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Cagle: editorial animation not the future

Daryl Cagle, editorial cartoonist for MSNBC, and owner of Cagle Toons has posted a response to the oft asked “What is the future of editorial cartooning?” He writes that animated cartoons are what cartoonists “hope will happen,” but that in his experience with his syndicate company he sees “no trend for web customers to be willing to pay for interactive or animated cartoons.”

He argues that as larger papers fall or decline in size, smaller clients (small web sites, newsletters, weeklies and foreign publications) will become the outlet for static editorial cartoons.

Community Comments

#1 Bob Quick
September/23/2008
@ 6:40 am

It looks somewhat like a “trend” to not
pay for any type of cartoon… thanks to
the internet.

#2 Ryan Sohmer
September/23/2008
@ 7:28 am

Just because you haven’t found a business model that works for you online, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

In regards to what Daryl says, I respectfully disagree. While I don’t think that animation is ‘the future of editorial cartooning’, I do believe there is an exploitable market there. Look at what Jib Jab has done with their editorial shorts, for example.

As technology continues to improve, static content will take a backseat on the internet.

#3 Mike Lester
September/23/2008
@ 7:44 am

Jib Jab does great stuff but they don’t do “editorial shorts” and they don’t do editorial cartoons as I define them. Ever seen a picture of their staff? Their work is more Busby/Berkeley than Boy and Axe to Grind. Litmus test: If you’re not signing your name, it’s not an editorial cartoon.

I wrote and drew MikeDuJour for DowJones.com for three years in the late nineties. It was a DAILY ANIMATED CARTOON (5 days/wk.) and my partner animated them. It was only feasible for one reason: DowJones.com had deep VC pockets. And then the dot com bubble burst.

I’ll have to agree w/ Daryl on this one: I don’t see a struggling media saved by a more laborious means of product delivery.

#4 Bob Quick
September/23/2008
@ 8:11 am

Ryan…I didn’t mean to imply that a business
model on line doesn’t exist. I just meant that there is
a lot more “clip-art” available out there these days.

#5 Milt Priggee
September/23/2008
@ 8:17 am

Daryl has some good points but then on the other hand…. Mitchell, Fiore, Bateman and now Telnaes keep cashing checks.

#6 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
September/23/2008
@ 8:32 am

This is the apples and oranges argument.
An editorial cartoon is a snapshot…an incisive look at a particular topic from an ironic, satyrical, critical, or humorous viewpoint. Sometimes many of these elements.
Animation is a script, a narrative.
The reason why editorial cartoons work ( and why they are almost always single panels ) is that they grab attention quick, but are not intended to engage for long. They are the stiletto’s of opinion.

There is room for co-existance, but I think that the professionals in their respective areas of expertise would do well to continue with what they do best; rather than cheapen what they do with poor efforts in unfamiliar situations.

#7 Wiley Miller
September/23/2008
@ 8:49 am

“Jib Jab does great stuff but they donâ??t do â??editorial shortsâ? and they donâ??t do editorial cartoons as I define them.”

What Jib Jab does is topical humor, not editorial satire. There is a fine line here, but a distinct one. The Jib Jab guys go out of their way to be “fair” in hitting both sides. That is not what an editorial cartoon is supposed to do, but sadly, that is all what the vast majority of so-called editorial cartoons do today, as most of them are more interested in making a gag about any given issue instead of making an editorial point. And this is only compounded in animating the cartoons. Style over substance.

#8 Mike Cope
September/23/2008
@ 9:12 am

From Wiley: “The Jib Jab guys go out of their way to be â??fairâ? in hitting both sides. That is not what an editorial cartoon is supposed to do”

Interesting … Can you expand more on this Wiley?

Considering the digital world we live in (that is, a world where one’s written words can be so easily misinterpreted) I would tend to think that it’s more challenging to present a fair hitting cartoon. After all, it’s so much easier to just poke fun at a single target.

But to present both the strengths (or weaknesses) of an issue from multiple perspectives … Is this not a point in itself, rather than just preaching one’s own beliefs or personal perspective?

Maybe an example would be better here, but what do you mean by “making an editorial point”?

#9 Matt Bors
September/23/2008
@ 9:38 am

“Look at what Jib Jab has done with their editorial shorts, for example.”

Jib Jab does paying commercial work that subsidizes an animated political cartoon they happen to do maybe once a year. There are no websites that I’m aware of that pay jib jab to create this work–it’s done simply because they like it and it gets their name out there for gigs that actually pay.

#10 Wiley Miller
September/23/2008
@ 9:55 am

Mike-
An editorial cartoon is supposed to make a point.

#11 David
September/23/2008
@ 10:24 am

Matt makes a good point about Jib Jab. I believe they also make money through a line of e-cards. And their topical animations have gotten big enough that they get their names out there on the major 24 hour news networks that talk about them when they are released.

The future of editorial cartoons lies in newsletters? That is pretty depressing..

