These days, everything is eventually put into animation, or at least everything has the potential to be animated. And obviously, if done well and released to the right audience at the right time, any animated piece can become a wildly popular series. Take, for example, the Annoying Orange videos on YouTube. On paper, there isn’t anything seemingly attractive of an obnoxious orange with a face photoshopped over, however for some reason millions buy into it. If something so simple and general can be turned into an animated phenomenon, think of the possibilities the established characters of comic strips in the daily newspaper have to make it big, specifically Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine.
Pastis is a new breed of comic strip author that I hope will soon rise in number and take the daily comics page in a bloodless revolution for industry dominance, standard, and control (that’s how I would picture him phrasing it). In other words, Pastis has a style that is unique and, for the most part, rare in the comics page. Since December 31, 2001, Pastis’ main characters Rat, Pig, Goat, Zebra, Guard Duck, and the Crocs have been adding a new, more realistic zest to the newspaper comics. In the commentaries of his treasury books, the unconventional comic author relates many stories of angry readers accusing him of destroying the comics or ruining the integrity of the comics page. This is because his strip is not Hi and Lois by any stretch of the imagination, rather it is more like a censored comic strip version of The Simpsons, providing controversial, witty, and occasionally darker humor. Drugs, violence, alcohol, and cigarettes have all appeared in the strip, which is certainly a deviance from the generally innocent comics of yesteryear. However this rejuvenating modernization is what the comics page, a dying part of the overall sinking ship of print newspapers, desperately needs. I for one applaud Pastis for bringing his exciting strips to the otherwise boring, sold out comics page.
It is true, Pearls is like no other comic. What needs to be recognized next is how much potential this strip has for extension into a new medium such as animation. Pastis often will write his strips with drawn out story lines that can run for up to two weeks at a time. For example, for two weeks the character Rat might work as a hotel concierge, insulting and rebuking guests each day in a different way. This type of writing, which Pastis has a knack for, naturally gives way to more developed story lines that could be used to create an animated series. Currently, RingTales, an animation production company, produces short, two minute clips on YouTube of the strip which are directly based off of the comics that Pastis has already published. The problem with this is that the animation and dialogue are just too boring, especially if an eight minute short were to be created out of published strips. This is best exemplified in The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, which would take strips that Chales Schulz had published and mash them together to create a semi-fluent story that was not all that entertaining. What I propose is for Stephan Pastis to write out scripts specifically for seven to eight minute shorts based on the Pearls characters. In this way, he could adapt his characters into animation, a natural transition for them based on the situations and structure they currently have established in the three paneled strips. Who knows, before long it could turn into a television show, as I see it has the potential to become, and wouldn’t we all then have some fun watching Rat smack around Pig in both print and animation!