Thursday, March 22, 2007

A few quick thoughts:

1) I truly wish other animation writers would post here. This is me, suggesting politely, that you do. I'm going to cut down on the frequency because it was never my intention for this to be "my blog." If you're a writer and you want to post on here, shoot me an E-mail and I'll give you author permission.

2) Stephen, I appreciate you being here but when a dude tells you he had a family member pass, take the time to express sympathy before going off on your tirade and saying he's too stupid to do anything. Jesus.

3) Starting next week, I'll try to post proactively instead of reactively, because I am getting a bit fatigued at cutting and pasting and I sort of agree that I should discuss the things I believe in, instead of the things I simply disagree with.

4) And speaking of which, and for the record, Robotaekwon , there was nothing in that recent John K post I disagreed with when it came to his criticism of the script he copied and pasted.
When he's not pissing in the direction of the laptop I write on, I find his knowledge and experience to be incredibly valuable.
A 24 page script for a 12 minute cartoon is indefensible, and that scene with every bird in the world is the kind of thing I would put in a script as an April Fool's Day gag to a friend. But I would let them know it was a joke before the first crow was drawn.
Most importantly: It's "weasel," not "weasle." If it's easier, I'm sure there are four letter words that you could call me that would be much, much simpler to spell.

...and finally...

5) Sometime in May, I'm going to set an evening of drinks, somewhere and invite anybody from here, and anybody from John's blog, to come out. THAT will be my first comment on his page.
Why? Because if all of this is theory, and none of this personal, we should all be able to hang like people and have civil, if not passionate, discussions in front of each other. Lurking animators? Got any favorite bars?
Stephen? Vincent? Bob? Anybody want to take the reins for your side of this and corral your side of the argument?

Sleeping now.

- Steve

51 comments:

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

Ah. Going after spelling mistakes.
Your time as a nightclub comedian served you well!
I certainly would think twice before heckling YOU sir!!
Consider me duly chastised!
Actually, it was a coin-toss between "weasel" and "ass clown". It came up heads, and weasel won.
There, you now have a window into my process.
In your post, you cry out to other animation writers to post here. Hey, I have a writing credit on an animated feature! Therefore....I am an animation writer!!!
Asked and answered sir!!
But I also draw!!!
Does that disqualify me?

Steve said...

Why thank you.

Actually, the "weasel" was a joke (I forgot the ridiculous ":)" to make that point, but whatever.

And I never said you WEREN'T an animation writer.

Curiousity: Which movie?

Point of reference: "Ass clown" is much funnier.

Disqualification: No, you're absolutely welcome here. But I'd like to keep the authors/publishers limited to writers who can't draw, as there are dozens, if not hundreds, of 'blogs for artists (who can write or not).

I may be an ass clown, but I am a reasonable ass clown. Now... how about answering some of the other things, where I agreed with the cartoonists point on writing, hmm?

Asstasticly yours,

- Steve

Kent B said...

Television animation is a diffferent medium from theatrical animation. TV as a medium has more in common with radio than it does with movies you see in a theater. So when we're talking about "writing" for TV today, it makes more sense to compare with Flintstones, Roger Ramjet and Rocky&Bullwinkle than with Bugs Bunny or Dumbo.

On TV as in radio, the dialog tends to drive the narrative. In movies you'll have long stretches driven by music and editing - building mood, etc - this rarely happens on TV. (I have directed a few "wordless" shorts for TV, but these were really the exception to the rule)

The label "illustrated radio" has been used to describe a lot of animation on TV today, and that is accurate. I don't think there's anything wrong with that! "Roger Ramjet" was written & performed by a bunch of radio DJ guys - there was almost no budget for animation. Fred Crippen told me there was no way he was going to lose money on the job, so he cut every corner he could, and even made fun of the fact that there was no animation. He used good cutting and funny drawings and the show was great but it was "illustrated radio". Now on radio if you want a thick flock of toucans to form a crazyquilt of colored feather carpet - then you have someone look out the window and say: "Hey look! A thick flock of toucans are forming a crazyquilt of colored feather carpet!"

Okay, I could go on, but I want to keep this short - see you for cocktails!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, I would be careful about organizing any sort of public event. There's a guy over at John K's site who has advocated hiring hitmen to "eliminate" animation writers.

Steve said...

Regarding the "hitman..."

I'm going to live in a world where that's just as much hyperbole as everything else on that site.

Besides, liquor makes everybody nicer.

Bob Harper said...

I'm up for a get-together. Usually I have a few hours open on thee weekend afternoons, when I'm not helping the Misses watch the kids. I'll be at the AnimationNation shindig on April 1. That might be a good place to have an intial meet and greet.

Although I don't really represent either side. I take the "good" from both camps as well as some other camps that aren't as verbal.

Stephen Worth said...

