Power Players

Political Satire: Cartooning President Obama, Mitt Romney, and the rise of 3D animation

Power Players

Political Punch

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists' convention just wrapped up here in Washington, D.C., and ABC's Jake Tapper -- a self-described "failed cartoonist" -- had the honor and privilege of being a keynote speaker. The convention, hosted by George Washington University, brought together influential political cartoonists from around the world, including veteran Kevin "KAL" Kallaugher, who cartoons for The Baltimore Sun and for The Economist.

"A good cartoonist," says Kallaugher, "is a sort that feels they are 100 percent in favor of everything that's right, 100 percent against everything that's wrong. [And] no one party has a monopoly on all things right."

Kallaugher says his favorite person to draw is always the current president.

"You get to know their face better than you know your own face," says Kallaugher. "You're breaking down their face and watching it grow and change over their time in office. And now, four years in, I get to know the face pretty well, so I can play with it."

Newcomers are also fun to interpret, says Kallaugher. Mitt Romney, for instance, presents a challenge -- a new face to "break down," rearrange, and experiment with.

Though the longtime cartoonist does get nostalgic for past leaders.

"George W. Bush...  he's a face that I really got a good handle on. But I also had some passionate feelings about him that would come out in the cartoons, and so that was, it was a great sort of medicinal thing for me to be able to draw him."

Kallaugher has been cartooning for The Economist since 1978. In recent years, a few of his 3D animations, satirizing George W. Bush and the presidential candidates of 2008, have appeared on the magazine's website.

"My animation career goes back to university, where I graduated from Harvard with a 13-minute long animated film as my senior thesis. And I've always believed there was going to be a time where, if you could take the magic and movement of animation and apply it to political cartoons, it's going to be an intoxicating combination."

Until recently, however, the long process of creating animation did not work with the fast pace of politics.

"Now with computers, new types of software, the prospect of doing animated cartoon on short turnaround to respond to the political world with the new theater of the internet -- it promises to be really exciting for the future of visual satire."

The new political world poses a threat to some cartoonists. Syria's Ali Farzat and India's Assem Trivedi have been jailed and persecuted for their political cartoons depicting -- in Farzat's case -- the Syrian uprising, and criticizing their respective governments.

"Those are actually the cartoonists to me who I have the greatest respect for," says Kallaugher. "We have cartoonists who've been jailed, tortured, and murdered for their work. And yet they still aspire to be the freedom fighters for their country. If I was in their shoes, I would like to think that I would do the same thing, but I'm not sure I would."

For more of Jake's interview with Kallaugher, including a cartoon duel drawing Obama, Romney, and even Gerald Ford, check out this week's Political Punch.

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