The frustrating thing about Hollywood’s consistent inability to adapt Jeff Smith’s beloved, best-selling, critically beloved comic series Bone to either film or TV is that it feels like such a no-brainer. Smith’s series (originally printed from 1991 to 2004, and still available in gorgeous collected editions) is a winning combination of classic cartoon slapstick and Tolkien-esque epic storytelling, managing to achieve the sweep of a great fantasy novel without losing track of the comedy stylings of cartoon heroes Fone, Phoney, and Smiley Bone. Smith’s blend of simpler cartoon characters and far more elaborate art feels like such an obvious fit for animation—and yet, here we are, Boneless once again.
The latest Bone project was announced to have fallen apart earlier this week, when The Wrap’s Drew Taylor ran a longer report on problems at Netflix’s original animation department. (This, amidst the wider problems plaguing Netflix as a whole at this particular moment.) Developments around the Bone show had been quiet since the show was announced back in 2019, but, hey: It’s animation, right? Sometimes things take a while.
But, no: Taylor’s report confirmed that the show is dead, just like all those past attempts to turn the series into an animated project
Smith (who’s continued to make beautiful independent comics in the years since Bone ended, including his current ongoing series, Tuki, about ancient humans fighting for survival) responded to confirmation of the Netflix series being dropped by, what else? Posting a comic paying tribute to the great Charles Schultz, with himself as Charlie Brown/Fone Bone, and the various animation studios who’ve played at adapting Bone over the years as football-yanking con-man Phoney.
Details about the previous efforts to turn Bone into an animated film are somewhat sparing, but Smith has talked about them from time to time—including the revelation that both Nickelodeon and Warner Bros. pushed hard to get thoroughly off-brand pop songs inserted into the movie, as per apparent “animated kids movie” mandate.
Which brings us to today, with Fone Bone’s weary “Never again” at the end of Smith’s comic suggesting we shouldn’t hold our breaths for another attempt at bringing Bone to animated life.