Thursday, June 28, 2007


The summer of 1982 found me in a very small room indeed. I had seen movies by Steven Speilberg I liked before (and many more since) but I hated E.T.

I saw it opening night and thought the flying bikes were nice and the line "This is reality Greg" still cracks me up. But overall I found the continuity disjointed, the puppet unconvincing and the emotional climax struck me as entirely push-button. But I shrugged it off, went home and thought little about it. Over the next few days, though, the spontaneous, unanimous and world-wide adoration of the film started to get on my nerves. I began to feel like the one from another planet, what the hell did everyone see in the movie that I didn't?

Anywho, that summer also found the animator's union on strike. I was going broke and worried about how I'd pay my rent. Then it hit me: I'd do an irreverent take on ET, (using an erzats stand-in for Mr. Speilberg's copyrighted one) and let the money roll in. I wrote it in an evening and for the next ten days or so, I'd come home from picketing and carefully ink up one of the illustrations to submit with the text to publishers. I hate inking, but something about the fevered purpose of my quest (to amuse fellow ET-haters and make a buck in the process) guided my hand like never before (or since).

The overall gist of the book was that the invasion of Earth by nauseatingly adorable aliens would lull humanity into such a schmoo-like stupor that life as we know it would come to a halt and become an ongoing California beach party. I had entires on how to identify these new "cute" aliens from the ones we'd seen previously on TV, etc.

Epilogue: I was rejected by all 20 publishers I submitted to. The strike ended just in time to pay my landlord and I ended up with 10 illustrations that stayed in my portfolio for years, mainly as a reminder that I should get off my butt and practice inking more. I got to meet Mr. Speilberg a few times at Dreamworks, but the topic of this movie never came up, and I'd like to think I'd have had the good sense not to tip my hand about my opinion of it, even though I know he has a good sense of humor. I still can't stand that movie though.


The Jerk said...

having only been born in 82, i didn't see it until some time later, on video. I too found myself disliking the film. It's great to finally find a fellow hater!

Stephen Worth said...

I felt the same way about ET as you... The only scene I liked was when ET was laying dead in the gully with that grit encrusted pepperoni skin. I wanted to shake salt on him and make him froth up like a snail in a bucket.

See ya

amir avni said...

Brilliant drawings!

Will Finn said...

BTW--my apologies to all fans of the little intergalactic gumdrop--no offense meant.

I also don't know when i discovered i had drawn the girl on the beach with two right feet. this tragic amatuer mistake is what surely cost me a handsome publishing contract...
or maybe the whole idea just sucked.

perkypickle said...

i suppose there's an illutrated attack on kittens, rainbows and sweet old yiddish women in your portfolio too, huh, william? sheesh!!

the comik is actually very cool!!

i especially enjoy the wrestler and the viking...

hope all is well in the oaks of sherman!

Tim said...

Funny drawings!
I was never a huge fan of the movie, either. No malice involved, just indifference.
I think it stemmed from the fact that I took a first date to it. I girl I had known in high school. I heard this film was very sentimental and hoped it would put this girl in such an emotional state that she would cherish me forever for being the one to introduce her to it.
Well, we sat in front of a kid who had seen it the week before and was telling his buddy all about it. I finally got the kid to shut up, but not before his buddy asked him, "Is this the part where he comes back alive?"
Well, the girl and I went on to become happily married... to different people. We never dated each other again after that night.

Rhett Wickham said...

Zipatone! *sigh* You used Zipatone! Not meaning to sound like Elaine Stritch, but "does anybody still use...Zipatone?" Wow. There's so much to love about these. Starting with the spleen venting nobility of its intent and running right through to the perfectly posed W.C. Fields. And best of all, throughout, evidence of a human hand. *sigh* Just seeing all those hints of blue pencil layout, hastily applied splashes of white out, and sweet strokes of black ink warms the heart. Wish I could fly out to ComicCon this year just to leaf through some stacks of Walt Kelly “Pogo” dailies, or Gus Arriola “Gordo” originals. Hmmmm. Billiam, Lad, in the vernacular you are “da bomb”, don’t ya know.
I, too, was anything but an "E.T." lover and, frankly, don't like that many Speilberg films at all. My fantasy was to send the kid from "Empire of the Sun" and "E.T." back into the void aboard the mother ship from "Close Encounters" (the one SS film I can say I more or less like.) Alas, my dear and darling parents, thinking they were supporting my love of Sci-Fi, and with the most loving and best of intentions mind you, gifted me one of the little plush E.T. dolls. Oh, that baby-poo brown naughahide facsimile that looked for all the world like something a barcalounger aborted. Over the years it began to blister and crack and peel like an old car seat or a Palm Springs matron. Happy times, man. Happy times.

Will Finn said...

I almost called this post : "I HATE E.T. (but I LOVE zip-a-tone!!!)"
Those were the days...

Richard Gaines said...


I love your characterizations by the way! You've done a plethora of fine work at Disney, which, perchance, I hope to join one day.

Apart from that, I remember watching ET for the first time as a really young kid and loving it. It just so happens a friend of mine had an old undoctored VHS of ET and showed it to me last year. I can't believe this movie became a classic! The story seemed forced and, even as you said, disjointed. Maybe those few screen shots of the bike and the moon and the glowing finger somehow sold the film to the public.

It sometimes amazes me how time can really make or break one's dignity!

Mike Gillett said...

Will, as I recall "E.T." came out the same weekend as your wonderful "The Secret of N.I.M.H." Loyal friend that I am, you know which one I went to! But then, Karen and I - and Peter Busch - only went to see "Xanadu" for the animated sequence too. And we spent like twenty bucks each in quarters playing "Dragons' Lair" in some sleezy bar and grill. We were late on our rent that month.

So, Will - explain "blog". Does this mean that all these nice people are all members of the "Will Fan Finn Club"? Tell them I was the first with an official t-shirt thirty years ago... No "Johnny Come Lately" me!

I came across my copy of "I HATE E.T." in my trunk in the garage... Never understood why it didn't take off like "101 Things to do With a Dead Cat" did. Perhaps "101 Things to do With a Dead E.T." might have worked better...