Editorial Cartoonists Get Animated

In the May 22 Message column, Rocky Mountain News cartoonist Ed Stein (pictured) discusses his decision to end "Denver Square," his long-running local comic strip -- and while he declines to talk about specific plans for future projects, Rocky editor/publisher/president John Temple hints that they'll likely involve animation. Turns out, though, that Drew Litton, Stein's cartooning colleague, who specializes in sports, has already made this leap, posting his first venture into the medium.

There's not a whole lot to "The Moose Gets Juiced," which went live on May 20; it's a brief gag involving a moose and a fly that barely lasts longer than the opening and closing credits touting the inaugural venture by "Littoonz Studios." Then again, Litton's introduction to the offering makes it clear that the snippet was more of a learning tool than an indication of what he'll produce in the future. In the beginning, he notes that he'd planned to create a cartoon about the Colorado Rockies, "but their season, much like my animation, took a sudden detour. So I went back to square one and decided to do this cartoon based on a Moose and a Fly. It was done so I could figure out how to make things move (the fly mostly, including getting his wings to flap), lip sync (the Moose talking), draw directly in the computer and put together a soundtrack." Since he's now got the basics down, he pledges that cartoons focusing upon the Rockies, Broncos, Nuggets and Avalanche will be coming "in the very near future."

In the meantime, a growing number of cartoonists across the country are leaping into animated cartooning online. In the aforementioned Message column, Rocky editor Temple mentions the example of Newsday's Walt Handelsman, and indeed, his animated work is inspired. My favorite among his recent efforts is a parody of Hillary Clinton's campaign commercial about the person who should answer the phone at the White House at 3 a.m. when a crisis strikes. In Handelsman's variation, a terrorist is flummoxed by an automated answering system whose options grow increasingly irritating with each pressed button. American technology triumphs again.

A more somber animated effort comes courtesy of cartoonist Milt Priggee. "Paul Revere: Silversmith, Midnight Rider and Editorial Cartoonist...?" is built upon a roster of illustrators who've lost their jobs at newspapers across the country in a wave of cost-cutting that's hit cartoonists with special force. Each of them is represented by a coffin -- including Priggee, who once drew for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington.

Here's hoping more of these artists don't wind up going the way of the characters in "Denver Square." -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts