Footrot Flats goes digital

Free site a gift from Murray to fans of his cartoon strip.

Free site a gift from Murray to fans of his cartoon strip.

GET IN BEHIND: Gisborne cartoonist Murray Ball’s fictional character Dog jumps for joy at his return in a website launched today, Mr Ball’s birthday, and is dedicated to the popular comic strip and its characters. Picture supplied

A website dedicated to Gisborne cartoonist Murray Ball’s popular comic strip Footrot Flats was launched today, on the artist’s 78th birthday.

“It is a free site and a gift from Murray to fans of his cartoon strip,” said Mr Ball’s son Gareth.

“The material looks fantastic in a digital format, and has been designed to be viewed on phone, tablet and computer screens.”

The website has been a year in the making and some of its content has rarely been seen.

The idea to create the website came about as the Ball family began to digitise the cartoons before sending them away for safekeeping.

“We looked at other websites like Peanuts and Garfield, and thought it would be good to have something similar for Footrot Flats,” Gareth said.

“We brought in website company NV Interactive and began to build a site we hoped would capture the spirit of the cartoon.

“The result has really exceeded all expectations and is quite unique.”

The website is a place to reacquaint with Mr Ball’s much-loved characters, and a way for one generation to share the cartoons with their children and grandchildren.

“Every couple of weeks we will put up a Footrot Flats feature on a seasonal theme. It could be fishing, or shearing, or maybe a colouring competition.”

The site includes a button so cartoons and pictures can be shared on Facebook or by email.

Visitors to the website will be able to search for cartoons they remember. If people would like to see the cartoon of Rangi crash-tackling Wal, for instance, they can click on the Rangi, Wal and Rugby buttons in the cartoon archive to bring it up.

While Mr Ball is unwell and not able to comment, his eyes lit up a little when he saw his characters on an iPad screen, Gareth said.

“A few hundred strips are already loaded and one more will be added each day for however long it takes to post the several thousand strips Murray drew.”

The website is at www.footrotflats.com. The site can also be accessed on Facebook at footrotflatsnz

A website dedicated to Gisborne cartoonist Murray Ball’s popular comic strip Footrot Flats was launched today, on the artist’s 78th birthday.

“It is a free site and a gift from Murray to fans of his cartoon strip,” said Mr Ball’s son Gareth.

“The material looks fantastic in a digital format, and has been designed to be viewed on phone, tablet and computer screens.”

The website has been a year in the making and some of its content has rarely been seen.

The idea to create the website came about as the Ball family began to digitise the cartoons before sending them away for safekeeping.

“We looked at other websites like Peanuts and Garfield, and thought it would be good to have something similar for Footrot Flats,” Gareth said.

“We brought in website company NV Interactive and began to build a site we hoped would capture the spirit of the cartoon.

“The result has really exceeded all expectations and is quite unique.”

The website is a place to reacquaint with Mr Ball’s much-loved characters, and a way for one generation to share the cartoons with their children and grandchildren.

“Every couple of weeks we will put up a Footrot Flats feature on a seasonal theme. It could be fishing, or shearing, or maybe a colouring competition.”

The site includes a button so cartoons and pictures can be shared on Facebook or by email.

Visitors to the website will be able to search for cartoons they remember. If people would like to see the cartoon of Rangi crash-tackling Wal, for instance, they can click on the Rangi, Wal and Rugby buttons in the cartoon archive to bring it up.

While Mr Ball is unwell and not able to comment, his eyes lit up a little when he saw his characters on an iPad screen, Gareth said.

“A few hundred strips are already loaded and one more will be added each day for however long it takes to post the several thousand strips Murray drew.”

The website is at www.footrotflats.com. The site can also be accessed on Facebook at footrotflatsnz

Latest of many spin-offs

A stage musical, a movie, a bronze sculpture of two characters and now a website are some of the spin-offs from Gisborne cartoonist Murray Ball’s popular comic strip Footrot Flats.

Life in Gisborne and two family dogs provided the inspiration for Feilding-born Mr Ball’s enduring comic strip. He began to create the now-familiar figures of Wal, Dog, Cooch, Horse, Rangi, Cheeky Hobson, among others, in late 1975.

The comic strip ran in newspapers around the world from 1976 until 1994 and unpublished strips continued to be released in book form until 2000.

Mr Ball’s childhood pet Jumble was the inspiration for Dog but was superseded by short-haired Border Collie Finn, who died in 1998.

Before the launch of Footrot Flats in Wellington’s afternoon newspaper The Evening Post, Mr Ball wrote the comic strip Stanley the Palaeolithic Hero for British satirical magazine Punch. It was the magazine’s longest- running cartoon.

His 1967 satire on New Zealand rugby, Fifteen Men On A Dead Man’s Chest reflected his close association with rugby.

On Mr Ball’s return to New Zealand from South Africa in 1958, he played for Manuwatu, was an All Black trialist and played for the Junior All Blacks against the British Lions.

In 2002 he became an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for his services as a cartoonist.

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