British cartoonist Matt Buck’s replies to this blog’s questions


This is a satirical video about Tony Blair.

British cartoonist, illustrator, animator and journalist Matt Buck has made many animations about Tony Blair, his wife Cherie, and his then Chancellor and rival, now his successor, Gordon Brown.

Matt Buck has been so kind to reply to some questions by this Dear Kitty blog.

Here are the questions and answers; with after them, some explanation about people etc. familiar to readers of this blog in the United Kingdom; but probably not all very familiar to readers in other countries. As, according to the Statcounter statistics of this blog, varying from day to day, the United Kingdom share of readers of this blog is between 10-30%, making it the country second in numbers of readers, but still a minority: I try to provide some explanation, as I also may do with items on this blog requiring maybe more specialist knowledge about the USA, France, Pakistan, Uganda, etc. etc.

> 1. Did you make non-moving political cartoons before you started with animations?

Yes – I have made non-animated cartoons for about 20 years. There’s a portfolio of some of them at http://www.hackcartoons.com.

> 2. What was your first animation, and when?

I actually started experimenting and working with animations way back in 1998 when the internet first appeared as a commercial outlet. I did this because it seemed such a great and natural medium for moving jokes. I did quite well with them and was working with a terrific editor at a large publishing company in London as the dot com boom was at its height. Unfortunately, like all mass market excitements, this passed, and business got scared about continuing to invest in the internet and our jobs came to an end. It was a great shame.

> 3. What was the best reaction you ever had to an animation?

That’s a tough question. It depends on who has seen it. Commercially, they have probably come from the editors who have seen my work, have the money to pay me and are then prepared to. Beyond them, it’s people who email, or call, to say how much they have enjoyed (or hated) what I had to say.

In fact, thinking about it, this is such a difficult question I am going to have to say that I can’t answer it. I will say that the one I am most proud of is quite recent. It was not technically difficult to do – but what it is, is a very good animated political cartoon – and that is what I am after consistently. Here it is.

> 4. Are your cartoons/animations so far only about politics in Britain? If so, are there any plans to cover other countries as well?

It depends where the story and the work take me. Most of my clients at the moment, are British so I do have a natural focus on what happens here, but if there is anyone out there who would like to employ me – I’ll be only too happy to draw about their corner of the world! I did study American Politics at college, so I have always had an interest in what goes on over there and I’ve also been lucky enough to travel a bit, particularly to parts of Africa.

But cartoons about foreign affairs are a tough thing to get through editorial processes in the UK because, rightly or wrongly, there tends to be an assumption that readers are less interested in news outside their own country. This is interesting because increasingly, I think this idea is being challenged by the effects of globalisation, more travel and faster electronic communication across the wired world.

The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which involve the major western powers have been intriguing in this respect as the explosion of peoples media, through the web and blogs and so forth has made it very hard for traditional methods of information control to be exercised.

> 5. Who do you think are the worst five British politicians of the last ten years?

That’s another difficult one. I don’t think I would like to rank them as I think it’s necessary to watch them on a case-by-case basis and sometimes they are capable of surprising you and not behaving in a completely venal and self-serving way.

Obviously, the last ten years have been very strongly focused on Tony Blair who has run a very presidential style of government. The reason the animation I talked about above was so popular, was because it nails down his era and behaviour using his famous quotation about Princess Diana. She was someone else who became over concerned with image and appearance.

Other ones who spring to mind are our various Home Secretary’s over the past decade who have been very keen to close down our civil liberties (we don’t have a written constitution in the UK). At the moment we are fighting a battle over a very expensive and unworkable (in my opinion) plan for a UK National Identity Database.

It is intended this will become compulsory, however, as the government has no idea how many people are in the country at the moment! I can’t feel too confident that this will be possible, or sensible, to try and do.

> 6.Who do you think are the best five British politicians of the last ten years to do non-moving cartoons about?

The most fun to draw was probably John Prescott, who was Blair’s deputy PM. This was mainly based on his physical attributes which were a gift to a caricaturist. Prescott has now retired, but I think we may have a ready-made replacement in Boris Johnson MP who has just announced that he will be standing for mayor of London next year. He’ll be running against the incumbent Ken Livingstone and that contest should be a lot of fun to draw.

There’s a Prescott drawing here – click on the ‘Y’ front underpants in the six small pictures at the bottom left.

You can see an animated caricature of his potential replacement – Boris Johnson here.

> 7. Who do you think are the best five British politicians of the last ten years to do animations about?

My answer is the same as number six here.

It’s understandable to think that moving and non-moving cartoons must be different because they are not the same type of drawing. However, I believe that the trick is to concentrate on the joke or the point you have to make and if that is good then all the creator has to do is pick the right way to display their work, moving or not moving.

Thanks for having me.

Matt Buck
Illustrator – Animator – Journalist
Portfolio: http://www.mattbuck.com

So far Matt Buck’s replies. Thanks!

About John Prescott, see here.

About the present Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, see here.

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