Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Roz Chast said recently that it took so much effort to get her characters to walk across a screen she wondered if she’d stop having fun with them, cool though the technology was. Art Spiegelman once said in jest that he’d agree to make Maus into a movie only if he could use real mice. (Then, I’ve heard, that wag Errol Morris called up to say he’d be happy to work on the project, since he’s good with rodents.) For some reason, the only people who know about this seem to be a couple of podcast directories. But you’re going to be excited about it: New Yorker cartoonists are making animated short-shorts, available as a video podcast from RingTales, and the RSS feed is here. I’ve already watched a fetching Charles Barsotti scenario in which a receptionist has an unusual suggestion for a caller on hold. I’m going to watch more now. The animations seem to be already existing cartoons slightly expanded for the shorts; remember Eric Lewis’s cartoon “I should have bought more crap”? Here it is in motion. Besides Lewis, other contributors so far include Danny Shanahan, Sam Gross, Frank Cotham, Tom Cheney, Peter Steiner, Christopher Weyant, cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, and, a nice surprise, Chast too. If this is the direction newyorker.com 2.0 will be taking within a few weeks (the website’s being completely redesigned as we speak), I’m enthusiastically for it. You think I’m enthusiastically for everything? Ah, there’s where you’re wrong.

If readers get to vote, or something YouTubey like that, on which cartoons will be sprinkled with pixie dust and come alive like the Nutcracker toys, my pick this week would be Drew Dernavich’s nutty, funny fish ladies, who would wiggle most entertainingly. Still, movement isn’t everything. All the cartoons in this issue, especially this fantastic George Booth drawing and this ridiculous J.C. Duffy concoction, are perfect just as their two-dimensional, stationary selves.

Update: There’s now a press release with details: “Subscribers to the free advertiser-supported podcast will receive three new animations of The New Yorker “RingTales” each week.”

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Oddly enough, this announcement coincides with my increasing interest in images that don’t move.

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree