Friday, May 4, 2007

Screw it. I'll take the bait.

Good God, there's so much disconnect here, I might have to reply sentence to sentence, but I will.

WHAT A LOAD (etc) writes:

"maybe they don't understand YOUR version of story structure with the typical cartoon writer's devotion to having an A, B, and C story (jammed into an 11 minute cartoon)"

Fair enough. But if the EP hired the writer, who hired the board artist; and the EP told the writer to write the kind of structure that drives you nuts; and it was obvious what kind of show it was before you took the job - then you need to suck it up and walk it off. You took the job knowing what you were walking into.

When I was a comedian, and I was "hosting" because I wanted to get better, I had to take all sorts of shit jobs that I didn't want to take in cities I never wanted to visit, so I could get stage time I needed to get better.

When I worked on Cow and Chicken, I knew it was a board driven show. To complain about that, to be furious about it, would be insanity. It was a really good experience, but clearly, it's not my first choice in narrative.

You take a job, you do the job. Soap Box stands are for those who can afford them, or are willing to sacrifice for them, or have enough toy/merch money they dont need to worry about those decisions or create the show.

"with a complicated and confusing "story arc" (a term people love to throw around to make it sound like their nonsensical scripts are justifiably over-written) and endless stream of bad puns and weak catchphrases."

For shows like Spongebob, you're right. You don't need a complicated story arc. But when it comes to boy's action, you do. It matters to the kid. And whether you want to admit that or not, the kid is who you're doing that show for. You don't like story arcs then don't board on those shows. Ta da.

"I've seen whole scenes torn out by artists"

oh the horrors! maybe this was in the interest of actually meeting the deadling and turning in a board that actually works within the timeframe of the cartoon.

And if the artist is right, and it works, then that artist has made an excellent decision. But if the artist has tossed out something that's important to the story arc you don't care about, or the story that you don't care about, then it's not great and all you've done is create conflict.

One of the things on "Danny Phantom" that made people's lives easier is when a board artist would come to me with the script, and point out things they thought were confusing, or unneeded. That artist usually read the script first, and thumbed stuff out on the script, rather than simply plowing ahead from page one as though the script was the word of God.

Those were the best episodes, by the way - the ones where there was collaboration.

"gags destroyed, and character arcs lost in favor of the artist going off on some tanget they think is "cool" visually, rather than holding to the integrity of the story."

i don't believe this for a minute since most storyboard artists are so browbeaten by the system that makes writers gods and board artists shit that very few have the bravery to dare deviate from scripts. but for the sake of argument, let's say that's true: cool visuals are why kids watch cartoons. period. be grateful the artist cares enough to try to make it cool. the clever wordplay and pop-culture references that make you and your sit-com buddies chuckle is lost on young viewers because they actually have taste.

Ill split the difference with you here. Yes, pop culture references are probably lost on kids. Clever wordplay, maybe not so much, depending on how it's written. But, at least from my experience, I like to put things in there that make their parents laugh as well. I try to make the comedy work on dual levels, because parents are the ones who keep the TV on, and turn it off.

Parents, by the way, are the reason we have to deal with S&P, not the kids. To me, it's important to not bore or offend the parents in a kids' cartoon so you can continue making it.

"And when the artist is approached about this in an effort to find an agreeable solution"

now you're REALLY creating fiction. this never happens. ever. writers don't give a good goddamn about artists no matter how many cocktail parties you throw or blogs you take up saying "we like you." bullshit.

Unless you've wired every animation production in Hollywood, you don't know that. Maybe you've worked for writers that don't give a good goddamn about you, but then again, you've got a pretty dour attitude and I can't say that you wouldn't get your attitude reflected back at you like a mirror.

if writers wanted to make nice with artists, they'd quit their bitching and learn how to write for animation and stop denying the overwhelming lack of quality in cartoon scripts.

So, do me a favor: Give me the names of some cartoon writers that you think are good examples of animation script writers and why. Name people you LIKE. That you RESPECT. That would work for and with without complaint. Who do you feel should be teaching the rest of the writers?

and by the way, blaming an artist for "killing a gag" is every bit as chickenshit as a board artist blaming the overseas studio for killing the board with bad animation... if your precious gag didn't work in the storyboards it's most likely because you didn't give the artist enough information to make it work. you guys forget that just because you can visualize it in your head doesn't mean everyone else can, and if it's not on the page it's going to get lost in the shuffle.

