‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ Creator Norman Bridwell Dead at 86

Prolific children’s author penned 40 titles, which sold over 60 million copies

“Clifford the Big Red Dog” creator Norman Bridwell died in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts on Friday, according to publisher Scholastic. He was 86.

The children’s author created Clifford in 1963 and is credited with having penned and illustrated more than 150 titles starring the cartoon canine since, which have gone on to sell over 129 million copies in over a dozen languages.

In addition to his popularity in print, Clifford has crossed over to both television and film. Scholastic Studios produced an animated “Clifford the Big Red Dog” series for PBS Kids from 2000 to 2003. John Ritter (“Three’s Company”) voiced Clifford for an animated feature film in 2004, “Clifford’s Really Big Movie,” which co-starred Wayne Brady, Jenna Elfman and John Goodman.

Universal has a “Clifford the Big Red Dog” film slated for a 2016 release. As TheWrap first reported, David Bowers will direct.

“Norman Bridwell’s books about Clifford, childhood’s most loveable dog, could only have been written by a gentle man with a great sense of humor,” said Dick Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO, Scholastic. “Norman personified the values that we as parents and educators hope to communicate to our children – kindness, compassion, helpfulness, gratitude – through the Clifford stories which have been loved for more than fifty years.

“The magic of the character and stories Norman created with Clifford is that children can see themselves in this big dog who tries very hard to be good, but is somewhat clumsy and always bumping into things and making mistakes. What comforts the reader is that Clifford is always forgiven by Emily Elizabeth, who loves him unconditionally,” Robinson continued. “At Scholastic, we are deeply saddened by the loss of our loyal and talented friend whose drawings and stories have inspired all of us and generations of children and their parents.”

Bridwell was born in Kokomo, Indiana, in 1928. He studied at Indianapolis’ John Herron Art Institute before attending Cooper Union in New York. His Clifford manuscript was turned down by nine different publishers before finding a home at Scholastic, where Bridwell and Clifford would remain for well over 50 years.

The prolific author completed two more Clifford books for Scholastic before his death, which are set for a 2015 release: “Clifford Goes to Kindergarten” and “Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah.”

Bridwell is survived by his wife, Norma, their daughter Emily Elizabeth, son Timothy and three grandchildren.