Friday, July 04, 2008

Ready for Storyboard Artists: Setups to storyboards

Jim Smith has prepared scene setups for the first couple cartoons. For each scene we hand out setups of the basic BG and situation to the storyboard artists. (They aren't all in color and finished like this)

They are more like these Jim Smith drawings:

We also hand out my outline of the scene (and the whole story)

Then what I expect from the storyboard artist is to sketch the continuity. The drawings don't have to be cleaned up, but you do need to be able to draw the characters well -understand their basic shapes and their proportions.
You also need to understand the story and the personalities of the characters, so you can draw the acting. I will help by giving you some of my sketches and acting out the whole scene, either in person or over the phone.
The drawings have to have life, be specific and put the point of each gag and story point across without ambiguity.
Your storyboard should provide a strong framework for the pose/layout artist who will do tighter versions of the storyboard roughs and add some breakdown poses.

I'm not looking for wild abstract crazy drawings. I need strong acting that is in context of the scenes and story. And of course is funny. Funny and CUTE to steal a great trademarked phrase.

So if you have experience doing either storyboards or layouts and can draw both cartoony and fairly solid, and are going nuts from working on formula stuff, and are funny, then I need you.

It's a different way of doing storyboards than the studios use, looser in one way, tighter in another.

It's a lot of laughs if you have good control over your storytelling and acting. There is room for your gags too if you can make us laugh and keep the gags in context of the stories.


Other jobs available:

Designing Setups:

This is like drawing illustrations of a story for a Golden Book. You take the essence of a scene, design the background around the character and plan it so that the board artists and layout artists can have the characters move around and act out the scenes.

Layout or Advanced Cleanup:

Someone who can interpret the storyboard drawings into finished pencil layouts that will work for animation.

You have to be careful to not lose the life of the board sketches, while adding the details and construction.
I'll do another post on this soon.


trevor said...

Hey John:

Is inking the only job available where you need previous experience? Because I'm trying to break into the industry, and feel that if I could work for you, I could work for anyone.

Here's my inking attempts. Thanks again!

- trevor.

Bugs said...


The written outline/script segment is funny.

And I agree with you that strong acting in the drawn storyboard is crucial to achieve the funny final result that you desire. (Of course, all the other steps that follow are crucial as well.)

But back to the written outline/script segment.

Your script/outline is very specific in its camera movements, in its camera placement, in its dialog.

At the same time, your script/outline leaves plenty for the storyboard artist to fill in with strong drawings and great acting.

But, John, you are renown for your contempt for anyone who has ever actually WRITTEN a script for a cartoon. You have stated time and again that writers should not be involved in the process of making cartoons.

And here you are, writing an outline/script for your cartoon.

Since you are rumored to loathe cartoon writers, are we to assume that when you write a script you are engaged in some form of self-loathing?


But can you clear up this discrepency for me?


JohnK said...

well it's not exactly a script, and I drew it before I finalized it.

The client wants to read all the dialogue, so I draw everything out in thumbnails and then copy it onto a detailed outline.

If I wrote something cold and then tried to draw it and saw it wasn't working I would throw out what I wrote.

You don't have that option in most places.The script is law and it's written by non-visual people.

Bugs said...

Appreciate the info, the feedback.

Yeah, the clients do like scripts. They don't necessarily read them, or read them correctly, but they do seem to like them. Of course, in a cartoon, the script isn't going to tell them if they have a great cartoon or not. The script might hint at greatness, but the magic and humor will come from the drawing and all the other steps post-script.

You wrote: "In most places...the script is law and it's written by non-visual people."

I get it.

For a cartoon, the script simply cannot be the law...a cartoon doesn't come to life until the characters are acting and moving.

I'm guessing, then, under the right circumstances, you're okay with cartoon scripting that's written by visual-people, cartoony people.

JohnK said...

I'm ok with outlines going to storyboards for details.

No scripts.

toonmacher said...

Hello John, I'm an experienced storyboard artist who has worked in animation for years, and learned Storyboarding in the way you describe at CalArts...

