Commentary 24 Feb 2009 08:56 am


- I’m writing this Monday morning having just returned from an interview at Fox Business TV where Amid Amidi and I answered questions about the difference between Disney and Dreamworks. It was a surreal and pointless way to start a week, but it was somehow appropriate after the Oscar telecast last night. I don’t know if I or anyone will ever see it, but I assume the video will show up on YouTube someday. A cartoon in its own right. (You can view the mercifully short video on Cartoon Brew, of course.)

- The Oscars, on Sunday night, were, for me, something of a bust. I was pleased with the animation winners and the documentary winners, but all the Slumdog Millionaire stuff was just a bit too much. I’m not sure Beyoncé or John Legend is going to be singing the winning song, Jai Ho, anytime soon. Not unlike the year that Shaft won for best song. And that tedious musical number that Hugh Jackman led. They weren’t able to settle on any one song, so they did a medley of 200 songs in four minutes. It was ridiculously ludicrous. Actually, Ludicris would have done a better job of it. If they want to go for populist entertainment, they should go for it and stop pretending they’re artists. (Tom Sito offers a nice You Are There feeling on his blog about the Oscars.)


- Cartoons, these days, are ripping through the headlines. Protests and editorials shouted commentaries about these cartoons.

First we have a Danish cartoonist threatened with Jihads from all of the Muslim world for depicting Muhammed in a cartoon. Mind you, he didn’t make fun of the Prophet, he just drew his image. The Arabic world went berserk. They don’t go crazy for all the killings and ravaging going on in their own lands; it’s the image in a cartoon that upsets them.

Then The New Yorker, of all places, depicts candidate, Barack Obama and his wife, as terrorists. Cartoonist Barry Blitt didn’t defend himself, it seemed, but the editors of the magazine defended the cartoon as a way to depict all of the fears of people who saw in the next President.

This past week, The New York Post presented an editorial cartoon by Sean Delonas depicting the rabid chimp that maimed a woman in Connecticut dead in the street while cops talk about the author of the stimulus bill. The immediate thought, of course, is that the chimp represents Obama in the cartoonist’s eye. How else could “stimulus bill” connect to a chimpanzee?

Prostest marches have moved through the streets, Al Sharpton has been in front of many a camera, and there’s been a lot of shouting on cable tv. Editors and writers at The New York Post have announced their displeasure with this cartoon. The NY Post apologized and finally Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Post, has apologized saying in part, “I am ultimately responsible.” (Expect to see a change of editors at the paper – all done quietly.)

I enjoy seeing cartoons take some of the headlines. I wish they were a bit more enlightened, though these seem enormously stupid comments by the cartoonists. Perhaps that’s what makes a cartoon so outrageous and gets readers stirred up. Daumier, of course, led the way with his cartoon “Gargantua” in which the King of France devours the taxes of the people and has grown to obese proportions. This 1831 cartoon followed the riots of 1830, and Daumier was imprisoned for six months for his cartoon.

There’s no comparison to what Daumier was doing and the racism (or is it just muddled stupidity) of Delonas, but it’s good to see that cartooning is still alive and that our government isn’t insane enough to imprison cartoonists for attacking the President.

Just a stray thought . . . can you remember the last ANIMATED cartoon that caused a stir?
- JibJab‘s cartoons poke ribs but offer nothing more than mocking entertainment, otherwise they certainly wouldn’t make it to Jay Leno’s show. They actually seem to go out of their way to elbow everyone so as to hurt no one.
- Wall-E‘s political statement is confused enough that it really doesn’t make any points.
- Hugh Harman’s Peace On Earth may have been the last stirring short. It challenged the idea of World War II as America was stepping boldly into it. But that cartoon was nominated for the Oscar; it obviously didn’t create much of a stir.

Actually, there were a few features that did create a small stir.

Bakshi’s Coonskin was attacked for its blatant racism and CORE protested loudly outside the small eastside theater showing the film. Actually, the only thing racist about Coonskin was the title. Those who protested and got the film removed from distribution (only to be reworked and rereleased years later as Bustin’ Out and/or Street Fight) hadn’t seen the film. But with a title like that it had to be racist.

Much the same was true of Disney’s Song of the South. The protests weren’t strong enough to stop the film’s exhibition or to stop it from winning an Oscar for best song and a special oscar for James Baskett, who played Unle Remus.

The other film to get some attention was Bambi. Picketers were out in droves to protest the film for its anti-hunter attitude and editors commented on hunters’ rights. The stir seemed to have been partially used by the studio for publicity and didn’t have much of an effect on its audience.


- Chris Doyle has started a new forum for classically drawn 2D animation. Chris writes,
“It’s a tribute to the Nine Old Men and all those who made those great films during the ‘Golden Age’.”
You know what I think about 2D animation, hence I think it’s a good venture worth joining. Take a look. Here.


- “Thomas Phillip” asked me to point you to this recent short by Reza Dolatabadi, Khoda. A mix of painting, animation and art. It’s worth a look.

Jeff Scher has another of his fine, monthly animated pieces in the NYTimes. In Your Dreams is about watching the person you love, while they’re asleep. It’s a poetic and romantic short piece.

- I also found this excellent short, Gary, on line, via Alan Cook‘s site, Cooked Art. I usually figure I’m late to the game in viewing these things. If you haven’t seen it, do. Computer, 2D and character animation. Surprising and excellent.


- The MUST READ today is Mike Barrier’s excellent commentary on acting for animators and Bill Tytla. If you haven’t read it, you should.

