Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Walt Disney VS Ted: on Who Should Write Cartoon Stories



Well, here's how it all started.

I made this offhand remark in my post about Pie Pirates the other day:

"I firmly believed that cartoonists should write cartoons and had convinced Nickelodeon of it. Not every cartoonist can write of course, but only cartoonists should write cartoons - just as only dancers can "write" (choreograph) dances, musicians can write music and sculptors can "write" sculptures."

I had hoped I could sneak this axiom under everyone's noses, but alas Ted caught me.

Outraged that I thought cartoonists should make cartoons and musicians should make music, he decided to teach me a lesson and refute me in the comments. When I saw the comment I was paralyzed with fear. Caught!

I thought to myself, ""Wait! Ha hah! I have comment moderation on! I just won't publish the comment and no one will see how weak my theory was."


But then came this ominous threat:

At 7:11 AM, Ted said...





....
Attempt 2:
You don't really explain why you think only cartoonists should write cartoons. You just say you are convinced of it (and that you convinced Nickelodeon of it; are you going to say if someone can convince Nick something is the case, then it must be the case?)and make analogies that are not so clear cut (the church, government and private clients generally wrote what classical and renaissance sculpture or paintings would be, often to the point of saying "make it like this other Madonna" or similar, and dance is often written storywise by non-dance sources; see, for example, The Lion King, or Cats). The artists executed the final product through their own artistic lens, and added incalculably to the work, but it's wrong to say they were the sole writers.

You also don't address other, more similar artforms, where it is not the case; live action films and television are almost certainly the most analagous artform to cartoons in terms of story structure, and yet people are not up in arms when a movie isn't written by a cinematographer, set dresser, or director.

So, why is a cartoonist the only person equipped to create (or lift) a story structure? Why is a cartoonist the only person who can write a line of dialogue like "cling tenaciously to my buttocks"? Or a line like "You're next! Meeester Doggie Treeeeat !"? If cartoonists are so important to the process, why are the two specific examples of cartoonist added content lines of dialogue? Why are cartoonists uniquely qualified to take someone else's story and swap in new wackier elements? Why are cartoonists uniquely qualified to watch old cartoons, glean what works about the story structure, and regurgitate it in new and interesting ways?

There's a big difference between saying "some cartoonists can write great cartoons or add great story or dialogue bits to cartoons", which your comments support, and "only cartoonists should write cartoons". A cartoonist might have all the technical skills to be able to make a cartoon from story to embellished drawings by herself and a non-cartoonist cannot make a cartoon by herself because by that definition they are lacking the technical drawing skill sets of the cartoonist. How is your assertion that a non cartoonist cannot have the technical skill to write a cartoon story structure or dialogue any different from the assertion of a broken studio system that says cartoonists cannot have the technical skill to write a cartoon?

-Ted
http://lovehatecartoons.blogspot.com/


So now I knew I had to do something. Knowing that I couldn't possibly defend myself against Ted''s razor sharp deductions with my own meager wits, I decided to ask my old buddy Walt in Heaven to give us a few words to defend the honor of cartoonists everywhere. Please Walt! Make them give us our business back again! We wanna do it the way you and everyone else did it back when cartoons were creative!



Walt seems to be saying, "Ted, are you serious?"



Who are these mystery people at the Walt Disney studio in the 50s?
They are the "writers" who don't use typewriters.
Here's what a "script" looks like for a cartoon picture.




















"Ted, I just gotta go with Walt on this one"









Hey Ted, thanks for the really good questions. I'm just havin' fun with ya! I knew somebody would want to know what the difference between classic cartoons and modern ones are, so your post was a good excuse for me to show everyone! ...soon I will have to prove that musicians used to write music too. Remember when there were tunes you could hum after you heard a song? The same guys who "write" modern cartoons must be writing rap songs now!


Now, if you don't believe Walt Disney, maybe you'll listen to Walter Lantz:

http://klangley.blogspot.com/2007/02/walter-lantz-cartoon-director.html

135 comments:

Charlie J. said...

Ted's threat is runnin' off the page, Johnny

Gabriel said...

the walter lantz clip actually explains it more directly. The writer and the director must be artists because the story is written, not drawn. What's simpler than that??

Stephen Worth said...

The live action format that most closely resembles cartoons is the slapstick comedy short. In the excellent documentary, The Unknown Chaplin, you can watch outtakes which show Chaplin building his stories from improvised comedy bits performed and refined without a script.

See ya
Steve

Tim said...

It's been so long since I've seen Lady and the Tramp, I sure hope this wasn't your "why it can't be beat" post, because I'd love to hear more opinions on it.
I think the shift in the cartoon writing procedure is so interesting, I can't imagine many modern cartoons 'draw their scripts' anymore.

JohnK said...

"I can't imagine many modern cartoons 'draw their scripts' anymore."

Not many do, but it's not the choice of the cartoonists.

JohnK said...

Oh and don't worry, Tim. I'm gonna do a whole bunch of posts about Lady and The Tramp. And about lesser known Milt Kahl animation. (My favorite Kahl stuff)

Clinton said...

Where are all the Walt Disney documentaries on animation? They should make a DVD about it. I remember Tartakovsky in Samurai Jack and Pixar in their DVDs pitching from storyboards.

Nick said...

Question: Were Micheal Maltese and other looney tunes and merrie melodie "writers" cartoonist because they are credited as writers?

Paul B said...

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ahahhahahahaa

NEW STUFF ON MY BLOG!!!

David said...

What about Heck Allen, a novelist credited as writer on many many Tex Avery shorts? What about Michael Maltese?
I agree that cartooning skills would be extremely helpful for anybody writing cartoons, but history seems to show that they're not always totally essential.
D Cairns

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

A terrific, terrific post! On a different but related point, there is no such thing as a good cartoon script in the abstract. A story is only good if it fits the unique abilities and limitations of the director and artists who work on a project.

All directors specialize. It's a waste of a good action director to give him a script with a lot of subtle dialogue, even if the dialogue is brilliant...and visa versa. A script has to fit the talents of the people who are going to execute it. That's why an artist/director needs to supervise the stories, and artist directors always prefer to work with storyboards rather than scripts.

I hear writers exclaiming," But what if the script is really, really good!? What if we have a knack for this sort of thing?" My answer is that there is no such thing as a really good script, taken out of context. In live action you wouldn't give a W.C.Fields-type script to the Three Stooges. You wouldn't give a Jerry Lewis script to Groucho. Yet this kind of mismatch is routine in modern animation. A story has to shore up the strengths and downplay the weaknesses of the people who will execute it. It has to be tailor-made.

I love to write stories and I've written them on both script and storyboard formats. The boarded stories always turn out funnier. That's because a board provides constant feedback on how the visuals are going. Sometimes good ideas just don't look funny when drawn and it's nice to be able to toss them in favor of something that draws better.

Also, scripts are made to be read on a printed page and that effects what's written, usually for the worse. As an example, scripts tend to be dialogue-heavy, even when they're written by artists. That's because dense paragraphs describing visual action are boring to read. Trim little columns of dialogue read easier and faster. They look better on a page. It's an amazing but true fact that cumbersome, unfunny, dialogue-heavy cartoons get made for the trivial reason that their scripts are easier to read.

Last but not least, drawn stories tend to emphasize visual gags, the thing that animation is best at. When I'm drawing I naturally pay more attention to the way a character looks in clothes, the way he bends to pick things up, etc. Sometimes these details are so funny that I end building a whole sequence around them. Comedy is often about little things. Scripts are all about big things and complex subplots.

Now that scripts dominate there are very few visual comedy cartoons. John has kept this medium alive almost single-handedly while the rest of the industry struggles to regain wakefulness. For this he deserves wheelbarrows of money and a convertable full of naked women.

Kris said...

Lady and the Tramp is one of my all-time favorite animated movies. Do you have any plans to talk about Dumbo later on?

And as far as non-cartoonists writing cartoons, I wholly agree with you. I've illustrated short comics written by people who couldn't draw before--always a nightmare. Too much dialogue and most of it really difficult or impossible to illustrate, resulting in a lot of boring talking heads.

Pico said...

Awesome Disney Clip! Thank you King John of Buttocksland!

Ted said...

None of the questions I raised were answered by Disney; Walt doesn't make a case for the why of his statement, it's simply existential (and not even a position; it doesn't advocate anything, it just says how it was; the Lantz piece has better support, but only in that in the system they used the writer as defined by Lantz also storyboarded (altho why the various other writers and gagmen in the bull session where the story and gags are worked out verbally, not pictorially, before the storyboarding would need to be cartoonists is not explained)). And as presented Disney's statement is almost certainly misleading if not an out and out lie. Or are you saying the story structure of Lady and the Tramp was initially created in drawings instead of in a verbal manner? Are you saying the fairly refined drawings shown in the clip are how the film was initially born, fully formed from the side of Walt's head? You're implying that storyboards are where story and story structure come from for cartoons. Maybe there were only visual writing elements when you ripped the story off directly from Pie Pirates. Maybe Onwards and Upwards came completely from visual elements and maybe that's why it has so many good looking gags that fail to work as a tv half hour for so many people (including you, as I recall). Maybe if you can't support your position, you should reexamine it.

I recall you championing a system where creativity was encouraged at every step of the process. Do you have so little faith in directors and storyboard artists that you think they can't do their job if they have to actually be visually creative? Do you believe people who aren't cartoonists cannot adapt to writing in a way that gives cartoonists room to do their thing well? Or is it simply that you need to create an esprit de corps so that cartoonists will get behind you and therefore you feel the need to denigrate everyone who is not a cartoonist regarding cartoon matters? You know, like using a font that implies stupidity to present an opposing party's statements.

Your position could have been that people who write cartoons should study cartoons in terms of stories and learn from the classics (or even just a well constructed narrative). That makes a good deal of sense. But you added in "only cartoonists can do it". That is not a prima facie truth, and remains unexplained and unsupported. Instead of presenting a case for your position, you chose to simply make a point of not answering the question in big bold letters and saying "that's how they did it in the old days, therefore it must be why they were good". At best this post confirms that yes, that's how they did it in the old days. But it does not automatically follow that because they did something in the old days, that is what made the cartoons good.

Kate said...

It's nice to see someone graciously accept a defeat of the wits. So many people too up tight about their ideas no one cares about. Everyone should just relax, and get over themselves, just a touch.

the plummer said...

This was a great post, and it really establishes the problem of the misconception of "writing" for cartoons. Ted may have had pointed remarks about if cartoonists should "write" for cartoons, why not anybody?...but that's the thing...they can't truly be "written" for (ala Mr. Disney in the clips). If all the good, classic, and well done animated features and shorts were only written and gone about just like any other film, they probably wouldn't have been animated.

I think Ted may have wanted an answer that "Yes, non-cartoonists can write cartoons...but they probably won't be any good."

You can't truly get points across if you script a gag in a cartoon, or a specific color symbolization and composition of a scene. If you solidly script pantomime, there's nowhere for the animator to take the character. A desk jockey, with no cartooning background, and who's job it is to approve of your script for Ren and Stimpy tenaciously clinging to Toast Man's buttocks, is going to stare blankly at you and ask how that's supposed to be funny...if it's just laid out in words. And if it's a non-cartoonist writing that scene...well that scene probably wouldn't even exist. This is why I feel that cartoonists should "write" cartoons, and part of what I think you were trying to get across, John.

lastangelman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gochris said...

Why are TV cartoons written by writers instead of cartoonists? Because TV is not a visual means of communication. TV is pictures of people talking.

You can’t watch a TV show for more than 15 seconds without hearing some character open their mouth – TV is all about telling instead of showing.

And TV cartoons are pictures of cartoons talking. No story information, like who a character is or why they do what they do, is ever conveyed on TV in purely visual terms. (Except for some TV commercials)

But movies tell stories by showing instead of telling. And of course classic cartoons do this too.

But because TV cartoons are paid for and managed by TV people, TV cartoons will always be all about talk, and not about action. TV cartoons will never be about movement or expressions or animated acting. Usually there isn’t the time or budget to develop characters visually. Or the faith in artists to do their job.

But of course it can be done - so much of what makes Ren and Stimpy great are the expressions, and the acting – and those are the things no writer with a typewriter can convey in the same way a cartoonist can.

In the end, TV cartoons don’t need writers, but the history of TV is that writers with typewriters always wrote scripts, and eventually it made sense to TV execs for TV writers with typewriters to write cartoons too.

Oddly enough, perhaps the people who set this trend were Hanna Barbera. Did Mike Maltese do story boards when he wrote The Flintstones? My guess is yes. So at what point did writers with typewriters invade cartoons? Was it Jay Ward?

Anyway, cartoonists should write cartoons. Writers with typwriters should stick to Law and Order.

chucky said...

Tedd Pierce wrote most of his cartoons by script from at least the late 40s on. His art was so poor they had to hire a sketchartist for him. This fact is partly evidenced in Maltin's book.

