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[Detail] Krazy Kat goes a-wooing. 1916.

Historic Comprehension: Comic Strips to Cartoons

A cat in a hat and a mouse standing in a clearing surrounded by trees.

The audience reads Krazy Kat's dialogue in Krazy Kat, Bugologist.

Some early animated characters made the leap from the newspaper comics page to the movie screen. Rudolph Dirks started chronicling the adventures of twins Hans and Fritz in The Katzenjammer Kids for the New York Journal in 1897. The series was first adapted for the stage in 1903 and spawned a number of plays and cartoons throughout the years. Policy and Pie (1918) features the pranks of the Katzenjammer Kids. After their surrogate father, the Captain, buys a life insurance policy and lists their mother as a beneficiary, Hans and Fritz put toads in their mother's freshly baked pie to make the Captain think that she's trying to poison him.

Two other comic strips represented in this collection started in newspapers in 1913. Arthur "Pop" Momand's comic strip, Keeping Up With the Joneses, was the basis for the 1915 satires Men's Styles and Women's Styles. Like the comic strip, these films focused on the McGinnis clan's continuing efforts to adhere to new cultural trends.

George Herriman's Krazy Kat, on the other hand, chronicled the odd adventures of the title cat and its amorous admirer, Ignatz Mouse. The films in this collection, Krazy Kat Goes A-wooing, Krazy Kat, Bugologist, and Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse (all from 1916) offer three of the duo's adventures.

The same year that the Krazy Kat films reached the screen, Tom Powers's "Phable" series also transformed itself into an animated series. The difference, however, was that films such as The Phable of a Busted Romance, The Phable of the Phat Woman, and Never Again! The Story of a Speeder Cop didn't feature common main characters. One of the few recurring elements in the pieces were personifications of emotions such as "Joy" and "Gloom."

  • Why do you think that comic strips developed into animated cartoons?
  • How did the narrative and stylistic elements of comic strips translate into animated cartoons?
  • How do you think that these cartoons changed or expanded the comic-strip characters?
  • Do you think that both forms of media targeted the same audience? Why or why not?
  • Can you think of any contemporary cartoons that originated in comic strips?
  • Why do you think that comic strip characters later become animated?
  • How did early animation reflect conventions of comic strips?