Monday, March 19, 2007

My Dear John letter.

Okay, so… here we go.

To be fair, I’ve been waiting for this because:

a) I knew it was coming (see previous blog).
b) This anti-writer attitude is one of the reasons I wanted to open a blog for writers. (Ahem, other writers, feel free.)

Before I start, I will say this: I am not going to attack John K. personally. I don’t know him personally. I will try to be fair professionally, because while he may not consider me an animation professional, I consider him a peer.

That being said, I’m going to go point for point on this . John K’s most recent post in ital, mine in bold.

“Skills you need to have to be a good cartoon writer:Here's the most important one:
Be a cartoonist
This is so self-evident, it seems crazy that it needs to be explained to anybody, but here goes...You don't have to be the greatest cartoonist, but you should have some experience animating, or at least inbetweening so you know how cartoons work.

That way you won't ask animators to do things that don't work in animation.You shouldn't write for any medium that you don't understand, because the people who have to actually make the medium will think you're an idiot and will waste their abilities trying make your awkward "ideas" seem smooth by patching them together with bandaids. That's the basic system the studios use today.”

Problem with your argument #1 – What makes a writer’s ideas any more or less awkward than yours? The basic argument – which is the only argument made here – is that the worst cartoonist is a better cartoon writer than the best cartoon script writer, and that’s horsecrap.

By those standards, the person drawing caricatures at Magic Mountain has more of right to be in animation than, oh I don’t know, a Paul Dini or an Alan Burnett. (Just to pick two names.)

“Ziggy” is done by a cartoonist. So is “Cathy.” You want to give Cathy Guisewite the money to animate that comic strip, then I say have at it. I'd rather throw that money into an open flame.

“Johnny Mercer wasn't as good a singer as Frank Sinatra, but he played instruments, read music and sang. He knew enough about singing to know what could be sung well by better singers. He knew the language he was writing for. He could carry a tune.

Would you trust a songwriter to write tunes if he had no way of playing you the tune-or even singing it to you?”

Yes, and those people are called “lyricists.”

It’s a small subsection of the musical community that write the words, and then work with people to bring those songs to life.
"Trust me, the tune in my head is really good. I just don't have any musical ability to show it to you. Let me describe the tune. There are some really fast low notes, then they speed up and go higher. Then there's a short fat note that wiggles for a couple beats. I think I mean beats... uh...what's a beat again?"
"That's what cartoon writers who don't draw are asking you to believe-that they have good visual ideas but no direct way to express them. 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.”

Well, here’s how I do it. With my head held high and, ideally, a great working relationship with the people who turn words into cartoons.

With the help of a talented director who has a vision for the show, who can turn the words on the page into the cartoon.

With the knowledge that I look at those people with respect, and understand how hard they’ve worked to get to the point they’re at, and hope that they have the same respect for me.

Knowing that whatever they’re working on is a step between where they started and where they want to be. I’m not so full of myself to think that the person who is working on whatever show I happen to be a writer on is so “honored” to be in my presence that they want nothing else in life.

At no point have I ever deluded myself into thinking that anybody could animate a cartoon… or that I would want just anybody to animate one of my scripts.

But then, that’s me… and a lot of other writers like me. I don’t feel the need to build myself up by pissing on someone else.

“The language of animation is pictures- and simple pictures too, because you have to draw lots and lots of pictures just to make something move. The more complicated the pictures are, the less an animator can do per week and the lousier the motion looks.
Having experience animating teaches you this fast and cures you of wanting to write crowd scenes and complicated costumes and difficult camera angles.Animation is also potential magic and you need to be able to draw and animate somewhat so that you can take advantage of what kind of magic animation can actually do well. An experienced animation artist's understanding of what cartoon magic is is much different than a non-visual person's is.”
“Here's what Jeffrey Scott and most animation "writers" think is the magic part of animation,
"In live-action you have to write a lot of real-life stuff, like people's problems and crime. But in animation for kids I can make up wild stories, write sci-fi or fantasy, and dream about worlds and see them appear on screen. This would be too expensive in live-action, but in animation it only takes an artist to draw some pictures and there it is!"

That’s one person’s opinion. Just one’s. Just as this blog is one person’s opinion. Mine. I’m not pretending to speak for an entire industry here and my gut tells me, neither was Jeffrey Scott.