Sorry! Someone in your family died? I'm not sure what you're talking about. I'm just chatting about funny cartoons on a blog. Is this some sort of joke that I'm not getting?

I don't drink, but a bunch of us cartoon types go to the Coral Cafe in Burbank every Thursday night after the Archive closes to marvel at the eccentric head shapes that congregate there. Folks seeking excitement are more than welcome to join us.

See ya
Steve

P.S. Can you let me know about those blogs by artists who write? I only know All Kinds of Stuff which deals with writing occasionally and Blackwing DIaries which is written by a talented story artist. Are there more?

Steve said...

Stephen;

No - Sib mentioned it in his post. Just an FYI.

And I've linked Dave Thomas' blog on here... he's talented as hell and funny as hell.

- Steve

P.S. I may very well take you up on your offer one of these Thursday. But first, I think, we should do our "everybody shows up" night.

Stephen Worth said...

Not all cartoons in the 60s were all talk and no pictures. The Alvin Show was visually interesting and had whole segments of just music and animation to offset the talky ones like Clyde Crashcup. UPA's McBoing Boing Show, The Grinch That Stole Christmas, Beany & Cecil, Pink Panther, Huck Hound, Yogi Bear... all of these had strong visual elements. Roger Ramjet wasn't all talk either. It had hilarious character design and brilliant timing. Fred Crippen had to work on the cheap, but he was working in an entirely different business than today.

The average TV cartoon today has a budget that certainly allows for more than the stick figures bouncing up and down to the accents in the voice track that we see so often today. TV animation is capable of much more than it's doing. We shouldn't make excuses for it.

Money has nothing to do with the sorry state of TV animation. How does the budget of a half hour of the Simpsons or Family Guy compare to the budget of your feature, Kent? You've got actual drawings that move in your show. They've got scads more money to work with. Why don't they?

I'm not talking "good enough", Cheap illustrated radio shows would be fine if that wasn't ALL there was on television. Someone has to stand up and demand quality. Animaton producers and animators should work hard to deliver a quality product and take pride in their work, not send everything to Bangladesh so the executives can drive Bentleys.

See ya
Steve

Stephen Worth said...

sorry to put this in separate posts, but I just remembered to mention that yesterday, I put up a post about Eldon Dedini, which includes a segment from a video interview where he discusses being a writer at Disney. He mentions a bunch of the guys who wrote the classic Disney features.

See ya
Steve

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

Hey Steve (not Worth).
I wrote and co-directed "Home on the Range". It's not Pinter, but it's something. I have also contributed bits to animated films for the past 13 years, all un-credited of course, cause I'm just a dumb artist.
Now, I am a story artist at Pixar animation. I also write and (quickly) draw a web comic that I publish through my blog called "Chippy and Loopus".
You are right, ass clown is funnier..with respect.
You have wisely agreed that cartoonists are indeed writers.
Philosophically, I will always believe that cartoons should be written by catoonists. Why? Until recently, I'd never met an animation writer that could write as well as most of the story artists I knew. Guys you've never heard of, like Chris Wiliams, Don Hall, Matt Taylor, Dave Feiss, Cody Cameron, Steve Anderson, Mark Kennedy, Sam Levine, Jeff Ranjo, Chris Ure, Ken Bruce, and the list goes on. The reason you've never heard of them is that they've been fixing and completly re-writing bad scripts for years without recieving any credit, a fraction of the pay and NONE of the respect. That is the life of a feature board artist. That's why we're so angry.
I recently began working with Michael Arndt. This guy gets it. However, he's rare.
To Mr. Worth: I am an artist who writes. Heres my blog:
htt[p://chippyandloopus.typepad.com/ I'm a huge fan of the Archive by the way.

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

Oops! I mean
http://chippyandloopus.typepad.com/

Steve said...

Hey Steve (not Worth).
I wrote and co-directed "Home on the Range". It's not Pinter, but it's something.

Me: Nice. I have NEVER written a movie, animated or not. If anybody ever creates an animation feature movie blog, I would comment, but never post.

You: I have also contributed bits to animated films for the past 13 years, all un-credited of course, cause I'm just a dumb artist.

Me: See, that's YOU saying that. I never did. I never would. You get that's the problem I have with this, right? That I don't like being lumped in there with your bad experiences because, quite frankly, I try very hard to not be a bad experience.

Now, I am a story artist at Pixar animation. I also write and (quickly) draw a web comic that I publish through my blog called "Chippy and Loopus".

You are right, ass clown is funnier..with respect.
You have wisely agreed that cartoonists are indeed writers.

Me: Never said they weren't. I try to point out that not all cartoonists are writers, and not all writers are good... I'm trying to point out what I believe is a reasonable middle.

