Handelsman on How Animation Helped Him Win the Pulitzer for Cartooning

By: Dave Astor

A late-2005 crash course in Web animation helped Walt Handelsman win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning today.

“I submitted 10 still cartoons and 10 animations,” said the Newsday of Melville, N.Y., staffer, adding that “the judges mentioned the animation” when they praised his 2006 portfolio of work.

Handelsman taught himself animation starting in November 2005 and then had the first of his many animations posted on Newsday.com in February 2006. “I worked so hard on those things,” said the cartoonist, when reached this afternoon by E&P.

Does Handelsman think political animation should eventually be a separate Pulitzer category from print editorial cartoons? “I don’t know,” replied the Tribune Media Services-syndicated artist. “It’s so new.”

This year’s other cartooning finalists — Nick Anderson of the Houston Chronicle and Washington Post Writers Group, and Mike Thompson of the Detroit Free Press and Copley News Service — also do animation along with their more traditional print work.

Handelsman praised the work of both men, and also lauded Mark Fiore for being a “pioneer” in political Web animation. “He was very helpful to me when I got started,” added the Newsday staffer.

Mike Luckovich, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Creators Syndicate editorial cartoonist who won a Pulitzer last year, told E&P that the animations were one reason why “Walt deserved to win this year.”

Luckovich, a close friend of Handelsman’s, added that the animations are “so good” partly because they reflect Handelsman’s outgoing personality. “He even sings on the animations. Animation plays to so many of Walt’s strengths.”

And, concluded Luckovich, Handelsman spends hundreds of hours on the animations.

This is the second Pulitzer for Handelsman, who previously received the prize in 1997 while at The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. How do the two wins compare? “I think it’s just as intense this time,” he replied. “It’s quite an honor, and I’m thrilled to bring a Pulitzer to Newsday.”

Handelsman included cartoons about various topics in his 2006 portfolio — with at least two animations and at least one still cartoon about the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping.

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