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Is Mickey making a movie version of Berkeley Breathed's "Mars Needs Moms!" ?

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Is Mickey making a movie version of Berkeley Breathed's "Mars Needs Moms!" ?

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We got any Berkeley Breathed fans out there? You know? That Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist who brought us "Bloom County," "Outland" and "Opus"?


Copyright 2007 Berkeley Breathed

Berkeley is an incredibly gifted storyteller and an absolutely fearless cartoonist. And over the years, he's tackled a wide variety of topics. But -- me personally -- I always loved it when Breathed would trot out Mortimer Mouse. Mickey's estranged, anatomically correct fraternal twin.

 
Copyright 1992 Berkeley Breathed / Little Brown Co.

To be honest, one of the reasons that I always enjoyed Mortimer's appearances was that the Walt Disney Company actually tried to put a stop to them. As the story goes, almost within moments of Mickey's brother's first appearance in this strip, Disney's attorneys sent Berkeley a cease-and-desist letter. Which supposedly stated that if Breathed persisted in using Mortimer in "Outland," the Mouse's lawyers would sue Berkeley within an inch of his life.

Breathed's response? He immediately created this series of strips entitled "Who Plugged Mortimer Mouse." Which -- over the course of three Sunday panels -- revealed that Michael Eisner himself had put out a hit on Mickey's brother. Brain-washing Bill the Cat to go after Mortimer with a chainsaw while wearing a pair of mouse ears.


Copyright 1992 Berkeley Breathed / Little Brown Co.

Realizing that they were now dealing with someone who wasn't actually frightened by cease-and-desist letters (More importantly, after realizing that the company would be in for some really bad publicity if they went with this lawsuit), Disney's lawyers quickly backed off. And Mortimer (Still wandering around with that bite mark out of his left ear. Which supposedly came about after Michael bit Mortimer during a particularly heated exchange in Eisner's office) continued making appearances in "Outland" 'til Breathed stopped drawing this Sunday strip in March of 1995.

Still, given that upper management at Disney allegedly hated Breathed in the late 1980s / early 1990s, I never thought that I'd live to see the day when Mickey & Berkeley would actually get together and collaborate on a project. Well, what a difference a decade or two makes. For Walt Disney Studios now owns the film rights to not one but two of Breathed's children's books. With the Mouse's most recent acquisition being Berkeley's latest story, "Mars Needs Moms!" (Philomel, April 2007).

 
Copyright 2007 Berkeley Breathed / Philomel Books

Of course, once you actually read "Mars Needs Moms!," you'll immediately realize why Disney's development team is eager to turn Breathed's book into a full-blown feature film. For this sweet, silly story is arguably Berkeley's very best work.

"Mars Needs Moms!" stars Milo, a tow-head kid who is feeling very put upon these days. Given that his mother is spoiling his summer by forcing her son to do all of these awful chores like weeding the garden and taking out the garbage. Or -- worse than that -- eating all of his vegetables.


Copyright 2007 Berkeley Breathed / Philomel Books

So when Milo's mother fails to see the humor in her son tinting his baby sister purple, she immediately orders him up to his room.

"UP TO BED! NOW!" she thundered.

"Tyrant!" barked Milo.

"NO SUPPER!" said his mother.

As she left his room, Milo yelled, "I SURE DON'T SEE WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT MOTHERS!"

She paused when he said this, and then closed the door very, very slowly.

But what Milo doesn't realize is (as Breathed "borrows" a chunk from the opening of H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds") that ...

"Across the gulf of space, critters messy and unmothered regarded this planet with envious eyes ...


Copyright 2007 Berkeley Breathed / Philomel Books

... and slowly but surely drew their plans for a visit."

And given that Milo is so tuckered out from his earlier fit, he initially doesn't hear the rumble of the rocket as it lands just outside of town.

 
Copyright 2007 Berkeley Breathed / Philomel Books

But when the Martian raiders arrive at his house and carry Milo's mom off ...

 
Copyright 2007 Berkeley Breathed / Philomel Books

... Well, in spite of her attitudes concerning vegetable eating and chore completion, Milo has to do something.

And that's all of this story that I'm going to reveal. To say any more would spoil this really sweet book. Which -- if you're smart -- you'll quickly purchase a copy of and immediately send it off to your own mom.

Of course, if you're really, really smart, you'll head on out to that handful of bookstores where Berkeley Breathed will be making personal appearances over the next two weeks. Where he will first meet with fans and then sign copies of "Mars Needs Moms!"

The lucky stores where Breathed will making stops at on this book tour are:

  • Willow Books and Cafe at 279 Great Road in Acton, MA. Breathed will be appearing at this store on Friday, May 4th starting at 7 p.m. For further information about this event, please call 978-266-0066.