You: Philosophically, I will always believe that cartoons should be written by catoonists. Why? Until recently, I'd never met an animation writer that could write as well as most of the story artists I knew.

Me: Thank you for admitting they're out there. You may not feel I'm one of them, but that's never been my point.

You: Guys you've never heard of, like Chris Wiliams, Don Hall, Matt Taylor, Dave Feiss, Cody Cameron, Steve Anderson, Mark Kennedy, Sam Levine, Jeff Ranjo, Chris Ure, Ken Bruce, and the list goes on.

Me: Actually, that's wrong. I know many of these names. I worked with Dave Feiss on two shows (good experiences, I believe), and with Ken Bruce at Nickelodeon (good experiences, I believe). I have nothing but respect for them, and people like them.

You: The reason you've never heard of them is that they've been fixing and completly re-writing bad scripts for years without recieving any credit, a fraction of the pay and NONE of the respect. That is the life of a feature board artist. That's why we're so angry.

Me: I can't argue with you regarding feature animation. This is your argument from experience, and I have no reason not to believe how you're feeling. More to the point, the Pixar movies are some of my favorites and I am completely aware of how they are created. My discussions are always based on TV animation, the struggles and restraints that entail.

You: I recently began working with Michael Arndt. This guy gets it. However, he's rare.

Me: And I won't disagree with that either. In fact, it's nice to see you mention a writer-who-can't-draw that you like.

Perhaps there's hope.

Bob said...

I am sure, as was mentioned in the previous thread, that every artist does have a bad script story to tell. But likewise, every writer also has a bad board story.

My favorite was the time we called for a character to be eating ribs. The board depicted a character lifting up an entire rack of ribs and chomping into it lengthwise, leaving a big bite mark through meat and bone, like it was a sandwich. This wasn't for comic effect either.

I don't think any writer with any length of time spent in the trenches will defend all writers as inherently competent, especially if you've had to story edit years of freelance scripts. In fact, as story editors, our pet peeve is writers who fall into animation and don't do their homework on the form. But what gets galling is when there seems to be this simple minded "artists good/writers bad" dichotomy presented relentlessly in, ahem, certain quarters.

Stephen Worth said...

Writing for TV animation is the exact same animal as writing for feature. The differences are purely technical and involve the outline stage more than anything else.

There shouldn't be one kind of writer to write features and a different type to write TV. A cartoonist with good story sense and talent for visual storytelling can work within any sort of budget or running time. The story guys at Disney wrote Peter Pan and Snow White AND Donald Duck and Goofy. They saw no difference in the way they wrote one or the other.

A story man who can't draw can be useful to help the story artists organize the results of the story meetings and assist the director in constructing the outline. But that's the limit of their ability. They can go ahead and write a whole detailed script, but the guy doing the storyboard (if he wants to make something good out of it) will take just the outline and dialogue as it fits and throw out the rest. A lot of time and effort could be saved if shows boarded from carefully constructed outlines instead of scripts. The dialogue would work with the action a lot better if it wasn't locked before the storyboard stage too.

The fella who boarded the big chomp out of the ribs sounds like he just wasn't able to draw funny. If Eddie Fitzgerald drew that gag, you would be on the floor laughing your ass off.

Great blog, John. I've bookmarked it. The only person you name who I've worked with is Dave Feiss. I should have named him as one of the great story guys on Chipmunks. He was slumming it to work on a crappy DIC show, but he always gave it his best and cared about what he was doing.

Here's a hot tip for your CD pleasure... Art Pepper +11 and Sonny Rollins Saxophone Collossus. You will like.

See ya
Steve

Steve said...

Stephen;

Regarding Eddie Fitzgerald: Agreed. He's incredibly talented.

You know, I think part of the disconnect between us is that I am speaking from a place of written word... but I also think I'm speaking from a position of "today's realities."

Regarding TV vs. Movies: In an art vs. commerce discussion, how do you justify the successes of Family Guy, South Park, Simpsons and Fairly Oddparents (all script driven).

Has there ever been a board-driven show that aired on prime time recently - lets say in the last ten years (South Park's run) that has delivered the kind of ratings success of the above shows I mentioned?

The only adult TV board show I can think of that was - and I'm not being petty here - was the "Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon" that ran on Spike the same time "This Just In" ran on Spike. Both shows failed to take root, both were six and out.

I'm not being snippy. Im asking a very legitimate question. Show me how - in adult TV - board writing has succeeded in the last few years.

Show me how - in kids' TV - script driven shows haven't succeeded, because I know that board driven shows have.

Feel free to talk down to me like an idiot, but don't just point out how the animation quality is bad in your opinion.

Give me examples of how it succeeds in today's TV environment when it's done right.

I'm listening. And I can be swayed.

