"It's fun working with my brother, because I don’t speak to the rest of the family,” cartoonist Eric Teitelbaum jokes, letting out a hearty chuckle. “Working with my brother, as we were chatting not long ago, it’s a great opportunity for support. It creates an atmosphere where you have a writing team and a writing team that allows you to edit one another.”
The pair is on the phone with SFR from Southern California during a break from taping an interview revolving around their career that includes television licensing and being the masterminds of the Pink Panther comic strip, which ran from 2004 to 2009 in commemoration of the slick feline’s 40th anniversary.
“If I do a drawing, my brains are fried, and I need to come up with a gag—some people call it ‘writer’s block’—your partner then can come up with the gag,” Eric continues. His brother quickly intervenes, “And if I can’t come up with a gag, I know a guy who probably can.”
The team will be in town on Saturday for a special retrospective at Chuck Jones Gallery. Prior to that, on June 4-6, they’ll be offering cartooning workshops for children and adults at Santa Fe Community College.
“Our dad was an attorney who wanted to become a comedy writer,” Eric reminisces about their rise to Sunday funnies success. “He took us from New York to Palm Springs and he was unsuccessful.”
The duo started illustrating their father’s ideas and regardless of their other three siblings’ success (“all three of them became medical doctors,” Eric points out), they honed their craft.
“When Dad saw our chemistry grades, he suggested that Bill and I become cartoonists,” Eric laughs.
For Bill, getting to illustrate the Pink Panther, a character that rose to fame after being featured in the intro for the 1963 Peter Sellers movie of the same name, represented a lifelong dream.
“My background in television licensing allowed me a wonderful entrée to the people at MGM, where the opportunity arose for Eric and I to drag the Pink Panther almost as a legacy account,” he says.
“Who doesn’t love the Pink Panther?” Bill continues on the toon’s universal appeal. “He’s suave, debonair, very much like a James Bond or a Cary Grant, with a certain amount of Charlie Chaplin in him.”
That contrast between slapstick and sophistication, the brothers say, is part of the panther’s evergreen fascination.
Perhaps the biggest challenge, says Eric, was giving the character life not in an extended animated cartoon form, but condensing his charm to single-panel strips.
“We have to get to the gag instantly,” he says. “We have to find the filet of all those motion graphics that might take place in animation and focus on just that frame—a frozen second in time.”
Isolating that frame, that expression, and pairing it with the perfect, topical caption are part of the tricks of the trade that the brothers, also responsible for business satire strip Bottomliners, hope to share with people attending their SFCC sessions.
“The challenge has been since the beginning of cartoons,” Bill explains, “to take any situation, representing it accurately and putting a twist on it so all people can relate to it.”
Along with talent, a contingency plan never hurts.
“They should have a dream,” Eric says. “And also they shouldn’t forget about the opportunity of becoming a medical doctor to play it safe.”
The Art of Cartooning
6-9 pm Saturday, June 7
Chuck Jones Gallery
135 W Palace Ave.,