Agreed. Somebody was telling me that they worked on a show where the script would read "And the fight begins" followed with a "TBB" which stood for To Be Boarded. Yipes. I try to write just enough direction in action to keep the plot going, or if I have an image in my head that's really important to me, spell it out... but I also leave it loose so that the board artists don't feel totally confined by the words on the page.

Split the difference. Trust the team and the process.

i'm not saying there aren't shitty storyboard artists out there... there are plenty of shitty storyboard artists.
but storyboarding is about ten billion times more complex and requires about a million more seperate skill sets than being a scriptwriter. it's a harder job. period.

I dunno about that. It's a longer job, to be sure. It's a lot easier to tell who's great and who sucks, that's also to be sure. And with writers, there are a lot more people who think they can write and think they're funny and aren't, and don't know it.

The stand up comedy analogy is when actors and B celebrities go up on stage and take valuable stage time away from good comics who want to get better. You just... wait for them to get out of the business, and they don't, and it's soul crushing.

and shitty writers make an already impossibly hard job even harder.

maybe you'd get better results form your board artists if you helped make their lives just a tiny bit easier. being overworked breeds deep resentment and i'm sure lots of board artists hack out their work because if the script is shit to begin with, why should they break their backs to polish a turd?

oh... right... it's their "job" to "punch up" the script... add that to the already daunting list of "duties" a board artist has.

go write a bad pun.

See, and here I could say "go doodle something on a napkin and wonder why you didn't get a 20 episode pick up," but I tend to not go there.

Here's the way, I think, it works right now:

Cartoon Network: Artist driven, board driven, gag driven cartoons.

Nickelodeon: Mostly script driven shows, except for Spongebob. Before anybody goes "See?!?" Oddparents and Neutron are ALSO successful, and they are scripted shows.

Disney: Mostly scripted animation, but they are also beginning to do board-driven shows.

Now... go find a production you'd like to be a part of, where your contributions will be appreciated in a way that you feel they deserved to be, and you can work in a way that you want to work - and maybe, just maybe, you'll be a happier person.

- Steve


Bob Harper said...

You can break it down all you want but now it has all turned into a broken record on all sides.

The basic fact is a bad script makes everyone else's job harder. If it is a board driven show, then a bad board makes everyone else's job harder.

As much as I hate bad design and animation, etc. They don't make a writer or board artist's job harder.

We're in a system that makes those of us on the bottom of the food chain have to deal with all the shit passed down from the top. Closer you are to the top, the less shit you have to deal with.

s.r. hulett said...

Steve --

Some producers on script-driven shows have over-long scripts which board artists are asked to draw from start to finish, even though everyone knows there will have to be cuts.

If those same producers would cut scripts to length before handing them off to board artists, that would be a good thing, yes?

what a genius said...

Now... go find a production you'd like to be a part of, where your contributions will be appreciated in a way that you feel they deserved to be, and you can work in a way that you want to work - and maybe, just maybe, you'll be a happier person.

gosh... why didn't i think of that sooner?! it all seems so easy now.

Steve said...

SR - Good point. I know that we try to keep things down in the EMR/As recorded by stage. Once the record has been cut to a "radio play" and an "as recorded" script has been created, that's when the show is handed out for board.
That way, the writer isn't constrained, but the animation crew isn't getting tons of stuff that will be unused - be it because of length, or because it's unweildly or unimportant.

Genius - Ah, snark. Great. I am trying to have a conversation, but if you want to continue being annoy and bitter, I don't know that there's much I can do here.

- Steve

Marty said...


I should point out that Cartoon Network also has a few script-driven shows (mostly boys action like Ben 10, Transformers and Teen Titans -- technically Warner Bros., but Cartoon-Network-driven). Interestingly, the network doesn't seem to promote the script-driven shows as hard -- even though Ben 10 is one of their biggest hits. I can only assume the feeling from the execs is they run counter to Cartoon Network's "brand identity" or something like that.