I don't think anyone with an ounce of intelligence considers Mike Maltese or Warren Foster cartoonists anyway.

Your philosophy of "Cartoonists should write cartoons" is a poor one, as evidenced by Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon.

Sean said...

Most of those disney documentaries are from the walt disney television shows of the 50s and 60s and I believe are starting to show up as bonuses in the walt disney treasures dvds.

It took me a while, but Im beginning to understand John; a few points to noodle on, my fellow devotees and doubting ducklings

I enjoy some of todays animations, the simpsons, futurama, invader zim. im not going to deny or apologise for that. However, there are two distinct kinds of pleasure coming from those shows versus ren and stimpy or betty boop. The modern show is an almost entirely intellectual enjoyment. not meaning bookish, but that the characters are so sparsely acted (in drawings) that most of the entertainment comes from adding the voice, the decent writing of jokes, and occasionally an unusual camera angle up in your head and coming up with a laugh. for the amount of personality in the actual drawings (as opposed to designs) you might as well insert the actual storyboard panels every three seconds and do some after effects animation (oops, thats already been done, sorry aqua teen hunger force)

wheras well done animation is a visual enjoyment or a visceral enjoyment or something... youre enjoying it with your eyes first, before your brain adds in the voices.

ok, maybe that analogy falls apart a bit, but theres got to be some other quantification for these popular shows other than 'people dont know better'. although with the recent 'stewie in place of jerry' remix, er plaugerism, im not so sure. However, I fully support the voice acting of the simpsons cast for example. thier characterizations have always made me laugh.

ncross said...

Someone should ask "Ted" if he's ever actually read a script for a cartoon written by a non-cartoonist; it wouldn't be hard to do since almost every script for a cartoon show is written by (for the most part) unfunny non-cartoonist morons!

Stephen Worth said...

Did Mike Maltese do story boards when he wrote The Flintstones?

Yes.

So at what point did writers with typewriters invade cartoons? Was it Jay Ward?

The first I've heard of is Charlie Shows, who went from a Disney writer, doing scripts for True Life Adventures, to being a scriptwriter at Hanna Barbera. His hiring coincides with the time period where H-B shows started going downhill.

Tedd Pierce wrote most of his cartoons by script from at least the late 40s on. His art was so poor they had to hire a sketchartist for him.

Here is a picture of one page of a Tedd Pierce "script" from 1949. We have scans of the entire "script" at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. Can you draw better than Tedd Pierce?

I don't think anyone with an ounce of intelligence considers Mike Maltese or Warren Foster cartoonists anyway.

Here is an example of a "script" by "non-cartoonist", Warren Foster for a Yogi Bear cartoon.

I have a couple of complete "scripts" by Mike Maletese and Warren Foster here at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. They sure look like stories written by cartoonists with cartoon drawings and not words to me. If you'd like to see it and see for yourself, stop by sometime. You might find out how far your ounce of intelligence goes.

See ya
Steve

:: smo :: said...

the funny thing is, as obvious at the statement "cartoonist should make cartoons" is, ted's comment brings up a really good point, albeit inadvertently: a whole lotta stuff goes into the making of an animated cartoon. so much that one can confuse and break apart the process. which is totally what's happened.

everyone emulates the 40's, but a lot of people forget a lot of things. the best cartoons were made then because they were done this spontaneous idea driven way. there was excitement and fun driving them. just like the jazz of the era. did charlie parker, dizzy and monk sit down and write out their bop sessions? hell no they made it up on the spot, they ran with it. they were musicians. they knew what sounded good. just like these guys are cartoonists. they know what's funny, what's working, and how to execute it. when you're making funny cartoons you understand inherently what goes into the process. most of these guys knew music too. they had a metronome on hand and that plays into making gags too, with the timing. sure they had non cartoonists come in and give funny ideas sometimes. clampett and his friend flash would sit around and come up with gags, but clampett would translate them to the cartoon...because he knew cartoons, timing and music.

anyone can make a cartoon, just like anyone can paint a picture or make music. HOW GOOD IT IS, sure as hell depends on if it's what you've devoted your life and energy to or not.

JohnK said...

Hi Nick

it's an argument based on deduction from not enough precise definition of terms and absolutely no experience.

Every animation cartoonist has direct experience of trying to make a script page make sense visually when it just doesn't.

It's like having a theory of what would hold a house up without ever having built a house to see if the house stays up based on your dumb theories.

I'm gonna get into all of this more with future posts about the correct way to write cartoons.

:: smo :: said...

"Question: Were Micheal Maltese and other looney tunes and merrie melodie "writers" cartoonist because they are credited as writers?"

yes. michael maltese started as a cell washer in new york, moved his way up to inbetweener, headed to schlesinger and they saw he was a "riot" and he became a writer. but he drew everything.

saying writer is just a way of saying "a cartoonist devoted to making stories"

Gabriel said...

And TV cartoons are pictures of cartoons talking. No story information, like who a character is or why they do what they do, is ever conveyed on TV in purely visual terms. (Except for some TV commercials)

What about Mr. Bean? He is mainly a tv character, even if he doesn't show up very often. I wonder if someone thinks he sits down and writes all that stuff from his head directly to paper. I bet he probably develops his stuff kinda like Chaplin did, and getting a lot ideas from props and set elements, etc.

Anyway, while I don't side with you Ted, congratulations on finding a way of making John acknowledge your post, haha. About 1/3 of my comments here are vetoed for some reason.

S.G.A said...

Dear Mr. K , Why waste so much energy pointing stuff out like this whole Ted guy thing?
It seems to me like so much energy is wasted, trying to fight off people who want to remain willfully ignorant.
You can't reason with someone like that.
Why waste anymore time trying?
Just do what you can to put stuff you beleive in out there and stop wasting all your time complaining about how dumb executives are.
If you tell the kids what the good stuff IS and put it out there on your blog, they will put it to good use then you can hire them.
If I remember correctly Tex Averuy once spent so long animating, that they had to drAG HIM TO THE HOSPITAL AND STICK A CATHEDER IN HIM! And Tex didn't even run his own studio. To hell with complaining ,and arguing... Make some cartoons you beleive in... Maybe it seems like a step backwards , but they'll find a home and make you money.
I mean really Mr. K George , jimmy and Sodie , are Great characters.... What are you wating for! Tv sucks we need 'em!!!!!!!
Even if they are animated no further than they we're on the old Spumco site... Get cartoon Network to run them on Adult swim!

chucky said...

The credit to Tedd Pierce on that storyboard is erroneous. Pierce used scripts and it is documented in "Of Mice and Magic". Of course, that means all of those Foghorn Leghorn cartoons are garbage, right?

I don't see how well I can draw is relevant to the conversation. How well can YOU draw, Steve? Not well from what I hear.

Ted is 100% accurate and I am glad he is refuting the garbage being posted here.

murrayb said...

Pantomine and sight gags can't be written well, a structure can be laid down verbally , but it will bw re-written visually by the storyboard artist anyways. The fact is the storyboard is absolutely nessecary, the script is not.

I think its partly a question of format. There's an adage in script writing that a page equals a minute of screen time in live action. cartoons are supposed to be about a page and a half.

the problem with not writing scripts for TV is that you need a three act structure (22 minutes with 2 commercial breaks)
Looney toons were 6-8 minutes, and features were 90 minute-ish.
You can time your "Pitch" session, but that is a totally dead art,and TV studios cant afford that space/overhead/time to pin up those panels.(Well... service studios cant.)

The result is always better with boards, but its a non time efficient method, TV is factory work most times.
Writers are a dime a dozen, Creative funny storytelling board artists are not.

Also, execs can not understand storyboards, even in animatic form. They cant "read" it.(unless you stage it very plain and boring. They will then decide to spice it up with gimmicky editing after the fact.
Until non artist execs are gone, OR 22 minute format goes out the window,
OR vinette shows like Ren and Stimpy and Beany and Cecil start being bought by networks again,
scripts will have to stay.

Basically TV cartoons suck for VISUAL creativity. Thats why I'm sad drew carey's green screen show never took off. (or a show like it, improv + animation = genius)

Regarding avant garde adult content, scripts are control for execs. The viewing public has been trained to have a knee jerk PC reaction when something unbland happens. They'll only accept it if it's drawn badly; as a pictogram of the overly verbous smarmy script. (south park is a perfect example) Then its "edgy" or "tounge in cheek".(two of my favorite execuspeak phrases)If it's drawn well it would be:

"how dare you use your mom pleasing draftmanship to be offensive! I could tell by the disneyish style (read-well drawn) that it's for children!!I feel dirty, because you actually observed that, and amped it up with nuance past realism into exageration!!"(gasp)

Roberto González said...

Interesting. A little mean too. I must admit some of Ted's theories have some sense to me. I admit I have little experience too. Yeah, I have done storyboards from scripts that wouldn't work visually. Yet again I have watched cartoons scripted by writers that I like and others storyboarded by cartoonist that I dislike.

I would like to put another example, but I really can't think of too many storyboarded cartoons and to be honest, I sometimes don't even know how they made the cartoon I'm watching. I have said it before that I'm not the biggest fan of APC. I think a majority of the episodes have problems in structure or pacing. I will recognize I'm not an expert on it and I'm not saying it's easy to do or anything, but I just kind of noticed it too often. So I don't know what happened there, but the storyboarding didn't make it work so well for me.

But I did like Ren Seeks Help and plenty of the ideas in the other episodes, some moments were really good. And I think Altruists would be awesome with better pacing.

I think something like The Simpsons has generally good pacing and structure (well, at least it usually had).

They are very different, but I'd probably enjoy more a Simpson episode with good pacing than a Ren and Stimpy with poor pacing. But the best thing is clearly a Ren and Stimpy with good pacing. I draw and I like cartoons for their visuals but things like story structure, pacing or dialogue are very important for the enjoyment of a show. I usually find myself enjoying The Simpsons more than The Flinstones, even if the last ones have better designs. I don't know if their pacing is better or worst, it's just different but it's quite slow for my tastes and I don't find the visuals SO interesting to forget that.

I'd like to read specific criticisms on why a Simpson script doesn't work, I think you could make it without insulting any Simpson writer in the process too.

Finally, will somebody say if Heck Allen was a cartoonist or "only" a writer or I'll have to make a little investigation myself? Cause I don't really know enough about the guy.

Mark Sahagian said...

Well, Walt and the gang sure put it all in perspective for US ALL. That speaks quite clearly.
And Steven Worth's comments 'bout "The Unknown Chaplin" is especially relevant to me, as I jusr saw it (repeatedly) about a month ago. As I write this I am putting a package of my storyboards to find full time work in the animation industry, with a new animation I am currently "writing", entirely in sketches...

Thanks John, seriously

Piotr said...

wow that disney clip is fantastic! its so entertaining with just images, very inspiring. thanks john!

Jordan said...

I went to film school, and even for most of my live-action films, I created them all on storyboards.

It helped ideas flow and it kind of skipped the middleman in terms of translating the script to the screen.

I would show my actors the storyboard and it would help them understand the feelings or ideas pretty well.


Jordan

Stephen Worth said...

The credit to Tedd Pierce on that storyboard is erroneous.

Let's talk for a second about the point you didn't address first... You said Warren Foster and Mike Maltese weren't really cartoonists. I have storyboards by both of them at the archive that say you're dead wrong. Do you concede that Foster and Maltese were cartoonists and not scriptwriters?

Now on to the second point...

Please explain to me WHY the storyboard I linked to isn't by Pierce. Story on the film is credited to him. Those drawings definitely aren't by either Maltese or Foster. Who do you think drew them? Assuming that they aren't by Pierce, do you really believe that the ghost-writing artist who did that board was following a script?

Maltin's book is great. But I don't remember it ever saying that the Warners cartoons were written using scripts. Can you please quote the section where Leonard says that? As I remember, there are a few pictures in there showing story men pitching boards that indicate the exact opposite.

Would you like to point out a few of your favorite golden age cartoons that were written in script form?

See ya
Steve

Ted said...

Nick: Can't wait for Waif to arrive. Everyone should go buy it at
http://pyatyletka.blogspot.com/
The only scripts I have around are a Tom Minton Mighty Mouse and some Ripping Friends scripts. I don't think they have non cartoonist origins, but I don't know much about Tom M... They're certainly sparse and wouldn't be especially workable documents to make a cartoon from. Perhaps script writers have been broken from forms imposed in their script writing classes...

John: why do you think you can only educate cartoonists into making better cartoons? Why blame the non cartoonist nature of non cartoonists for poor writing when you say the entire industry needs to learn? Why not teach writers how to write for cartoonists, train them to make the visual aspect an integral part of their narrative thought? Why a system where those who might be inherently strong in narrative are excluded, undercutting the potential for cartoons? In a director driven system why would the visual artists be so beholden to a script page as to not innovate? It's as if the only way you can imagine a cartoon being made is that one person is the impetus behind it and everyone must stay in tight lock step to the boundaries of that progenitor.

s.g.a.: how do you find asking questions to equate with being willfully ignorant?

