Friday, October 09, 2015

Roger Bollen 1941-2015

"Animal Crackers" comic strip cartoonist Roger Bollen, as well as prolific children's books creator and TV producer ("Handy Manny" and "Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century" among others), died on Saturday at Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. He was 74.  He had suffered a stroke in April and seemed to be recovering according to his daughter, Melissa Ellsworth. 

Bollen, who lived in Chagrin Falls, was a prolific creator who started out in newspaper comic strips and went on to illustrate more than 50 children's books with his second wife, Marilyn Sadler. He later created shows for the Disney Channel that included "Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century," "Handy Manny" and an animated version of "Animal Crackers." 
He was a private person. His listing on IMDb (Internet Movie Database) does not include a picture of him. 
"He ate out at restaurants in Chagrin Falls every day and no one knew he was a television producer," said his daughter, Melissa Ellsworth of Rocky River, who has his work on her Facebook page. "He never wanted his age to be known because he didn't want anyone to think he was too old to work. That is just how he was." 
Within the past weeks, Ellsworth said her father told her he was doing another series with the Disney Channel.

Debuting in 1967 Animal Crackers centers on a group of animals — Lyle Lion and Eugene the elephant, among them — in the fictional jungle of Freeborn. Bollen, a Cleveland native, drew the strip until 1992, when he moved to television (the strip has continued, drawn by Fred Wagner). Animal Crackers soon moved with him, airing as a television series from 1997 to 1999. Bollen also collaborated with his second wife Marilyn Sadler on more than 50 children’s books, including the Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century series.

I liked this story that fellow Ohioan Tom Batiuk told the PD:

Tom Batiuk, creator of the Funky Winkerbean comic strip, said Bollen was a friend and inspiration. 
"When I was in college at Kent State, I got his phone number," Batiuk said. "I called and said I wanted to meet him and ask his advice on the comic business. He refused. I called again and he refused. I called a third time and he said okay. He later told me he always turns down people the first two times to make sure they are serious." 
Batiuk said Bollen offered excellent advice and became a good friend.

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