Bone Creator Jeff Smith Vents Frustration Over Netflix Cancellation (With A Comic Strip)

While the old saying goes, "Third time's a charm," that doesn't seem to be the case for "Bone" creator Jeff Smith. The cartoonist has been in talks several times to adapt his award-winning independently published comic about the Bone cousins navigating their way through a landscape of fantasy and comedy into an animated feature film. But each time, the project failed to come to fruition for one reason or another.

Things looked considerably more promising the third time around when "Bone" was being set up as an animated series at Netflix in 2019. However, during a particularly bad week for the streamer recently, it was revealed that the latest attempt to bring Fone, Phoney, and Smiley Bone to life was no longer moving forward as it had become the victim of major restructuring in the studio's animation department.

Now, Smith has responded to the disappointing news in the best possible way that he could: With a new "Bone" comic strip.

You're a good man, Fone Bone

For fans of the long-running graphic novel series, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that there is new "Bone" content to behold. The bad news is that it isn't in the form of the highly-anticipated animated series that had been gestating at Netflix for the past few years. Instead, it's a short comic strip chronicling the property's rollercoaster of a journey to get adapted for the screen.

In a clear homage to Charles Schulz and his "Peanuts" gang, Jeff Smith shared a drawing on Twitter that features Fone Bone as he prepares to kick a football being held by different studios. First, there's Nickelodeon, then Warner Bros., and finally Netflix. But like Lucy does with Charlie Brown, the studios pull the football away at the last second every time, leaving our hero laying flat on his back and feeling defeated.

Oops ... I did it again

To provide some context, Nickelodeon and Paramount's adaptation of "Bone" was in the works during the late 1990s. But when they pushed to aim the film at a younger audience and insert pop songs from NSYNC and Britney Spears into the movie, Smith and the studio began to butt heads. In an interview from 2003 with Ain't It Cool News, the creator shared that he was very much against the music choices.

"In the late '90s, I was really adamant that there would be no songs in the movie — because all animated feature films seem to have these awful formulaic songs. I think that's a law somewhere — 'Animated film for kids? Put some crappy songs in it!' [...]

"But Nickelodeon did agree to no songs. In writing. So this pop-song thing was probably the turning point in the whole affair for me; this was about a year-and-a-half in. [...] But one day after lunch we sat down ... and the executive there turned to me and said, "Okay. We can get $12 million right now if we put a pop song in the movie. So, Jeff — do you see somewhere in the body of the film where we could put a Britney Spears or an NSYNC song?"

"And I just turned and looked at [my wife and business manager] Vijaya, we looked at each other, and I said, 'No.' I mean, that's not the kind of movie that we were making. I mean, you wouldn't put a Britney Spears song in the middle of 'The Empire Strikes Back' or the middle of 'Lord of the Rings.' [...] Things went downhill rapidly after that. I think I became, instead of 'the director and the writer,' I suddenly became 'the creator who was being too protective of his little baby.'"

Later, after the film rights had lapsed and reverted back to Smith, Warner Bros. picked up the ball in 2008 to run with it. Like the George Lucas and Peter Jackson sagas that inspired Smith for the big screen version of his story, WB planned to make a trilogy of epic computer-animated "Bone" movies. After a few scripts were rejected, Patrick Sean Smith, the creator of ABC Family (now Freeform) series "Greek," boarded the project as a writer in 2012, along with "My Best Friend's Wedding" filmmaker P.J. Hogan as the director. The team went back to the drawing board in 2016 when screenwriter Adam Kline teamed with "Kung Fu Panda" director Mark Osborne to give the project one more good college try for Warner Animation Group before it faded into the ether once again.

Another old saying in the entertainment business is, "Never say never." You really never know what projects could be resurrected from the dead and saved from developmental hell on any given day. Although, based on his reaction to the Netflix news, it doesn't sound like Smith is willing to go through all of this again for what would be the fourth time. And honestly, who could blame him? At least we can still go to our local comic shops to pick up new editions of the "Lord of the Rings"-meets-"Looney Tunes" masterpiece, and enjoy "Bone" that way.