’s Tale”.
The following video uses a song and clips from the movie as a tribute to Ball upon his death.
Its international fame, however, never quite reached the United States. Native to New Zealand, the Murray Ball strip had fans throughout Southeast Asia, Australia and Europe, but it was known in the U.S. almost exclusively by world travelers and by professional cartoonists.
But, aside from the simple existence of an internationally famous pop culture phenomenon with most Americans haven’t heard of, is there anything else I can offer?
I’m glad you ask!
First, here’s the official website with some of the strips:
And then there’s the odd time lapse of two different videos, taken a couple of decades apart. The first features the Footrot Flats theme park… a small place in New Zealand with some rollercoasters, rides, and concessions. The second shows what remains of the park today.
Depending on your perspective, it can be a recognition of the transitory nature of mortal things or it can be a repudiation of the notion that construction projects “destroy the Earth”.
One way or another, though, this whole thing leads to one obvious Question of the Night: What are your favorite comic strips?