- Steve

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

We keep pointing to classic examples because they come from a time when writing something on boards was the norm.
I'd love to provide modern examples of adult shows that use the board driven approach, but since that approach is not allowed by modern execs, it's hard to find any.
However, Powerpuff Girls was a board driven show.
So was Dexter's Lab, and Samurai Jack.
I'm not sure whether they measure up ratings-wise, but Samurai jack won multiple Emmys.
I would also argue that these shows are every bit as entertaining as anything you mentioned, and in many cases, more-so, and they appealed to adults as well as kids.
Oh, and by the way, I share an office with Ken Bruce. I don't think you are a douche. I'm not angry at you in particular or at all. I've just dealt with a lot of crap in my time from animation writers. In the future, I'll try not to take my anger out on you personally.

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

Um, hold on a sec,..
Mr. Stephen Worth!!! I have "Saxophone Collosus"!! It is one of my favorites by the great Sonny Rollims, who is one of my all time favorite Sax players.
I'm not yet familiar with Art Pepper though!! Thanks for the tip!
(sorry about that Steve. i no return you to your regularly scheduled program.)

Bob Harper said...

Steve- Not Mr. Worth,

Board driven shows are not given the same consideration for production for Prime Time as are script driven shows.

That's mainly due to the requirement of having scripts and bibles that those execs can grasp, which eludes them in the boards.

R&S Adult Party pulled the necessary ratings for a show for that market and was a hit for the target demo. It wasn't cancelled because of ratings - correct me if I'm wrong Stephen.

Just because there aren't examples of primetime adult board driven hits, doesn't mean there can't be - we aren't give the same shots at selling a show on the boards as are those with only writing samples.

As for cable, Samurai Jack was not a hit and it is why it got cancelled. Spongebob was/is a hit and is board driven. Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is a hit and is script driven - but the scripts are overseen by Craig MacCracken who actually draws and writes and the board artists have more freedom and even the animators can make additions, because the showrunner "gets it" and isn't inflexible.

Point is there are many ways of having a hit show, but for prime time "adult" animation there seems to be the only ONE way allowed by most networks.

BTW Matt and Trey had actually produced their first incarnation of South Park, so they have a real feeling of what works and doesn't for their style.

Steve said...

RoboTaeKwon-Z says:

"We keep pointing to classic examples because they come from a time when writing something on boards was the norm.
I'd love to provide modern examples of adult shows that use the board driven approach, but since that approach is not allowed by modern execs, it's hard to find any."

That makes me want to do a little digging - find the animated shows in the last years (starting with the original Ren and Stimpy, or maybe Mighty Mouse) and break them down by script or storyboard. It wouldn't be a bad thing to know.

"However, Powerpuff Girls was a board driven show. So was Dexter's Lab, and Samurai Jack.
I'm not sure whether they measure up ratings-wise, but Samurai jack won multiple Emmys."

You can also mention Spongebob, Teenage Robot, Cow and Chicken, IM Weasel and currently, El Tigre. These are the ones I'm aware of. Maybe Fosters? I'm not certain.

I do think it happens in kids' TV more than it does in adults, if at all.

I'm sure you look at the breadth of written animation on network TV the same way I do reality shows. I can't stand them - I would rather watch 30 Rock, or Arrested Development, or My Name Is Earl or Andy Barker, P.I. But I'm in the minority, so the schedule is filled with live action shows without script that bore the living crap out of me.

Consequently, I spend a lot of time on the internet.

Also: Every show I've ever written on that is script driven is that way because the person who created it CHOSE to have writers writing, instead of board artists drawing the story.

"I would also argue that these shows are every bit as entertaining as anything you mentioned, and in many cases, more-so, and they appealed to adults as well as kids."

I agree with you on some, and not on others, but that's to taste.

I mention ratings because I think popular success has much to do with whether something is tried again. If the board shows soared, and the script shows died, script-driven cartoons would die with them in kids' TV as well.

Clearly, there is room for both.

"Oh, and by the way, I share an office with Ken Bruce. I don't think you are a douche. I'm not angry at you in particular or at all. I've just dealt with a lot of crap in my time from animation writers. In the future, I'll try not to take my anger out on you personally."

And you know what? I appreciate that. That is, honestly, the biggest reason I wanted this blog to exist and I'll take being called a weasel or an ass clown any day of the week if, in the end, understanding ensues.

Hilarious. I know one guy well at Pixar and he's the guy in your office. That makes me think there's karma involved.

If I don't post over the weekend (which is doubtful), have a good one.

- Steve

Stephen Worth said...

Regarding TV vs. Movies: In an art vs. commerce discussion, how do you justify the successes of Family Guy, South Park, Simpsons and Fairly Oddparents (all script driven).

That is a big question. I have lots of theories on that.

The simple, uncomplicated answer is because people love cartoons. If you put them on TV, people will watch them. But if you give them a choice between a great cartoon and a mediocre one, they will choose the great one and refuse to watch the mediocre one. But if ALL cartoons are mediocre, they will watch all of them...