  • Borders at 1115 Annapolis Mall in Annapolis, MD. Berkeley will be appearing at this store on Saturday, May 5th starting at 2 p.m. For further information about this event, please call 410-571-0923.
  • Kids Ink bookstore at 5619 N. Illinois in Indianapolis, IN. Breathed will be appearing at this bookstore on Sunday, May 6th starting at 2 p.m. For further information about this event, please call 317-255-2598.
  • Barnes & Noble at 91 Old Country Road in Carle Place, NY. Berkeley will be appearing in this store on Monday, May 7th starting at 6 p.m. For further information about this event, please call 516-741-9850.
  • Anderson's Bookshop at 123 West Jefferson in Naperville, IL. Breathed will be appearing at this shop on Tuesday, May 8th starting at 6 p.m. For further information about this event, please call 630-355-2665.
  • Third Place Books at 17171 Bothell Way in Lake Forest Park, WA. Berkeley will be appearing at this bookstore on Thursday, May 10th starting at 7 p.m. For further information about this event, please call 206-366-3333.
  • Dutton's Brentwood Bookstore at 11975 San Vicente Blvd. in the center of Los Angeles' Brentwood district. Breathed will be appearing at this store on Friday, May 11th starting at 6:30 p.m. For further information about this event, please call 310-476-6263.
  • Books, Inc. at 1344 Park Street in Alameda, CA. Berkeley will be appearing at this store on Saturday, May 12th starting at 11 a.m. For further information about this event, please call 510-522-2226.
  • Kepler's at 1010 El Camino Real in Menlo Park, CA. Breathed will be appearing at this bookstore on Saturday, May 12th starting at 4 p.m. For further information about this event, please call 650-324-4321.
  • Warwick's at 7812 Girard Avenue in La Jolla, CA. Berkeley will be appearing in this store on Sunday, May 13th at 2 p.m. For further information about this event, please call 858-454-0347.

Please note that Breathed is actually ending his latest book tour on Mother's Day. Which -- given "Mars Needs Moms!" 's subject matter -- is entirely appropriate.


Copyright 2007 Berkeley Breathed / Philomel Books

Also, given that Berkeley doesn't often do book signings, this may be your one and only opportunity to meet this Pulitzer Prize winner face to face. So if Breathed is coming to your neck of the woods over the next two weeks, I'd make an effort to get out and see him.

In fact, that's what Nancy and I will be doing this Friday night. Making the drive down from New Hampshire to get our copy of "Mars Needs Moms!" signed at Willow Books.

Anyway, if you'd like an advance peek at a story that may someday become a Walt Disney Pictures release, I suggest that you pick up a copy of Berkeley Breathed's latest, "Mars Needs Moms!"

Your thoughts?

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  • Sounds like a story that could turn out to be a great family movie. If they put full effort into the project, than I'm certainly going to see this! But uh.. Which of his book is the other book for which Disney owns the rights?

  • I had no idea that Mortimer was Mickey's brother...Is that really true?

    Would "Mars Needs Moms" be animated or live-action?  Would Disney change Milo's name, since Milo Thatch has the same name?  (I mean, I know that there are multiple Janes...)

    It sounds like a neat book!  If I still lived in MA, I could go to the book signing...

  • Ah yes, the Berkeley Breathed projects that never seem to happen.

    I sat in on a few meetings when the "Opus" feature was ramping up. Of course, it never happened. That's Hollywood.

  • The story reminds me a bit of the Jimmy Neutron movie plot, with parents being abducted and the kids having to save the day.

  • ^^ That's what I was thinking!  And since it always seems to be Disney (and Pixar) that's labeled the copycat (A Bug's Life, The Wild)  I really don't know if the public will realize that this book's origins aren't just Disney trying to imitate Nickelodeon.  

    This article just reminds me how much I love "A Wish for Wings that Work", that fun Opus Christmas Special.  No one seems to remember it, but it's a perennial favorite at our house.

  • Well, I sure remembered it!

    Even included it in a story I did here a while back.

    http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/roger_colton/archive/2005/11/24/984.aspx

    And even heard from the author himself afterwards;

    RE:  your review of Wish For Wings that Work.   Wow... best review that thing has ever got.   Better late that never.   Now... if only Universal would release the damn thing.  

    Thanks!

    Berkeley Breathed

  • by looking at the pictures in the book and taking into account the subject matter (space, aliens) if this movie sees the light of day, it looks like it would probably be a CG film. amazing things could be done with CG in the spacial realm, and it would be great if Disney did this movie.

    it also of course could work as a 2D film.

  • I enjoyed most of Breathed's work, and own several volumes of the reprints. Right up until he grew dissatisfied with his own stuff and recast it as "Outland". This was New Coke cartooning. "B.Breathed: Now edgier! More poynient! More gratuitous Disney bashing!"

    I think Breathed, like a lot of artists, coughed up a furball at his own commercial work and the compromises required and decided to go "arty". Not all together successfully either. I'm not particularly impressed by his Disney barbs since he was merely rehashing underground artists like Dan O'Neill and the Air Pirates who did it earlier and better IMO.

  • GofF> I'd chalk that up to similar influences between Mars and Neutron, much like that of Sky Captain and Talespin. But I never took to Neutron, myself, barely getting through an episode.

  • Roger Colton:

    "Well, I sure remembered it!

    Even included it in a story I did here a while back.

    http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/roger_colton/archive/2005/11/24/984.aspx"

    Yeah, we finally broke down and bought the VHS off of eBay this year, as our recorded copy was getting really pathetic.  

    Recently, a friend and I were talking about our cats, and she told me she had an orange tabby named Bill.  I laughed, and made some comment about Opus and Bill.  She had no idea what I was talking about.  Oh well.

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