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The Wall Street Journal is animating its famed 'hedcut' portraits

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

For the rich, powerful, famous, and infamous, an official Wall Street Journal hedcut is a bucket list item. The handmade portraits — which have been in use for decades — are instantly recognizable, employing a stipple technique in which the subject's features are recreated using dots of varying sizes and weights. It basically looks like money... and WSJ is all about money.

grumpy cat animated hedcut

The images are a throwback to a headier time for the newspaper business, but the Journal is making one small update to accommodate modern pop culture: they're getting animated.

The very first animated hedcut to make the pages is of a puppet version of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — an interesting choice, certainly — but it wasn't the first to get made. The developers started testing with Grumpy Cat. To quote the Journal's Erin Sparling, when you're testing an internet-tailored product, "you have to start with the core essence of the Internet, which I think is Grumpy Cat."

Grumpy Cat's animated hedcut wasn't to the team's liking, though; publication-ready ones (like Scalia) are made by the Journal's stipple artists, frame by frame. That's dedication.

Expect to see these internet-age hedcuts on WSJ's site from time to time — but obviously, you won't see them in the paper.

I can't think of a stranger or more delightful way for the biggest newspaper in the country to leave physical pages behind.