I'm used to thinking visuals first and then the words... I am in fact tired of working on formulaic stuff, and would love to get back to basic Cartooning 101... I've been following your blog since way back when you started doing all that Clampett stuff... That's actually what brought me to your blog... I didn't realize your were the Ren & Stimpy guy until later. Your layout tips over the last week have encouraged me to take a second look at the BGs in my own work.

Anyway, my website is I have several years experience in storyboarding. And would love to add my skills to your project. Especially since you do it the way I learned at CalArts as opposed to the way I've boarded for Hasbro and Nickelodeon.

I'm also interested in the Layout, Cleanup, and Set up Design jobs... The way you do things is VERY different than how I'm used to doing things in other studios... But thats a kind of different that I'd certainly like to see!

Hope to hear from you soon

Roberto González said...

So are you going to post another outlines so we can try? I know there are some ideas in the pitch blog, but this seems a little more specific, more scene by scene.

I've little experience but I would like to try.

Anonymous said...

I love the drawing of George crying into Mabel's calf. Alas, I'm still to stupid to make this stuff. Maybe one year.

Gregg said...

Are the different expressions on the gator planned, or just quick sketch results?

I think it'd be hilarious for the wall trophies to have different expressions depending on the action/scene.

Never to be seen moving, dead but alive.

Jim Rockford said...

Man,I'm laughing already!
That one extra cancer stick tipped the balance and killed 'ol Mabel.
When most guys lose a loved one they keep some of the persons items around as keepsakes,not our George,he keeps his better halfs better half!
Great stuff,and I love the specific expressions.
I cant wait to see this show.

SoleilSmile said...

John, in what way are you accepting portfolios? Are you looking at websites or have you leased another studio space where we can drop off our portfolios?


Bitter Animator said...

Good luck to anyone who applies. I'm really looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with.

Mr.K, if you get a chance some time, could you go into detail on your inking processes? In the more traditional end of things(non-Flash), I've been cursed in my career to have only worked in places that used a think, dead line for clean-up (mostly because it was easier) and I've never actually seen good inking animation inking done and would love to know more about it.

Zorrilla said...

Haha I love George, he's a lot like a friend of mine.

I like the twist of him hanging not her head, which would be funny anyway, but her BUTTOCKS on the wall...!!!

Well about the job, I've been drawing TV storyboards and comics for a couple of years, but I'm in a project right now so I can't really apply.

But storyboarding George Liquor must be one of the best jobs I can think of. I hope other artists out there are aware of this huge opportunity.

Andy Norton said...

This is an excellent post about storyboarding. Not only have you provide an example, which is entertaining to look at in its own right, but you also provide some all important theory into how a storyboard artist should be doing whilst they tackle a scene.

I am also intrigued in how you present them. As a student, I was always intimidated by presenting your storyboard images as finalised images. Therefore, seeing a storyboard presented this way says that I can just show the rough drawings to illustrate my point, and not try to finalise the drawings at this storyboard stage.

I look forward to seeing further posts of this calibre soon.

Gavin Freitas said...

Hey John, I have been making storyboards for cartoons for 7 years now and I feel like I have a good understanding of them. Of course I still need some work but I may animate this next year for the hell of it. Here's a cartoon I wrote that's kind of like a Bob Clampett cartoon. I love the idea of Gremlins, anywho who ever reads this, thanks..

Anonymous said...

Hey John,

Maybe I'm just stupid, but I'm still confused as to what a Setup Designer is.

Is his job to make an "inspirational" drawing to provide the setting, mood and general atmosphere for a scene for the board and layout artists to work from? I heard that Chinese guy did stuff like that for Bambi. Or does he actually design key backgrounds or what?

Josh Heisie

Tom said...

I had storyboarded and made cartoons until my wife made me get a job.

Needless to say I want out. I would love to get back into cartooning and storyboarding.

I had a cartoon that I made a few years ago that you could check out at

I'm really good at adapting to different artists styles to accommodate the needed direction of a project.

I have more art and such to send if you are interested.