“In other words, the magic is that you can slough off all the responsibility of having to know what you are doing on an artist. You don't have to do the hard part. You can write a bad live-action style epic with huge elaborate sets and a cast of thousands, and magically some poor artist (or hundreds of them) is stuck with making it happen - at 12 drawings a second.”

Here's a news bulletin for all cartoon writers: ANIMATION IS NOT CHEAPER THAN LIVE-ACTION. GET THAT CRAZY IDEA OUT OF YOUR HEAD. WE HAVE TO DRAW A PICTURE FOR EVERY 12TH OF A SECOND, SO MULTIPLY YOUR CROWD SCENES BY 12 AND THEN AGAIN BY HOW MANY SECONDS OF SCREEN TIME THE CARTOON IS ON FOR.

I am aware of this. I work with budgets and stay within them.

Lets play with some definitions here.

Instead of calling it the “hard part,” lets call it “labor intensive.” On a show where the story board artists aren’t writing, and are working from a script, this is a complaint about the amount of work that needs to be done, not the quality of the materials being produced.

I agree with the point about elaborate sets and crowd scenes. I agree those can be crutches. But if a writer on a script-driven show is working with producers, directors and board artists that are treated as equals and respected for their opinion… those things can be caught long before anybody has to spend too much time for too little pay off.

And if not, that’s what overtime is for.

One person cannot produce an animated series by himself.

“Obviously, drawing a storyboard gives you a much better idea if a scene or cartoon will work than writing it in words. You can just look at the storyboard in continuity and see it.

Even artists who try to write scripts realize this quickly.I learned by having to draw scenes I first "wrote" in words that some things I thought would work didn't. Then when I sat down and drew the ideas I invented many scenes, character bits and gags that I would never have thought of just by typing the ideas floating in my head and wasting time trying to verbalize them.
Somehow, much magic comes out of your pencil without you consciously dreaming it up.”

Whereas for me, that magic starts on the written page, and moves forward from there. You’re an artist. You draw your ideas. I’m a writer. I write mine. Which brings me to:
“Someone who can't draw will try to argue that he thinks visually, but unfortunately for him, he can never prove his point. In order for a blind writer to prove that he thinks visually, he has to get an artist to prove it by drawing the pictures for him. He can't get his wonderful pictures out of his head without the aid of someone who can draw. If the writer doesn't like the artist's interpretation he has no way of explaining how to do it right.”

No, but he or she CAN explain what he wants differently and if the writer created that show, that’s life.

There is a difference between a job, and a career. Don’t think for one minute the person who was drawing a hammer or an anvil for your production isn’t waiting for the opportunity to sell their own project and be in charge.

Every production has people that are doing their job because it’s a job. And if you’ve never heard otherwise, it’s because people are afraid to be honest to a show’s creator or executive producer with the following:

You work on other people’s dreams because you love what you do, but unless you’re dead on the inside, you’re working to get better… so you get your chance to create something YOU want to create, and then get your vision out there.

John, as one human being to another, I’ll say this:

I respect your talent, I respect your history.

I hope someday I create something that matters as much to fans and the industry as much as your work does and did. And I’m not even saying you’re wrong, for your opinion, on how you want to create your cartoons.

But it amazes me how someone who has spent their entire career working in color can be so incredibly black and white.

- Steve

27 comments:

Bob Harper said...

Pretty good letter. I disagree with this part:

"I agree with the point about elaborate sets and crowd scenes. I agree those can be crutches. But if a writer on a script-driven show is working with producers, directors and board artists that are treated as equals and respected for their opinion… those things can be caught long before anybody has to spend too much time for too little pay off.

And if not, that’s what overtime is for."

That enviroment doesn't exist in most cases and we don't get overtime to "fix" what's not working with the script or boards.

Also on a side note you'd be surprised of the low amount of production artists who actually want to sell a show.

Stephen Worth said...

What makes a writer’s ideas any more or less awkward than yours?

An artist will immediately spot the awkwardness and correct for it because he has to make it work visually in a 3" by 4" panel. A writer's awkward idea will be locked in stone as "network approved" before the storyboard artist even gets a chance to point out the problem with translating those awkward words into pictures that actually work as pictures on a screen.

