Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Writers Versus Artists Versus Writers... Cause And Effect?

So, now that the whole anibation thing seems to have imploded into a free porn site (wow), I'd like to pick up where the angriest man in animation left off...

...take the rubble and maybe build something a little less angry.

But the one thing I've figured out in the last 48 hours is... there is a huge sea of untapped resentment and anger about non-drawing writers and producers in this business.

So perhaps that's a good place to start figuring out what THIS blog should be, now that apparently, Voldemort has disappeared for a bit.

Cause and Effect #1 - Doors and Walls

Writer Ingredients: New writer comes in to studio, instantly gets an office.
Artist Ingredients: Artists, regardless of time in the industry, find themselves in cubicles, or jammed two to three in a room.

This one's easy to figure out, I think. A pilot gets green lit to series through the work of an EP, and maybe ONE writer... then produced by a talented team of artists who see the vision through. It gets picked up, more writers are brought on...
...and then each of them, including the story editor, gets an office, while artists are placed in group rooms, or in cubicles based.

I think two things happen here:

1) The writer gets into work but... as always, these productions are lower budget, he or she has to hit the ground running, so as soon as that office is functional, the writer is squirreled a way in there, writing like a mofo, to catch up.

What it looks like, of course, is that the writer could give two craps about the rest of the crew, because the door is shut and he's "busy." The mistake is not to leave the door open, to meet the crew that will be turning the words into animation.

2) The artists see the writer disappear into the office with maybe a quick smile, but in general, disappear to work, or go away to work with the executive producer/creator of the show and by the time that first script is ready, there's already a "writers get access to EP, writers get to do what they want" hierarchy (real or imagined) in place and an attitude (assumed or real) that needs to be addressed.

Personal story: I've been lucky with that - all of my offices have been next to and near artists. Next to the art director, across from the character designer, spitting distance from the board artists...

...close enough to the color and background departments that when a script came in, and they could tell, in advance, what a nightmare it would be... I would hear it. Even if I couldn't do anything about it, I'd figure out SOMETHING else to do to make amends for it.

The common area for the crew was outside my office where I had brought in a Tivo so everyone could watch what they wanted to watch on their breaks. (Me: Daily Show and Venture Brothers.) Lunches were had together where we just hung out.

Consequently I felt like part of a team, rather than somebody who tossed words from on high and then went on with my life. I felt that I was creating on a show, even if it wasn't by drawing. Because these people weren't just humans huddled over a pencil or a wacom tablet or a stack of boards, they were people I saw every day, ate with occasionally, and went out for drinks with on occasion.

And because of that, I think people knew my door was open to hear story ideas for the shows I was on, and I learned more about the process, and the reprecusions of typing "1000 Zebras of Different color do individual dances down a flowered hill." Artists pitched premises. And at the same time, I pushed for doing a few board driven scripts.

I'm doing that on Yin Yang Yo right now.

Maybe I'm incredibly lucky, and incredibly blessed, and maybe I'm naive. But the easiest way to beat this part of the equation is simple:

Writers, make sure you mingle with the people who make your words animation. Artists, do the same and if you think a writer needs a little "impossible to draw 101" let them know in a proactive, constructive manner.

God knows that would have saved me years of figuring it out, and a lot of people pages worth of bullsh*t.

However, if in the process of reaching out to you, you find your hand slapped by ego, they have a word for that person. And it's not "writer" nor "artist."

It's "dick."

Lets all try not to be one!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Holy Crap, that was fast.

So, you might have noticed that I took down the link to Anibator's blog. That's because Anibator's blog is no longer Anibator's blog...'s a link to some "free porn" site.

The day in the life of that blog was:

1) New post vilifying line producers
2) The blog becoming invite only
3) The blog no longer existing
4) A new blog up that offers porn.

Hell if I know what that all means, but it does pose the question: What happens here, next?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Marmel: Okay, Anibator... I accept your challenge.

Marmel: Okay, Anibator... I accept your challenge.

So… to be fair, this guy's site (and I say guy, because his hatred of women in animation is clear indication of his phallitude) is one of the reasons I really wanted to do a site for writers, with writers posting.

With that being said, and the following permission:


I proudly present counterpoint to the following post:


Nice title. So… right there, you know it's gonna be even handed.

Where do I even begin...Okay, I see animation writers the same way I see animation executives... if they are GOOD, I not only don't have a problem with them, I am grateful for them.

The trouble is, "good" animation writers are extremely rare... in two-and-a-half decades of experience, I think I've worked with four good writers at the most. And they, naturally, were either drummed out of the industry by producers who don't know a good storyteller from a hole in their ass or they got smart and moved into other mediums.

Nice try. So… I'm going to assume you're 45 years old, and in those 25 years you've only met four good writers? I've been in the business for a decade and met many more than that. I've also met a lot of 45 year old artists who gave up their passion around "Snorks."Something tells me you were too busy being resentful of the writers, to see that they were, in fact, talented.But if you want to share with me their shows - not their names - I'd be glad to know who they are. It would also give an insight into your tastes, which, quite frankly, I'd like to have for my own curiosity.

