Stantis: Animation Shouldn’t Be Part of Cartooning Pulitzer

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By: E&P Staff

Birmingham (Ala.) News/Copley News Service editorial cartoonist Scott Stantis isn’t pleased that animation is now considered in judging who wins the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.

One reason why editorial cartoonist Walt Handelsman — of Newsday in Melville, N.Y., and Tribune Media Services — won that prize last month was his “zany” animation, according to the Pulitzer judges.

“Handelsman’s editorial cartoons speak for themselves,” Stantis wrote in an opinion piece published in Wednesday’s Birmingham News. “He does great work, and is an old friend. Walt saw a new medium in animation and went to great pains to teach himself the fine points of producing it. And the results are predictably hilarious. But is it an editorial cartoon?”

Stantis, a former president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, added: “Let’s put it this way: giving the Pulitzer Prize for an animated cartoon is like awarding it for best novel to ‘Doctor Zhivago’ starring Omar Sharif. It’s just not the same thing. …

“We were led to believe that this is an award for the newspaper industry. Unless it’s broken down and printed on every page so you can view it as a flipbook, it’s hard to imagine how an animated cartoon qualifies.”

Stantis, who also does one cartoon a week for USA Today and the topical “Prickly City” comic strip for Universal Press Syndicate, continued: “What makes an editorial cartoon great, what makes it the thing readers turn to first on the editorial page is the unique ability of a well-conceived and well-executed cartoon to cut through the spin. To slash through the deliberate fog that politicians create and get to the hard and often uncomfortable nub of an issue. They may take a comic turn but in their black hearts they are not ‘zany.’ They’re savage. … Zany is not what an editorial cartoonist aspires to, yet many in the publishing business increasingly expect it. …”

Stantis concluded: “What’s next? ‘The Family Guy’ gets a Pulitzer? ‘The Simpsons’? ‘American Dad’? The Jib-Jab guys? They’re animated, have political content, and are posted online. According to the new rules, they’re all eligible. So don’t be surprised some day if you see Scooby-Doo accepting the highest honor in journalism. Now that would be zany.”

The opinion piece — e-mailed to E&P by Stantis yesterday, and posted on The Birmingham News site today — has a bio that includes this last line: “By writing this column he understands he is obliterating whatever minuscule chance he ever had at winning a Pulitzer Prize.”

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