Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Too Funny For Words 2 - more wisdom from Frank and Ollie

Hey I got a nice note from famous animator Ken Duncan:

Hey John,

I’ve been enjoying reading your blog. All your notes about story, and storyboarding are right on. The animation “business” has been overrun by those who don’t understand visual storytelling/entertainment….

How the hell can I get you to come by the studio for lunch, or a drink? Should I send a car to pick you up?…..

It’d be interesting to discuss some way of doing some cartoony animation, having fun with the medium. ...

Take it easy,

Ken D.

Now here are some more pearls from the greats!

Audiences identify with getting their butts stuck to flypaper

Walt and his staff were convinced that the way to write cartoons was through drawings and pitches (performing) and collaboration. They obviously didn't believe in having a guy who didn't draw sit away in a room somewhere and on his own craft a story from beginning to end - then hand it over to the artists like some verbose tinpot dictatorial despot. Instead, they drew and performed their stories and sculpted them into entertainment together.

Did typewriters exist in the classic period of cartoons? Sure. Did they use them to write up notes from story meetings? Or dialogue scripts? Outlines and treatments? Of course. We all do that. Even artists use words on occasion.

Did a non artist ever write a script from beginning to end? Possibly, but no classic cartoon directors or storyman goes out of his way to admit it. Just the opposite; they stress over and over again that cartoon stories differ from live action and must be written with drawings, not scripts. Maybe an exception or two may show up one day after some serious archaeological digs and cross-checking. After all, there are 2 egg-laying mammals out of 4600 or so. But you'd have to be dishonest or crazy to suggest that mammals are egg-layers based on 2 exceptions out of thousands of mammal species.

Performance tells better stories than words
Live performances are more instructive than sitting in a room and writing
I learned myself by experience that when I tried to write dialogue on a typewriter, it had a tendency to sound stilted and writerly, as opposed to natural and spontaneous, like the way people actually talk. So, while I might make some structural notes on the computer to decide the meaning of what a character is going to say, I then get up and walk around the room acting out the scene and saying the dialogue as I feel a real character would say it. That gets a much more natural and funny read, so I then sit down and copy what I performed.

When I pitch it to other people, I refine the dialogue and gags further as I see the reactions of my live audiences. All this story procedure happened naturally by trial and error, and it turned out to be the same procedure used at the classic cartoon studios. Because it works well.

Drawings and live performances are the most natural and efficient tools of a cartoon "writer". You don't write a performance. You can act or draw one, though.

What a cartoon-"scriptwriter" from the 1940s might look like