Norman Bridwell, creator of Clifford the Big Red Dog, passed away last Friday at the age of 86. With his canine creation, Bridwell experienced the kind of success that most children’s book illustrators dream of but few ever achieve.

Since the first Clifford title published over fifty years ago, he wrote and illustrated nearly 80 other Clifford books, selling more than 125 million copies and catapulting Scholastic into a major children’s publishing house. At the time of his death, two new Clifford stories had been completed and will be published posthumously: Clifford Goes To Kindergarten and Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah.

Norman Bridwell in the 1960s.
Norman Bridwell in the 1960s.

In the video below, Bridwell and his wife Norma talk about the history of the big red dog, which he once described as “Mr. Rogers with fur”:

The Kokomo, Indiana-born Bridwell attended John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, and later studied at Cooper Union in New York City. He was a struggling commercial artist (by his own account) when he stumbled onto success with Clifford in 1963. Throughout the years, Bridwell illustrated numerous other children’s books including Monster Holidays, The Witch Next Door, Kangaroo Stew, The Boy on the Ceiling, and A Tiny Family.


Clifford was occasionally animated, including a 1980s video series called “Clifford’s Fun with…” and a more recent PBS series, Clifford the Big Red Dog, that premiered in 2000 and continues to air today:

Clifford’s next big animation role will, of course, be as a computer-generated character. The property is being prepared as a live-action/CG hybrid feature. Despicable Me maker Illumination Entertainment was originally attached to produce, but the deal fell through. Universal is moving forward with the project though and has it slated for an April 8, 2016 bow.

And finally, no post acknowledging the legacy of Bridwell’s character in popular culture would be complete without this classic riff by Louis C.K.:

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