Anonymous said...

Hey John,

I'm a quick sketch kinda guy. Been self taught for most of my stuff, but I have a background in design and have looked into animation alot. Would be great to work with you in anyway, but I imagine storyboarding being the best set. If you want to see some of my stuff you can check out my website at or on my sketch blog.

Can't wait to see more of your cartoons on the tube.

-Mr. Wilde

Acetate said...

Is there an address to mail in a portfolio?

zack said...

Hey John! I feel this may be kind of silly but I'm going to give it a shot.

I've been animating in Flash for 5 years now, and here is one specific cartoon I've worked on for an interspersed and long while, which isn't done yet either -

It's not anything like your work, obviously, but I feel that I could do some really great story adapting.

Are you going to do anything like post a script that people can send their storyboards in for you to judge? The chance of getting the job aside, that would still be a whole lot of fun to try.

El polaco scalerandi said...

you are a genius for me.
i like very much your draws
ren and stimpy is the glory
you are a god s cartoon
sorry my horrible inglish
go my favorites
y love this sketch
from argentine
el polaco (quien te admira mucho)

Ben Lane said...

Sounds like an opportunity of a lifetime. I have a few storyboard sample on my site if you have a minute.

Good luck.

fabiopower said...

Hello John,
my experience in storyboards and layouts is not long, but neither is short. I would try, and I think it would be fun and make learning and experience with you ...
2 questions:
Is it just an opportunity for residents in the USA? What should I do?

Melton Bing said...

Hey John-

I'm a comic book artist, is that close enough to storyboard for you? If so, where do I apply or send my portfolio to?

-max brooks

Shawn Luke said...

Hello, I have never worked in the animation field (I'm a plumber) but I wanted to give it a go anyways as I think I match the rest of your requirments so I drew a couple pages of George for you to look at, started a blog and added some other work I've done in the past that is relevant to storyboarding.
My blog is at :



. said...


I work as a storyboard artist for Wizard Entertainment on their Twisted ToyFare Theatre features (I also co-write and edit them). I'd love to be considered for this.

You can see the final strips and animations I've worked on at my blog

I don't have my storyboards posted there, but I'll scan them and get them up as soon as I can.

As for the funny, I'm also a writer/performer with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, where I've written numerous comedy shows and perform on the house team the F*cking Kennedys.

-Jon Gutierrez

Alex Whitington said...

John, that's a script.
You're an animation writer.

Bobby said...

Hello John....

I have a lot of experience doing cartoony story boards, currently I freelance for Cartoon Network UK, and Nickelodeon UK...have also worked with Cartoon Network Pan European.

I can send you some examples of stuff...I think you'll like.

Thanks for your time, would love to work with ya!

Bobby Kennedy

Bobby said...

Hope I havent posted twice here....not sure if I've logged in proper...

I'm a freelance storyboarder in the UK, working with Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon on a regular basis.
I love your style. and think you would be interested in the work I've done as it's a good match!

Let me know whrer to send some examples if you wish to veiw, thanks for your time!

Bobby Kennedy

Bobby said...

Hello John K,

I am very interested in this storyboarder work you're offering.
Can I send you some examples?
I work freelance for Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon in the UK, have followed your work from first discovering Spumco...and of course Ren and stimpy.

I think some of the stuff I have done would match your mood and style...

Thanks for your time!

Bobby Kennedy

Mike Hollingsworth said...

Hey there Mr. K. I'm interested in applying for this position.

I'm an independent / dependent animator who resides in Los Angeles.

On the "independent" side, my cartoon shorts have been shown at Annecy, HBO Aspen Comedy Festival, Nicktoons Animation Festival, Pictoplama in Berlin and Animation Block Party in NYC.

On the "dependent" side, I've worked as an Animator for Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, The Disney Channel and as an Animation Supervisor for MTV.

Currently I'm finishing up a series of shorts I've created for FuelTV's "Stupidface." I write 'em and storyboard 'em and directed 'em and everything 'em.

