Caricatures for the Digital Era

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist animates his work for new breed of commentary.

ByABC News
July 10, 2007, 4:25 PM

July 10, 2007 — -- Known for his quick wit and even sharper pen, nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist Walt Handelsman took home his second Pulitzer Prize in a decade this spring, but the win is not notable for its frequency, but for the technology used to produce his winning submissions.

In late 2005, when faced with gloomy forecasts for the future of his craft, the Newsday editorial columnist and several of his cartoonist colleagues, such as Ann Telnaes, a freelancer for Cartoonists and Writers Syndicate/New York Times, and Mark Fiore, an independent artist, decided to try their hand at something a little different.

Handelsman began experimenting with new material and a new medium, locking himself in his home office for hours on end, giving up golf for a year, and exchanging his pen for a mouse.

Thus began Handelsman's foray into the unknown world of animated editorial cartoons. Over the past year and a half, Handelsman has honed his animation and computer skills, creating 24 animated cartoons which have appeared on Newsday's Web site (often topping the site's "most e-mailed" list).

"Animated editorial cartoons are completely different from static editorial cartoons," Handelsman said in an interview with ABC News. "With a standard editorial cartoon, you're taking tons of information and synthesizing it down to a single bite -- a single moment in time. With animated editorial cartoons, it's more storytelling."

His shorts, which typically run under a minute, do not stray far from his traditional political cartoon fare, but, because of their format, they force him to focus on broader topics, such as NSA wiretapping and Sen. Hillary Clinton's, D-N.Y., 2008 election campaign, rather than take aim at specific issues. Handelsman also points out that animated editorial cartoons differ from traditional cartoons in that they do not rely on a single, witty, well-placed punch line.

"There are multiple punch lines," he said. "[And] lots of different characters. It involves imitations, voices that I do." In fact, Handelsman voices all of his characters, ranging from a southern-accented President Bush and a gruff Vice President Dick Cheney to his high-pitched renditions of Clinton and Ann Coulter.