The big studios have control of the whole process. They own the studios who make the cartoons and they own the networks that air them. They would rather own 100% of a turd than share with anyone else. Why did Fox give Family Guy chance after chance when it wasn't connecting with viewers? Because Fox owns Family Guy lock, stock and barrel and they resent having to pay Gracie Films carloads of money for The Simpsons. So, we get Family Guy and nothing else.

When you turn on your TV, you're presented with network after network packed with mediocre shows that all look and sound the same. Networks are terrified of anything new. They only want something that looks just like something else that is already popular.

This pretty much prevents creativity, because in order for a filmmaker to create, he has to be able to experiment with new ideas and fail occasionally and learn from his mistakes. That requires giving a certain amount of freedom to the creators, and the networks see that as dangerous. If a creator and an audience connect, they won't need a middleman any more.

So the network creates a process that is designed purely for its own convenience... Execs can't understand pictures, so they require scripts. They squelch all of the aspects of filmmaking that they can't totally control and encourage the ones they can.

It's really quite brilliant in an evil way... The networks have stumbled across a formula for creating an "entertainment substitute". A program that looks like a cartoon, but it really isn't one. It's a carefully crafted corporate product that people will watch as long as they don't see it next to the real magilla.

When I was a kid, television would air anything they thought people would like. They tried anything... Bowling for Dollars, Three Stooges reruns, puppet shows, anything. They competed with each other by using trial and error to come up with a better offering of entertainment than the other network offered. On Saturday morning premiere day every September, I would snap the channel button back and forth to find the best cartoon playing in each time slot. It was hard to choose, because there were good shows on every network.

Today, there are more cartoons being made, but they are all pretty much the same. It's hard to pick because they're all medicre. Cartoon Network realized that Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry were making their new cartoons look shabby, so they cut back on everything prior to Scooby Doo (the nadir of animation history). Now, no one notices that cartoons suck, because the bar has been lowered to its lowest rung.

I get students in here all the time who are studying animation. I ask them if they've seen Betty Boop cartoons, or Tex Avery cartoons or UPA cartoons. They give me a blank look. Those cartoons haven't been on video or TV for years- all they know is Spongebob and Shrek. Their schools figure teaching them to draw is too tough, so they take their parents money and lie to the kids saying that they can be an animator without knowing how to animate. They teach them computer programs instead. People write books on how to make cartoons who have never made a good cartoon in their life. It's borderline criminal how kids are being fleeced.

Now, if you are talking about the best way to make money in this bass-ackwards system that exists today, that may in fact be good advice. But I'm not particularly interested in that approach, and I don't particularly care for people who work like that. I like people who have passion for what they do and strive to do better than has ever been done before.

See ya
Steve

Stephen Worth said...

We had problems on Adult Party Cartoon because we were told to make a particular type of show, and then after the Janet Jackson incident, we were told that they didn't want that type of show any more. Kind of hard to change that sort of thing when the show is already overseas being animated.

We also had problems with getting our crew up to speed. The type of artists required for a program like this just don't exist in this market. It requires a steady flow of work to build the required momentum. John took talented kids and trained them into being seasoned pros. By the time our crew was up to speed, and we had a powerhouse crew going, the rug was already being pulled out.

Adult Party Cartoon did very well on home video. Ren Seeks Help, Naked Beach Frenzy, Altruists and Stimpy's Pregnant are all have great stuff in them. I personally think that Ren Seeks Help is one of John's strongest cartoons. It packs a wallop just like Stimpy's Invention and Powdered Toast Man. I hope John gets to fully animate Weekend Pussy Hunt. That has an ending that's even more devastating than Ren Seeks Help.

See ya
Steve

Stephen Worth said...

"Board based shows" is a relative term. A lot of them still employ scripts. They just allow their storyboard artists to elaborate and change things. A better term would be "storyboard empowered" and "storyboard unempowered".

Just so we're all on the same page as to what the story writing method was for the first half century of animation, here is the basic process:

1) Premise: A one or two sentence idea for the theme of a cartoon

2) Story Meeting (sometimes called a “No No Session” because any idea was fair game- no saying "no" to any idea.): The artists would get together and brainstorm ideas on the theme of the premise. The ideas didn’t have to make any kind of plot sense, just random ideas. These would be thumbnailed and the sketches would be gathered together and transcripts of the story meeting would be drafted.

3) The notes and doodles from the story meeting would be organized by the director and story man into an outline indicating the basic continuity of the story- beginning, middle and end. Each of the points in the outline would refer back to specific notes and thumbnail doodles from the story meeting.

4) The Director and Story Man would work together to create the key setups... a single drawing that represented the general staging and look of each sequence.

