Feature

The cartoon newsman

Jimmy Lai is the brains behind the animated re-enactments of news events that have taken YouTube by storm.

You may not know Jimmy Lai, but you’ve probably seen his work, said Andrew Goldman in The New York Times Magazine. Lai, 63, a Hong Kong media mogul on par with Rupert Murdoch in Asia, is the brains behind the surreal, animated re-enactments of news events that have taken YouTube by storm. “What we get on TV is always the last bit of image,” he says. “We don’t see the pilot flying the plane drunk and what happened in the cabin. If somebody jumped off a roof, we only see the body even though the guy might have gone to Macau, lost a lot of money in a casino, was chased by a loan shark.”

Lai’s company churns out the re-enactments quickly; his breakthrough video, of the Tiger Woods SUV crash, was released just hours after the incident. Though he strives for accuracy, he doesn’t always hit the mark. “There’s a problem with faces,” he admits. Often, they have a distinctly Asian cast. Critics say his depictions go too far, such as the recent one in which Arnold Schwarzenegger throws cats at Maria Shriver and participates in an orgy. But Lai makes no apology for his methods. “The core of the news is still right,” he says. “Just because nobody has ever tried something doesn’t mean it’s crazy.”

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