Please note that when I use the term "good", I don't mean that subjectively... I don't merely refer to writers who create scripts that I personally find entertaining... I just mean "good" in the sense that they can create a script with an actual beginning, middle and end that makes sense, works within the boundaries of the animation medium and fits the timeframe of the project.

Generally speaking, an eleven-minute cartoon script should be around 11 pages long (give or take a page or two). The rule of thumb among anyone who actually understands animation is that you plan around a minute per page.To this day, I have yet to see a script for an 11 minute cartoon that was less than 25 pages long.

Then you clearly haven't been working in animation for a while. Fairly Oddparents scripts come in around 14-15 pages. Yin Yang Yo scripts, the same. Danny Phantom scripts were around 30 or 32.

Rule of thumb for anyone who writes animation scripts on a show that moves as fast as shows move these days knows that 14-16 pages is in the ballpark for a show that moves fast verbally and visually.

Do these verbose hacks think that somehow within the animation process that time and space can be magically bent to fit our agenda?

It's not your agenda. It's the show's agenda. When you sell a show that's yours, you can set it up anyway you want. That's the beauty of it.

And CONFUSING... christ almighty... how hard is it to tell a simple story? Who are these idiots who try to fit sub-plots into an 11 minute cartoon about a talking duck? How hard is it to just write something that makes SOME logistical sense?Now, unlike some animation cult members, I see the value in writers... particularly for television wherein the deadlines are tighter and there isn't nearly as much time for 'development'. But animation writers need to realize that they are WRITING FOR ANIMATION! ADJUST YOUR TECHNIQUE TO FIT THE FUCKING MEDIUM YOU LAZY HACKS!

Yes, actually, I do feel there needs to be a subplot in an eleven minute episode about a talking duck, because I like shows where the narrative isn't so linear. The subplot doesn't make it NOT make sense… bad writing makes it not make sense.And when you say to adjust the technique to fit the (expletive) medium, what you're really saying is "Adjust the technique to fit my vision for somebody else's show." To you, my mid-40s friend, I say evolve.

Most animation writers are sad, sorry, failed stand-up-comedians who couldn't break into sit-coms, so they're angry as hell that they must debase themselves by writing for these awful cartoons. They give animation their 'C' material (and their 'A' material usually sucks to begin with) and just keep their fingers crossed that one day they can get a lunch meeting with Sarah Silverman.

Ah, the cheap shot.

Back-story - Standup comedy is how I got my start.

An executive saw my routine and thought I could be good at it. I wrote the show bible for Johnny Bravo, and ended up writing on the first season of the show.But I like writing for animation. I've watched it my whole life, I buy a stack of comic books every week, I watch cartoons every day.

Just because we can't draw doesn't mean we don't have a passion for the art form.Everybody comes from somewhere.

What's even more infuriating is that most of these illiterate clowns go on to become producers. Whenever you see 'Produced by' credits at the beginning of FAMILY GUY or SIMPSONS, rest-assured, that person is no 'producer'... they're just a writer who added one lame joke to an already lame script.

In your opinion. On the other hand, I know a lot of these producers and they are not "just writers." But then, I like Family Guy. It makes me laugh. So you and I will never agree on this.

You see, executives don't REALLY know what makes a good cartoon, so they rely heavily on the written word.

They don't know how to 'watch' a cartoon ("How could the Coyote survive a fall like that?") but they (technically) know how to "read" so they count on these Harvard-Lampoon-Wannabes to put ideas into a form they can understand... ultimately, though, it's like having someone who doesn't speak Japanese translating for you at a Tokyo business meeting.

Or someone with blind hatred of writing, commenting on the writing process.

Of course, most scripts become irrelevant the minute the storyboards are pasted up and everyone sees how senselessly written the story was (the storyboard artist, of course, takes the heat for this and has to cancel his weekend plans to take his kids to the park so that he can do 400 pages of revisions that make even less sense than the original script

Unless the story board artist is working with a director who works with the writing team to solve any of those issues ahead of time. Because it's a process. It might be different on other shows, but I appreciate it when an artist comes to me with questions, or points out something that can't be staged correctly. It fixes problems early but more importantly, it makes me a better animation writer.

But here's the REAL sign you're dealing with a hack writer: SONGS.Ever notice how the last several seasons of THE SIMPSONS seems to have a musical number in every other episode? SURELY you don't think it's merely because these writers actually like musicals do you? Lord no.Y'see, writers jam musical numbers (which, as we all know, are a pain to animate and usually REALLY gay and awful) into shows and films because the RESIDUALS on a songwriting credit are HUGE.All you need is writing credit on ONE song and you've got a steady check for LIFE... every single time the song is re-run on television, the writer gets another check. Can you imagine if you wrote just ONE song for ONE episode of The Simpsons (which reruns about a million times a day all over the world) what the cash flow would be?It boggles the mind.