Stephen Worth said...

Oh... one thing I forgot to mention in case you're interested. I went to art school and got a degree in design from UCLA. I just didn't choose to make drawing my career.

See ya
Steve

The Cartoonist said...

I find it hard to believe that any any cartoonist who has worked under writers would think otherwise. There have already been a bunch of posts that give classic examples of writers who don't undrstand animation and write things like, "the herd of horses run through the river" with no idea how much that work entails.
The best we can do is train writers to be animators (Yeah right).

Pseudonym said...

Ted says:

Why is a cartoonist the only person who can write a line of dialogue like "cling tenaciously to my buttocks"? Or a line like "You're next! Meeester Doggie Treeeeat !"?

Think of your favourite Looney Tunes moment. If you don't have one single favourite, just pick one that you think is particularly good.

Go on, think about it. I'll give you a moment.

Got it?

OK.

I hereby bet you that you didn't pick a line of dialogue. Do I win my bet?

Stephen Worth said...

I would like to put another example, but I really can't think of too many storyboarded cartoons

Just about every cartoon made before 1960 was written visually with drawings... Popeye, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Tom & Jerry...

Heck Allen was a genuinely funny guy that Tex Avery kept on staff to bounce ideas off of and get inspiration for funny gags from. (It is a good idea to have funny people at cartoon studios.) Allen didn't write scripts or board. He didn't even really write stories. He was a gag man who contributed ideas to the storyman and director. By his own admission, his contribution to the cartoons was second-hand at best.

Disney had a policy of accepting gag ideas from anyone in his staff... from directors all the way down to the janitors. He would pay one dollar for every gag used. That didn't mean that the janitorial staff wrote Disney cartoons. In fact, they were urged to illustrate their ideas with stick figures if they couldn't draw well.

See ya
Steve

chucky said...

Steve Worth:

Here it is from the 1987 edition of "Of Mice & Magic". Page 259. Italicized text by me.

"A fine animator, McKimson turned out to be an uninspired director. Working alongside Jones and Freleng, with the same characters and access to the same talent pool, he missed the mark with alarming frequency. It may have been his practice of starting with a written script and then preparing his production sketches that gave his films such an earthbound feeling. He was capable of making good cartoons, and sometimes did - but there is no question that his were the weakest entries in the Warners' output."

And yes, many of those McKimson shorts are some of my favorites.

stiff said...

Ted:

You're obviously a smart guy (what with your French and Latin, and parentheticals within parentheticals [which should probably be bracketed, by the way]), so I didn't want to miss an outstanding opportunity for some friendly, intelligent discourse.

You're right--John didn't directly answer your questions, which basically hinge on his use of the word "only," from what I can tell, BUT, I think he's right in that you two are disagreeing on definitions, and that your pure deduction, which is in fact pretty sound, isn't gonna get the job done (well).

As an example, look at Crime and Punishment. For Dostoevsky to say to himself, in 1860-whatever: "These damn kids today think they know everything, with their 'intellectual' ramblings about percentages and society as a whole. It doesn't work on a human level. Hey! I should write a story about that," he hasn't written a damn thing. And even for him to say, "To get my point across, I'll write a story that pits philosophies against each other in a plot about a murder and the guilt of the criminal afterwards," he still hasn't written a damn thing. He's conceived of a plot. Sitting down and scribbling out 700 pages of text is "writing" the novel. The Renaissance Church didn't "write" anything with the paintings they commissioned--they conceived being able to see what was in the Bible. The artists "wrote" the paintings. Lady and the Tramp: the plot was conceived (by who cares who), and the story was written visually by artists. And really, it's important for artists to be involved in conception as well, since they know (from experience) what can and can't work, and can make sure it gets done well from the beginning, instead of having to patch stuff up later and end up with a mediocre product.

Writing is the art of hammering out the details, which, in the case of cartoons, is most effectively done by drawing it out. And in any art, the artistic details should be left to the artist. The only thing the Pope should be worried about is when he gets to take the scaffolding outta the chapel, so he can show off what a great ceiling he just bought. And you're kind of right--Church officials stipulated some content, like no nudity, at various times in history, but that can only be described as "meddling" at best, not "writing".

But then again, what do I know? I'm just a lowly chemist.

P.S. Latin and French just piss people off.

P.P.S. Why not teach writers how to write for cartoonists, train them to make the visual aspect an integral part of their narrative thought?...In a director driven system why would the visual artists be so beholden to a script page as to not innovate?

Why add the extra step if you need to innovate over it anyway?

stephen rogers said...

Ted use examples to prove his point that are either disingenuous or simply mistaken. For example, it's correct that Renaissance paintings were usually initiated by a patron, be it an aristocrat or municipal body. It would be nonsensical to imply that these were also the people who made the artistic decisions. The reason that modern portraiture took off from Leonardo was not because Leonardo happened to paint certain aristocrats or priests, which was simply the done thing. It was because of his innovations of sfumato and chiaroscuro, which allowed unprecedented possibilities of psychological realism and naturalistic depiction of the sitters - a purely visual artistic invention that can't be utilised by non-visual artists.

Chiaroscuro and sfumato continued to be used in other media - like movies. German Expressionist films like Fritz Lang's 'M' and later American film noir starting with 'Citizen Kane' all use it to create the unique urban atmospheres of those films. To the best of my knowledge, you won't find one example in the script for Kane where Mankiewicz or Welles indicate things like 'Xanadu interior; lots of chiaroscuro.' Nor will you find it in any surviving memos from the bosses of RKO to Welles. This was the decision of Welles the director and Gregg Toland the cameraman. This is why American movies in the late 40s and 50s were so massively influenced by 'Kane' - because of how it looked.

Likewise Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling: although the decision was made prior to his involvement to depict the events described in the Book of Genesis about the creation of the world, the whole ceiling works solely because of Michelangelo's abilities as a painter. Each separate scene needs to clearly identify the subject, be obviously related to the scenes before and after it, and be legible from the floor below - all successfully achieved because of decisions made by Michelangelo, not a team of 'writers.' (Not that Michelangelo lacked skill here - he's recognised as one of the great Italian poets of his time.)

The same is true of dance. You can't argue that because some forms of dance arise as adaptations of stories, they are therefore 'written' by non-dancers. Take Fred Astaire as an example. His movies all use scripts written by non-dancers, and they were directed by non-dancers. Imagine the outcome if the directors or writers of Fred Astaire's movies had said to him, "Right - this is my picture, so I'm gonna tell you how to do this dance number, and you're gonna like it, see?." Impossible. Those movies made Astaire world-famous because of the dancing, not the plots. And the techniques of Hollywood directors were totally unsuited to Astaire's inventiveness, which is why when he came to Hollywood he invented new cuts, angles and ways of shooting dance sequences. The producers at RKO and MGM knew what the results were - that's why Astaire was allowed to rehearse as much as he wanted, why they used the best songwriters in the country to write songs for his movies, why they got him the co-stars he had.

Of course, for all of these innovations to be put into practice there needs to be some verbal communication involved. Astaire doubtless told his directors what he planned to do in each dance sequence before he choreographed it; Welles had to tell Gregg Toland what he wanted to do with a scene since he'd never directed a movie before. This doesn't and can't be taken to mean that the essential nature of either enterprise is verbal. The same can be said of those involved with making cartoons. You can no more sit down with a non-cartoonist and explain how to write for cartoons than you could sit down with a non-dancer and explain how to choreograph a dance sequence. One would have to become a dancer or cartoonist first. Otherwise, the implied condescension is shocking: "I've never learned how to draw, but teach me five easy ways to write for people who can so they'll take me seriously." Just the sort of breezy cynicism that would make for great art.

NateBear said...

All films (or at least good films), cartoon or otherwise, are essentially visual. Otherwise, they'd be books. The whole point is that we can see things happening rather than having someone tell us what's going on. That's the fun part. How many purportedly amazing stories fall flat cuz you "had to be there" to get it? It's the same thing with visual stories; you have to experience it to enjoy it.

Words are better at recounting dialogue and inner monologues but are rather terrible at describing actions, images, and spaces. I've red so many books and plays that tried to describes a specific action or the layout of a room and I get completely lost. I usually have my own images of such specific details in my head already anyway. I enjoy books much more when they focus on dialogues, plot, and concepts. Pages of elaborate description are confusing and boring.

images work in the opposite way., they are very good at describing specific action,s images, and places. In my opinion the best films are ones that focus on stunning visuals, complex actions, and amazing spaces. Lots of movies have great stories, but if that's all that mattered we be a civilization of readers and radio-listeners. We like the total packages and we deserve our bang for our buck when we SEE a film. There are far too many movies and shows that I've been able to experience without looking at the screen more than 10% of the time. A lot of them would have been produced for radio if TV and film weren't eh dominant media. That's also why looks have become requisite for acting careers; audiences need something pleasing to look at while listening to all that dialogue.

Great filmmakers are those who truly utilize and exploit the medium. Groucho could have always had a career on radio or writing, but the Marx Brothers could only work on film or stage.---

Ok.There's more i could say but I lost my concentration. Too many words. You get my point. Look for more in my upcoming book, Nate Rambles Endlessly On All Subjects: Cut Off at 350 Pages

Max Ward said...

Isn't Richard Pursel, who is given story credit on most of the Ren and Stimpy cartoons, only a writer, and not an artist? On the "Powdered Toast Man" commentary while discussing the scene where Powdered Toast Man sticks his head in a toaster, you say to Richard Pursel "When you wrote that, I said "Richard, if you could draw..'" or something like that.

Pseudonym said...

NateBear, just a small nit.

All films (or at least good films), cartoon or otherwise, are essentially visual. Otherwise, they'd be books.

Roughly...

Books are stories told in thoughts.

Plays are stories told in dialogue.

Films are stories told in pictures.

JohnK said...

Chucky used a quote from Maltin's book to prove his own argument wrong. Good boy!

chucky said...

John:

The argument was "Which of your favorite classic cartoons were written in script form?" I love McKimson's Warner cartoons. Maltin's book said they used scripts. How does that quote prove that argument wrong?

JohnK said...

Hi Max

Richard is an artist but he mainly wrote outlines for me. No scripts.

I made him draw that PTM gag for me.

Stephen Worth said...

OK. It's a mistake in terminology. Maltin (and Ted) are calling the outline a script. The order of creation of a story goes: premise / gag session / outline / storyboard.

A PREMISE is a two or three sentence basic idea for a cartoon. (ie: Bugs Bunny joins the Foreign Legion or Snow White told with black jazz characters.

From there, it goes to a GAG SESSION, (known at Warner Bros as the "No No Session") where the artists got together and kicked ideas around. These ideas would have no structure. They'd just be a bunch of doodles and random ideas for gags on the theme of the premise.

The storyman and director would gather up the gags and notes from the gag session and work together to hammer out an OUTLINE. The outline was a listing of the gags from the gag session stitched together into a continuity... with beginning, middle and topper gag at the end.

The storyman would then take the outline and STORYBOARD the cartoon, under the director's approval. The storyboard indicated the basic staging of each scene, the attitudes and acting of the characters, the scene cuts and continuity, and the dialogue. It would also indicate the basic sound effects needed to sell a gag.

The storyboard would then be transcribed into a DIALOGUE SCRIPT, which was for use by the voice artists. Many people who have never worked in animation think that dialogue scripts are the same as live action scripts. They aren't. They're just a description of the storyboard in a convenient form for voice actors to record.

This was the basic process used at ALL the golden age studios to write their stories. No one is saying that there were never story notes written down in words... just that the story wasn't written with words- certainly not the way that a live action scriptwriter sits down at a typewriter and writes a screenplay.

Tedd Pierce may have put more work into the outline stage than other story men, but that doesn't mean that he didn't create the story visually in storyboard form. If you're basing your attribution of that Tweety storyboard on the Maltin comment, you are WAY off the mark.

See ya
Steve

Max Ward said...

When a voice artist read lines, was that from the storyboards, or did they make a script that was only used for voice over artists?

ToonKandy said...

John! I made another blog on here! come check it out:)

I know it sucks:(

~Kristin Ferra

JohnK said...

We usually have actors read from dialogue scripts, that are written from the storyboards.

Tim said...

>>I hereby bet you that you didn't pick a line of dialogue. Do I win my bet?

Well Pseudonym, if we were the ones betting, I'd say you only half-won that bet. Now I know I've probably watched the least Looney Toons as anyone else in these comments (he said ashamedly), but one of my alltime favorite moments, from The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, is Daffy's exclamation about Dick Tracy: "I LOVE THAT MAN!"

...but it really was his physical actions that brought that line to life. It cracked me the heck up how Daffy went about reading that comic.

