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Houston Chronicle Cartoonist Anderson Goes 3D

HOUSTON CHRONICLE editorial cartoonist Nick Anderson has moved into 3D animation with a new short on Chron.com, reports EDITOR & PUBLISHER. The first animation skewers the Supreme Court's recent Texas redistricting ruling.

Anderson said future animations "will grow in complexity." The opportunity to do 3D animation was his "deciding factor in accepting the job at the CHRONICLE. It is an incredible opportunity to redefine the role of a staff cartoonist."

The 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner who joined the CHRONICLE this February from THE COURIER-JOURNAL of Louisville, Kentucky added, "When I interviewed here last fall, editor Jeff Cohen made a proposal that struck me as visionary, especially in the current environment. He told me he wanted to plunge into online animation. But, he reasoned, 'why should my cartoonist spend his time doing the time-consuming work of the actual animation? Why not hire freelancers to do that? His theory is that the cartoonist is primarily a creative person. If we spend too much time on the execution, it leaves a lot less time for creating ideas. A division of labor might be the best way to approach Internet animation."

Many editorial cartoonists have moved into the world of animation like Walt Handelsman. But Anderson is the first to attempt, it in 3D rather than the standard Flash produced toons.

Anderson hired friend and Maya expert Creston Parker to do the animation.

"There are a handful of people doing animated editorial cartoons, but to my knowledge, this is the first time a paper has decided to hire freelancers to do the actual animation. It allows me to continue with my daily cartoons, but work on long-term animations at the same time," Anderson said.

As the "creative director" for the animations, Anderson first does a storyboard, which needs approval from his editors. Then he draws the characters for the animation and e-mails them to the animator for modeling. Anderson also did the color work for the first animation by painting flat "texture maps" to give it a watercolor look. Then Creston wrapped the "texture maps" around the characters.

The animation actually was begun many weeks ago. "We finished the bulk of the animation in mid-May, and since then it has just been a waiting game," said Anderson. "We knew the Supreme Court would rule sometime this session. I had three alternate endings planned, depending on how they ruled."

Anderson, who's syndicated by the WASHINGTON POST Writers Group, initially plans to do one animation a month with the frequency possibly increasing in the future. To see the animation, go to http://blogs.chron.com/nickanderson/archives/2006/07/texas_redistric.html.

However, Anderson isnt the only editorial cartoonist to dabble in 3D. Recently, Kevin "Kal" Kallaughe of THE ECONOMIST and BALTIMORE SUN held a virtual press conference with a 3D double of Pres. George Bush at the Walters Art Museum, using realtime animation software.

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