Last week I took a trip to the cartoon museum in London. I found it particularly interesting to learn about the history of the graphic novel that has been popular with older audiences over the last forty years. Graphic storytelling within cartoons has been a part of our culture for three centuries. It has evolved from a number of formats, from the prints of Hogarth and George Cruikshank and has evolved from adult stories that were published in magazines ‘Punch’ and ‘Tatler’.
It was interesting to witness the difference between past and present contemporary comic designers. Graphic novels have also played a role in presenting audiences with historical personages, and showed us events that are too important to be forgotten, such as the struggle to vote for women, depicted in Sally Heathcotes comic ‘the Suffragette’.
Novels can also explore autobiographical stories about illness and some authors turn personal experiences into fictional narratives. For example ‘The Bad Doctor’, created by Ian William’s, which portrays his life story of being a GP in a small community. The reasoning behind the ever-growing popularity of graphic novels is the way they can plunge readers into fantastical realms and alternative realities. Which is no different to what animators do, which is why I found the museum so intriguing. Some of the stories also shed light on our typical day-to-day life, covering issues of religion and racism.
The comic that stood out to me in the museum is ‘Simons Cat’, written by Simon Tofield. Simons Cat began life as a short line drawn animation, that attracted such a large following, that it soon appeared in merchandise and cartoon strips.
I am familiar with you tube videos of Simons Cat, however it was interesting to see how Simon Toefield communicated the story on paper rather than through animation. I think that it is more difficult to communicate a characters attitude and characteristics on paper, unlike animation where you are able to express that element through movement.
I was able to speak to Simon’s Co-worker Liza, who is a graphic artist in Simon’s studio in London. It was interesting to learn more about Simons cat, from the technique of choosing flash to animate in and the reasoning behind aesthetic choices.
What makes Simons cat so successful is the animated cat performance and movement caricatured in the short films. Simon Tofield does an extremely good job of creating humour by giving each cat a unique identity. To reflect this, he over exaggerates the cat’s movement to portray sarcasm, which works especially well when considering a typical cats behaviour.
The style of the animation is loose with simple line and no colour. I think this works well for the story line as its very playful and energetic. In addition to this, the interplay between Cat and Kitten is very humorous and engaging for the audience. It is interesting to consider relationships in an animation, as it can create a rich story line for the audience to relate to.
When speaking to Liza about the growth in popularity of Simons cat, she suggested that the success is due to the humour of Simons cat, with is universal. Simons cat has a lot of visual comedy, which transcends age, sex and international boundaries. It also has no dialogue; therefore it relies heavily on the body language of the characters. Which works in the animations favour, as animal body language is understood universally, no matter what origin or age you are.
Similarly, it is interesting to think about character personality and movement within comic strips. I had never thought of comic strips being associated with animation, yet through my research I have realised that they are a form of storyboard. After all, they are both covering the art of narrative story telling using the restriction of a series of panels. However animation is sequential in time but not spatially juxtaposed as comics are.
Pallant, C. and Price, S. (2015). Storyboarding. England.