A.M.Bush said...

This blog post and all these comments are a thousand Christmases to me.

My two cents on the topic.

Yes, cartoonists are the only ones who should be writing stories for humorous cartoons that have lots of visual gags. My reasoning is that I can't imagine any cartoonist putting passion or heart into animating some crap joke written by a normal.

I don't see anything wrong with writers writing stories for stuff like kiddie princess movies or the Simpsons, where the style doesn't allow much freedom for the animators in the first place.

Anne

Ted said...

pseudonym: none of the contenders are simply a line of dialogue cut out of context; most have dialogue as an integral aspect of the moment tho. See, for example, "I'm a fiddler crab! Why don't you shoot me? It's fiddler crab season!"

Steve and Stiff: the trouble with your definition of writing a script for a cartoon being essentially storyboarding is it doesn't seem to jibe with John's definition, as he said "Every animation cartoonist has direct experience of trying to make a script page make sense visually when it just doesn't." That certainly implies he's talking about a written script as opposed to a half assed storyboard; see also the purely non visual story additions John was talking about in the Pie Pirates post. It also wouldn't address Eddie's distinction between two types of scripting.


Stiff's question of: Why add the step of writers? If a writer is not a cartoonist but is better at narrative structure than the available cartoonists/ to allow the cartoonists to concentrate on visual matters instead of dividing their attention between visual and narrative matters.

Stephen Rogers on the examples; they were meant simply to illustrate that the works in question were not purely the result of painting/sculpting/choreography. But I do not think it is disingenuous to say that narrative dance can be written in terms of its story, and that while the desired choreography may alter the story, that choreography often exists external to the level of the story and music; thus, you get various choreographed versions of certain stories/musical pieces. The choreography is integral to a given performance, but its creation is, if not completely immaterial to the narrative construction, is in at least some cases largely immaterial to it.

Film is inherently visual. yet written scripts are not controversial. Hitchcock was incredibly visual, reportedly storyboarding everything so obsessively that producers complained of it being impossible to recut films because he only had one version of every shot and they only fit together one way. So, why can't the type of process going from John Buchan's novel the 39 Steps to a script to Hitch's storyboards to the film itself work with cartoons? Audio's been important to cartoons since about 1929; why shouldn't only people who are cartoonists and foley engineers and musicians and voice artists write cartoons? What good's a storyboard without the spoken voice and the sound effects and a music track? The audio is hardly just window dressing in most good cartoons (or Hitchcock films) post 1930. Neither are the visuals. It might be harder to describe the sounds of a cartoon than the visuals. Why isn't audio proficiency being required of cartoon "writers"?

Stephen Worth said...

I don't see anything wrong with writers writing stories for stuff like kiddie princess movies or the Simpsons, where the style doesn't allow much freedom for the animators in the first place.

Animation that doesn't allow much freedom for animators isn't a style... it's lousy animation.

Disney did kiddie princess stuff well without having to sacrifice visual storytelling, and Tex Avery did great exaggerated topical gags that used the animation medium to make folks laugh. Why can't current TV cartoons do the same?

Before 1962, just about all animation was written by cartoonists visually. Since 1962, scriptwriters have dominated with their words. Which system produced the best cartoons? It seems to me to be self-evident.

See ya
Steve

JohnK said...

Ted,

your non-stop gibberish is a perfect example of what cartoonists hate about meaningless words for word's sake. Words that put you to sleep.

R. Banuelos said...

I don't know how relevant any of this is to the conversation at hand but,

The problem might be in the wording used. Although explained a number of time by Mr. Krisfaluci, the classification of cartoon is seperated from animation it self. Surely animation was created from cartoonist and thus the idea of a cartoon, but animation is not only limited to cartoons. Kind of like the stupid square thing; a cartoon is an animation but an animation is not a cartoon.

All the early "haunted house" movies made were not cartoons and obviously have no application to cartoons (even though I doubt they used scripts). The Simpsons and Family Guy are by fact animations, but cartoons would be a seperate classification. These are sitcoms and usually don't recieve praise for animation prowless. You can't judge a funny Simpsons to a Ren and Stimpy Episode fairly. Simpsons is mostly about the written dialouge where as Ren and Stimpy is about the acting created.

Even writters know you have to act out a scene first to see if it works. Esentially what John I think is trying to say is that a line like "Mister Doggie Treat!" couldn't have been derived unless you knew the actors involved which in cartoons involve both character, animator (layout artist in this case), and voice actor. That is why it takes a cartoonist to write a cartoon. A writter on the Simpson needs only to think of the character and the voice actor. The animator is overlooked and so the artist is taken out of this scenario. With these new 3-D movies, the characters are usually un-developed and forced into what ever celebrity voice is doing the voice over. This then strips the process of all acting except for the voice actor. Animation is the afterthought. Here's another reason why motion capture is used, it's not important that the movie is animated because it's used as a novelty at that point.

I hate long post because I don't even read them.

I laugh at Aqua Teens but never think to talk about it's animation, just like the Simpsons. These are just sitcoms that use animation as it's medium. Both those shows I think have super great voice actors too.

Another thing about Family Guy, Seth comes from HB so he knows about cartoons. He has to have a working knowledge of cartoons, he knows more about cartoons than plenty of cartoonist. But he does not make cartoons. Some scenes in Family Guy are all visual, this is from a working knowledge of acting and cartoons. Dave Chapelle and Conan O'brien both site the WB cartoons as major inspiration for their comedy even they understand cartoons and what makes them great.

If you take the cartoonist out of the story writting process you lose a part of cartoon writing, and thus it's not a cartoon anymore but only an animation. To say only cartoonist should write cartoons is a generalization based on the fact that who in their right mind is going to be so dedicated towards learning cartoons and the cartoon writting process (which must be learned through the orgins which means only cartoonist wrote cartoons mentality) and never pick up a stupid pencil. That's why only cartoonist should write cartoons. Anything else is not a cartoon.

Musicians do write music, no one's writting a song without knowing a note or instrument.

Dancers do create the dance it self.

And a written script only works based on how the director sees it. Ultimately it's the director's vision even though it's someone elses writting.

I hate this long stupid post,
I hope I made a point somewhere along the way.

Max Ward said...

They just played your Stern appearance on his show. Who is Lesley?

Mr. Semaj said...

I'd like to think that there are people out there who like cartoons and can write, but can't draw to save their lives. Look at Futurama, and the Germain-era Rugrats. Both shows had a team of writers who probably knew little to none about the technial animation process, but cared enough about the medium to write some kick-ass stories.

What I believe qualifies a cartoon writer is: 1) a person with literary skills and 2) a person with true respect and admirition for the animation medium.

Gavin Freitas said...

Hey John, I just listed to Stern replay from when you were in there. Man did Billy look bad! After it was over I felt bad for you. Do you still feel that way? You got a love for cartoons like I have never seen. By the way, this post is great. Everyone just yelling at each other, keep up the good work.

CartoonSteve said...

I wonder if Tashlin carried on the "Golden Age" storyboard tradition in his live action films? I imagine he did to some extent, with all the visual gags. Anyone know for sure? If so, wouldn't it be great to see some of those boards - showing a cartoony Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope or Jane Russell?

Stephen Worth said...

Read it all again, Ted. It's in there and you're totally missing it. You're working harder at arguing than you are trying to understand what we're saying.

Before 1962, all animation was created VISUALLY by CARTOONISTS using STORYBOARDS- not just some animation- ALL of it. Since 1962, most animation has been SCRIPTED by people who can't draw their way out of a paper bag. It's self-evident that Futurama and Rugrats are lousy compared to Pinocchio and Bugs Bunny. Even your Mom can see that. Rugrats and Futurama are only good when you compare them to My Little Pony and He Man. They're "the best of the worst of animation".

The reason modern TV animation sucks so bad has to do with the way it is made. Disney and other animation pioneers spent decades developing and refining the techniques that brought animation to is pinnacle. TV animation has discarded all of that experience, and it shows on the screen. It's not enough to respect the medium. You have to be a master of it. Great cartoonists make great cartoons. Writers can't.

You can bet that when I was lucky enough to hang out with Art Babbitt and Grim Natwick, I didn't dominate their attention arguing endlessly with them about things that they obviously had much more experience doing than I did. I sat down and listened. If I didn't understand something, I politely asked for elaboration.

It amazes me that people don't realize how lucky they are to have the ability to interact with people like John on the internet. If they listened instead of blathering about things they've never done themselves, they'd have a better chance of getting something out of the opportunity.

Ever wonder why more great animators don't have a blog? You're soaking in it.

See ya
Steve

Mad Taylor said...

Guys! It's easy...watch a friggin cartoon on MUTE! Try to sit through something written by non-cartoonists. Then watch a cartoon written by cartoonists. Then decide who should be writing cartoons.

However, too many cartoons today have to teach something. It happened somewhere back when Beavis said "Fire!" and suddenly Tom and Jerry was the most violent thing in the world and Speedy and Pepe Le Pew were racist. Seems like cartoons today need to educate or else to hell with it. I'm sick of that and as a cartoonist I'm not out to educate much. I just want a laugh or make shit happen because it can if I draw it. I know some cartoonists do choose to educate, Mark Trail for instance.

Seems like a lot of non-cartoonists can write this boring classroom shit and that's why they are in abundance. I'm sorry, I didn't pay attention in class. I was too busy drawing the fat ass teahcer and passing it to the rest of the class and making them laugh and feel good.

Sean Worsham said...

Bravo John, Bravo,

That's a way to show Ted! Gives us cartoonists the leg up! :)

Gabriel said...

Chucky said:
The argument was "Which of your favorite classic cartoons were written in script form?" I love McKimson's Warner cartoons. Maltin's book said they used scripts. How does that quote prove that argument wrong?

No one can argue about your taste, but for the main discussion (who should write cartoon stories), the quote establish that those stories were written by a cartoonist, and also insinuates that him using a written script was an exception to what everyone else did.

And as one my favorite looney tunes moment i thought of the falling of bugs and dog in the end of Heckling Hare. Haha, i wonder how would be a script of that one. "Bugs and the dog step off the cliff, and falls down for a whole minute, screaming." Who would believe such a thing would be that funny?

:: smo :: said...

it drives me nuts that people come here and try and argue for limited animation, when john is obviously gunning for visual cartoons where animation and motion are a big part of the entertainment, not just a vehicle for story.

cartoons vs. animated sitcoms.

i believe tex avery once said, if you can do it in live action why animate it?

david gemmill said...

i have a feeling ted doesn't draw much.

Roberto González said...

I said:
"I would like to put another example, but I really can't think of too many storyboarded cartoons"

Stephen Worth said:
"Just about every cartoon made before 1960 was written visually with drawings... Popeye, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Tom & Jerry..."

Yeah, I already knew that. I just didn't explain it correctly because of my poor english. I was talking about MODERN cartoons. Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Lab were written visually...what about Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends? What about those Spumco wannabes like that Disney series (Shnookums and Meat, or something like that)? What about Spongebob? I don't know if they write scripts first...The people behind Tiny Toons. Is Tom Ruegger a cartoonist, or Sherri Stoner? That's the stuff I'm interested in, cause that way I could compare modern written cartoons to modern storyboarded cartoons. I have watched several documentaries about how classic cartoons were made, but I want to know more about how they made some specific series I have watched .If I compare modern cartoons to classic era cartoons, or modern cartoons to classic Spumco material, it is clear that modern cartoons have very little to do. But that's probably just because the guys behind those things are more talented, not only because of the system of production.

I know how Spumco works (more or less) and I know something about how they make The Simpsons (that's why I use it in my examples).

And about the whole "dialogue is not the part you will remember better from a cartoon" I will say that Looney Tunes catchphrases are very memorable and "It's discipline that begets love!" is one of the most memorable moments from Man's Best Friend, perhaps even before you start to think about the visuals.

In fact, one of the things I hate from some cartoons is that they don't have good dialogue that reflects the character personalities. If they have that, even if it's a modern cartoon, it's already a lot better than the ones that don't have that.

And thanks for asking my question about Heck Allen. Though, what's exactly the meaning of that answer? That the guy wasn't really a cartoonist but he didn't contribute SO much to the cartoons?

yatindra said...

I have a perfect explaination for TED .

Being known 2 different languages , I know that a " joke " from one language can not be translated in other language with the same essence of humor. Translation definately weaknes it. It loses several other aspects of may be culture or actions or accents or personalities etc etc.

The similar way,just like two languages have a unique qualities , two individuals have unique imagination. We all know this. Its just unmatched .

This is what happenes when a writer writes n someone else visualises it . The visualiser may spoil it , or go close to it or make it more stronger , and this is always unpredictable. Visual gags have humor not because of whats happening in it , but because how's it happening .. A funny drawing has to do 80% with it than explaination of action. And no one person would be able to tell other person " how he should make a funny drawing " cause it all depends on a humor sense of a drawer. ( contrast in size , style , or how well the drawer has enhansed the personality traits , the typical way of movement , sometimes we even laugh on something which creators have not intended to , like how ridiculous that some incidental things apear while the main things are happening ...its just unexplainable ...in WORDS .)