Both Walt Lantz and Walt Disney insisted that all of their films be written visually using the storyboard. So did every other studio of the golden age. Ted Sears. Mike Maltese, Warren Foster, John Dunn, Bill Peet, I. Klein, Ben Hardaway, Ted Pierce, Otto Englander, Joe Grant, Elmer Plummer and Larz Bourne all drew their stories, and they were responsible for the most successful animated films of all time.

As good as Batman and Rocky & Bullwinkle are by current standards, they don't hold a candle to even the mediocre cartoons produced in the golden age. And just because Cathy and Drabble are created by cartoonists, but look like they were drawn with their feet, it doesn't mean that the process of visual storytelling isn't valid.

This isn't just John K's personal opinion. Every golden age artist I've ever spoken to have had the same opinion. In 1964, Chuck Jones coined the phrase "visual radio" to describe dialogue based animation. It seems to me, he knew what he was talking about.

See ya
Steve

Anonymous said...

::But if a writer on a script-driven show is working with producers, directors and board artists that are treated as equals and respected for their opinion… those things can be caught long before anybody has to spend too much time for too little pay off.::

if you really truly believe that board artists are treated as equals with writers you are either completely naive or completely blind.

Stephen Worth said...

If the writer doesn't like the artist's interpretation he has no way of explaining how to do it right.”

No, but he or she CAN explain what he wants differently and if the writer created that show, that’s life.

That is *exactly* the reason why shows waste so much money on work that never ends up on the screen. When non-artists are running the show, they can't *show* the artists what they want, they can only *tell* them what they don't want after all the work has been done. This leads to endless "parallel parking" revisions that eat up budget.

If all of this wasted effort was channelled into things that actually ended up on the screen... like animation... television animation wouldn't be quite so much of a wasteland of static geometric shapes standing in as two dimensional symbols of living, breathing characters.

Here is an example of a cartoon written by a cartoonist (Bob Camp) using an outline and storyboard. Read this board and then rent the DVD and watch the scenes as they appear in the show. You'll notice that the basic staging, continuity, expressions, posing, plot points, dialogue and design all exist in the storyboard pretty much the same as in the finished show. Notice how all those elements work together to make the scenes stronger and the personalities more defined and vivid.

It takes 20 non-artists to write an episode of Family Guy. Their scripts give no concrete indication of anything but dialogue- lots and lots of dialogue. But that's OK, because the animation is reduced to a puppet show basically mouthing the words- words that rarely express any individual personality.

But don't get me wrong... The writers aren't the only problem with shows like Family Guy. The blame goes all the way to the source.

Think of the greatest animated cartoons that you've ever seen... Define what makes them great. You'll find that it's more than just one element. Great cartoons creatively balance design, posing, color, music, sound effects, plot, gags, dialogue, expressions, voice acting, rhythm and movement to create a unified, harmonious whole that puts across a unique performance. Lousy animation just jabbers and tells jokes. It's like the difference between Buster Keaton and Bob Hope. One's a brilliantly directed expression of personality. The other is a bunch of random jokes.

Great animation requires a strong director who is a master of his medium, not someone who draws worse than the kid assistants he hires to trace his crude scribbles.

See ya
Steve

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

Much of what has been said here and on John's blog relates to TV. I come from the feature world where I have, for the past 13 years, had to deal with writers who didn't understand the medium and frankly, didn't care to. Working with these people is an excrutiating waste of time and money, but because the management at the studios have no respect for artists in general and story artists in particular, dealing with them was and is a fact of life.
The worst was at a particular studio where management fired 2 highly respected seasoned feature animation directors and replaced them with 2 Ivy league educated punks who couldn't draw and had NEVER worked in feature animation before. The results were and are disastrous. They don't understand the medium and have no respect for the story artists who are breaking thier backs trying to help them make their idiotic movie.
The ONLY studio where the story artist is recognized as a valuable commodity is Pixar.
Funny, they seem to put out the best films, don't they?

Anonymous said...

oh that's probably just a coincidence... just because their movies are consistently a thousand times better than every other studio's shit films? nah... there's no connection.

Eric Trueheart said...

Personally, it seems a little bit elitist to put down shows like "Family Guy" or "South Park." Their animation may be crude, but those shows (at their best, anyway) are really, really funny, and wouldn't work nearly so well in any other medium.

I knew an animator from Canada who said he didn't like South Park because the animation was so crude. "Why can't you have great animation and be funny?" A fair point, but can you imagine South Park done in the style of classic Warner cartoons? Sure, it might be prettier, but just wouldn't have the same punch.

