Saturday, December 29, 2007



I'm a member of ASIFA. I've hosted the Annie Awards. I like a lot of the people involved in it. I support the organization.
But god almighty, I cannot stand the narrow, if you can't draw you don't even deserve to be a part of animation history attitude of their Archive. So... I'm tossing it out here for debate.

To see their top ten "most important topics," click on over here. There is intelligent, decent commentary, as always. Stephen Worth is a library of information about the history of this business which - even though I couldn't draw if you put a gun to my head - I love being a part of.

But, as always, there's this abject hatred of animation script writers that drives me nuts. Apparently, here was the big point for the top ten discussions about animation: #8 - Animation writing.

That being said, I'm opening it up for discussion here. And, as a dues paying member of ASIFA, I figure I can cut and paste just like everyone else. My comments will be in BOLD AND ITAL.

2007 Review: 8 Writing Cartoons

As the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive completes its second year in operation, it's time to review the accomplishments of the past year. Over the next week, I'll be posting a countdown of the ten most important subjects we've covered in 2007. See if your list matches mine. Click on the link to see more on this topic.

Cartoon Writers


One of the best things to happen to animation in the past few years is the growth of blogging among animation professionals. Topics that used to be discussed only in obscure trade journals or at private symposiums are now discussed publicly on the internet, where participants from all over the world can benefit from the exchange of information.

Agreed. Regardless of your opinions, it's been nice to share stories, history and information. Hey! So far, we're on the same page!

One of the principle catalysts for discussion on the net is John Kricfalusi's blog, All Kinds of Stuff. A series of John's posts on writing for animation created a wave of comment across the "blogosphere". (1)

Good god, I don't know where to start. But what the hell... lets try.

(1) Agreed. And I like John K's blog. Most of the time, it's informative. It's fun to read. Yes, everything is touched with his opinion and point of view, but the guy is talented and smart and I like to visit his blog. Besides, who's blog ISN'T touched by the bloggers P.O.V.? I'm just as guilty.

A prominent cartoon scriptwriter vehemently disagreed with John's opinion that cartoons should be written by cartoonists. (2)

(2) I have my doubts about this. I would be willing to say that "prominent cartoon script writer" (whoever it was) was more trying to make the point that there are more than one ways to write a cartoon. And if he disagreed with anything, it's the same thing I vehemently disagree with, which is that script writers have no place in animation.

Maybe that person DID say that cartoonists shouldn't write cartoons. But if he did, that makes him a moron. Okay? No animation script writer truly thinks cartoonists shouldn't be writing cartoons.

Are we clear? Can we move on?

But when he was asked to name his favorite golden age cartoon writer, the scriptwriter was unable to come up with a single name... This isn't particularly surprising because THERE WERE NO CARTOON SCRIPTWRITERS prior to 1960. (3)

(3) So what if there were no cartoon scriptwriters before 1960? What does that mean? There were no computers either. Or Wacom tablets. Or internet. Or, courtesy of the era, probably not a lot of minorities and women in positions to create cartoons either. Should we go back to that, or how about we just accept the fact that things evolve and there's more than one way to do something? Good Christ, it's like listening to my Grandfather complain about new music, children and all their "hipping and their hopping."

Many people working in animation today have very little idea of how cartoons were made in the first half century of the medium. But Walt Disney was happy to tell you how he wrote his cartoons...

...and it was the same at every other golden age animation studio...

Here's the Terry-Toons story department...

...and a "script" for an MGM Tom & Jerry cartoon...

...and a page from the "script" to Max Fleischer's Mr. Bug Goes To Town...

...and this one from Warner Bros by my pick as the greatest cartoon writer of all time, Warren Foster. Check out the link below for a complete storyboard by Foster from the pilot episode of The Yogi Bear Show.

For that, you should go to the ASIFA ARCHIVE SITE - It's their images and film, it's worth watching, and it deserves your support.

After the first of the year, I'll have some more storyboards to post.

Stephen Worth
Animation Archive

So, to Steve, I say this:

There are people who got into cartoons because of The Simpsons, or South Park, or Family Guy. THAT is the animation writing they aspire to. That's what THEY find funny.

There are also plenty of people who got into it for Spongebob, and Ren and Stimpy, and the Flintstones and the classic Warner Brothers cartoons. Hell, that's where my initial love of cartoons began.

But what *I* like in a cartoon, and what I enjoy seeing in a cartoon, is different now. It doesn't EXCLUDE the classics... but includes stuff being done right now that I think has it's own level of importance.

It doesn't make me the absolute authority on all things writing, it doesn't make me "the rightest person in the debate." But it doesn't make me wrong, either.

So I propose this to the director of my archive. Post five scripts you like. FIVE. Five scripts that were written since 1960 that you, as the director of this archive is open minded enough to look at words on a page that turned into cartoons and go "Hey, this is good enough to be recognized."

Use that encyclopedic knowledge of yours and give me some examples of scripts you think deserve to be archived as well.

Come on, man. I'm giving you 47 years of history to find five cartoons where the scripts were written first, and animated later. Give script animation writers some examples of what they can aspire to, since we're part of ASIFA as well.

I bear the Archive and it's director no ill will. And I also know, by the way, that I am WAAAAY out numbered in this discussion on the blog-o-sphere - that's simple math. The artist to writer ratio on any cartoon is heavily (and justifyably so) tilted toward artists.

But what I'm asking doesn't seem unreasonable. Can you do it? Will you even try?


Author, Atheist, USN Veteran said...

