Monday, February 26, 2007

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.


Bob Harper said...

Congrats on starting a blog on animation writing. It's much needed. I’m an animator at Cartoon Network and have just been optioned by two major studios for two different projects, which I am currently writing with a fellow cartoonist and am boarding one of them as well.

I am not in the extreme of John K. nor Anibator, when comes to their attitudes towards animation writers. I do see their frustrations and understand some of their points.

As an animator, I can find it frustrating sometimes when trying to work on difficult scenes which could have been easier if written by someone who understands cartooning. The same could be said about some board artists as well.

I think the general beef that a lot of artists have towards writers, is the seemingly proud ignorance that many appear to possess towards the craft of animation. The question is why a writer would want to even want to work in animation, if he doesn’t have any desire to draw or understand the art form. I’m not saying that this is true of you or all writers, but there are plenty I’ve seen who fit the bill.

Imagine if someone wanted to be a writer and they just sat down, typed some pages and "poof", they finish a script. We all know it would be the ramblings of a madman. They don’t appreciate the craft of writing. When I was writing my first screenplay I read the McKee book, Syd Field’s books, took classes and seminars etc. I don’t see why writers in our biz wouldn’t to the same for drawing. I don’t think there’s a need for writers to become top draftsmen, but wouldn’t a foundation in drawing and animation help a writer with their craft? Wouldn’t knowing the limitations and strengths of the animation process prove helpful to the writer?

Here’s a link to a lecture that Bill Scott gave years back, which I find helpful:"

Anyway, I think it would be a great idea if there were a monthly get together for local animation writers and cartoonists to help develop this business of ours into something grand. Keep posting, and I’ll keep reading.

Martin said...

Thanks, Bob Harper. A man with a heart and a brain. My God, thanks for the Bill Scott link; what a fantastic piece.

Marmel, I admire the spirit and ferocity of some of these anonymous guys, and the spirit of their misguided hatred of writers I kinda like, but there's no need for you to take seriously stuff said without real conviction and heart. And that is the case when someone stands behind their words and signs their name to their statements.

I've only written stories for boarded shows, so collaboration with the artist-writers is the only way to go for me, otherwise the whole process would be moronic. At Cartoon Network I worked on a board show for a story editor who said she never ever talked to the artists. So these angry dudes have a point and I agree with them in saying that that attitude is truly idiotic.

Sib, re your closing line on killing puppies, I assume you mean in order to power up by drinking their plasma. In this regard, I'd recommend collies who have a high red cell count, giving the blood a sweet afterburn. Avoid drinking dachsund blood, Sib, which is acrid and bitter at room temperature. Let's discuss over cocktails.

Steve said...

I'm only reiterating this a few times, in the opening discussions of a new blog... because it needs to be said.

I'm not taking it seriously.

But I am enjoying the discussion.

Thanks for the post!

Sib said...

Thanks for your comments, Bob...especially the Bill Scott link.

As I said in my original post, I can understand some of those frustrations, too. I just hate the fact that it manifests itself into the "there's only two good animation writers and the rest are idiots" diatribes. So, thank you for not being "that guy"...and proving that we can actually talk to each other like normal people.

Eric Trueheart said...

Jumping in here like a sumo into a kiddie pool full of pudding. (And no, don't read anything into that simile.)

As a writer, I can understand the frustration of some board artists. When I first started working on "Invader ZIM" (my first staff job), I was lucky to work in close proximity to some seriously jaw-dropping storyboarders. One of the things they told me was that some shows separate the writers and the artists like a bus in South Africa.

This, in my considered opinion, is completely crazy. A big joy of mine was to walk fifteen feet down the hall and see what the artists were thinking up for a scene. And, more importantly, they could come into my office and ask, "Just what the hell did you mean here, Trueheart? Is he really swallowed by a demon space squid, or is that one of your goddamn metaphors?"

It's odd to me that writers and artists don't talk more. I like to think I have an open-door policy, but I don't get artists asking me questions much. Maybe it's because I've laid off the space squids. (I stick to sumos in pudding now.)

But I do get a tad defensive when I hear artists crowing that the industry doesn't need writers. For the "squash-and-stretch" shows, I can completely see the logic. But if you're really trying to tell a more complicated story, not having a writer can be like trying to paint a highway line blindfolded. One show I freelanced for [name withheld to protect the innocent] was conceived as a writerless production. It soon became obvious that it wasn't going to work out. The boards were going all over the map, and the stories weren't coming through. Nobody's fault, that, it just seems certain modes of production lend themselves better to certain formats.

So I ain't gonna gloat, but sometimes the pudding needs the sumo as much as the sumo needs the pudding.

And I mean that 100% literally.

Animation_creep said...

It seems insane to me that the studios don't have a weekly/monthly brain-storm session for their shows. Where animators/writers/story borders/etc. Get together and just spend the day brainstorming. For anything and everything, from characters to storylines to gags or even just to spark team work and have an all-around functioning team. So everyone has an active part in making a good show great.

It's absolutely crazy that each department is segregated and some writers and animators never talk. That’s just not a "team" environment, how could you expect good things from a show if the artists don’t talk to one another?

One has to think if it’s not set up that way for a reason. (Separation of writers and animators)The powers that be like it that way and use it as a form of creative control.