Artist-driven shows and writer-driven shows (generally) have two different styles of humor. While I don't expect the same kind of visual sophistication in "Family Guy" that we got from "Ren & Stimpy," I would never expect John K. to come up with something like "South Park's" Tom Cruise / Scientology episode.

It reminds me of when indie comic people put down people who draw mainstream comics as though it's impossible to find goodness or artistry in both.

As a separate matter of curiosity, I wonder when was the last time John K. actually had to deal with a writer, anyway? The man's been pretty much writer-free since the "Ren & Stimpy" days, hasn't he?

Eric Trueheart said...

Bob Harper said: "Also on a side note you'd be surprised of the low amount of production artists who actually want to sell a show."

Any idea why that is? I know Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network are big into artist-driven pitches.

Sib said...

Hey, Stephen...

I gotta take you to task on one issue. I understand the issues that you, as an animator, have with shows like Family Guy - but to say that the words express no individual personality is, I think, taking it a bit far.

You really think that Stewie has no discernible personality? And neither do Peter, Quagmire or any of the other characters? I think that the scores of fans whose allegiance brought the show back to the airwaves would disagree. Audiences won't become vested in characters with whom they cannot relate.

I think that saying those characters have no personality because they have no visual fluidity or articulation would be like saying that there were no true "characters" during the Golden Age of Radio because you couldn't see them (and, remember, one of the most endearing radio characters was Charlie McCarthy - a wooden dummy).

And, yeah, I know I walked right into a land mine by likening an animated show to a radio program...thus proving your Chuck Jones point. And...I'll grant you that point. My point is (and it's reiterating what Eric said above), different shows are entertaining for different reasons - and verbal funny is just as valid as visual, even in this medium.

You referenced Rocky and Bullwinkle. I'm sure you'd agree with me that the first season of that show was visually atrocious. But, still, one of the best shows ever, because of funny, well-told stories, and memorable characters...with personalities.

Giggidy!

Bob Harper said...

Eric Trueheart said "Any idea why that is? I know Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network are big into artist-driven pitches."

True, but most production artists I work with at those studios prefer to be artists and not write or develop a pitch package etc. Especially when confronted with the process of working with devleopment execs. Many are to humble, shy or inexperienced into believing they can actually run a production.

A few of us got into this business to produce, but we are in the small minority.

Steve said...

Bob Harper writes:

"True, but most production artists I work with at those studios prefer to be artists and not write or develop a pitch package etc. Especially when confronted with the process of working with devleopment execs. Many are to humble, shy or inexperienced into believing they can actually run a production.

A few of us got into this business to produce, but we are in the small minority."

That's the dilemma then, isn't it?

Unless you sell a show, you can't run the show... and if you're not running the show, you're at the mercy of the person, or people, or studio that does.

In some cases, maybe that's the greatest job in the world, and in some cases, you're working on something you believe is flawed... but that's the job.

I wonder if that's really what the discussion is about? You're being paid for your passion (animation) but you have no control over the final project...

We've all been in that position before, and it's frustrating as hell.

Stephen Worth said...

can you imagine South Park done in the style of classic Warner cartoons? Sure, it might be prettier, but just wouldn't have the same punch.

If the visual aspect of South Park was as strong as the dialogue, and all of the tools of the animation medium were fully exploited by a talented animation director, the show would be a hundred times more effective. You'd be laughing at how it looks as well as what's being said.

Dialogue based shows are like telling a joke... you hear it once and you never need to hear it again. Shows with great animation transcend that because the joke is being *performed* in a funny way. We can watch episodes of Jackie Gleason ranting and raving on the Honeymooners or John Cleese doing silly walks on Monty Python a million times and still laugh at them because the performances retain the humor.

That's why a few hundred Looney Tunes have been played over and over again for decades, and they still remain fresh, but an episode of Family Guy or South Park that you've seen a couple of times already usually induces you to click to the other station.

See ya
Steve

Stephen Worth said...

Responding to several things in one post...

You really think that Stewie has no discernible personality?

From the episodes I've seen, Stewie is the only character that almost always has dialogue written specifically for the character. The rest of the characters regularly speak in "writer-speak" as if the writers have a joke they want to shoehorn into the show and they say, "Let's see... which character hasn't spoken lately..." Family Guy isn't the only show that suffers from this. You can hear "writer-speak" in most TV. It's not a symptom of bad animation per se; it's a reflection of bad dialogue writing.

