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Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 03/ 3/2009

Taste Test: What Do You Think of These Brand-New Animations?

By Michael Cavna

Richard Thompson may be the "voice" of his comic strip "Cul de Sac," but that doesn't mean he can get a gig as a voice IN his comic strip.

"I tried out for the dad and didn't make it," Thompson tells Comic Riffs light-heartedly, while discussing his strip's animated short that is scheduled to be released soon. "I kept describing [the character] and the [producers] said: 'Why don't you try it?' But I didn't get the job. Actually, I was kind of relieved."

Thompson's syndicate, Univeral Press Syndicate, and parent company Andrews McMeel are working with animators for RingTales and Jantze Studios to create a series of animated shorts (under a minute) for some of its features. Just released are the animations for two other UPS strips: "The Argyle Sweater" and "Lio."

Scott Hilburn, creator of "Argyle Sweater," welcomes the animation. Says the cartoonist: "Personally, I'd love to get into animation a little more. One of my degrees is in animation, so it's always been an interest."

And would he like to do his own voicework like cartoonists Seth McFarlane ("Family Guy") and Mike Judge ("King of the Hill")?

"Oh absolutely," Hilburn tells 'Riffs. "I'd love to be that involved. I think I could probably pull it off too."

"Lio" cartoonist Mark Tatulli was measured in his reaction. "I like the animation OK, but I think it could be better," he tells 'Riffs. "I really wish it were more cel animation-like in appearance, but this was spec work," he says, citing the considerations of production costs.

Adds Tatulli: "They look a lot better than when we first started, so I'm pleased with the progress at this point."

Thompson, for his part, especially appreciated one bit of voice casting. His young girl character is voiced by the daughter of Michael Jantze ("The Norm"), the man behind Jantze Studios.

"I think it's pretty cool," Thompson tells 'Riffs. "Norm's daughter does Alice and she's 5. Alice is 4. So they went for an older woman, I guess."


Jantze, who's quite the busy man these days (he recently e-mailed me about his upcoming new-media "master class" at the Bay Area's Cartoon Museum), has created the short reel for a recent "Baby Blues" collection, among others. Of this type of promotional shorts, this is one of the better ones I've seen:

What say you, 'Riffs readers: Are you a fan of these animations?

By Michael Cavna  | March 3, 2009; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Interviews With Cartoonists  
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A technical note: "Blog Directory" link on WAPO front page links to "Inauguration Central", not to blog directory. Been like that since last night.

Posted by: capsfan77 | March 3, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I like 'em .. they ain't Pixar ... but I don't think anyone expects that on the Web.

Posted by: horacio2 | March 3, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Loved both the Lio and Baby Blues! Not sure how well Lio would do in longer-form animation, he's more suited for shorter blackout gags; but Baby Blues could be a weekly sitcom.

Posted by: SportzNut21 | March 3, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

meh. I'm perfectly happy reading them. In fact, I prefer it.

BTW, has Gary Larson ever considered suing Scott Hilburn for plagiarism, or copyright infringement, or something along those lines?

Posted by: drewdane | March 3, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

>> drewdane:

on the matter of Far Side v. Argyle Sweater, this sparked much debate a coupla of years back. I hear it less now. To get a sampling of what public reaction was like, I refer you to two links:

1. This 'Riffs blogpost back in July:


2. This site:


Posted by: cavnam | March 3, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't mind if Argyle Sweater were just derivative, but it's closer to out and out copying, to the point where actual jokes are recycled. The truly original AS panels tend to be incomprehensible. There are better single panel strips out there, where the writer is at least working on developing his/her own style.

Posted by: marshlc | March 3, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I think they're well done. I had doubts when I first heard about them, but all I've seen have been cool. They redefine "shorts" but I guess that's ok too.

Posted by: Mrhode | March 4, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Lio' & Baby Blues were pretty good. I also watched the Zits Ipod short previewed on the bottom of the Lio window that made me LOL.

Posted by: jimbo1949 | March 5, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

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