Now this final product that we see on TV is like two people telling a joke . Can we imagine hearing a joke from two people at a time in reality ? ..., right from the timing of delivery or the tone of the narative or attitude of it, or the fluency of a speech ,or the dramatisation of cirtain elements ,OR the flavour of contrast ,...it would spoil lot of things. It sure wont be as successful as one person telling it.

" SO THE TRANSLATION SEEMS USELESS " . ..

This is the same thing we experience when we deal with rough drawings to clean up or ONE WRITER'S LEGENDARY BOOK GETTING TRANSLATED IN OTHER LANGUAGE.

When a cartoonist think of a gag , everything in it is intact. All the things that support humor in that joke , are BLENDED by the same senses SO THEY OBVIOUSLY GEL WELL.


THIS IS THE REASON WHY CARTOONIST SHOULD CREATE A VISUAL SCRIPT ,AND THE WRITERS SHOULD FILL UP THE REMAINING NARATIVE.

FIRST COMES THE CARTONIST N THEN WRITER.

obviously they both should be best at their games.

Some of the above examples can also be applied in live action.
On the base of writer's skeleton of words ,READERS CREATE THEIR OWN SCENE USING "BEST " OF THEIR IMAGINATION . and just like child's
naive reactions , readers senses deliver the best product from his storehouses of knowledge and experience. EVERY READER IS THE BEST DIRECTOR FOR HIMSELF.

Thats why people complain that certain movie based on a book has not given a justice to the book . Cause in their opinion director of the movie has failed to satisfy voids of audience imagination.

and obviousely a writer cant take credit for reader's imagination but simply try his best to guide them towards what he feels.

Oliver_A said...

The way I see it, animation should always be about excitement transported by visuals, because that's where the ultimate strength of the medium lies.

You can have an animated masterpiece which will make you laugh hilariously or electrify your attention otherwise, which will, written down on paper, explaining everything verbally, be absolutely dull and boring.

And, you can have the best story of the world, intelligent, complex, drama, pathos, you name it, but it does not fit for the animated medium because as an animated film, it is dull and boring.

The best animated movies are done by visual oriented people. Animators are visual oriented people. For writers being visual oriented people, they need art training to know what the animated medium can do best.

Now, why not do the obvious thing and give >animators< sense for story structure and development instead of shoehorning writers into these positions, telling animators what to do? It almost occurs to me as some sort of penis envy writers and animation executives have on animators.

It's their medium and they have the right to get it back completely. It's their job to entertain us visually. It's their >profession<.

Concerning voice acting, it's nowadays the same trend, putting the wrong people into the wrong positions. Animated features are not voiced by specially trained voice actors anymore, who have a broad range of voices, but by *ugh* celebrities who can (at best) only be themselves.

Even worse, watch the movie "Monster House". Instead of doing the obvious, doing this movie with the real kids and doing it as a life action movie, no, they have to make it a cgi movie for the sake of cgi only! Doing this ridiculous "attach sensor to the faces to get some human emotion" thing. When watching the making of of this movie, I kept asking to myself "WHY DIDN'T THEY OD IT WITH THE REAL KIDS???"

The modern (or old medievil perhaps) total lack of common sense which infected our brains.

Oliver_A said...

Btw, for everyone who wonders what The Simpsons might have been as a visual gag oriented series, WATCH THE UNAIRED PILOT ON THE SEASON 1 DVD!

Oliver_A said...

And, (sorry John) the BEST case to compare a great life action series with great writing with its animated counterpart, still with great writing but HORRIBLE ANIMATION, compare STAR TREK with STAR TREK THE ANIMATED SERIES. Even if it was animated better, it doesn't work. It only works if you imagine how it would have looked if the real actors would be standing there.

Rafi said...

man, what can I add to all this that hasn't been covered already.... probably not much, but here goes anyway...

From my own experiences of creating cartoons and animated shorts (independent and for TV studios) I find that the basic arc for each character aswell as the overall story can be outlined just fine in half a page, a few paras, for each short. (John posted a great example of this with that Pie/Baboon short).

But the real MEAT of the cartoon, thr stuff that makes it really fun and unique to watch, (setups of gags, the timing and choice of cuts, personality traits that come out in acting choice) only starts to show up in the visualiation process of the situations from said outline.

That's what happens in the storyboard process, and ofcourse someone who thinks visually will be better equipped for this than someone who deals with words.

A picture's worth a thousand words. A brief look at the history of narrative cinema proves this.

An example off the top of my head - think of how long it takes to read a description of Wynton Marsalis' home in Pulp Fiction when Vincent Vega arrives to pick up his wife. Yet, with that one pan across the room the audience knows so much about a character they haven't seen yet.

Sorry, a bit of a tangent there, just thought it might help support the point that when working in a medium that relies so heavily on GRAPHIC / VISUAL + ACTING / PERFORMANCE, it stands to reason that you'd produce optimum results, if your skillset is tailored to this.

Great post John, really dig it. Ever inspiring.

Rafi said...

^---- that was my 2 cents, for what it's worth.

Wanted to add I'm really looking forward to the Lady & Tramp post, I've always thought that and Jungle Book were the epitomy of features from the Disney Studio.

John, do you do requests? If so, here's a couple I'd love for you to build into your post schedule for the future:

[1] "Broom-Stick Bunny" - background & style analysis with a touch on the great posing in this short

[2] "Elephants on Parade" sequence from Dumbo

[3] Any and everything by Ralph Bakshi. I'm a die-hard and would be interested in reading your views on Coonskin, Fritz or perhaps just the genesis of his work.

cheers,
Rafi

Matt Greenwood said...

"Guys! It's easy...watch a friggin cartoon on MUTE! Try to sit through something written by non-cartoonists. Then watch a cartoon written by cartoonists. Then decide who should be writing cartoons."

Try and listen to a good song on mute. Your point is moot.

I like both, I don't see why there has to be a hatred for the other kind of cartoon. I like to watch something more visually expressive, and in my opinion, you can't have both. No cartoon has satisfied both completely for me. I've personally never seen a cartoon that is as visually expressive as old cartoons but has made me laugh as much as Beavis and Butthead or The Simpsons.

lastangelman said...

I'm disappointed to find out Ted is more concerned with being proved right than actually learning something or offering something worthwhile to the conversation. I'm always learning new things here, and on other's blogs about cartooning, animation and other related fields. I don't understand Ted's great offense at your statement John. Is Ted a frustrated cartoon writer who can't draw anything funny, or a troll like chucky who tries to appear a little more on the ball? What's in it for Ted in this discussion? I've read great examples and posts from John K, Steve Worth, Eddie F and others - both pro and con - but Ted has got - nothing.

Lex10 said...

.....reminds me of when Mintz screwed Disney over

Lex10 said...

Looky: no need to publish comment
http://www.glyphjockey.com/2007/02/mashup-video-flip-frog-in-killing-floor.html

The Mighty Robolizard said...

I'm just glad both sides are mature about it...

[Why should anyone put down rules on something as ever changing as a cartoon!? Pictures, scripts, its all good. Scripts write dialgoue and desrcibe actions. Pictures denote subtelty in art. Simpsons uses scripts and leaves it to the director to draw. Fine and dandy, its not a show which requires complex art to achieve its goal, rather most of its subtelty and fun is its grotesque art [at least it used to be...] . Ren and Stimpy requires more complex pictures, so storyboarding worked for it. Invader Zim was a perfect toon which was a marriage of both. All of its writers were cartoonists though, so who knows! Is this really worth a crazy wacky argument of fun!? Writers, take the hand of the artist. Live in peace...]

ncross said...

Modern TV cartoons are primarily WORD driven...good cartoons are VISUALLY driven. No one who doesn't either draw cartoons or work in the animation field actually having to draw storyboards understands that this is wrong or different than how it should be....Nowadays shows start out with an outline but instead of passing this to the board artist it is given to a "writer" that turns it into a full script chock full of words and dialogue. This then gets looked at by all the producers executives and brodcast people before it is approved. Most of the time right after that, the dialogue is recorded. Only then is it given to the board artist to depict visually....there isn't too much room left to add anything that isn't already spelled out in the script. This is the reason shows are so uninspired visually and full of bland talking heads. Chuck Jones famously and derisively called this "illustrated radio" for a reason.
Oh, and if you don't believe me here's a blog that proudly discusses this modern production method:

STEP 1: STORY MEETING

STEP 2: OUTLINE

STEP 3: SCRIPT

STEP 4: DIAL RECORD

4 Steps in and not a single drawing has been done yet....is this right? I guess if you're a fan of modern TV cartoons you might think so; but there is a BETTER WAY!!! The best gags can be put over visually, whenever I've had a director suggest gags to add to a board i'm drawing he never writes it out, he draws it...it seems like common sense to me, but what do I know...

Oliver_A said...

>> Try and listen to a good song on mute. Your point is moot. <<

Nope, it's your point which is moot, because what you describe would be similar to turning the TV off while watching animation.

>>I like both, I don't see why there has to be a hatred for the other kind of cartoon.<<

There are no multiple kinds, The Simpsons or any other modern series counts as much as animation as the classic cartoons.

>>I like to watch something more visually expressive, and in my opinion, you can't have both.<<

And that opinion is the result of the kind of brainwash up to 5 generations of children have been exposed to by watching bland cartoons. "uhhh, duhh, you cant have both... you just cant!!! duh..."

OF COURSE YOU CAN!

>> No cartoon has satisfied both completely for me. <<

The more reason to speak FOR BETTER QUALITY instead of defending or justifying blandness.

>> I've personally never seen a cartoon that is as visually expressive as old cartoons but has made me laugh as much as Beavis and Butthead or The Simpsons. <<

What old cartoons did you watch?

Timothy Merks said...

Wow this is an interesting read! I do more lean towards letting good experienced cartoonists write as they understand the medium better and they know how to get most out of it. Which is basically what this all comes down to.

JohnK said...

To have a Nick Cross on your team and not consult him on the ideas, both visual and story until AFTER the story is written and too long to fit in any visual ideas is beyond idiotic.

When I work with Nick, I scribble out whatever ideas I have so as not to completely handicap him with my own finished drawings and continuity. I want to see what he can create that I wouldn't think of on my own.

We would take a general idea and then knock it around and bounce ideas off each other-both acting them out and drawing quick sketches. Then I'd let him go and develop them further with HIS details and polishes.


Imagine forcing the Beatles to write music that some non-musical idiot tries to describe in words.

Try describing the melody to "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party" to someone and see if they start crying.

Hell, try to describe the "story" to someone. It's not going to be as moving as the perfect combination of the words and music that John and Paul wrote together and that the whole band arranged...together. All musicians that understand how words and music work together.


The people they call "writers" in animation aren't even real writers anyway, let alone merely not artists. They can't put a sentence together that isn't awkward as Hell, let alone a plot or character development.

They are just charlatans, put there to be a buffer between the executives and the real talents-the artists, because executives can't communicate with creative people. They are repulsed by us.

Jorge Garrido said...

Ted, consider yourself owned.

John, thank you for bothering with this idiot for our sakes. The premise itself should have seemed obvious but some people need more convincing, apparently

As good a writer John is, he hasn`t been able to make an idiot-proof blog post. I guess on the internet there`s no such thing.

the clownninja said...

good hand-drawn animation takes an amount of skill and dedication unparalleled creatively. You have to understand how to draw the figure in perspective, complex dynamics of movement, timing, form, color, acting, anatomy, perspective, charicature....
I've been studying art and drawing for 15 years, animation for 7, storytelling for 4. I'll never stop, I'll never be as good as I want to be, and compared to John, or Ralph, or any animator alive today at the height of his game, I just started.
But still, I often find myself working for people who act as if I'm a freak that has a drawing "talent" that is there for "writers" or other people without that "talent" to use to create a product. There is no recognition of an intelligence or knowledge in the field that might extend past the action of drawing repetitive frames of movement. I can paint, draw, sculpt, or animate, but I'm clearly too stupid to understand content. Thats why animator or cartoonists should be writing cartoons, straight up, because we're doing all the real work. If we want to call in someone to
only write dialogue it should serve our artistic vision, because clearly the act of spending our adult life creating cartoons qualifies us to determine what they should consist of, a little more, than say someone 2 years out of college that's mastered writing (talking) and studio politics, just my opinion though. I could be wrong. John, you're doin a bang-up job lately, thanks.

Ted said...

John, just because you don't get the words doesn't mean there isn't something behind them. And just because you refuse to answer questions doesn't mean the questions don't exist. Still I will continue to sing you your lullaby.

