Chris Ware Animates

Chris Ware animation

Superstar cartoonist/designer Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library) apparently animates too. Here’s a four-minute segment he did for Showtime’s new series This American Life, based on the public radio program of the same name which interviews ordinary Americans about events in their lives. The story in this short strikes me as being more interesting than the animation, which doesn’t particularly enhance the audio track in many ways. All the same, it’s interesting to see Ware doing animation. It’d be even more interesting if he collaborated with an animator who understood his work and wanted to build on his graphic style in animation.

(Thanks, Adam Koford)


  • http://www.jjsedelmaier.com J.J. Sedelmaier

    I like what Chris has done. The style’s nice for a story about kids, and even though the movement may seem rudimentary at first, there’s actually a tasty level of sophistication (love the dripping paint in the beginning) to it. I think it’s wonderful when an artist can explore animation on their own – Jonathon Rosen, Elwood Smith, and Craig Frazer come to mind as well. There’s something marvelously pure about someone translating their work into another realm. With Flash, AfterEffects, Maya, etc., they can experiment and discover more about their style on their own than they ever could before.

  • http://www.abelboddy.com C. Edwards

    I’ve seen this piece several times and I think it’s wonderful. Yeah, it could be a little more animated for my tastes, but I think it really gets the mixed visual concept that the “This American Life” tv show is trying to get across. I was interviewing Ira Glass, the host of the show recently and he showed me Ware’s original elements that made up the piece…but I can’t for the life of me remember who he said actually animated/composited it…I don’t think it was a major studio though. Ware’s done work for TAL before, so I’m not surprised that he’s contributing. Glass was giving the originals away as gifts…unfortunately, not to me.

  • http://geritopia.blogspot.com Geritopia

    I sort of internally groaned at the preview still but I do like “This Amercian Life” and proceeded to check it out. By the end, I totally embraced everything about it.

  • http://www.autodaddy.blogspot.com tom

    Nice work from Chris Ware, but the story and the audio production of the story is as bloodless and pretentious as the radio program always has been, and that distances me from the whole project.

    There seems to be nothing that Chris Ware cannot do.

  • http://www.travisgentry.com Travis Gentry

    Pretentious is the word. Acme Novelty Library reeks of it. I guess I’m just not a fan of this type of ‘literary’ (re: snooty and quirky for quirky sake) graphic novels. A bunch of talking heads does not a graphic novel or cartoon make.

  • Alex Schubert

    I can’t get the player to work…anyone else have this trouble? Am I missing a plug-in??

  • http://sandwichbag.blogspot.com Elliot Cowan

    Travis – what do you prefer?

  • http://www.jjsedelmaier.com J.J. Sedelmaier

    Regarding “player trouble” – try Firefox or Safari.

  • http://www.autodaddy.blogspot.com tom

    Firefox is the way to go. Never a problem for me.

  • http://www.lileks.com Lileks

    The teachers appear to be Rusty Brown and Chalky White: nice touch.

  • http://www.travisgentry.com Travis Gentry

    I like graphic novels where the imagery actually contributes something to the story. (Watchmen, Y: The Last Man, Bone). With a lot of the graphic novels that come out today, there’s no reason it couldn’t be written as a memoir or novel since it’s just people standing there moping about life (Blankets comes to mind.) I guess I’m not too keen on the too cool for school graphic designer look of the Chris Ware stuff either. If other people dig it, more power to ‘em.

  • http://enricocasarosa.com/wordpress.1 enrico casarosa

    That is wonderful, thoughtful and touching … kudos to this American life and Chris Ware … they make me want to get cable.

  • http://apelad.blogspot.com Adam

    All’s I know is, after I read Jimmy Corrigan all of the dilapidated, sad architecture I saw around town took on a new layer of poignancy for me. In 25 years of reading comics off and on, not many have changed the way I appreciate the world around me.

  • Jim

    “I like graphic novels where the imagery actually contributes something to the story. ”

    If you’ve ever read Jimmy Corrigan, you can’t possibly miss the fact that Chris Ware’s stark line quality and muted colors are an integral part of the emotional core of his story.

    You may not like his style, but to imply that it doesn’t contribute to the story is misguided.

  • http://www.thefamilycollective.com Tim Rauch

    wouldnt it be great to see chris ware do more in animation? i agree with adam, his images are extraordinarily rich, and he has been so inventive with the comics format i think he would really find some things to play with in animation.

  • http://www.travisgentry.com Travis Gentry

    To each his own I guess. If giving me a headache and making my eyeballs cramp is an integral part of his story, then it’s just not for me. I’m glad that you can appreciate it, though.

