Magazine article Editor & Publisher

For Animated Toons: Fans, but No Market: Animated Editorial Cartoons Remain Mostly a Labor of Love, Not Syndication Success

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

For Animated Toons: Fans, but No Market: Animated Editorial Cartoons Remain Mostly a Labor of Love, Not Syndication Success

Article excerpt

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MIKE THOMPSON SPENDS HOURS CREATING THE art, voices and sound effects for the animated editorial cartoons he produces weekly for the Detroit Free Press. Thompson started doing animated cartoons for his paper back in 2002, and since then, his work has proven a hit among readers and critics, generating a huge amount of traffic to freep.com.

But is there a market for his work beyond Detroit?

"I haven't made any serious attempts to market my animations," Thompson admits. "I've been less worried about marketing it, and more worried about creating it. I'm still trying to get my head around the process and where I'm going with what I want to do with it."

In the small circle of animated editorial cartoon creators, Thompson's is a familiar story. The animated 'toons generate traffic, but their marketability remains untested. Certainly animation is getting more respect. After all, this year's Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning went to Mark Fiore, who self-syndicates his weekly animated editorial cartoons to clients such as San Francisco area news site SFGate.com and NPR.org.

Does his success mean it's time for cartoonists, who have traditionally stuck with newspapers, to branch out and embrace these new avenues for satire?

"I think there is a potential shift happening, and I think it's important that the Pulitzers have acknowledged that this is a valid form of satire," says Fiore, who is one of a handful of national cartoonists producing animated cartoons on a regular basis and getting paid for them.

Another cartoonist who has successfully ditched traditional cartoons and moved exclusively to animation is Ann Telnaes. A Pulitzer prize winner in 2001, Telnaes does animated cartoons for The Washington Post's Web site, producing quick, bite-size pieces three times a week.

"Ann's cartoons are one of the most popular features on the entire Web site," says Marisa Katz, the Post's online opinion editor. "Readers like the interactivity and the ability to comment on each animation."

But the Post remains an exception among newspapers--a publisher that purchases animated cartoons exclusively for its website. Katz is proud of the commitment to political cartoonists at the newspaper, which also employs Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist Tom Toles. …

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