4) When the key setups were approved by the director, the storyboard artist would begin to board in thumbnail form, referring to the doodles from the story meeting and the corresponding points in the outline. He would work sequence by sequence through the story making the rough drawings tell the story visually.

5) When he finished the first pass, he would pitch the ruff board to the director and the other artists. Everyone would make suggestions on ways to make it stronger. The Director would create the list of notes of what to work on.

6) The storyboard artist would take the Director's notes and create a final "Director's Board". Some sequences would be fine as they were in thumbnail form, others would require revisions or would be tied down more with more finished drawings. When completed and approved by the Director, the sequences would be sent to layout.

See ya
Steve

Vincent Waller said...

As far as rating go, I don't think you'll find a higher rated non-prime time animated series than SpongeBob SquarePants. Did I mention the 4.9 Billion dollars that this decidedly board driven show has generated? Yet, when I look around at all the new shows, I see that they are being asked to use scripts.

Truly is a shame.

More later, I've work to do.

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

All the execs probably assume Sponge Bob is scripted.
Execs dogmatically require scripts out of ignorance. They assume that the only way to do a show is with a script. They know nothing of the animation process or it's history.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I don't get about all the "all execs" talk: How can everybody ignore the fact that other than Disneytoons Studios, all of the animation efforts at Disney are being guided by artists, not just at Pixar and Pixar by proxy Disney Feature Animation, but at TV animation with the promotion of Mike Moon?

That's a pretty healthy chunk of American animation production. Why do all the rants seem to ignore this?

Steve said...

To Stephen (worth);

The reason I use the term "board based" is specifically the reason you use "board empowered" or "board unempowered."

Unempowered is a term of opinion, like pro-life and pro-choice.

Board-based, to me, is about what creative is the first step.

I'll blog about the non-drawing based art process - in my opinion, of course - when it's not so damn late.

Vincent & John:

Again - I think it is the creator of the show who gets to make that choice. El Tigre (I believe) trusts the highly competent board staff, under the direction of the incredibly talented Dave Thomas, to produce the show.

But I don't think there's an executive in town, in animation, that believes Spongebob works off of scripts. Whether they prefer scripts is another matter - but they know the process.

Chat atcha later...

- Steve

Anonymous said...

El Tigre also has two very strong writers with distinctive voices on board. Maybe it works because it's an actual good balance.

wurdhurlr said...

This discussion is good (mostly). It's a pity that there are so many who bitterly stew over this without participating in any sort of dialogue. I'm a story editor and sometimes a show runner, and believe me I've put in plenty of 80 hour weeks fixing other writers' crappy scripts to the point where I feel they're good enough to go to the artists. And honestly, it's not solely because I'm worried about the artists; I just hate bad storytelling.

Inept scripting doesn't only happen in animation -- it's a problem in live action too. I suspect it's more rampant in animation, though, which attracts a lot of novice writers who try cartoons out as a means of launching their careers and sitcom writers who are looking for a fall-back and assume cartoon writing is the same as concocting dialogue gags for Cousin Balki. This phenomenon isn't just the bane of artists; it's the bane of any good animation writer who cares about the quality of their work.

Regardless, the problem of incomprehensible scripting is one that should never befoul the artist. The buck stops at the show runner. I said it before and I'll say it again; if the show runner is doing his or her job then nothing but sound scripts should be handed to the artists.

So -- don't hate all of us just because some aren't doing their jobs. Frankly, though I admire what artists do and I love working with them, I've burned up plenty of late-night editing hours fixing shitty board panels, and even had a show sunk out from under me, in part thanks to mediocre boarding. Believe it or not, I have no urge to blame all artists.

Even if tomorrow all cartoon scripts magically started making sense, I know that still wouldn't make a lot of artists happy -- not by some of the comments I've seen. Script-driven cartoons look different and have fundamentally different story-telling dynamics than those that are written (yes, written) in the classic board-first method. But please. It's true; scripted shows are here to stay. There's too much animation on television for them not to. I respect the history of animation, and really enjoy traditionally made cartoons. The good ones. That's what matters to me -- is it good? Are the stories good? Are the characters engrossing? Am I entertained? Are the gags funny? Whether that's conveyed more through image, or through image with clever dialogue, it can all be good. Maybe not to some of you -- but millions of others would agree with me.

And as for artists complaining that writers get all the breaks pitching and running shows, I can say that I've encountered instances of the exact opposite. Often studio execs prefer to be pitched by artists. They'd much rather see funny designs and laugh their butts off at them than take the trouble to leaf through a bible or listen to a pitch without being about to see who you're talking about. Certainly at Cartoon Network and Nick I've run into that, and even at Disney, which has at least taken some steps lately to do more artist-driven stuff.

I say good for them.