Why wouldn’t the future of newspapers be digital pdf like versions of the print versions delivered to peoples iphones or digital readers like amazon’s Kindle(which is already happening)? I mean in a 5 years don’t you think phones and readers with those capabilities will be more accessible?

Oh and why would small websites ‘pay’ for content that is already online for free, and that most people already just embed in their blogs for free anyway?

#12 Tom Wood
September/23/2008
@ 12:36 pm

Animation provides the perfect means to throw both sides AT each other. It’s similar to sketch comedy. Usually in a sketch comedy each side wants to win, then at some point a winner emerges and the other side just wants to escape. Given more time, those tables turn until there’s a resolution, which reveals the author’s attitude toward the issue at hand. Simple huh? :-/

#13 Ted Rall
September/23/2008
@ 1:26 pm

No one ever knows what the future looks like. People have to go out and try to create a future for themselves. At this point, it’s too early to tell whether a market exists for animated editorial cartoons.

#14 anne hambrock
September/23/2008
@ 2:05 pm

Animated cartoons did not replace comic strips. They are two different art forms in different media with different intent and pacing.

To me the animated editorial cartoons have a lot more in common with a Warner bros short than a print editorial cartoon.

The internet has provided a terrific outlet for animation of all kinds because it can support art that happens in time not just in space. However, there will always be a market for print satire. It’s just hard to see where that market will be in the future if print fails. I think Daryl is making the case that, just because some editorial cartoonists choose to change to animation as a new art form to explore does not mean all editorial cartoonists will do so or that the traditional static cartoon will die.

#15 Matt Bors
September/23/2008
@ 2:15 pm

“No one ever knows what the future looks like. People have to go out and try to create a future for themselves.”
-Ted Rall

“The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”
-John Conner

#16 Wiley Miller
September/23/2008
@ 3:32 pm

“Animation provides the perfect means to throw both sides AT each other. Itâ??s similar to sketch comedy.”

Exactly. Good analogy. But that just makes it an animated cartoon, not an animated editorial cartoon.

#17 Stacy Curtis
September/23/2008
@ 4:18 pm

>>>Oh and why would small websites â??payâ?? for content that is already online for free, and that most people already just embed in their blogs for free anyway?

Where else can you see Ann Telnaes’ animated editorial cartoons other than on WashingtonPost.com?
See? WashingtonPost.com PAYS Ann to make animated cartoons and you have to go to their web site to view them.

There are cartoonists out there showing everyone how to make money online, most people are just blind to it.

#18 Abell Smith
September/23/2008
@ 8:15 pm

“The future of editorial cartoons lies in newsletters? That is pretty depressing..”

Uh, yeah… anyone know of any newsletter, small web site, or “obscure” free weekly that actually has (or will ever have) a budget for such things? How exactly does the demise of big newspapers lead to more money for small publications to pay for our stuff?

#19 Rob Tornoe
September/23/2008
@ 9:13 pm

I work for a website full-time, so maybe there is some hope for the future.

#20 Tom Wood
September/24/2008
@ 6:15 am

TW â??Animation provides the perfect means to throw both sides AT each other. Itâ??s similar to sketch comedy.â?

WM “Exactly. Good analogy. But that just makes it an animated cartoon, not an animated editorial cartoon.”

I think that line is still murky. I just did one on the $700 billion bailout that throws the financial class at the working class. It’s the same concept of the big fatcat picking the poor guy’s pockets, a static editorial cartoon we’ve seen a thousand times. I just stood it up and dramatized it.

#21 Milt Priggee
September/24/2008
@ 8:11 am

The future of editorial cartooning does NOT rest with any of the technical aspects of digital Vs those of print.

The reason for the demise of editorial cartooning is quite simple.

That reason is, the number of publishers who understand and believe in freedom of speech and the ‘market place of ideas’ is rapidly shrinking…..and as they go so does the profession of EDITORIAL cartooning.

#22 Mike Peterson
September/24/2008
@ 4:22 pm

Jib Jab pieces run several minutes each. They don’t make a point so much as they make fun, but they’re enjoyable, as long as you weren’t expecting insight.

By contrast, the animated editorial cartoons I’ve seen have been about 30 seconds long and have essentially been a two-panel cartoon with the transition animated. There’s not enough substance to be engaging on the level of a Warner Brothers cartoon, but the animation is enough to take the mental exercise out it.

That’s a bad thing — You need the reader to make that jump from Panel One to Panel Two in his mind — the resulting “expectation-versus-outcome” tension is essential to the humor. To show the transition is to dull the experience.

In my mind, “reading” an animated editorial cartoon is like hearing someone with no sense of set-up or timing tell a joke. And it’s galling to me when it comes from someone whose unanimated cartoons have been sharp and enjoyable.

#23 Monty Rohde
September/24/2008
@ 6:35 pm

Being a newbie the way I see it is that the more tools you have in the box the greater the range of opportunities you will encounter. I intend to acquire animation skills, I might not use them, but it will give me that much more flexibility.

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