February 21, 2007

Christ, what a package of syndicated ad-supported animated print comics for all digital platforms

Here's something to chew over until the return of the anti-caption contest. Emdashes has unearthed the next phase in the Cartoon Bank's plot to wring ever more cash out of New Yorker cartoons.

RingTales are single-panel cartoons turned into five-second animations (plus the all-important ad tacked onto the end) for delivery via podcast, mobile phones, web syndication, etc. There are ten samples available on the site and they're undeniably well done. Most don't actually improve on the non-moving, non-speaking originals — I won't be voluntarily downloading them anytime soon — but I probably won't be disgusted if they start appearing in the margins of my favorite web sites. I may even click on them sometimes, which I never do with any other ads.

And if anyone out there wants to strip the sound from these samples and create new dialogue for them, that's something I'd really be interested in.

Update: I just noticed that one of the RingTales is the classic, On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. It might be wiser to stick with the less famous and beloved cartoons. For one thing, I am oddly distressed by the dog's delivery of his line, with a slacker cadence and the emphasis on knows. I've just never heard it that way in my head. I don't terribly mind the second dog's weird non-verbal response, but it is distracting to "learn" that the dog's message to his online pals is the somewhat corny, "All I'm wearing is a fur coat."

Posted by Daniel Radosh


These really are quite good.

These are well done. They remind me a bit of Dr. Katz.

Meanwhile, in other New Yorker cartoon news...

It's not just the redoing of iconic NY cartoons (or, in the case of the Frog's Legs one, iconic National Lampoon cartoons - WTF is up with that?). I question the approach of converting still cartoons to animation at all. Judging from these samples, it's a terrible idea.

Almost none of these are as funny in animated form as they were as stills. Mankoff and/or whoever was behind this doesn't seem to grasp the difference between one-panel cartoons, where the caption and image are processed "simultaneously" (i.e. one is seen before the other, but our brain accepts that they're happening at the same time) and animations, where there's a time-sensitive setup-then-payoff structure.

In my opinion only the Big Cats and Regifting ones come close to profiting from the new structure, but even those don't improve measurably on the originals. Some, like the dinosaur one, make you ask, why the hell bother? - especially since captions are clearly legible, while I had to listen to some of these several times to clearly get all the words.

I know they're trying to have it both ways, doing something "new" that plays off the already proven appeal of the "old," but I think they should (and I suspect they will, sooner or later) concentrate on generating original animations rather than these creaky translations.

I probably have a lot more to say about this than you wanted to hear because I've been dealing with this in depth here at my paper, where we just did exactly what I've been advising with our cartoonist, Signe Wilkinson. Granted, this is a local, political cartoon, so it's not a perfect example (you're expected to already know Fumo, the multiple Oreck vacuum cleaners he allegedly bought inappropriately, and the fact that public money is going toward his legal bills), but I'm going to throw it in here anyway to show you what I mean.

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