Bob Harper said...

wurdhurlr said ,
"And as for artists complaining that writers get all the breaks pitching and running shows, I can say that I've encountered instances of the exact opposite. Often studio execs prefer to be pitched by artists. They'd much rather see funny designs and laugh their butts off at them than take the trouble to leaf through a bible or listen to a pitch without being about to see who you're talking about."

The complaint isn't whether who gets to pitch, the complaint is, if it is something they are interested in, then the do require writing of the bible, premise character descriptions etc., before they greenlight production. This based on my dealings with every studio I've pitched to. I'm not complaining for myself, as I have no problem with writing, but I know of at least ten really good ideas that will never see the light of day from creators who don't wish to or are able to adapt to this system.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else seen John K.'s blog this weekend? He posted a bit from an awful animation script to point out, in a surprise twist, how awful animation writing is.

The problem is that it's NOT A REAL SCRIPT. It's from some woman who has written a million "How To" writing books, none of which look very well researched. It's about as honest as digging up some bad fan art on the net and using it to illustrate how artists suck.

Steve said...

Of course he did.

That's how he argues, and preaches to his choir. Who WOULDN'T look at that script and go "writers suck?"

Essentially he walks into a bathroom, scoops out a piece of crap, holds a turd up to his friends and goes "can you believe this turd?"

Yes. We get it. It's a turd. But you were fishing around a toilet. What did you expect to find?

Pfft.

Anonymous said...

Has he even interacted with an animation writer in the last 15 years? Not that any are actually to eager to work with someone who has been on a decade long jihad aganst them.

It's sad that someone with such obvious talent and passion uses so much of it on straw men and scapegoats.

Stephen Worth said...

Strawman?

You're acting as if the only proof John put up to support his argument was that one book. He quoted extensively from Jeffrey Scott's book and put up examples of his script pages too. He's written at least six articles on the subject over the past year, all supported with examples.

He put up a video clip of Walt Disney and Walter Lantz saying that story men should draw their stories instead of writing them in words. Care to comment on the legitimacy of those two sources?

'll blog about the non-drawing based art process-

I love funny dialogue! It's like the old George Carlin joke about the term "military intelligence" being a mutually exclusive concept.

See ya
Steve

Jack said...

All due respect, but what year are you writing this from? Jeffery Scott hasn't had a credit on imdb in the last seven years. Add in your references to Cool World and Chipmunks and I wonder how much interaction you've had with current animation writers. As in the last 15 years.

Walt would probably hate many things about the way cartoons are made today, no doubt. Then again, he hated what he had to do in the late 50's when business realities forced him into his "meat and potato" phase. My hunch is had he lived to see the boom of TV animation, he would have been realistic about producing shows that begin in script as well as those that begin in board, as is the case at Disney today.

Truthfully, I'm not sure what you're even trying to accomplish. Do you praise shows that are board based like Sponge Bob, or do you take points off those for some other reason? In sheer raw hours, there's a lot more artist driven animation then there was back in the early days of Ren & Stimpy. Whether you actually like the shows and movies or not is another matter, of course. Do you or John lavish encouragement on the shows that are created and produced by artists or do you hit them with other, subordinate criticisms of the "ugly cal arts style" or of it being a Ren and Stimpy ripoff?

In all seriousnes, if John has written anything praising current shows or players in the industry outside of his circle, please post a link, because I'd love to read it.

Steve said...

Stephen;

Misnomer - I meant I'll blog about the non-drawing based writing process.

But I'm happy my late night brain fart gave you something you could sneer about.

- Steve

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

Hey, thanks for the Link Steve! When I crack open my link box, I'll return the favor and add you too!
By the way, Reality shows irritate the piss out of me too. I like good writing in my TV.
Truthfully, I don't sit and grind my teeth at all writer driven animated shows, just at BAD animated shows.
I hate Family Guy. Do I hate it because it's writer driven? No, I hate it because it's derivative, shallow, ugly, and unfunny.
On the other hand, I love the Justice League where the writers and board artists seem to work close together.
My personal preference is to board from an outline, and write the dialogue on the boards.
But that's just how I roll.

Stephen Worth said...

I'm going to be posting a complete story by Warren Foster from the Yogi Bear pilot over at the archive blog next week. I started scanning it yesterday, and it's a model of efficiency, clarity and entertainment value on a very tight budget. I'll let you know when I put it up.

See ya
Steve

Roy said...

I've never seen so much wheel-spinning in my life. This argument has been going on forever and it never gets anywhere.
The bottome line is, script-driven shows are good when they're well-written. Board driven shows are good when they're well-boarded. Sometimes the two mix and when they do it's great.
Right now there seems to be a shortage of both good writers and good board artists which explains why pretty much every animated thing in existence (TV and features) is horrible right now.
Apart from "SOUTH PARK" I can't remember the last animated show that inspired a reaction in any way whatsoever.