  • Bill

    “I was interviewing Ira Glass, the host of the show recently and he showed me Ware’s original elements that made up the piece…but I can’t for the life of me remember who he said actually animated/composited it…I don’t think it was a major studio though.”

    John Kuramoto: http://www.phoobis.com/

  • http://www.animenewsnetwork.com Brian Hanson

    Given the budget and timeframe this piece was probably produced under, I still think it looks fabulous. The composition, colors, and especially transitions are excellent. Ware is a genius, and I hope this might spur him into more fully-developed animation ventures.

  • Donnie

    anyone else feel this isnt really working?

    I feel Ware’s art is in his use of rhythm in his comics, how he uses layout, text etc. but comics are read, not watched.

    Just because an image is “nice” doesn’t mean it should be animated…

    This disappointed me, the experience of reading Ware is so much richer, the animation doesn’t do him justice. It actually felt like watching south park, only worse.

  • doug holverson

    Well, it’s really slick and stylish and templatey. But in a good way…..

    So when is a kid getting pummeled and nobody stepping in a new thing? With or without fake cameras?

  • Andrew Lee

    Meh,…. I didn’t care for it.

    It does remind me of the time when I was a kid, our class made guitars out of yard sticks, yarn and half gallon milk cartons…I drew a poor excuse for a Big Daddy Roth “Ratfink” on mine.

    This other kid and I were going to start a band,… but we couldn’t get the damn things in tune. … The other kid smashed his over a desk claiming that the man took his music from him,…it was too much drama for me, so I had to leave the band.

    The reunion tour is tomorrow during recess …by the jungle gym.

  • Bill Field

    I liked it– did anyone notice the cameo appearances of (albeit slimmer than in the comics) Rusty and Chalky, Wares two geek characters, I kept thinking they were the narrators instead of Glass and friend. Ware’s work always has timewarp & schematic factors to it, which make it perfect for a retro story about kids building their own TV studios and cameras in the 70′s.
    I think it was a perfect marriage of audio and animation– so he just storyboarded it? I thought Amid was saying Ware animated the piece–does anyone know for sure?

  • Bill Field

    OK– Thanks Bill, I went to your link–John Kuramoto is responsible for it, and 2 other Ware animated pieces. His company is Phoobis–I knew of both seperately but didn’t realize it’s his company til now. He was the brilliant animator who brought the cartoon version of Harvey Pekar to life in the movie version of American Splendor, and designed the cool DVD of it as well. He has a talent for working with print cartoonists and making them move– He’s also working with Daniel Clowes on a new concept of his… great thread everybody, lots of good info-thanks.

  • http://guilherme.tv Gui

    Like it a lot.
    Style, animation and story seem to work harmoniously in their simplicity.
    I can see Richard McGuire’s influence on Ware more evident here.

  • Grarrg

    Aww, this is just adorable!
    I dunno, I love the idea of animation as a ‘people’s art form’. This is beautiful as usual besides…

  • intergalactic

    Any of you who work in animation or enjoy great story telling should sign up for the free podcasts for “This American Life” on iTunes. The stories are always amazing and usually very touching. You wont be sorry.

  • Chris

    I’d like to see him attempt one of his flow-chart-like comics in visual form. Something more like the experimental UPA and Chuck Jones cartoons but with the snap of the Marcellus Wallace typography clip. But, yes Ware is better read because his visuals become text-like in their readability.

  • Bill Field

    I think of Chris Ware as a post modern Herge, or Ernie Bushmiller on acid–I went to the Staple show in Austin and I think he was there maybe, but I got to talk and mingle with a lot of print cartoonists who are animating their own work now- I personally think Sin City and 300 have opened the door to cartoonists in a major way to bring their work to theaters and tv sets much more pure and closer to the source material– maybe it will mean never having to deal with H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot replacing a member of the Fantastic Four type of situation again– not to mention, BENJI Grimm “I Was A Teenage Thing” and a Shmoo living next door to the Flintstones.

  • http://demianjohnston.blogspot.com Demian

    I like Chris Ware because he is bald. I once sent Crispin Glover’s mom a copy of Acme Novelty Library #1 and she referred to me as Chris through the rest of our notes. She was sweet.

    Seriously, this makes me very excited for the future….

  • http://www.coldhardflash.com Aaron Simpson

    I got in touch with John Kuramoto, the animator, today (wondering if it was animated in Flash), and he revealed that it’s all After Effects. Not earth-shattering news, but I always wanna know. Also, he mentioned that this animated clip was created at 1080p (HD), and encouraged me to watch the Showtime version in its original glory. More John’s work here… http://thisamericanlife.org/dvd/