Personality in dialogue is just one aspect of a performance. Expressions, body attitudes, gestures, physical mannerisms and the way a character moves are just as important to conveying a living, breathing personality. It's as hard to imagine Mickey Mouse saying, "What's up, Doc?" as it is to imagine Groucho Marx walking like Chaplin's Little Tramp. These are strongly defined personalities in all aspects of the word.

You referenced Rocky and Bullwinkle. I'm sure you'd agree with me that the first season of that show was visually atrocious. But, still, one of the best shows ever, because of funny, well-told stories, and memorable characters...with personalities.

I don't think it's one of the best shows at all. The reliance on dialogue was a cheat, and the show suffered because of it. The proof of that is easy to see... just look at Bill Hurtz's brilliant bumpers and title sequences... Rocky & Bullwinkle in the lightning storm in the cornfield... the parade of exotic dancing girls and elephants in Sherman and Peabody... the little fairy flying around the book in Fractured Fairy Tales... and compare those to the Rocky & Bullwinkle pun laden, meandering episodes themselves. If it wasn't for the great voice acting, that show would be downright unwatchable.

Imagine if Rocky & Bullwinkle was as good as those bumpers... You can sort of get an inkling of what it would have been like in the Fractured Fairy Tales, which are at least designed nicely. At Ward, they enjoyed making the Cap'n Crunch, Jets and Cheerios commercials a lot more than they enjoyed making the shows themselves, and it showed.

Unless you sell a show, you can't run the show... and if you're not running the show, you're at the mercy of the person, or people, or studio that does.

Hopefully, you are at the "mercy" of a talented director with a unique creative vision... That's what I look for when I consider working on projects. I don't care about "running the show". I care about producing the best cartoon I can. If someone has a talent and skill to contribute that I don't have, I'm certainly not going to stand in the way of him contributing if it makes the show better. The game is making cartoons, not climbing corporate ladders.

By the way, I'm not an animator- I'm one of those evil producer guys. But I'm in the minority... I actually understand the creative process and know how to facilitate it.

See ya
Steve

Dave said...

I find myself nodding along with many of John K's blog posts, but then I watch his stuff and there's a disconnect. I know it's a bit of a cheap shot, but if he's such an expert on storytelling, why hasn't he told a decent story in 15 years?

I admire his passion for the form, but it gets a little precious and insular. It's great that he wants to maintain classic standards of quality, but I just don't get his narrow view of where animation is now. Why can't there be wordy animated sitcoms? When there's a huge audience for them, after all. It feels like in denying everything that's more popular than what he does, he's coming off like the hold outs that claimed sound or color ruined cinema. Even if you agreed with their staked out aesthetic, at a certain point the rants get stale and silly.

Rather than criticize all the crap, I'd love to see him nourish something, anything, that doesn't come from his own little circle. It's like Norman Lear blogging that all sitcoms today are worthless because they're not enough like Maude.

At the same time, I'd love to see his career flourish and reel out some cartoon coolness. What's been stopping him? He had the internet practically to himself ten years ago. Why couldn't he make it work while Happy Tree Friends or Homestar Runner managed to carve out a nice niche business? I'm sure Stephen Worth could shed some light here. My own feeling is, even if you have all the technique in the world, if you have nothing compelling to say you'll have a tough time drawing much of a paying crowd.

dave said...

And just to preempt, because I know Stephen Worth has a special bot, or call center in India, scanning the net to answer these critiques -- yes "Ren Seeks Help" was better than the others, but I stand be the broader point.

Sib said...

responding to Steve Worth again...

I really think what we're parsing here is a simple matter of taste. I, personally, like the pun laden dialogue in Rocky and Bullwinkle. Clearly, you don't. And I'm pretty sure that the show isn't revered because of the bumpers (although I agree that the 'lightning in the cornfield' piece still rocks today).

Once again, I'm playing the Charlie McCarthy card. He was one of the most beloved characters on radio...and Edgar Bergen was able to create a memorable persona armed only with good material and fantastic delivery. Yeah, people may have known the puppet from vaudeville and movies, but that was no guarantee that it would translate and flourish in a purely aural medium.

You stated that "dialogue based shows are like telling a joke - hear it once and you never have to hear it again".