Since being an animator.. I know of Jules Engel, Jan Svankmejer, The Alexiefs, Norman McClaren, Winsor McKay, Ruth Kissane, and about four dozen others that are spilling out my mouth that I can't type fast enough-- who have written and produced their own work prior to 1960. I know of them because I spent my years studying with Jules and Ruth, and my cousin, the late great Seamus Culhane told me who he worked with when at Disney and at the other studios. He had scripts for Betty Boop, and Gulliver's Travels. Ub Iwerks also wrote fervently. It breaks my heart that the animators on TV don't see the pin boards, the sand, the sculpted, the Oskar Fischingers of this world.. because they are still here. Doing great work... and will never be considered "cool enough" by some of the folks who limit the world's animation history. I hope there's a place for Joanne Priestley and others- the women who work independently, and artistically, in all of this. I know, as one, I hope to find my place in the art that I love deeply. Thanks Steve for being so involved. I was there when Bill Moritz and my other calarts people were... all of my friends, now dead, seem to be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

I can't agree more with the above post. Well said!

Stephen Worth might be a useful resource on some subjects, but he is also a revisionist historian with an agenda. If it was done in the last 30 years and John K. or Ralph Bakshi wasn't involved, then it's garbage. If it involves CG, it's garbage. If it involves scripts, it's garbage. If it involves big studios, it's garbage.

It's hilarious that his central opinion is that only classically trained artists can be animators, and only animators should be involved in animation creation. Yet he's neither an artist nor an animator. Maybe it's a classic case of "those who can, do; those who can't, teach (or rewrite history and run the archives)."

Anonymous said...

-The artist to writer ratio on any cartoon is heavily (and justifyably so) tilted toward artists.

And they are all so pleased to be thrown to the pavement so Patric 'Class of 3000' Verrone can continue his LA deal-making. Thanks for the additional treat of beating up ASIFA, too! Can't wait for you to host again.

Steve said...

Dear anonymous;

Since I understand the whole point of internet debate is to take the tiniest things, blow them out of proportion, make your argument, then go, I'll say this really simply:

1) I am not complaining about the ratio. I understand it.

2) I am not beating up on ASIFA. I am proud to be a member of ASIFA. Unlike IATSE or TAG, I don't have to be a member. I choose to be a member. I have issues with a very specific point of view of it's archive.

3) I have nothing against Stephen Worth - I think his passion is important, I just wish he had a wider view of what was considered history.

4) I think the archive is important, I just wish it to be more than the cartoon equivalent of a "Creationism Museum" where history is picked and chosen to fit a specific agenda.

5) I can't speak to "Class of 3000," and what happened there. If it sucked and artists were thrown to the curb, then that is NOT the math that I am constantly trying to debate/fight for in story board artist and script writer equity.

Okay? There. Crib sheets for the next anonymous comments and now, you can't put words in my mouth. I mean, you will... but now it'll be a little harder.

Have a good Sunday.

Steve said...

Oh! Hey, one other point worth making.

ASIFA - The organization - has a writing category in the awards show every year.

ASIFA - the organization - seems to have ZERO problem lauding writing.

The Annie award for writing in a television production the last five years went as followed:

34th Annual Annie Awards: The Simpsons
33rd: Spongebob
32nd: King Of The Hill
31st: The Simpsons
30th: King of the Hill

ASIFA - The organization - seems to get that board and script writing deserved to be lauded as writing.

That's an organization I like being a part of.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you need to check out Michael Barrier's site. His latest post, and an older post he links to, debunk a lot of Worth's blowhardiness.

Bob Harper said...

This is a debate really between you and Steve W. and the small percentage that give a shit of where cartoons start, either from a script or boards.

Your desire for him to accept script written cartoons as worhty of praise or enjoyment is equalled by his desire that animation writers learn how to draw. What's stopping either of you?

Neither one of you need to prove anything based on both of your backgrounds. Suffice it to say there are these two camps, and that's fine. There will never be a shortage of talented artists willing to work on a written show/movie, nor will there be a shortage of talented writers willing to take a supporting role to a board driven show/movie.

This universal animosity towards each other is overblown - just look at the very limited number of those who spew the hate, then actually talk to many folks in the industry and you'll see the difference in attitudes.

I think the best thing to promote animation script writing is to dissect animation scripts, good and bad as he and John K do with cartoons. This will inspire the future writers to become better writers.

Now if you jerks would just pick up a pencil and draw...:)

cpo snarky said...

Well put, Bob - and I agree totally. Steve, I think you of all people should know by now that trying to get Stephen Worth to bend on this issue is a brick wall not worth banging your head against. I stopped caring about his opinion off animation writers about nine months ago.

I just finished reading Steve Martin's memoir about his days in stand up. During the height of his success, his very difficult father was a constant source of disparagement - even going so far as to publicly pan "The Jerk" in his local real estate newsletter (for which he justifiably caught hell from his friends). Martin's decision was to simply stop discussing his work with his father. Why give him that much power over it? At the end of the day, the only things that really matter are the respect of your peers, and the satisfaction of the audiences who enjoy your work Anything else is just noise.

Later today, I'm going to take Bob Harper's advice: I will pick up a pencil, put words on a page, and draw my salary. :)

Steve said...

Bob and Snarky;

Valid points.

Would still love to see the "written by" list.

- Steve

Anonymous said...

Steve Worth is just a mouthpiece for John K. He’s regurgitating the gospel as passed down to him. Others that hang with John are much of the same ilk to the point of mimicking the cadence of his speech and copying his sayings and gestures. (are we talking cult here?) It’s pointless debating with Worth. You need to seek out the godhead and discuss the issue directly with him - provided you are deemed worthy of a response.