PLAGIARISM IN CARTOONING (Part 2)
3 APRIL 2019
In Part 1 of my blog on "Plagiarism in Cartooning", I discussed using familiar text as to whether it was considered plagiarism or not. Here in Part 2 I'll discuss what visual plagiarism might be in cartooning.
If it's a direct copy of a visual gag, then that's plagiarism. But if you think of a visual gag, create the cartoon and then publish it, only to be told that that gag has been done before, then it's "unintentional plagiarism".
Rather than get all upset if someone has copied your idea, the best thing to do is to get in touch with the person who has published your original idea as their own and come to an agreement. If they've earned money from your original idea, then perhaps they can compensate you with an agreed sum. Or perhaps you can agree on being credited where credit is due, or, just for them to remove their version of your idea altogether.
There was one time when I took a fun approach to when another cartoonist had used one of my cartoon ideas and so I used one of their cartoon ideas and sent it to them saying, "I hope you don't mind. lol?" which of course they didn't and we laughed about it. But that actually got me into trouble because I published it and someone reported it to the newspaper it was published in! Of course nothing came of it, but you do have to be careful nowadays when it really is hard to be orginal. I'd hate to be a muscian. It must be even tougher for them to be original in this day and age?
So what about plagiarism in designing cartoon characters. I could give a lengthy talk on this, but it's a fine line I think. I had a monkey character in my old "Black Jack Hook" cartoon strip called Mickey Finn and the suggestion of his hair design was inspired by the Bart Simpson design. Was that copying? Kind of. Was it plagiarism? No! You would never think of it as a direct copy and nobody ever commented on it either, because Mickey Finn looks nothing like Bart Simpson.
But what about my "Ballyhoo Burny"? It's blatantly obvious where some of my inspiration came from in his design and some not so obvious.
The first cartoon character created that Burny resembles was from the american cartoon strip "Krazy Kat". Many years later, Walt Disney himself acknowledged "Krazy Kat" as inspiration for Mickey Mouse, though I haven't read anywhere the specifics in that the ears of Ignatz Mouse in that same cartoon strip, could be seen as circular, no matter what angle he was seen from, in much the same way Mickey Mouse's ears are famous for. Is that plagiarism? It appears not.
Another huge inspiration for me when I first became a cartoonist, was a possum called "Pogo", another american cartoon strip, which over 40 years later, was clearly inspiration for american comic book artist & storyteller, Jeff Smith, who credited Pogo as inspiration for his "Fone Bone" character. Is his design plagiarism? It appears not.
You'll notice in the cartoon characters I've shown in the attachment to this blog, I've included "Roger Rabbit". That's because in my second year as a freelance cartoonist while still learning to draw, Burny suddenly took on the shape of Roger! You can check on this on the "Burny Timeline" page of this website. That look didn't last too long, but was it plagiarism? I don't think so, because nobody recognises any similarities until I point it out to them.
Then came the came the Warner Bros., Stephen Spielberg produced "Amimaniacs", 15+ years after Burny was created. Is that plagiarism? Absolutely! Just kidding, lol....but their red noses.....? Seriously though, how much closer to Disney's Mouse can they get without them actually being Mickey (or Minnie)? Is this plagiarism? It appears not.
Incidently, not that I ever saw any of their original shows, but the Animaniacs are making a return in 2020, so this look and style of cartoon character will continue to live on, along with Burny of course!
Plagiarism of "Ballyhoo Burny" is obviously a concern of mine as I arrange to have plush toys made of him in China, where plush toys of Mickey Mouse, Garfield the cat and the likes are poorly but relentlessly plagiarised by Chinese manufacturing companies. If it were to happen, it won't be the first time Burny has been plagiarised, but it could be a lot more damaging in the long run, so we'll see. I'll just continue to believe that "fortune favours the bold"!
P.S. As a side note.....Do you think that Burny is phased by being slap bang in the middle of all the other famous american cartoon characters in the attachment to this blog? Of course not! For him it's total unadulterated "BALLYHOO"! 😄 🙌
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