That's funny - because as a kid I spent countless hours listening to great comedy albums...Cosby, Carlin, Dick Gregory, Cheech and Chong, Pryor (if my parents weren't around)...and I never got tired of hearing them. Disembodied voices, telling funny jokes. No other embellishment necessary.

Again, it's a matter of taste. To me, funny words are a lot like music...and verbal comedy is just as satisfying as visual comedy, if it makes me laugh.

You say "ee-ther" and I say "eye-ther", but let's not call the whole thing off. :-)

Sib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Worth said...

Puppet shows on the radio are a perfect analogy for the absurdity of scriptwriters creating cartoons. It's a good thing puppet shows on the radio didn't catch on! Can you imagine White Fang, Senor Wences, Champy the Lion or Froggy Gremlin muscling out Jack Benny, Fred Allen and Burns and Allen on the radio?

Remember in Life Of Brian where Eric Idle was the radical with the People's Liberation Front of Judea demanding that their manifesto recognize the right of men to bear children? This reminds me of that scene.

See ya
Steve

Sib said...

Hi again, Steve.

Now, we're getting to the point. What I thought was a difference of opinion is actually just a simple bias. Kind of an Al Campanis-y one (actually, maybe even worse, since I believe that Campanis was misconstrued...but that's for another kind of blog).

Your argument about puppet shows on radio was clever in its avoidance of my original thesis - that Edgar Bergen was able to create a believable, well-rounded, fully formed, funny character out of a puppet, on radio, with words.

Tell me, what should those of us who write cartoons for a living do? Write screenplays, sitcoms and TV dramas? Because, last time I checked, I can't operate a Panaflex camera, either...and in your narrow view, that would make me incapable.

Stephen Worth said...

Edgar Bergen was an exception because he was a lot more than just a ventriloquist. My point was that it would be totally stupid to institutionalize "puppets on the radio" as the proper way to make a radio show. Imagine if someone wrote a book for other puppeteers telling them how to make radio shows and networks required that every show be made by a ventriloquist.

That is EXACTLY the absurdity that exists today in animation. We've got a book by a writer telling how to write cartoons... and networks routinely require scripts for cartoons.

For the first fifty years of animation's history... the era that brought us from Felix the Cat to Mickey Mouse. From Snow White to Fantasia. From Tex Avery and Chuck Jones to UPA... EVERY SINGLE CARTOON WAS WRITTEN VISUALLY BY CARTOONISTS. In the past 50 years... the era of He Man, Scooby Doo, Shrek and the Muppet Babies... ALMOST ALL CARTOONS WERE WRITTEN BY SCRIPTWRITERS.

Why do current cartoons pale in comparison to older ones? The cost much more. They take longer to make. The crews used are many times the size of the ones in the old days. We have amazing technology that should aid us in making cartoons that are BETTER than the old ones.

But we don't have better cartoons now. We've got loudmouthed puppet shows that have replaced cartoons. We get lousy cartoons because we make them in a wasteful and illogical manner.

Writers can do great things with words. Novels, short stories, Yes! even live action movie scripts. The reason it works for live action, but not animation is because of the actor. Words don't get to the screen without a talented performer to bring them to life. Art Carney and Jackie Gleason weren't funny because of their words. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton certainly weren't! The reason they were funny was because of their abilities as a performer. Writers can help them, give them situations to work from, but the actor brings it all to life.

In the old days of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, animation was all about performance. Animators studied Chaplin and Barrymore to learn how to "act with a pencil". But today, we have removed the performance from the animation. If you don't allow an animator to create a performance, the way they aren't allowed to on South Park, the Simpsons and Family Guy, you'll never get a character that rivals the vividness of Dumbo, Bugs Bunny and Droopy.

Writers are great people. They serve a noble purpose. They should stick to what they do best, and not try to do what they aren't qualified to do. I wouldn't want a brain surgeon to build my house, no matter how good of a brain surgeon he is. Writers shouldn't be creating cartoons.

See ya
Steve

Sib said...

And you wouldn't want one marrying your daughter. Got it.

Stephen Worth said...

Well, that's a good way to reject what I say without actually answering any of the points in my argument.

See ya
Steve

Sib said...

No...but I was hoping my snarkyness would get you to admit that you are pretty inflexible in giving writers any credit whatsoever. Is it really your belief that we serve absolutely no purpose? None? I think that's disingenuous and, in its own way, quite bigoted.

