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World of Cartoons and Animation and The Future of Careers in Cartooning

Updated on February 20, 2015

The Very First Cartoon Was a Mistake

What type of cartoonist do you want to be? You can choose from a variety of political cartoonist, comic strip cartoonist, comic book artist, animated cartoonist, and caricaturist.

What is a cartoon? A cartoon is illustrated drawings with various meanings. In the Middle Ages and at during the Renaissance, cartoons were considered fine art. Today, cartoons usually are humorous depictions and animated shows and movies. In 1843, the English publication, Punch Magazine used the term to describe satirical drawings. The very first cartoon actually happened by mistake.

John Leech first Political Cartoon

The Ever Changing Types of Cartoons

Artists were asked to create drawings to help select paintings and works of art for Houses of Parliament which were being rebuilt after a fire. A series of sketches sarcastically spoke of the excessive government spending while there were hungry and poor Londoners. The cartoons, mostly done by John Leech became known as the first political satire. Today we see many such cartoons in newspapers and magazines discussing current events and politcal-socio topics.

Cartooning Takes Many Forms of Entertainment

Comic strips are another form of cartoons. These feature drawings and a short message in a sequence of pictures.

Comic books feature humor, adventure and illustrated drawings in multiple pages to tell a story.
Animated movies and tv shows are also known as cartoons.

Today Pixar Animations and computerized drawings have changed the look of cartoons.

Cartoons in Other Countries

Cartoons may very well have started within the Chinese language. Many written Chinese characters are based on pictures. In the 10th Century, a Chinese artist created several drawings on the lavish nightlife of the government officials in China.

Fen Zikai is known to be China’s cartoon master. He was the first to label his drawings cartoons in 1925.  During the 1930’s thru the mid 1960’s, cartoons in China started to flourish. Over the decades the cartoons in China declined. A resurgence came again in the 1980’s.

Japanese cartoons depict good looking characters with love stories, and other entertaining tales. They entered the Chinese market in the 1990’s.  U.S. comic book  concentrate on heroic themes with superheroes.  Today 95% of the Chinese cartoon market is occupied by Japanese and U.S. comics.

Ben Franklin and the First Political Cartoon

The first American political cartoon was printed by Benjamin Franklin in the year 1754 in the Pennsylvania Gazette.  Franklin wanted to unite the colonists against Britain. The “Join or Die” cartoon was Franklin’s editorial depicting a snake in pieces.  The superstition at the times was that the pieces of a cut snake would come to life if they were connected before sunset.

College Education and the Cartoonist

Political cartoonist create drawings for magazines, comic strips, websites, advertisements, sports, newspapers, books and other publications to make statements about the realistic events currently going on in society. 

Some cartoonists work as a team to create a concept. Some on the team do the drawings and some create the captions or storylines. 

To be a cartoonist it is preferred to have a bachelors degree in design or art. There are no degrees specializing in editorial cartooning. Cartoonists usually have knowledge in computer skills related to art. A portfolio of the work a cartoonist creates consists of their own drawings, computer created, and photographic examples of their artwork.

Political and Editorial Cartoons

The demand for cartoonists is expected to increase into 2016, mostly in the animated and interactive computer generated images.

The average income earned by cartoonists, as of October 2009, ranged from about $44,000 to about $60,000, with some earning more and some earning less.

Cartoonists need to have a natural ability for drawing and to think abstractly. They also need to be detail oriented, and good communication skills, a critical eye, in addition to having a good sense of humor. To be an editorial cartoonist it is a good idea to study politics, writing, humor and history, and of course art. 

The reality is there are less than a hundred full time jobs as a political cartoonist, at the largest news publications in the U.S.

Most political cartoonists use caricature art to exaggerate the features of the people as parodies. Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the first to use caricatures as an art form. 

Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation used cartoons as a form of propaganda to visually create religious reform in Germany. 

Cartoonist Organizations

The best way to get started is to draw often and a lot. Try to get your artistry published anywhere and everywhere. Being published anywhere, no matter how small the publication is still signifcant. Keep your portfolio current. Most of the smaller local newspapers use syndicated subscription editorial cartoons.

Once you become a paid working cartoonist you can join the (AAEC) Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. This organization also accepts students and associate memberships. You can go to to learn more about the AAEC association. There is an annual convention every June. Going to this convention may be very beneficial for getting valuable tips. The National Cartoonists Society (NSC) also is a great site for more information.

The Graphics Artist Guild - is a grahics designer member group made up of cartoonists, illustrators, web designers, and digital artists . Some are paid employees and some are freelance artists.  This organization looks to improve and uphold the standards, and advocate for their members.

Leonardo Da Vinci Caricature
Leonardo Da Vinci Caricature
Dick Tracy Sunday comics
Dick Tracy Sunday comics
The first comic book
The first comic book

The Early History of Cartoons

The first artistic renderings were cave drawings. As time progressed, Egyptian hieroglyphics depicted Pharoahs and pyramids.

Marble carvings were found from ancient Greek and Roman era. Even Michaelangelo drew stories in a series of paintings, the Sistine Chapel is a well known example of his work.

Leonardo Da Vinci made many caricatures of people with unusual hair.

A comic strip is a set of cartoons with a story line. Comic strips first made their appearance in the U.S. around the end of the 1800’s.

Comic books evolved from comic strips. Comic strips used to appear only in Sunday newpapers. During the 1900’s there were over 150 comic strips in newspapers across the U.S. Most were numerous. During the depression years, comic strips became a way to escape the woes of the world.

Comic strip and comic book cartoonists develop a plot and use the same characters to tell their story.

The first comic book was created in 1933. It was called Funnies on Parade and was actually conceived to keep idle presses running during slow times. Superman comics were soon created (May 1938) and the comic book superheroes became iconic.