Steve: I think the trouble is that there is an assumption that something here is self evident. I disagree at the self evidentiary nature. r. banuelos has come the closest to making a cogent theory to support the position, altho his formulation doesn't explain why the storyboard artists are so poor that they are unable to be visually creative in a system that allows them to alter a script so as to fit visual needs. Yatindra's explanation actually conceives of writers being integral to the process. People keep saying "they did it that way in the old days; the cartoons in the old days were good"; that is not an explanation of why it should be done now. Concomitance does not equate with causality. Just because Chuck Jones made cartoons in the old days, and those cartoons were good, does not mean Chariots of Fur is good.

If someone wants to advocate a system that they think is self evident but others (maybe almost the entire industry they have to maneuver in) do not think is self evident, does it not behoove the advocates to have a solid explanation for why that is? A cartoonist can toss questions he doesn't want to answer in his blog in the trash and ignore them to essentially no immediate detriment to himself. He can do that to the industry when it asks the same questions too; except for the "no detriment" part.

I asked questions here. And those questions started in another thread. Tho he refuses to address the questions himself, John made them into a top level post, apparently because he feels asking questions raised by what he won't explain is a threat if it happens in another forum. While I seem to have got his attention enough for him to attempt to publicly ridicule me for asking questions, as he won't answer the questions how am I dominating his attention? Is he across the table from you, spitting waffles while yelling "razzafrazzinTedlousybastardgahhhh"? Why would he be? If he can loudly ignore my questions in public, surely he can write me off more quietly in private.

(And my mom grew up watching cartoons when Looney Tunes were still being made; she'll turn on the Simpsons now, but not Looney Tunes; she does own Pinocchio tho...)

Lastangelman: I asked questions in another thread. That was always my "position", as you should know from Spumboard if you actually bothered reading the posts over there, or if you were paying attention here. As to what I get out of this thread: hopefully my questions will be answered, and if animators can present logical reasons as to what will make good cartoons, maybe they'll be able to do it somewhere when it matters regarding making cartoons and I'll end up getting to see some good cartoons. Barring that I still get to have a giant headache. I wonder if that was the point; a denigrating post intended to be harmful might be thought to serve to prevent people from posting questions that might be deemed un-Kricfalusi Correct in the future...

JohnK said...

Ted

you've already lost the 3 shaky points you tried to make. Everyone has refuted them in the comments. I didn't need to.

Now you're just running at the mouth, as if a large volume of words and run-on sentences will win a vague pointless argument.

nonaveragejoe said...

I just wanted to give two examples of shows that are working without a script. The first one is live action show on HBO "Curb Your Enthusiasm". Direct quote from the website: "Curb Your Enthusiasm is shot without a script; the cast is given scene outlines and often improvise lines as they go. The result is an unpredictable format that's unlike anything else on TV". http://www.hbo.com/larrydavid/about/

Another show that is working only with an outline is from Cartoon Network "Chowder" direct quote "Most animated shows have scripts that are roughly 18 pages long for an 11 minute episode. Our storyboard artists don't recieve a script but instead get a two-page outline. It reads like a summation of the cartoon. There's no dialogue and all the events are laid out, as well as what the characters are feeling and want." "...It's how we worked on both Spongebob and Billy & Mandy, and I really like the system. You get comedy that isn't all based on snappy dialogue, but more on funny behavior and sight gags. The hard part is finding storyboard artsitis who can write.
"http://nerdarmada.blogspot.com/

Corey said...

I remember being a kid and all I had to do was WATCH cartoons, & not read people argue about them.

he said said...

I thought Walt was frozen underneath that castle in Disneyland, not in heaven?

Does Genndy T. count as a cartoonist? I mean, his drawings are basically just rectangles and circles but I like his stories.

xtracrsP said...

Wowzers! There sure is a heap of commentators with long essays, which I can't be bothered to read in full.

"There is too much mouth here, and not enough vagina."
crsP 2007

You may delete this, as you've done with my other comments.

R. Banuelos said...

I'm sick of this argument though. Everyone who's against John.K always think's he's like brainwashing people or something. How dramatic do you have to be?

A cartoon requires drawings because it's animated. The truth is you're right, a really talented, inteligent, writer that can discribe cartoony things in written form and allow the cartoonist to change the writting a bit could be an integral member in a studio. But number 1, these writers don't exist and number 2, the artist are always going to follow the storyboard. The storyboard will always drive a cartoon, a storyboard must be drawn. The problem John has with this process is that a written script involves to many words and allow for little action. You could then argue that this would allow for great acting scenes, this is now heavyly relied on by the voice actor and what the artist is allowed to do. There is a formula for drawing cartoons exactly the same scene by scene. I'm sure there is a problem when trying to ad more to the scene than what the budget calls for.

These magical writers could exist but they don't. When writers are in charge, the executives work with them not the cartoonist. The cartoonist is the most important member of a cartoon.

Why do you want to write for cartoons but not want to draw? Mr. Ted do you have an answer for that?

NateBear said...

TED: If a writer is not a cartoonist but is better at narrative structure than the available cartoonists/ to allow the cartoonists to concentrate on visual matters instead of dividing their attention between visual and narrative matters.

Divide their attention? How about keeping the story in mind when creating the story. You know, instead of being the mindless tool that only draws what the writer tells him.

essentially storyboarding is it doesn't seem to jibe with John's definition, as he said "Every animation cartoonist has direct experience of trying to make a script page make sense visually when it just doesn't." That certainly implies he's talking about a written script as opposed to a half assed storyboard;

John was talking about scripts handed to cartoonists when they are working on BAD cartoons.


PSEUDONYM: If we're gonna get nitpick then...

Books are told in Thoughts.

Plays you get at Barnes & Noble are told in dialogue.

Plays you WATCH on stage are told in Dialogue and/or Actions.

Films are told in Images and Sound (that may or may not include words).

NON-CARTOONISTs in General: Just accept your inferiority-- i mean limitations-- and let evolution proceed to the next phase. Just be proud that some of your genes will carry through into the future generations of ultra-talents cartoonists.

Oliver_A said...

>>Just because you don't get the words doesn't mean there isn't something behind them.<<

...and just because you wrote those words doesn't mean there is any meaning behind them.

>>And just because you refuse to answer questions doesn't mean the questions don't exist. Still I will continue to sing you your lullaby.<<

The only thing YOU REFUSE is the answers we have given you in this thread, because we didn't give you the answers you expected, or you didn't want them to be answered in the first place.

I mean, looking at your blog, one surely would NEVER THINK OF you being a person coming with a certain agenda here. Oh no! ;)

>>I think the trouble is that there is an assumption that something here is self evident.<<

Then you obviously did not read this blog carefully enough over the past year. The reasons, why animation should be made by animators only, have been discussed more than once during the existance of this blog.

What you do now is picking one single statent from John out of context, painting him as someone who fails to explain his theories. Nice tactic, but it won't work.

>>People keep saying "they did it that way in the old days; the cartoons in the old days were good"; that is not an explanation of why it should be done now.<<

It seems the only way to make your point is omitting and ignoring everything which has been said here over the past months, which doesn't add much to your credibility. You are trying to paint everyone participating here as a dumb and blind follwer, fine. Everyone who happens to read this blog carefully will not agree with you. A lot of opposing opinions and theories have been discussed here. As now with your "opinion".

>>Concomitance does not equate with causality. Just because Chuck Jones made cartoons in the old days, and those cartoons were good, does not mean Chariots of Fur is good.<<

Yes, and just because the pope is German now doesn't mean the weather is bad in Germany.

I can do that too. ;)

>>If someone wants to advocate a system that they think is self evident but others (maybe almost the entire industry they have to maneuver in) do not think is self evident, does it not behoove the advocates to have a solid explanation for why that is?<<

You may fool others with your tricky semantic tactics here, but not me. ;)

As long as you ignore other people's explanations here, and keep repeating that every point in this blog made is based on self-evidence, the discussion with you is rather worthless.


>>A cartoonist can toss questions he doesn't want to answer in his blog in the trash and ignore them to essentially no immediate detriment to himself. He can do that to the industry when it asks the same questions too; except for the "no detriment" part.<<

I think John and others here pretty much explained the issue why animation should only be written and done by animators only. The only problem we have here is, you didn't get the answer you wanted. Answers from people working in the industry with real experience. What did we got from you?

>>Tho he refuses to address the questions himself, John made them into a top level post, apparently because he feels asking questions raised by what he won't explain is a threat if it happens in another forum.<<

Yes, you are so almighty. ;) You most probably get a hard-on now, since you finally have the attention you want.

>>While I seem to have got his attention enough for him to attempt to publicly ridicule me for asking questions, as he won't answer the questions how am I dominating his attention? <<

And again, keep repeating you didn't get answers, because you didn't get >the answers< you wanted to have. ;)

You know that John has to cope with a lot of trolls on this blog here, and your first post clearly came off as a very lame attempt of trolling, with the only difference that you are a bit more clever on this. You disguise your agenda and statements in the form of questions.

Oh yes, you are so poor, you have been ridiculed in the puclic, boohoo. You know what? I would have done the same if I would have recieved such an insolent attempt to blackmail me. I'm glad that John can keep up his humour despite everything he has to cope with.

>>? Why would he be? If he can loudly ignore my questions in public, surely he can write me off more quietly in private.<<

Too bad your very lame attempt to blackmail him backfired at you.

>>(And my mom grew up watching cartoons when Looney Tunes were still being made; she'll turn on the Simpsons now, but not Looney Tunes; she does own Pinocchio tho...)<<

Hardly surprising, since classic animation isn't shown on regularly television anymore, and becoming even more rare.

>>As to what I get out of this thread: hopefully my questions will be answered, and if animators can present logical reasons as to what will make good cartoons, maybe they'll be able to do it somewhere when it matters regarding making cartoons and I'll end up getting to see some good cartoons. Barring that I still get to have a giant headache.<<

For your questions being answers, you actually should start to listen and participate in this discussion with clear words, not those lame attempts to fake credibility by using distracting language, while in reality, ignoring every point made here.

>>I wonder if that was the point; a denigrating post intended to be harmful might be thought to serve to prevent people from posting questions that might be deemed un-Kricfalusi Correct in the future...<<

Oh yes, now comes the martyr out of you. ;) Victim of a totalitarian Kricfalusi system, politically chased.

Everyone who happens to read this blog knows that John allows critical questions and answers here.

Now considering,

*You come to someone's blog and have the insolence to threat him.

*You ask questions, and refuse to comment on the answers.

*And now, since it heavily backfired upon you, you fall into the typical troll victim role.

This whole thing here is nothing than a very lame attempt at trolling, and you think now you are so mighty, because you have been so threatening. ;)

I'm on the same side as John. If you have trolls here, why not have some fun with them? Life is too short.

Adam Vierra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gabriel said...

People keep saying "they did it that way in the old days; the cartoons in the old days were good"; that is not an explanation of why it should be done now. Concomitance does not equate with causality.

OK, it doesnt. But you have a lot of great cartoons, and then you change how they're made and everything starts to suck. You can't know for sure, but it's a hint, right? And then you have all those artist crying, pointing out where the problem is, sharing their empirically hard earned opinions and it makes it all pretty obvious.

One of today's problems is that mostly everyone consider their opinions as valid as anyone else's. We easily take stances about stem cells without knowing squat about biology, we engage into discussions about global warming as if we had doctorates. That may be fine for when we talk to granny or ou neighbour, but it's not the case here, we have many REAL cartoonists posting, wow!! You don't have to kiss their butt or even agree with everything they say, but if you disagree and manifest it so bluntly, whose theory do you think people will buy?

Tommy said...

I am a cartoon writer. One who has worked with the keyboard of a computer, and it is frustrating. It's hard to translate ideas directly from a teleplay to a cartoon picture. A LOT gets lost in that translation.

I used to do tons of re-writes and seemingly endless edits just to get some basic understanding of the story.

Eddie is right. I'd have to cut so much dialogue just because it looked better on the page and made me feel like the story was moving. Just because I thought that the dialogue columns on the page were visually appealing I'd end up with miles of dialogue.

Oh how I wish that I could've walked to the director's office and do a handful of quick sketches to show him my ideas. It would've saved an amazing amount of time. And, it would've been way more fun than dragging my feet through another edit.

Should cartoonists write cartoons?

Yes.

Musicians should write music.

Novelists should write novels.

Poets should write poems.

Why was Jerry Juhl the number one writer for the Muppets???? Because he was a friggin' puppeteer!

Crap I'm tired.

Gotta go.

Sadly I have some more words to type.

Yes, this comment was posted by a cartoon writer.

NateBear said...

I hate to even continue this debate, but I hope this debate clarifies things for open-minded onlookers who will read these comments 1,000,000 Tuesdays in the future:

If someone wants to advocate a system that they think is self evident but others (maybe almost the entire industry they have to maneuver in) do not think is self evident...