So does your logic. See, in the Simpsons… or Family Guy… in prime time animation, those writers GET residuals. So when they write a song, it's because they like writing a song. And if you think the music residuals for a TV song is enough to set you up for life, then I have to say: What you want in your life has to be pretty low.

Another surefire sign of a hack writer is CROWD SCENES.It's always easy to make a shitty script seem 'eventful' by having big, huge crowd scenes (riots, amusement parks, concerts, etc.) which, again, are the hardest to animate and most boring to watch.I don't disagree with this.What's particularly obnoxious about writers is hwo smug they seem to be about their so-called 'talent'... they're convinced that they have some sort of special gift given by the gods.I'll accept that kind of attitude from Kurt Vonnegut, but not from some dude who shit out a script for 'The Mighty Ducks'.

Anybody who believes in themselves has to have confidence, just as any artist does as well. You're more annoyed with the hierarchy of a script driven show, than you are the attitude of the writers.And have you even seen the Mighty Ducks? Me neither. But a lot of people did.

And, of course, most writers hate artists and will not associate with them. And with good reason. Artists are the only ones who realize just what a scam the writers have going. If more artists managed to become writers (good luck), it'd be over for them.

Incorrect. However, with the above attitude, I can only guess that most writers hate YOU. All of this is you specific, attempting to paste the entire industry with your petty frustrations. People are people. Individuals are individuals.I'm not saying you're not entitled to your opinion, but I find it to be ignorant, ill-thought out and poorly executed. Maybe you should put it in a script, so you could critique it.

Once again, however, I should point out that there are one or two good ones out there... we should be kind to them and nurture them.But they are the VAST minority.

Have the balls to write me and let me know who you are - trust me to keep your identity secret - and we'll see how you react. But I don't need your kindness and your nurturing… I'd rather just have your respect, as you would prefer mine.

But enough of my blabbing... tell your writer horror-stories here and, if you feel compelled, name off the ones you think are the worst of the worst.

Puss move, anonymiddleagedguy.

Have at it!

Consider it had.

Sib: My take...

I think that this is a very old argument that a few (hopefully, very few) cranky misanthropes refuse to stop harping about. I prefer to think of them as "Klanimators", as such a blanket hatred of another group for no legitimate reason should, by nature, require some sort of pointy headgear.

And yet, sarcasm aside, I think I can understand from whence a lot of this came. When I started writing cartoons in the early 90's, the majority of my jobs were freelance. This meant that I was just another anonymous guy - with no specific training or knowledge of the animation process - dropping stacks of pages on some storyboard artist's table. And, good, bad or indifferent, he or she had to just deal with it...and fix any stupid mistakes I may have made because I didn't know any better. I totally get how that would piss somebody off.

I do think that, by and large, things have changed. There are more writers who have a lot of experience in this medium. Working on staff - where you're in-house and in the middle of the mix- there is an opportunity to actually...and here's the million dollar word...collaborate with the artists. I have an incredible amount of respect for the artists I've worked with - and there's nothing better than looking at a board of a script you've written, and finding a visual joke (or 2 or 10) that you never saw coming...and laughing your ass off. That's what makes this process so much fun...different people bringing different sensibilities and skills to the table.

Why a few naysayers have to constantly try to drive a wedge between writers and artists, I'll never understand.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go kill another puppy.

Marmel: Calling All Cartoon Writers

Okay, so here we go.

I've been an animation writer for nearly ten years. Starting at Johnny Bravo, spending a good chunk of my career on Fairly Oddparents and Danny Phantom, and most recently, working on Yin Yang Yo.

I can't draw.

There are a handful of blogs - John K's blog, and This Doof (who unlike John K, doesn't have the courage of his convictions enough to post with his name) who consider cartoons with animation writers to be the work of the anti-christ.

Which is ridiculous.

There is also CartoonBrew which has, I think, a more even-handed coverage of things... but if you wade into the comments section when they discuss writing in animation, you'd think that writers were summarily killing their puppies or something.

And while plenty of writers have their own sites - my spaces pages, blogs and the like - I'm not aware of a place where we can all post together. So, that's the goal here.

There isn't a writer alive who thinks they can do this without talented animators. And there isn't a writer alive who doesn't think there are talented animators who can do this WITHOUT writers. But in writing, and animation, the people who do that well are few and far between.

Whether I'm one of those people is not the case here. Obviously, I'm proud of what I do, but that's subjective. It's the idea of writing as an artform... that some people paint with WORDS. That writers can have an idea, an image, a visual, or a story in their head and while they may be incapable of taking a pen to paper, or stylus to wacom tablet, it doesn't make them any less creative. It's just a different kind of creative.

So... that's the goal. If you're seeing this, chances are you're one of a handful of writers I personally know that I invited to publish here. But feel free to invite the writers YOU know to contact me and be a part of this.

And to those of you who think there's no place for writers in animation - you're welcome here as well. Post, comment, whatever. But just remember, as you do that... you're WRITING your reply, not drawing it.

- Steve