14 Responses to “Cartoons”

  1. on 24 Feb 2009 at 9:20 am 1.Charles Brubaker said …

    I recall reading that Bob Clampett’s “Coal Black” caused a stir with the NAACP back when it was originally released in the forties.

  2. on 24 Feb 2009 at 9:32 am 2.Michael said …

    How could I have forgotten “Coal Black.”

  3. on 24 Feb 2009 at 10:15 am 3.Jason said …

    I think there are a lot of people out there who want to forget “Coal Black”
    Myself included.

    The Oscars were pathetic. There was so much self love going on,
    I felt like I was watching a Roman orgy. No wonder middle America hates Hollywood. I think I will not be watching next year.

    Ben Burtt was robbed!

  4. on 24 Feb 2009 at 10:47 am 4.Tim Rauch said …

    I have to say, I didn’t see the Delonas cartoon as racist. Stupid and offensive, yes. Stupid because it was as poorly conceived as many a cartoon by Delonas and that other NY hack, Bill Gallo. Excuse me for taking this opportunity to take a little whack at both of these guys, but they both exemplify the worst of “editorial” cartooning. The visual metaphors are weak, their “opinions” are nearly unsubstantiated and the jokes are flat. The cartoon was also offensive, in my mind, because it made a joke out of that poor woman getting mauled by a chimp.

    Where’s Oliphant when you need him?

  5. on 24 Feb 2009 at 10:55 am 5.Michael said …

    I’m not sure about your thoughts on Bill Gallo. He’s the sports cartoonist for the Daily News. He doesn’t draw very well, but his opinions are restricted to sports, aren’t they?

  6. on 24 Feb 2009 at 1:25 pm 6.Tom Minton said …

    I wonder to what extent “Waltz With Bashir” was not chosen because it resembled an animated film on its surface? Perhaps the Academy prefers stories with a glimmer of hope and “Bashir” offered none in its devastating (live action) climax. And, yes, Ben Burtt was robbed. Twice.

  7. on 24 Feb 2009 at 6:19 pm 7.Thad said …

    I am glad “Slumdog Millionaire” swept the Oscars. I don’t think a picture deserving of the title ‘Best Picture of the Year’ has happened since at least “Annie Hall.” I am delighted that a film with no marquee value (i.e. attention-whores) won the popularity contest. I’m looking forward to what these filmmakers do next.

  8. on 24 Feb 2009 at 7:52 pm 8.Kellie Strøm said …

    Dutch? Surely you mean Danish, unless you were thinking of this Dutch case.

    For good measure, here’s another Danish blasphemer whose wonderful comics have been adapted by A-Film. (I haven’t seen their film version.)

  9. on 24 Feb 2009 at 7:58 pm 9.Chris said …

    Without a doubt the Delonas cartoon was a bad idea, but I have to say I can see what his point was and it is not racist. Whenever something stupid is conceived, people always say, “What, did a monkey design this?” So, I do believe his point was that he feels the current stimulus plan was created by monkeys, meaning it was very poorly thought out (in his opinion). This would have never been second guessed if Bush (or another white president) were in charge.

    However, because we have a black president, immediately the idea that “monekys (idiots) designed this stimulus plan” becomes in the eye of the beholder: “This is a racist depiction of our president”.

    Now should the cartoonist have been more aware of the current climate? Well, definitely, yes. It is a short walk from looking at a picture that is too closely related to a former and terrible racial stereotype. But I do believe sensitivity is blinding reactionaries to what is not inherently racist.

  10. on 25 Feb 2009 at 12:31 am 10.Michael said …

    Kellie, of course that was stupid of me to write “Dutch” even after reading about the cartoons just prior to writing it. It was a Danish cartoonist that received the attention.

    Chris, like you I know that the cartoon wasn’t racist, but his WRITING in the cartoon was stupid. It caused any sensitive nerves to be struck. He couldn’t articulate what he wanted to say and didn’t consider that he might be hurting people. It was a nice drawing but an ignorant cartoon.

  11. on 25 Feb 2009 at 10:19 am 11.Stephen Macquignon said …

    When I saw the cartoon I said that’s stupid. Of course I knew that there has only been two headlines out there one about a woman and a chip the other about the stimulus package created by President Obama.
    And not to long ago I said to some one “A chimp could have done a better job”
    I have taken all of two seconds to find dozens of pictures showing President George Bush looking like a chip on purpose.
    I never saw the cartoon as racist just in bad taste in fact I think my thought was poor monkey

  12. on 25 Feb 2009 at 11:26 am 12.Joe Fournier said …


    During Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski’s first trial, illustration influenced the outcome, if not causing at the very least exacerbating the case for a mistrial.

    One of the women on the jury had a nervous tick. She would constantly pull a strand of hair behind her ear with her index finger and thumb, palm out. A court room artist (perhaps of questionable skill)did a piece of this tick, with Kozlowski in the background.

    Later it was reported, quite pervasively, that someone had signaled Koslowski not to worry, that everything would be okay. No one on the jury would support or confirm this. There was, however, this illustration of one of the jurors giving Dennis the “okay” sign.

    Ah, the power of the pen.

    I enjoy your site!

    Take care,


  13. on 26 Feb 2009 at 5:24 pm 13.George Taylor said …


    I thought you and Amid were fantastic on the Fox news segment!

  14. on 26 Feb 2009 at 6:00 pm 14.Michael said …

    I’m glad you liked it. I was a bit embarrassed at how many of my own words I ate. The stammering I’m used to and don’t mind. The whole bit was so inconsequential; I kept asking why we were there. I still don’t know.

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