Which side of the schism is making vastly inferior, un-cartoony cartoons?

his formulation doesn't explain why the storyboard artists are so poor that they are unable to be visually creative in a system that allows them to alter a script so as to fit visual needs.

The dominant system doesn't allow alterations from the script. Once the script gets approved, creativity dies.


My mom watches American Idol and the never ever cartoons. I think she fell asleep through Polar Express tho.

PCUnfunny said...

Wow it's like talking to a brick wall. I could write down "an anvil falls on Bugs' head " in a thousand different ways but it wouldn't be nearly as good drawing it.Why ? Because it's A VISUAL GAG. You need to see ot to be funny ? Why is this so hard to understand Ted ? It's common sense.

Mad Taylor said...

Hello Mr. Greenwood,

You could listen to music on mute, but that defeats the purpose of music. Fortunately you can watch a cartoon on mute and if you can still sit through it then the cartoon did the right job. It held you visually instead of carrying you on with it's words.

Did you even try it out?

Katie said...

Poo, I wanted to comment with my opinions on this, but the argument has turned so conveluted and weird that when I try to read it my brain turns to mush. Normally it's easy to have a point by point debate. I guess I jumped in too late!

Oliver_A said...

For those who didn't understand what I meant with "ted has an agenda", read his hilarious "review" of the Ren & Stimpy Lost Episodes DVD:

http://lovehatecartoons.blogspot.com/2006/07/ren-and-stimpy-lost-episodes-not.html

Well done ted! ;)

Adam G said...

Non-cartoonist writers can't visualize things clearly enough to come up with new visual ideas that work well. When they write gags they tend to be cliche gags becuase they can only visualize gags they have already seen. New visual ideas need to be drawn to see if they work or not.

I animated on a show once where the writer had written a gag where 2 characters unexpectedly pop up from a hideing place behind the horizon of an ocean. When drawn this looked like they were either popping out of the water or that they were giants riseing out of the ocean. Since no one had the authority to change what happens in the script all the story board artist could do was draw it and leave a note to the animator saying "sorry this doesn't work". It then went on to be animated and cleaned and coloured and then everyone could see that it didn't work.This just seems very ineffecient to me. A cartoonist writer who might of had the same idea for this gag would have realized right away that it wasn't going to work.

I've also seen a non-cartoonist writer write a gag where a character was suppose to pull something out of his nose, but the writer hadn't noticed that this character had no nose. I think there was even some prerecorded naration that said he pulled it out of his nose. That kind of thing is hard to fix with storyboards.

It's not that non cartoonist writers are unintelligent. It's just that they don't have the vocabulary for good cartoon writhing. Drawing is most of that vocabulary.

A good cartoonist writer will know what is entertaining to watch. He'll also know weather something is going to be akward or dificult or take an enormous amount of time to draw and animate. You'll end up with a more entertaing cartoon that will be made more efficiently.

Stephen Worth said...

Here is what it comes down to... There are people who like (and perhaps even love) cartoons, but when they sit down with a pencil and paper they realize instantly that they are never going to be a cartoonist.

However, they watch cartoons and think they know what's wrong with them. They can write- Hey! Everyone can write! So they decide that they can *describe* a good cartoon and someone else can make it for them to their specifications. They create a fantasy in their head that "if only a cartoonist would do exactly what I told him to do in words, my ideas would make good cartoons".

The truth is that they are totally unqualified to create cartoons. Not only can they not draw, they don't understand the basic concepts of how artists create, and they have no clue about the technical demands of the production process. When someone comes along who HAS created great cartoons and points out that one needs particular skills to do it, the bubble is burst and the frustrated cartoon writer comes out slugging with miles and miles of rambling text with convoluted logic and ad hominem attacks in a vain attempt to "prove" their point.

In the best case scenario, this frustrated cartoon writer just fills newsgroup boards with their made up fantasies. The worst case scenario is that they become a network executive and start forcing their fantasies on cartoonists. Right now, we are living through an age of worst case scenarios at all the major networks.

We don't have to take John K's word for it. He was nice enough to post videos of two Walts saying that cartoon writers need to be able to draw their ideas visually on storyboards. What better authority is there to tell us how cartoons are made but Walt Disney? No amount of speculative prose is going to supercede his decades of personal experience and achievement. Walt Lantz isn't exactly chopped liver either!

There is such a thing as "self evident". Stick a fork in this thread. We've found it.

See ya
Steve

Rob said...

What's the big deal here? I usually do both: I draw out scenes and scibble descriptions/details on the side.

For me, my rough story drawings are my keys, and sometimes extremes or breakdowns (rarely at this stage). Then I sometimes use a couple of words as my "inbetweens" to relate the drawings together more clearly until I can animate them.

I think what Ted's saying sounds good on paper, but that's the problem. I have yet to see any cartoon, developed from a script, that was as entertaining visually as it was through dialogue. The writers are just tempted to make the animation play second fiddle to the dialogue, when it's the animation that should tell the story.

ray said...

>>Poo, I wanted to comment with my opinions on this, but the argument has turned so conveluted and weird that when I try to read it my brain turns to mush. Normally it's easy to have a point by point debate. I guess I jumped in too late!<<

Same Here!

gypsyhips said...

I highly doubt you'll reply given how many comment you get on here everyday but I thought I'd give it a go:

I'm rather curious if there are "exceptions" to what you may have said. The quality of writing in american cartoons these days is at a huge all time low but amoung all the ick, are there perhaps a few that somehow make "the new system" work?

My best friend is a writer at AKA Cartoon and their studio has done both writing through storyboard and all out formal scripts by writers as well. Sometimes scripts haven't been good, but other times they've been absolute gold.

I tend to think that it's a total team effort, rather then just writers being writers and cartoonists being cartoonists. I'm a major fan of the small studio enviorment because it just seems to make for a good formula.

Whenever I've been at the studio, I've always noticed how everyone outside the design department is shoved into one room. It's rather funny to see because despite all the chaos that goes on (which is so enjoyable to observe, especially if you're not there on the clock) they always seem to get a finished product done that's truely worthwhile.



I'm not quite sure where I stand on the matter since I've yet to really get knee deep in the field. I'm still in school for animation and yet used to pay my bills by ghostwriting.

So, are there exceptions to the rules? And if so, which? Does the bad just outweigh the good too much to actually say?


Thanks so much for your time,
Kerr

Kali Fontecchio said...

Those videos are not working today, something about a login Error. Weird!

David said...

We know what Heck Allen's contribution was because he talked about it. He was a novelist, not a cartoonist. He said 'Tex was asked what I contributed, and he said "No gags. Pretty good stories. GOOD dialogue."
I don't imagine Tex let Allen dictate what cartoons to make or what happened in them -- but he clearly accepted input from a writer as to story and dialogue when he found it useful to do so. Obviously it's bad if unqualified writers who don't understand cartoons are writing them and talented able cartoonists are being forced by producers to execute these scripts. That's not how it worked in the golden age, but they had uses for writers then.
Cartoonsteve: I don't know if Tashlin drew boards for his live-action features, probably he did to some extent, but I know he wrote scripts because I've seen them. He got started in live action writing visual gags for the Marx Bros etc. He also worked productively with other screenwriters.
I don't think anybody can prove the uselessness of writers by pointing to wretched situations where bad writers (and there are a lot out there, I know) produce drivel and ignorant execs force cartoonists to execute it: that's so obviously bad, and nobody is defending it. But I can disprove the notion that non-cartonnists CAN'T EVER write for cartoons by simply pointing at Heck Allen and his contribution. I'm immensely glad SOMEBODY wrote the line "You know what? I'm the he-ro." and I don't care if that person couldn't draw.
Don't make the writer king: use what he has to offer in the service of proper cartooning.

Rodrigo said...

Great rebuttal John.

I think this whole idea is getting beat to the ground, so hopefully this post will alleviate any more opposition, and you can just concentrate on cool posts with cool pictures and the like.

So my humble band of animators have been preparing thus far for a few shorts that we will be start production for a couple of weeks. We smack-dab in the middle of "writing" cartoons, and the process has been very organic, much like what you've presented. We have funny drawings, and off those drawings we come up with funny ideas, or funn-IER ideas.

We'll be posting some animatics soon, but in the meantime, have a looksie at this.

http://vizagogo.blogspot.com/

If you could at least give us all a nod, that would mean quite a bit to us.

Keep up the inspiration!

Vincent Waller said...

Not to stray off topic, but the sad fact is that most of the new shows are being done from scripts, rather than outlines.
Studios are once again pairing artists with writers, as a prerequisite to doing a show.

Pseudonym said...

natebear:

I stand by my comment. Plays that you watch are almost all told in dialogue, for the simple reason that any action has to be broad and simple. An actor may be able to pull a great facial expression, but it'd mostly be lost on stage. (As an aside, Shakespeare actually complained, late in his career, that he couldn't bring an audience down onto the stage to see the action close-up. He would have been a great TV writer.)

Similarly, films are almost all told in pictures. Sure, dialogue may be important, and sound may enhance the scene, and regardless of what McKee says, there's nothing inherently wrong with a voice-over, but still, there's a reason that they say "show, don't tell".

If you've ever had to sit through a bad adaption of a play for the screen, you'll know exactly what I mean. It makes "illustrated radio" look positively graphic.

S.G.A said...

Cartoons can have a writer.. anime stuff that isn't funny will have a writer, but it's based on a comic and the writers are often the creators, comic book artists.
It seems what John is doing here is talking about funny cartoons , a particular KIND of funny cartoon, a funny cartoon where the humor "in part".. is based on MOVEMENT, and accented even further with Funny movement!
People laugh at the Simpsons, The Simpsons is not written by cartoonists, but it can be funny, But not in the particular tradition Mr. K wants bring back into notice.
It's my understanding , Mr. K wants to further the evolution of 2d animation, The kind of animation that has become stagnant expressly because of the way the "made for tv animation" industry opperates... I think the kind of cartoons that Mr. K wants to make will work best when we get out of the cartoonists way and .. LET them do what they do! Let them develop , let the animator reach new heights that just aren't possible when you have too many restrictive fingers wigglin' around in your cartoon pie.
Again the Simpsons is a decent modern example of this; The first season is kind of cartoony- There was a freedom there because they didn't know what they were doing, ... so there was some freedom... then it became a hit and they got set in their ways and there had to be this specific process , model sheets etc...
Compare a first seaon episode to a 5th season episode, to an episode from last week..... Yechhhh the new episodes are so rigid it looks as though it was done by a computer program... are there still a few laughs?.... Sure but it has to do with the delivery of the voice actors and writers and nothing to do with animation.
Most animation has become a means to an end... a way for creators to have there visions become a reality to be shared with the world.. But truth be told, most of it just isn't that great to me, especially when there is such a rich history of great old stuff still available..
I sure hope John can make it so we can see the evolution of Cartoons... CGI stuff really doesn't float my boat...it has a long way to go, too much shiny stuff and weightless movement... But that's another issue.

Matt Greenwood said...

"Hello Mr. Greenwood,

You could listen to music on mute, but that defeats the purpose of music."

All I'm saying is that modern cartoons use less visual elements, that's a fact, it's not to do with quality. It's a bit narrow to say that if it's doing it's job you can watch it on mute. And I think the argument here is basically for or against cartoons that utilize everything that cartoons can do, or cartoons that are more dialogue heavy.

I wonder about things like the Flintstones that sort of does both, it has the sitcom format and is very dialogue heavy, but also has amazing visuals. I'm not sure if it it was scripted or not.

stiff said...

Hey Ted--

Thanks for being a stubborn ass--seriously. When I sat down last night to think about your points, I became convinced that you were wrong. Previously, John hadn't been able to convince me of that fully. Like you, I said, "Well why can't we have good scripts and storyboards?" Except that's about all I said--I didn't need 1,000 words. But all of this discussion has shown me why. Many people on John's side of the argument have given clearly stated theses and supported them with real-world examples. You have yet to clearly state your point, having only questioned everyone else's, and in doing so implicitly taken a contrary position. Where's your real-world example? As the accuser, you carry the burden of proof in this situation. John doesn't owe you anything, but if you think you've got something on him, you should be able to back it up, instead of simply demanding answers. But even so, they've been provided. If you can't see it from here, then I'm sorry for you, but for me, thanks for bringing this up.

abwinegar said...

Ted,

Do they come up with the story first and then draw story boards. Or do they draw story boards and then come up with the story?

The story is very important. No matter where it comes in at.

If anyone has the talent to find a story in anything, rocks, trees, a hot dog wiener falling in love with a hot dog bun, then you can make anything happen.

In Cartoons, animated cartoons, comics, children's books, fictional stories for novels, music, sculpture, art and so on.

Create from the heart and the soul and as well as the very essence of life itself. Even if no one likes it, as long as you like it.

There have been talented people who have went undiscovered through their whole life. They created till the day they died, with not an ounce of fame or fortune.

