FEATURE: 08.01.19- Over the decades, many celebrity figures have visited the Apple Campus at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California, its old headquarters, from singers Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder to sports great Muhammad Ali (and even yours truly, wink!), but one popular celebrity doesn’t get much credit and that character is none other than everyone’s favorite cubicle office worker: Dilbert.
To be fair, the visit by Dilbert to 1 Infinite Loop took place in an episode — the scene captured in a production art animation cel from the TV show, which I happen to own — of the short-lived animated series based on the comic strip of the same name, that of its title character, created by Scott Adams which ran for two seasons from 1999 to 2000 on UPN (the United Paramount Network, which later became known as the CW, a merger of the former UPN and the WB television networks). The premise of the adult comedy, as described on IMDb (the Internet Movie Database), finds cubicle denizen Dilbert toiling away at Path-E-Tech which makes undefined products, with the focus on his survival amongst a moronic boss, hostile co-workers, and his malevolent pet, Dogbert.
After reading through every single plot summary of all the shows in the animated series from an episode guide on IMDb and finding no references to Apple anywhere, I took to scouring the web and came across this YouTube video which, aside from season and episode information, indicates Apple in its title and description.
Upon further investigation, the clip revelas Dilbert is talking to a character called The Dupey who is sitting in an office, and when the scene pans out, we see the Apple Campus with the old rainbow Apple logo in a sign out front.
The plot summary on IMDb of episode five titled “The Dupey” (which aired on December 7, 1999 in season two of the TV show), describes the company as creating marketing buzz about something called a Dupey and Dilbert is put in charge of creating the new sensation but unfortunately, his creation takes a life of its own.
Why a key plot twist as major as Apple isn’t mentioned in the episode summary, I can’t fathom, but maybe it’s so as not to give away the surprise ending.
To tell you the truth? I actually have never seen the episode which my animation cel came from (not because I am blind, since the animated series aired more than a decade before I would lose my eyesight in 2013, something my regular readers already know and, obviously, that means I had assistance in order to find out what that YouTube video contained, courtesy of MacPrices publisher Steve Hildreth) — although I have watched a few episodes — so I can’t personally confirm that that was the exact episode, but I think that clip is good enough evidence lending credence to where the scene took place. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck (so to speak).
Speaking of talking? One thing I remember about the animated series was that Dilbert finally gained a mouth because he would have a voice whereas in the comic strip, the character is drawn without one, despite having written dialogue in a speech bubble.
So, the only reason I know about this memorable scene depicting Dilbert at the old Apple headquarters is because of the cel art that I own. How did I acquire it, you ask? For a time, I was buying various items on eBay that were Apple related, primarily t-shirts, especially official Apple Store employee uniforms. — During my searches, I came across the animation cel featuring Dilbert, who happens to be one of my favorite comic strip characters (I even have a Dilbert necktie which is one of my favorite ties to wear when I get dressed up) so how could I resist?
The item was being sold by a fellow with the eBay username “nigelwackenfrets” who runs a Dilbert Cel Art Storefront which, according to the seller, sells some of the most unique items on eBay including original Delbert cartoon cel art, custom painted art guitars, NASA artifacts and excess space shuttle equipment, and Hollywood movie posters.
I bought — or bid on? I can’t remember — the item for $24 which I happened to purchase from eBay on this very day back on August 1, 2011 (thus, the reason why I found it noteworthy to publish this story today).
In an attempt to find out more information, like, for one thing, which episode the animation cel that I own came from, or how they acquired the cel art collection from the “Dilbert” animated series and whether they were directly (or indirectly) involved with the production of the show, I reached out to the seller but, to my disappointment, they did not respond to my email or messages sent through the eBay messaging system. So, alas, we will never know.
However, some things that I do know about “nigelwackenfrets” is that they identify themselves as a trustee of Dilbert animation art and are based in Florida. (I also know their actual name from previous email correspondence regarding the eBay transaction but, for privacy reasons, won’t reveal that here since that is not public information like their eBay username and location as displayed in their seller profile).
While the seller claimed that the item for sale was authentic — it included a certificate of authenticity (issued by whom, I don’t remember) — and was original production art from the TV show, I always have wondered if it was a reproduction and more than one copy of the exact one that I own exists. But, that’s pure speculation on my part! Granted, knowing what I do know about animation, the scene from the episode would have consisted of multiple frames, explaining why there would be more than one animation cel of the scene in existence, so, hopefully the one that I own is not the same as any others that may have been sold. A quick search on eBay does not currently show any matches other than cel art from other episodes.
