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To Caption or Not To Caption - That is the quesiton

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To Caption or Not To Caption - That is the quesiton

Post by epmonroe on Wed 26 Jan - 12:15

One of my greatest senses of acomplishment (outside of actually finishing a cartoon) is telling a gag with no caption or dialogue. Boiling a joke down to its simplest essence is my goal in every toon I draw.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to convey as much visual information to the reader as possible. "A picture is worth a thousand words." Are there enough visual clues for the reader to understand exactly what's going on? Is the background setting helping set the mood and sense of irony? Location, location, location! They can't read your mind, you know!

Try to make sure character's emotions are expressed clearly. I saw a gag the other day that lost some of it's punch simply because I wasn't sure if the speaker was angry or happy. I couldn't really tell from the dialogue either. I finally decided he was happy, but by then I had spent too much time thinking about it (about 10 seconds) and the delivered gag arrived like a cold pizza.

If your cartoon is a sight gag, ask yourself does it need a caption at all? I remember once seeing a wonderfully drawn cartoon of dinosaurs playing poker. Underneath was the caption "Dinosaurs playing poker.". Well duh! It reminds me much of a person telling you a joke, and when they get to the punchline they say "Get it? A banana in his TV! Ya get it?" ...Yeah, I got it.
Sometimes to caption or not to caption isn't always obvious. I've had two cartoons that I've gone back later and looked at and realized a caption wasn't only unnecessary but was also taking away from the gag. Same thing - "Well, duh!!" Less is more.

Today I am wrestling with dialogue. My toon just seems too wordy. So I'm wittling out unnecessary words, trying to make sure the joke is as close to the last word as possible, maybe I'll even change the whole line completely.

These are the things I work at the hardest. Much of what I am doing I have trouble quantifying or explaining to someone else. As I say often to my wife "It just doesn't feel right." Sometimes it's having to go back and change the entire composition. Sometimes it's as simple as changing one pen line. Really!

Also, triple check your spelling and grammar. :-)

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Re: To Caption or Not To Caption - That is the quesiton

Post by Simon Lake on Wed 26 Jan - 13:06

That's a very interesting take on your personal approach to doing gags epmonroe. The Silent Cartoon certainly has it's merits but also it's own place and time I think. You would be limiting yourself a whole lot by concentrating entirely on them.

Your stuff reminds me a lot Gary Lawson who was a master at the silent cartoon and really revolutionased the description instead of talking gag. But he still did speech ballons as well so I suppose you could say he didn't really have too much of a set pattern but did whatever to make it work and make himself more versatile I guess.

I agree that it can really kill a gag by trying to over emphasise the meaning though and if you can express yourself enough visually without having to elaborate too much then you are on the way to a winner. Very thought provoking post!
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Re: To Caption or Not To Caption - That is the quesiton

Post by epmonroe on Wed 26 Jan - 13:40

Thanks, Simon.
Yeah, I agree, you can write a paragraph and still have a hilarious cartoon. I guess my main point would be is don't put more than what is needed.
Hey, would that make me a minimalist?

Oh, and folks who know me call me Phil.

(folks who know me better call me worse.)

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Re: To Caption or Not To Caption - That is the quesiton

Post by Andries on Tue 1 Feb - 18:09

If you want to be called Phil, why did you choose the name Epmonroe? Phil would be a more logical choise. :p

You just write down the same in 100 different ways to pick the best line or should I imagine a different approach?
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Re: To Caption or Not To Caption - That is the quesiton

Post by epmonroe on Tue 1 Feb - 18:20

Because...

"Animator Phil Monroe worked for Warner Bros. studios where he assisted in the creation of some of the studio's most popular cartoon characters including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepe LePew, and Wile E. Coyote. He also created the cartoon television commercial hucksters Tony the Tiger (spokes-kitty for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereal) and Charlie the Tuna (for Starkist Tuna). He worked extensively with animator Chuck Jones during the '70s and '80s and had a hand in creating such television specials as How the Grinch Stole Christmas"

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Re: To Caption or Not To Caption - That is the quesiton

Post by epmonroe on Tue 1 Feb - 18:30

As for your second question, No, once I have the line I say it about 100 times. I don't bother writing it down. Very Happy

Example: My Viking and cows cartoon began -

"We appreciate you're enthusiasm, but there's more to being a Viking than a set of horns"

which became -

"We appreciate you're enthusiasm, but horns don't make you a Viking"

which became -

"Yes, I see the horns but you still can't be a Viking."

which became -

"Yes, I see the horns. No, you can't be a Viking."

Done.



I'm now a 'Toad'!!!
Yay!!

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Re: To Caption or Not To Caption - That is the quesiton

Post by Andries on Tue 1 Feb - 22:30

Congrats with reaching the toad level!
The shorter the text, the better. I try to make my texts as short as possible too.
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Re: To Caption or Not To Caption - That is the quesiton

Post by MRasheed on Wed 21 Mar - 18:51

I always thought of cartoons as being a combination of both words and pictures. It's cool to pull off a 'sight gag,' but I think the finished product is at it's very best when both the words and image are needed to pull off the gag/message.

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