Life is to short to have conflicts over little things, create and enjoy life, even if life sucks.

FLAMINGPINECONE said...

Haven't made a comment here in a while.

I've gotten into arguments about this subject with some guy on another forum, who likes all the writer driven stuff.

Summary: He thinks a "character's motivation and structural design are far more important than his art design" to which I pointed out some of Bill Tylta's work on Dumbo where there no words, just raw characters expressing complex emotion and how the things he finds 'excellent' are best done by artists.

HAHA!

Personally, I just think he likes words and a good joke. Which isn't bad but some more of his ideas are just too ludicrous to put here.

PS: if that anonymous dude that left me a whole buncha comments is still scouring this blog, I just found your comments, sorry for getting back to you so late!

Jorge Garrido said...

Read what Simpsons artist, Spongebob writer, and "Family Guy" director Dan Povenmire said about his OWN show that's premeiring next year.

"I convinced Meghan Cole, the executive in charge of my show, that I should go straight to storyboard from outline rather than write a script, then I would “pitch” the board to the other execs. This is the way we did SpongeBob and Rocko, and it gives you opportunity to do a lot more visual humor. Swampy was living in England at the time but he had already scheduled a trip to the states, so we got together for a few days to flesh out the outline."

See, even the perpetrators of the shows Ted is defending as a "legimate" way of "writing" prefer storyboardings. Poor Dan probably went through hell drawing from The Simpsons scripts and wanted to actually make something good for his artists now that he had creative control.

Stephen Worth said...

Visual storytelling is a vital aspect of the medium of animation. If it doesn't tell its story visually, whether comedy or drama, it's lousy animation. What's the point of animating it if you aren't going to take advantage of the medium?

The Simpsons is NOT a good example of scripted animation. It's a terrible example of animation with an amusing radio show attached to it. People try to argue that bad animation is part of the Simpsons' and South Park's style. Bad animation isn't a style. It's a cheat.

The equivalent in live action comedy is Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, the Three Stooges and Carney and Gleason, which all base their humor on acting. personality and pantomime... vs. Bob Hope or Abbott & Costello who are middle aged men reading carefully timed funny patter without adding anything funny to the dialogue themselves.

Bob Hope and Abbott & Costello would have been funnier if they could have had pantomime and physical comedy skills to go with their skillful delivery of dialogue. The Simpsons and South Park would be a million times funnier too if they were written and well animated by cartoonists adept at both visual and verbal humor.

The Simpsons is half a cartoon. It's like watching a cartoon with your eyes closed. South Park is like watching a cartoon with blazing hot spikes in each eye.

See ya
Steve

Kevin W. Martinez said...

Wow, this has exploded into a powdercake "lets all gang up on the schmuck with the contrasting opinion and flay him". I'm really not surprised at all.

Disagreeing with the majority/popular opinion isn't trolling, and the comments left by Ted, et al. aren't really all that inflammatory.

Now on to the subject at hand, Yes the time-tested storyboard process is the best way to make an animated cartoon, moreso than scripts, but storyboards aren't a guarantee of quality, and a lot of genuinely lousy cartoons (Hunky and Spunky, Luno, Happy Harmonies, a number of 40's Screen Gems shorts) were made on storyboards.

JohnK said...

>>but storyboards aren't a guarantee of quality, and a lot of genuinely lousy cartoons (Hunky and Spunky, Luno, Happy Harmonies, a number of 40's Screen Gems shorts) were made on storyboards.
<<

There are bad musicians too. Let's take music away from all musicians now and let non musicians write it with words describing the melodies. That will make for better music.

That's the situation we have today in cartoons. Everyone in the world is allowed to write/create cartoons, except cartoonists.

paul etcheverry said...

This is a fascinating topic. . .

Certainly people who have no feeling for animation or familiarity with its history cannot write cartoons. Of course, that happens frequently these days and inevitably results in crap.

Some wonderful cartoons emerged from Fleischers in the early 1930's that were "written" very informally, all by cartoonists, but not necessarily virtuoso artists. I understand a lot of it came about from Dave Fleischer making the rounds and asking "got a gag?"

Is it mandatory to be a mind-blowingly great artist, a Winsor McCay, Emery Hawkins, Rod Scribner, Milt Gross, etc. to contribute worthwhile story construction ideas, dialogues or jokes to cartoons? Not necessarily - Mike Maltese did wonders for Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng - although it certainly helps. And some ace animators (Bill Tytla, Robert McKimson) were less than scintillating directors.

Then again, there are all kinds of strange cases in film history. MGM assigned studio hacks to make films for Buster Keaton and write jokes for Groucho Marx. There was a 1961 TV pilot that co-starred Keaton and Ernie Kovacs; here you have two of the greatest comic minds who ever lived, and neither was hired to contribute writing, direction, or production ideas. They just acted in a sitcom. The mind boggles.

J. J. Hunsecker said...

The scriptwriters on today's modern adult cartoons don't really like animated cartoons. They would prefer to work on live action sitcoms. They do not allow "cartoony" drawing and action in their shows.

Listen to the audio commentary on The Simpsons 1st season DVD. You'll hear some of the writers comment that they didn't want their careers to be associated with animated cartoons (can't blame them there with the state of cartoons in 1989). They always considered the Simpsons akin to live action anyway, and it was written that way.


The storyboard developed in the thirties at Disney. Disney wanted more structured plots for his cartoons, unlike the more stream-of-consciousness gag oriented cartoons at rival studios (where stories weren't thought out in advanced of the animation). Disney first relied on heavily written outlines with a few sketches to illustrate them. However, over time the Disney artists found that it was easier to tell the stories with drawings than with typewritten outlines. (If you look at the examples of the outlines and sketches on the Mickey Mouse DVDs you'll see the drawings growing in stature with the typewritten words diminishing over time.)

It was through trial and error that the storyboard emerged as the best way to tell a story for an animated cartoon. The board artists in the classic era WERE writers, except that they wrote thier stories with drawings (with the dialogue pinned under the sketches on the board). Like in live action, there were good writers (like Maltese and Foster) and bad ones (Famous Studios and Columbia) in the animation business.

rajesh said...

I don't understand the fuss. It's not about good writers who understand and love the medium and bad writers who hate the medium.

It's that it's IMPOSSIBLE to write a scene like this and therefore they are left out in writer-driven cartoons.

That's why only cartoonists should "write" cartoons. They write using pictures.

Trevour said...

I'm a little late in the comments, but I just have to say I laughed my head off when I read that the "famous cartoonist" was Walt Disney. Here I thought John had contacted another cartoonist to speak his mind, and then you get the most famous cartoonist of them all - debating from beeeeyond the grave!

Mouldey said...

125 replies, Jesus!

If writers want to write for cartoons, they can surely write and submit outline proposals, or like most Disney Classics, the original stories on which the films are based. But it makes total sense for cartoonists to "write" cartoons on the simple basis that the final product will be seen, not read. What writer would want to spend hours in front of a typewriter trying to descibe in words what could be easily relayed in a few seconds with a doodle?

Bob Harper said...

It is a wonder why anyone who wants to write cartoons wouldn't want to draw them as well. Unfortunately it seems as a pathway to get on a live action stitcom.

Here is a link to some interesting observations by Bill Scott on animation writing. Sorry if it's been posted before.

http://denslow.com/articles/bscott.html

The Jerk said...

scripts can only EVER be a beginning point, even in live action- take shakespeare, for example. you can read through one of his plays in maybe an hour and a half, but when you go to see it on stage, it can run as long as FOUR HOURS! why? because the actors and director, in order to make it interesting to the audience, must go BEYOND what is as beautiful a script as you will ever read, and make it into an interesting VISUAL! While they may not specifically STORYBOARD the entire play, they spend WEEKS working out actions and stagings that will be VISUALLY APPEALING and ENTERTAINING enough that audiences will PAY to SEE them!
Even in the rare instances of scripted cartoons, such as the very earliest mickey mouses, the script was only the OUTLINE, and the specific actions had to be worked out by the ANIMATORS, who are CARTOONISTS! when a cartoon is entirely dictated by a SCRIPT, it will become dry , wordy, and uninteresting, not matter HOW PICTURESQUE the writing may be. VISUALLY MINDED people have to at some point take that script and MAKE it VISUAL, with ACTUAL DRAWINGS, so why not just START with the visuals anyways, if your going to REDRAW everything that's already been WRITTEN?

Evan Gourvitz said...

John,

Since you're talking about writers, I wonder if sometime in the future you could devote a post or two (or three) to Mike Maltese, Warren Foster, and Tedd Pierce.

It always seemed to me that these writers (especially Maltese) never got the credit they deserved for the humor and snappy dialogue in the classic Warner Bros. cartoons.

Joel Bryan said...

Jesus Christ... I've posted comments on here that John K's ignored and I haven't had the overwhelming sense of self-importance that I've had to go around the net blabbing about it and concocting conspiracy theories.

I just chalked it up to my being a jackass.

Ted loses by default because there's no way in hell I'm taking the time to read those tedious prolix replies.

Also, it's not animated cartoons, but Sergio Aragones wrote his scripts for DC comics in sketch/drawing form and if it's good enough for someone like Sergio Aragones, who am I to disagree?

pedro said...

That clip of Walt/Tramp Pitch is NONSTOP TALKING.


There is not a SHORTAGE OF OPPORTUNITY, there is a SHORTAGE OF TALENT.

John Pannozzi said...

Jaime Weinman did an interesting article on writers vs. storyboard at http://zvbxrpl.blogspot.com/2004/06/animation-writer-vs-storyboard.html

Here some points that I agree with him on:

"Many of the newer storyboarded cartoons often strike me as being weak in dialogue, gag construction, plot -- all the "writer" stuff. This is actually a problem that, for me, goes all the way back to the Golden Age, because I still feel that the classic Disney features have certain "writing" weaknesses that could have been helped by consultation with an experienced writer of feature films (Ben Hecht?). There's an idea that only cartoonists can make cartoons, and in general I would say that ideally anyone who works on a cartoon should be a cartoonist, but on the other hand there are areas where cartoon storytelling is no different from any other kind of film storytelling, and in those areas I think there's actually something to be said for the input of someone who isn't a cartoonist."

"But in this day and age I think I don't mind seeing a professional writer involved in creating dialogue and gags for a cartoon, as long as the writer's contribution is ultimately subservient to what the director wants. Of course, what actually happens is that the writer runs things and the cartoonists are subservient, which is definitely a problem -- but I don't think the problem is with the actual presence of a writer. (I.e. I'm not arguing that there should be complete TV-style scripts for a cartoon. But if the director needs a funny line for a character to say at a given point, I see nothing wrong with having an experienced comedy writer on hand to come up with something.)"

"For one thing -- and this is a bizarre argument to make, but I'll make it -- I think it's now generally harder to find people who can write than it was in the '30s and '40s. In the '30s you could find a staff of people who could draw but also wrote well. Now the position of "writer" is more specialized than it used to be, because writing is not as common a skill as it used to be, and the potential Mike Maltese of today is likely to develop his skill in writing or drawing but not both."

And I want to point out that no every writer on Tiny Toons and Animaniacs couldn't draw. Tom Minton (john K.'s good friend) wrote for both, and he's a cartoonist. And his episodes are great and some feel almost like theatrical shorts IMHO. Also, Paul Dini CAN draw, as evidenced by his sketches of Harley Quinn that were seen in the Batman: Animated book.

And cartoons written by cartoonists aren't dead. In fact, they're probably more abundant now then they were in the 1990s. Most of the shows on Nicktoons and Cartoon Network (not counting Adult Swim) are cartoonist-driven (even if some of them start with scripts).

And Steve, if you think South Park is bad, just wait till you see Freak Show.

Jimserac said...

Mr. Pannozzi makes an intriguing comment, not at all bizzare, regarding the quality of the writers of the 30's and 40's compared to those of today. The same could be said for a variety of fields and reflects, I suspect, the gradually diminishing quality of education in that era as opposed to ours The full and rather shocking expose of how things came to be this way can be found in a brilliant work - The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto - full book online at this link:
http://www.johntaylorgatto
.com/underground/toc1.htm

Even relatively good modern books such as Neuromancer by Gibson or the graphic novel V for Vendetta, suffer qualitatively, in my opinion , compared to the populist writers of the 40's.
But it is a different time inhabited by peoples of a different mentality - those of the now and the future do well even to sense this.

Citizen Jimserac

wade said...

When Hanna-Barbera first began applyling limited animation to their TV work, they consoled themselves with the realization that limited animation worked better on the small, dimly-lit TV screens of the day. These technological limits informed the way TV in all its genres evolved, and stil defines it today, though the limitations have been longed removed. The contributor who stated that TV is a verbal not a visual medium is correct, but the reasons for that have passed. John moved the industry forward with his MM cartoons, bringing us limited animation for a visual medium.