Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pioneering Animated Political Cartoons

I sent congratulations to Mark Fiore after he won the Pulitzer Prize for political cartooning a few weeks ago. He is one of my heroes, along with Ward Sutton, who drew political cartoons for Rolling Stone for a few years until RS fired pretty much all of its cartoonists.

The fact that the Pulitzer committee was smart and with-it enough to give the award to Fiore is nothing short of amazing. They are known for their stodginess. Oliphant, who won it several times in the 1960s, mocked it saying that all he had to do was to use a kind of jingoistic rah-rah-Amerika formula to win it, and sure enough, it worked. (He never got another one after he said that.)

I went back to grad school in the late '90s to try to get some ideas and skills to help me improve my own efforts at doing animated political cartoons, which began on the Amiga computer in 1986. I may have been the first to do so on a personal computer. Bill Sanders, one of my mentors, (cartoonist for the Milwaukee Journal), was one of the first to try to do them on big network mainframe computers, and there were animated political cartoons offered to TV stations in the late 1970s, called "Cartoonitorials." These were run on a Madison, WI TV station when I was there as a grad student in the School of Mass Communication and Journalism at the University of Wisconsin. I was taking TV production courses trying to pursue this idea. I also recall PBS Newshour taking a stab at them, maybe 20 years ago.

I pretty much gave up on the animated political cartoon in grad school both times. But I did land a gig on the local KMSP-TV morning news show that I stuck with for a few months (getting up at 4 am just wasn't worth it!), where I did a combination of live drawing + showing my animated cartoons + commenting with satirical remarks.

It just doesn't seem that animated political cartoons ever really "take off." Maybe at some point in the future, someone will find a way to pull it off. It will take a team, not an individual, to do something that could work on that level. I'm still interested... call me if you have an idea how!