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.


Stone said...

I know some good guys that write... but honestly, a subplot for an 11 minute piece? That is asking a bit much.

Let's say you break it up so that the subplot only takes up about 1/3 of the screen time; you're taking one story in 7 minutes, 40 seconds, and a subplot at 3 minutes 20 seconds. So any good story has 3 acts: set up, conflict, resolution.

Main story:
set up - 2min 34sec (rounded up)
conflict - 2min 34sec
resolution - 2min 34 sec

Sub Plot:
Set up, conflict, resolution - 1min 7sec for each act (rounded up)

naturally, each act won't be exactly the same length, but that's still fairly meager real-estate no matter how you chop it up.

So, you've got gags and exposition; good gags come in 3's (if you've studied comedy, this is a given), then whatever banter or action you need to move a story along let's say 10 seconds per gag and each line of dialogue will take up 2-3 seconds... it's starting to sound pretty crowded, right?

The timer, trying his best to fit all of this in, needs to jam it all together, leaving very little room for the audience to 'breathe' between action and gags (another necessity for good comedy). You have to let people soak in one gag before moving on to another, but becuase we're working with a tight slot and we're trying to fit as much of the writer's work in as we can, we start cutting out the quiet spots and the subtlety needed to accentuate the 'funny.' We could trim the plot and stick to the main theme (which is really the most important thing in any story - English lit 101) but.... then we'd be doing the writers a diservice... right?

I studied film before enrolling into an animation school. Mainly I consider myself as just a storyteller, using drawing or film as tools and realizing that there are different approaches to both. But when it comes to good STORY, there are things that count more than others, especially when the timeframe is short. The most important advice is K.I.S.S. - keep it simple, son.

that's just one point I didn't agree with you on. It's fine if you feel like it's necessary to stick a subplot into an 11 minute story, but honestly, for animation, too much just confuses things. Looney Toons didn't have subplots, they stuck with the situation at hand. That allowed it to be easy to follow (this is generally a medium for kids after all!) and the 'funny' comes from within the context of the theme, not a random assortment of references to things that don't matter to the story (something that only seems to exhasperate the problems of the A.D.D. generation, not help them).

Steve said...

Hey, all I'll say is:

Agree or disagree, I appreciate the discussion.


Kent B said...

I've always thought the 11-minute format is the most difficult to work with. A 7-minute cartoon is just right for a "theme and variations": Coyote tries to catch Roadrunner; Our protagonist is thrown into jail and he spends the rest of the picture trying to get out --- etc. The 22-minute is just right for the "A and B storylines" (Simpsons used to do this better than anyone) Feature length (70-90 minutes) uses the Syd Fields 3-act structure - I don't know of any longer formats done in animation, but someday someone will do an 8-hour "Lord of the Rings" type epic cartoon - Good Luck figuring out how to make THAT entertaining! --- But 11 minutes is tough - if you try to squeeze a full A & B storyline into that short a time, the something has got to go - and you usually end up cutting those nice "character moments", which are probably the best and most memorable bits in the picture, but they are disposable because they don't directly relate to a "story point". It's tough to sustain a "theme and variations" over 11 minutes - because these pictures (if done well) will start relatively slow, and build to a crescendo. 6-7 minutes is just right for this - so often you'll add a 3 minute "Prologue" or "teaser" and that seemed to work. It's a shame that so many programmers are going for the 11-minute format.

Steve said...

Maybe one of the other writers that are listed as authors on this blog can do a post about this. It's a good topic.

Me personally, I find:

11 minutes - Good for a solid A story and a running gag B story. Ideally that B story runner is character based so that character ALSO has a story, but it could just be something dumb and fun.

7 minutes - I've always believed these were better when they were board driven shows because they are more about a situation and the amount of gags you can throw into them. That's not to say these things CAN'T be character driven, but I feel like it lends itself better to a Light "A" story with a lot of supporting chaos.

wurdhurlr said...

Hey Steve, it's me, Bart. For anyone who doesn't know me, I've been writing, story editing and producing animation for the last nine years.

Frankly I think any attempt to codify what can and can't fit into an 11-minute cartoon is ridiculous. Add up the seconds? Every joke needs three beats? Puh-lease. Some A stories are so meaty that they need nothing else to sustain them. Sometimes they're so slight that they need a B story to help move them along. Whatever works, works.

And yeah, some comedy needs to breathe, but that doesn't mean that rapid-fire, quick-hitting comedy is invalid. "Family Guy" works specifically because it's so damn fast. The comedic dexterity on that show is astounding -- and I don't need a lot of breathers to see that.

I do, though, think that this strikes at the heart of how writers and artists often see animation differently. For writers clever dialogue, funny, well structured stories, quick jokes and hilarious characters can be enough to make a cartoon work. Animators, understandably, care more about the art, and want more time to focus on composition and acting. Why wouldn't they? They're great at it.

I see a lot of blog comments from artists decrying the "crap" put out today -- "Simpsons," "Family Guy," etc., and comparing these shows' "shitty" art with the art of Tex Avery or Bob Clampett. It's apples and oranges.

Sweet Jesus forgive me, but there's room in my fruit salad for both.

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