Animated Cartooning in a ‘Flash’

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By: Dave Astor

Will political animation eventually replace traditional editorial cartooning, or will there be room for both?

Mark Fiore favors the latter scenario, but the ratio will change. “There’s going to be fewer and fewer print jobs and more animation,” said Fiore, in response to an audience question at the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention. “But there will still be some print.”

The former San Jose Mercury News staff cartoonist is one of a growing group of political animators. And Fiore’s making a living at it, selling his work each week to clients such as SFGate.com and VillageVoice.com.

Fiore said motion and sound add new dimensions to political cartooning, and can make hard-hitting messages easier for readers to swallow. As an example, Fiore showed an anti-death penalty animation he did featuring a syringe character executing various people. But upbeat music on the soundtrack added a lighter touch to the serious message. “I love doing that contrast,” he said. “It makes it more palatable, and draws people in.”

Another way Fiore makes his work friendlier to viewers is by using more dialogue and less text than before. “The same message, but less reading,” he explained.

Also speaking at the session was Don Asmussen, whose ?Bad Reporter? cartoon runs in the San Francisco Chronicle and will be distributed by Universal Press Syndicate starting this fall. Asmussen has also done animations for several years.

Both Asmussen and Fiore use Flash software. “I was fortunate to learn it when it was a simpler program,” said Fiore. To which Asmussen quipped: “The government doesn’t want you to learn it.” Certainly, neither he nor Fiore support the Bush administration in their work.

Print editorial cartooning as we know it dates back to the 1750s, when Benjamin Franklin created the famous “Join or Die” drawing showing a snake severed into different colonies. Fiore illustrated the changing world of editorial cartooning by adding an animated flicking tongue to the snake.

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