A cartoon creator has control over many aspects of their creation, but there’s one thing that no creator can ever control: how their legacy will be handled after their death. Even those creators who craft careful plans ultimately have to rely on the trustees of their estate, oftentimes a spouse or child, to execute said plans.
In some cases, it works out, like Charles Schulz, whose name and legacy continues to be upheld and honored by his family with every new Peanuts project. The most visible outward expression of that on the upcoming Peanuts Movie is the huge credit that Schulz receives on every piece of advertising related to the film. Make no mistake, this isn’t just Peanuts: this is Charles Schulz’s Peanuts:
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the caretakers of Ross Bagdasarian Sr.’s inspired creation Alvin and the Chipmunks, who happen to be his son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr., and daughter-in-law Janice Karman. Here’s the title card for the new ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks series that debuts on Nickelodeon tomorrow:
And a promo piece:
Notice who’s name is absent: the creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Which might not be so egregious if there wasn’t another name in his place. Not only do Bagdasarian Jr. and Karman not credit Bagdasarian Sr. as the creator of the characters on the posters for the Chipmunks theatrical franchise, they actively go out of their way to obfuscate his authorship role. Janice Karman’s “created by” credit on this new series is the most flagrant attempt yet to rewrite the history of the characters.
Of course, their defense will be that Janice Karman created the Alvinnnn!!! and the Chipmunks TV series, not Alvin and the Chipmunks. And I’m sure there’ll be a standard “based on characters created by” acknowledgement somewhere in the credits. But this title card, with its bold promotion of Karman’s name and no mention of Bagdasarian’s, intentionally blurs the line between the show title and the characters, giving disproportionate authorship to Karman.
There were classier ways that Karman could have taken credit for the series, while making it clear beyond a doubt that she had nothing to do with creating the Chipmunks. For example, here’s a poster for Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin which acknowledges Tintin creator Hergé while giving a headline credit to Spielberg and Peter Jackson:
For reasons that only Ross Jr. and Janice Karman know, they’ve decided to not promote Ross’s father as the creator of Alvin, Simon and Theodore. Cartoon fans know the truth, however. So when the show premieres tomorrow, raise a toast to the true creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks, Ross Bagdasarian Sr. May we all be so lucky to come up with a beloved idea that audiences enjoy for nearly sixty years — even if our relatives take more credit for it than they deserve.