Walking the Cartoon Line

As a dedicated cartoonist I've always enjoyed dancing on the edge. Saying things that dare not be said and drawing dangerous sketches one dare not draw. People tend to be cautious in their workspace and understandably so. People often live in fear of losing their livelihood and dare not make a misstep. This has never been truer than today where a steady paycheck is nothing to be sneezed at.

However, there's always been something in my nature that simply says, "The hell with it." I feel a compulsion to say and draw what others dare not even think. It doesn't matter what company I'm working for, or what motion picture is in production. I draw the gag because something has to be said and few are willing to take the risk. Plus, I've always had a special rule that has been proven to be true over the years. What is that rule, you ask? If people laugh - they laugh because it's true. It's a nervous laugh, on occasion - but it's a laugh nonetheless.

Many years ago, a animation old-timer confronted me in the hallway of D-Wing in Walt Disney's Animation Building. "I've been looking at your gags," said the animation veteran. "They're direct and incisive, and you make your point. However, they're never mean-spirited. That's a fine line you're walking and you manage to do it well." I could not have been given a greater compliment because that's exactly what I was trying to achieve. I wanted to make a point but I didn't want to attack anyone. Humor should always be fun and not mean spirited. My humor is meant to be a poke in the ribs, not a death blow to the cranium.

Regretfully, there's not a lot of humor in today's corporate environment. Although button down corporate managers often tout their fun, friendly creative atmosphere, that's not exactly what I get when I prowl the hallways of cartoon makers today. In my day, gags often filled the walls and bulletin boards of creative staffers. Today's animation studios could easily be mistaken for insurance companies or accounting firms. Plus, the encroachment of high tech devices is steadily eroding the once creative environment that gave us very funny cartoons. Not that one can't be funny using a computer, I'll have to add. It's just that you'll probably have to work a little bit harder because the tech often gets in the way.

The rough sketches below are ideas I drew when Disney's feature animation team was hard at work on "The Princess and the Frog" some years ago. I never posted finished color sketches because I worried that some might take my humor the wrong way. Was I picking on white people or black people? Was I offended by the decisions being made by the producers? Was Prince Naveen black or what? None of the above, boys and girls. Actually, I had no agenda, I was just trying to be funny. In case you hadn't realized it - that's exactly what cartoonists do.

 

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