When Walt Disney emerged on the scene, his creative animated depictions and classic stories, animation grew to gain more popularity.

A picture is worth a thousand words and this may explain the success and longevity of the various forms of cartooning.

Animated cartoons have a long history, dating back to 1888, when a French science teacher used an optical device called a praxinoscope to project hundreds of individual drawings as though they were moving. Today, when most of think of animated cartoons, Disney is the king. Today animated cartoonists can get jobs doing animated movies for the big screen, for television, for the Internet and for video games.

Professional Cartoonists and Animators

A professional cartoonist needs drawing skills and have knowledge about screenwriting and directing films. Their greatest skill comes from telling a story with the fewest amount of words, using the pictures to help illustrate their point.   Most develop a distinctive style that uniquely becomes their own.

Animators need to know how to coordinate their creations with soundtracks and special effects.  Cartoonists in this field utilize the computer for their animations. Freelance cartoonists are sometimes able to find work in this field by selling their work.  If you want to be an animator, you will need to take college courses in video, film, animation, and computer graphics.

Cartoonists and animators can get their work out there by working with syndicates and agencies who can help them make connections and find jobs. Trade industry publications give ideas on finding publications that are looking for a specific cartooning style. College placement services are a good source to try to find work.

The Career of Cartoonists

Although cartoonists are in a highly competitive field, the job prospects are increasing and looking optimistic. Two thirds of cartoonists are freelance artists. Advertising and websites offer the most opportunity for employment.

The job outlook for cartoonists is good. Employment is expected to grow as fast as the average through the year 2014, although competition will remain keen. Two-thirds of cartoonists are freelancers, and finding jobs will be difficult until they acquire experience and establish a solid reputation. The best possibilities are expected to be in the field of advertising. Online political Web sites and publications provide another outlet for cartoonists. The demand for animators is growing. Some animation for the U.S. is outsourced and done overseas.

Cartoonists work under pressure to constantly be creative, imaginative, and innovative to come up with new ideas within a deadline. Animators usually meet with other staff members to brainstorm.

A freelance cartoonist might sell their drawings for anywhere from $50 to more than $1,500.

Many of us grew up on television cartoons. Warner Brothers from 1933 through 1969 produced the classic cartoons including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Tweety and the myriad of other well known characters we got to know through their animated antics. Today, if you want to work for Warner Bros. you would be doing your creative work for their Saturday morning children’s shows.

Cartoons of the Future

Cartoons have a long and illustrious history of showcasing the talent and brilliance of people who dedicated themselves to spreading important messages, educating and entertaining us.  The cartoons of the future may look much different with the advent of companies like Pixar and the newest technological enhancements. It will be very interesting to see what the cartoons of the future will do.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      that's really good. i love the art of cartooning. i can guess how much creativity is involved in this stuff and i give lot of importance all the cartoon artists, my favorite is this one

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi Betty, leave it to creative people to come up with a creative name for organization.

    • Betty Johansen profile image

      Betty Johansen 

      8 years ago I'm cracking up. What could be more appropriate?

      Fascinating information!

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi Ian, I would love to hear about Zoki. The name already adds so much intrigue. As far as the illustrations, start with the Graphic Artist Guild ( If you need me to do more research, I will help you. RaRaRa, Just call me you biggest cheerleader. And knowing you wrote about one of your dogs motivates me even more. Let me know what you find out from and we can go from there.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      8 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      TKI, if there is one think that I would love to have published, it would be: 'AND THEN, OF COURSE, THERE WAS ZOKI'.

      But as I have said, it's the matter of the illustrations. They would have to be perfect... after all, Zoki was one of the original Norbury Mudhounds.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi Pdog, Your daughter and I have a lot in common. I like the Disney video too.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hey Ian, the book sounds wonderful. I wish you could read it to me! I truly hope you pursue getting it published. All I ask is for dedication line in the book (lol). Go for it Ian, GET IT PUBLISHED! You can do it. Think of all the children like that little Serbian boy, and your book might just make the difference for them.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi Sharyn, I am very impressed with all the different things you have done. You are a very interesting person. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      8 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      The book I wrote was when I was teaching. I wrote it for the children in my class, and more specifically for a very confused little Serbian boy who was not English speaking and having a bad time.

      Without being arrogant, I could say it's one of the very best things I have written.

      I cannot count how man times I had to read it to them and then to subsequent classes... and to the school (Primary) as a whole.

    • profile image 

      8 years ago

      My daughter loved watching the Disney tribute. Great article. Thanks TKI

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi Ian, So among your other talents you wrote a children's book. Actually, you can probably find an illustrator through one of the associations listed in this hub.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi Tom, I am happy you stopped by, and appreciate your kind comments. Have a great weekend too!

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      8 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Great informative hub TKI. I was one of several writers for a new cartoon strip about 8 years ago. Things changed and most of the group dispersed. The cartoon is still doing well today, I believe. Even all these years later, I miss doing that work. I still am proud say that I was part of the team. And it was quite exciting to see my work (writing) in the newspaper. Have a great night!


    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      8 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Great amount of research. Thank you. Now where can I find someone to illustrate my children's book?

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi toknowinfo, great history time line of the birth of cartoons and what they have grown and evolved into today.

      Awesome Hub !!!

      Have a great weekend my friend !

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi MA, I am glad you enjoyed this hub. I hope it helped you feel like a kid again. The things animation can do and will do make the future of entertainment very interesting.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      8 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      No-one ever trully outgrows annimation,I think as a grown-up I appreciate annimation for the labor intensive effort and really consider CGI special effects as an advanced form of annimation.;)


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