Vincent Waller said...

"Again - I think it is the creator of the show who gets to make that choice."

Steve
As I understand it, that is not the case. Everyone I've talked who's project has gone to pilot, have been paired with a writer. Not apparently presented as an option, but a given.


I agree that every executive in town knows that SpongeBob gained its success through the use of very talented storyboard writing teams and not scripts.


As to why John or anyone else have not stepped up to post examples of the problematic scripts and writers, is the fairly obvious legal constraints of doing so.

Eric Trueheart said...

Wait... Just a detail question here... Is it true that Stephen Worth isn't actually an artist?

Anonymous said...

He's not an artist, but he is a pretentious blowhard.

Steve said...

Vincent;

John has no problems posting actual Roger Ramjet clips, or the written work of "how to" writers that he feels best make his case...

...he just likes to cherry pick his targets, because it makes it easier to be a zealot.

In my opinion, of course.

- Steve

Vincent Waller said...

So Steve, if he had say, one or more of your scripts that had some of the typical problems in them, you would be okay with him posting them as examples?

Steve said...

Like I can stop him?

Keep this in mind - I never pretend what I do is perfect, or the way I do things is the way things should be done.

It's just the way I do things.

I always am open to constructive criticism.

If it gets personal, that's where I start having problems.

How's that for an answer?

Anonymous said...

The fella that wrote --

"That is exactly how their idiotic scripts read to us and we shake our heads in disgust. It's why the scriptwriters are laughed at by artists. I don't know how these "writers" can walk down the same halls as the artists who know they've had their medium stolen from them and know what charlatans they are."

-- getting personal? I don't see it. Seems open minded to me.

Andi said...

Why do you consider calling an idiotic script "idiotic" personal? Its not personal, its business. Most of the scripts that come through the pipeline for animation are idiotic. Theres no way this topic would inspire such constant outcry from the artist community if it were all just a big personal vendetta. Artists are just tired of having to do all the heavy lifting. You can say "I love the artists I work with" all you want, but do you really do anything to make their jobs easier? Its a tough question to ask yourself and the author of this blog seems more interested in addressing their hurt feelings than the real topic at hand: why are most animation scripts so bad? Are the writers merely ignorant of the medium or are they just lazy?
If you happen to be a hardworking writer who is actually sensitive to the nature of the medium of animation then you really have nothing to be offende by. The John Kricfaluccis of the world can rave all they want, but if your a good writer and you know it then you know that you are the exception to the rule. Good writers should be the ones who are most offended by bad writers anyway because they make you look bad.
Heres a good test to guage if you are a bad writer or not: how closely does your final script draft resemble the finished cartoon? Did it require a lot of reworking or changes? A good cartoon script would be an accurate blueprint for the show. A bad one needs a lot of extra work (usually done by the artist).
Animation has become an assembly-line process and when someone in that assembly-line isnt pulling their weight, everyone else suffers.
If your part of the solution, then good for you. If your part of the problem, then you need to step up or step aside.

Steve said...

Andi;

Interesting post. I'm going to move it to it's own topic, if you don't mind.

- Steve

Vincent Waller said...

I think that is a terrific answer. It's great that you appear to be open to critique.
But you could stop him from posting, as could the lady writing the book god awful book. The difference being, yours would only take one phone call to whichever studio owned the script. Quickly thereafter he would have lawyers flying up his bum like monkeys after candied bananas.

Steve said...

Vincent Waller said...

I think that is a terrific answer. It's great that you appear to be open to critique.

Of course I am. I look at stuff I did a YEAR ago and cringe. Any time I get better, I get better because somebody took the time to show me something... or watched people better than I do things that I thought were inspiring.

But you could stop him from posting, as could the lady writing the book god awful book. The difference being, yours would only take one phone call to whichever studio owned the script.

Well, that's the problem, I suppose. I don't own the work I've done... different studios and/or networks do.

I have no control over that whatsoever.


Quickly thereafter he would have lawyers flying up his bum like monkeys after candied bananas.

Yeah, there is that. But I'm sure it would be considered by any court "fair commentary" but I'm sure he wants to be sued as much as he wants to work on a writer driven show.

And honestly, I don't want him to be sued for his opinion. I bear John no ill will.

My whole POV at this place isn't he's wrong... it's that there's a reality in place about how certain cartoons are created, and there has to be a better way to have a conversation about it with people who ALSO love the medium that aren't going anywhere.

Could he critique my work in a way that he could meet me the next day at a coffee house or a bar? If there was anything in that script he liked, would he point that out as well?

To have someone who did work I loved - those original Ren and Stimpy cartoons - point out how I could be a better animation professional, would be awesome.

If he can, then that would be constructive, and probably benefit me and everybody I work with.

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