It would be a great pleasure to work with you on these shorts. Let me know if there's an e-mail address or a phone number where I can continue to apply for the position out of the view of all these prying blogger eyes.


Mike Hollingsworth

Bob said...

Hey John, I just did some storyboards that are based off the script you posted, "Mabels Introduction," and you can check it out at my blog....

BoB's Blog

Let me know what you think and thanks for the opportunity.

ArtF said...

Hiya John!

I tried to see if I could clean up a couple of the storyboard roughs from this post. Take a look-see and tell me what you think. Any improvement?

ArtF said...

guess i shoulda linked the drawings, huh? duh.

George 01

George 02

Bobby said...

Hello John, I have posted some of my story boards on my blog Bobby's Boards....

sorry bout the constant messages...but I think I got it working now....????


mikecarloooyeah said...

Hey John,
Maybe I missed this somewhere in the post, but how would we go about applying/ testing for this gig? Thanks man.

Roo said...

i think it would be funny if he slams his face between her butt cheeks and starts sobbing

ArtF said...

hi John.
these are a lot better than the ones from yesterday. let me know whatcha think.
New Liquors

John_Fountain said...


I've been in the animation biz as a storyboard artist for over ten years and have worked on a wide array of shows for Nickelodeon, Disney, Warner Brothers and Cartoon Network.

If you are interested, visit my portfolio site at:

There you will find lots of drawing samples and a YouTube video of a pilot I did for Oh Yeah! Cartoons (which I boarded and directed) as well as my resume and stuff.

I'm acquainted with Fred Seibert and Vince Waller if you need a personal reference.

If you like what you see or are interested in seeing more storyboard samples, feel free to contact me.


John Fountain

J. said...


I tried some more BG sketches. I have done storyboards for lame-o Canadian tv shows before...I'd love to try doing yours, I think I'm capable, but that's totally your call. (obviously.)

J.E.Daniels said...

Hello John:
I've been trying to get into the industry for a while now and have just graduated from a Digital Multimedia Course.
I hope I can be of some help to you!
Here's an example of my rough storyboard work plus finished product!

Carzorthade said...

Hey John! Longtime reader, first time poster. What would be the best way to submit a story portfolio for evaluation, through the mail or link to it online?

toonmacher said...

So how is the storyboard artist search coming along? I would love to be a part of this project. I love storyboarding the most. I have several years of animation experience... I'm also available for designing setups and cleanup work.

My site and my email is Hope to hear from you soon.


Dlove4u2 said...

Well Mixing my passion with a job may not be good for me right now.(I also have no expience)

Your my favorite cartoonist,
If you get the chance, can you look at my art work.

Steve Stark said...

I'm down for drawing some George Liquor.

Corey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Noel said...

What's the best way to do this john? i can post them on my blog, i can e-mail them how do we get the boards to you?? i'm gonna do it.

Captain Napalm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon Gutierrez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trevor Piecham said...

I am very interested in any available jobs you may have. I have been working on animated television series for the last three and a half years - storyboarding, animating, character design, BG design.

It would be nice to work on someting "non-formulaic".

Do you give tests out to people you are interested in hiring? I Would love to take some tests.



my short film:

ArtF said...

hiya John.

here's my 3rd try at cleanup. a bit better.
george part 3

ArtF said...

hi John.
i re-drew the two roughs today. they look a bit better to me. let me know what you think.
even more liquor

Bill Field said...

Hey John, I wrote and storyboarded an episode for George Liquor, although I realize you didn't ask for that, but I just got a couple funny thoughts and put together a story about George visiting his liberal, same-sex partnered brother, Lyndt Liquor (I figured Dick Liquor would never pass the censors). Would it be ok to post this on my blog for you to take a look at it, if my comment doesn't post, I'll assume you don't. I thought it was pretty funny, and fit the mood you are going for, but I totally understand if you aren't interested.

Bill Field said...

John, I'll scan and postit tomorrow and leave a link in this thread. Thanks for taking a look, in spite of me going at it by a different way than you asked. Your guides and lessons are really an encouragement to always go as far as I can push my talents.