Look, as I type this, my six year old son is watching a compilation of Tex Avery cartoons - that I passed along to him - so I, at least, understand the core of your argument. They're among my favorite cartoons. Not crafted by writers. Incredible visual humor. I get it.

You, on the other hand, have shown an unwillingness to give any cartoon writers any credit at all.

BTW, Gleason and Carney were incredible performers...but the writers of that show understood where the heart of those stories were, too. As much as you say you admire writers, you seem to give us short shrift in all media.

One last thing - like it or don't, there are animated shows that are created and driven by writers. They really don't seem to be taking airtime away from artist/creators...but what they are doing is keeping lots of people employed. That includes artist and animators, who then complain about crappy their lives are because they have to work for writers (even as the next paycheck clears and the rent gets paid).

I think that, philosophically, we have reached a total stalemate.

Bob Harper said...

Sib Said,
"...That includes artist and animators, who then complain about crappy their lives are because they have to work for writers (even as the next paycheck clears and the rent gets paid). "

Talk about blanketing people. Don't worry, we complain about board artists who never animated, production managers and directors too, so don't feel alone. :)

It all boils down to the type of shows you want to do. If you are content with animated sitcoms, then the writers are essential. If you want to make cartoons like Tex Avery, then writers need not apply.

The problem is the system. I've gone in to pitch with designs and a storyboard and then was told to write a bible, loglines, story arcs character descriptions, and motivations etc. for a season's worth of material.

That is why, many artists don't try to get shows sold, and why do they need to be show runners to have a fun work environment?

Ideally the system would work closely to what Crippen and Jay Ward did. Have everyone involved in the process from the beginning - actors, writers, designers, board artists, directors etc.

It doesn't exist overall in the biz. The reason writers are taken the brunt of this argument, is that in most part they are the least visually qualified in this visual process and it "starts" with the script.

If it is written, non-animation friendly, then everyone else has to "fix" it throughout the process. With production schedules the way they are, you can see why some are upset over problems, when they know if they had a say in it, it would be addressed and maybe fixed before everyone else gets bogged down.

Like I have stated earlier, I have no personal hate for writers who don’t want to learn to draw, but understand the angst shared by my fellow cogs.

Sib said...

Great response, Bob - and I have to say that I have absolutely no quarrel with any of your comments.

For the record, I would like to see more Tex Avery type shows...and I'd be happy to steer clear of those and let those who tell stories visually do their thing. I'm not just a writer, I'm a fan.

And, at the very least, non drawing writers should strive to look beyond their little piece of the puzzle, think visually and learn from the talented people around them, to produce more efficient, workable scripts. To not make at least that effort is extremely lazy and arrogant. And, yeah, I know those people exist.

Oh and, uh, sorry about the glaring omissions in my blanketing. :)

Eric Trueheart said...

"The problem is the system. I've gone in to pitch with designs and a storyboard and then was told to write a bible, loglines, story arcs character descriptions, and motivations etc. for a season's worth of material.

That is why, many artists don't try to get shows sold, and why do they need to be show runners to have a fun work environment?"

This is a very good point, though I have to say, as a writer, I've been told many time any pitch I have is handicapped without artwork. It depends on the network, of course, and what they happen to be looking for at the time, but it seems when it comes to animation, artists and writers actually need each other.

Go figure.

Eric Trueheart said...

Steven Worth said:
That's why a few hundred Looney Tunes have been played over and over again for decades, and they still remain fresh, but an episode of Family Guy or South Park that you've seen a couple of times already usually induces you to click to the other station.
Well... With respect, speak for yourself, Steven. It's a matter of taste, isn't it?

I just watched the old Simpsons episode, "Last Exit to Springfield" the other week, and was surprised at how well it held up over ten years later. "South Park" almost always gives me a laugh because of the writing, the voice acting, and the timing, and the same goes for "Family Guy."

And you have to be honest: not every Looney Toon was pure gold. We've only been fed the cream for decades.

Don't get me wrong, I love Looney Toons to pieces, and I'll be the first to admit that the animation on even the worst of them is better than the animation on any episode of "The Simpsons," but they had their share of so-so outings just like anyone else.

Just because a cartoon is board-driven doesn't mean it's got a free ticket on the genius train. Anyone out there run out to buy the DVD of "Heckle and Jeckle?"

Yeah, me neither.