Ironically though, during my extensive research on Google to derive more information and details for this story, I came across this link on a website called Worthpoint — which is the largest resource on the internet for researching, valuing, and buying / selling antiques, art, and vintage collectibles from auction houses or online marketplaces like eBay — and found another animation cel similar to mine except in this particular frame (according to Hildreth), Dilbert is turned in a different direction and appears to be saying something. After signing up for a 7-day free trial to find out more about the item (it even has the same title as the eBay listing of the item I purchased back in 2011), I learned that it sold on eBay March 15, 2013 for $20. So, it looks like I was correct about other animation cels that depict Dilbert at Apple headquarters being out there!
I, also, did get in contact with the support desk at Andrews McNeel Syndication, the company that currently owns and distributes the Dilbert comic strip to newspapers in the U.S. and worldwide. I inquired, of course, about the episode in question from the animated series and also as to whether production art from the TV show was ever released to the public. They could not confirm or provide any answers, to my dismay, as they said they did not have anything to do with it.
They did suggest that I write a letter and mail it in to their physical address and they would forward it to the creator (Adams). They said their online support desk system was not equipped, oddly enough, to forward inquiries directly to the creator. I highly doubt I would have gotten anywhere with that method as I would surmise Adams gets a lot of fan mail through that mailing address and I probably would have never received a response (much less, in time for publishing this story).
On the “Dilbert” animated series itself, the television comedy — co-created by Adams himself (who was also co-executive director) — premiered on UPN January 25th, 1999 and ran for 30 episodes. The title characters, Dilbert and Dogbert, were voiced by high profile Hollywood actors Daniel Stern (“Home Alone”) and Chris Elliott (“Groundhog Day”), respectively. It’s theme song was composed by well known music composer Danny Elfman (“Batman”).
The animated series also was awarded a prime time Emmy in 1999 for “Outstanding Main Title Design” and in 2000 received an award for “Best Casting for Animated Voiceover: Television” by the Casting Society of America.
In a Wikipedia entry about the TV show, Adams is quoted from an interview in 2006 about the cancellation of the “Dilbert” animated series where he explained:
“It was on UPN, a network few people watched and because of some management screw ups between the first and second seasons, the time slot kept changing and we lost our viewers,” said Adams.
“We were also scheduled to follow the worst TV show ever made: ‘Shasta McNasty.’ On TV, your viewership is 75% determined by how many people watch the show before yours. That killed us!” He added.
According to information in that same Wikipedia entry, the “Dilbert” animated series was considered to be picked up by NBC but in the end, Adams went with UPN — at the time, ranked the sixth television network among viewers — because the latter network of the two promised it would air 13 episodes whereas others only would consider the TV show against other programming options. And, interestingly enough? Adams decided to go with an animated series only after a live action version of Dilbert that was previously shot for the Fox television network never made it to air because it did not translate well in Adams’s eyes.
As far as the comic strip goes, Adams has been drawing “Dilbert” for 30 years now, the first strip published on April 16, 1989. “Dilbert” appears in over 2,000 newspapers in 57 countries and in 19 languages according to information provided on the “About” webpage on the comic strip’s official website. The site, which debuted in 2000, was the first ever to feature a daily syndicated comic strip on the internet.
In 1997, the “Dilbert” comic strip was the recipient of the Reuben Award, cartooning’s highest honor.
From time to time, Apple and its products are a recurring theme and subject matter of the comic strip as evidenced by this page on Dilbert.com, which would suggest that Adams is an Apple fan — the animation cel depicting Dilbert at Apple headquarters a perfect example albeit, from the animated series — and, possibly, a Mac user himself (a topic asked of the Andrews McNeel Syndication support desk, something they could not answer either).
Adams also was quoted in the aforementioned Wikipedia entry on the TV show about turning his “Dilbert” comic strip into an animated series to which he stated:
“It’s a very freeing experience because the comic strip limits me to three picture panels with four lines or less of dialogue per issue. In the TV series, I have 21 minutes per episode to be funny. I can follow a theme from beginning to end, which will add lots of richness to the characters. … So it’s much more freeing creatively,” said Adams.