Friday, March 27, 2009

Fedor, Pizza Doodles and Story Outlines Potpourri

I've got a killer idea for a show about Fedor.These are the kinds of scribbles I do while waiting for Eddie to meet me at our favorite pizza place.
Mindless doodles.
Can you believe anyone takes this guy seriously? Like HE's normal?

Man, Bugs is hard to draw!

Hey! Do you wanna see how we write our cartoons? They are totally artist friendly - as opposed to scripts - which are intended to make cartoonists commit suicide - or murder.
Here's the beginning of a story about a comic book geek going to the store on the day they deliver the new issues, something probably most of us can identify with.

I thought of posting this because the other day I tried to read a Godawful modern script based on some wacky classics. It had every single writer's sin:

Written way too long.
Crowds upon crowds: scenes taking place in sports stadiums, impossible stuff to draw.
Long long episodes of boring meaningless dialogue.
Everybody out of character. Too many characters. Characters that don't work together.
Too much action detail described by people Italicwho can't draw, therefore can't visualize.
Boring prose.
Pop culture references.
Explaining the "jokes".

Cartoon scripts are torture to read. You can't do it in one pass. It causes narcolepsy.

I believe in writing outlines - just enough material to get across the story and plot. Then you give that to a storyboard artist to flesh out with the director and other gag men.

Over the years I've developed this system. Computers have helped make it easy for us to combine the drawings of the key moments with the loose written descriptions of the most important events. The result is like a rough children's book.

If you'd like, I'll post the whole story in this form as a preview of the episode in progress.
The drawings in the outline are by me and Jim.


Shawn said...

I've had a hankerin' for Lido's pizza lately.

Great "scribbles"!

Ivan D said...

Hahah! He's trying to consecrate on his car. I laughed out loud when he tells them to beat up on some sissies.

I'm torn between wanting to see more, and not wanting to spoil the final product.

vhpayes said...

Please post the rest. I want to learn!

RJC said...

I nearly wet myself reading "He has a magic paunch"... Maybe that is Fedor's secret. Or the insane training, creepy lack of emotions, and ability to get dropped on his head by Kevin Randleman and then collect himself and win anyways. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Fun stuff!

Thomas said...

Fedor's face is temperamentally similar to Roman portrait sculpture. They're stoic without much expression, but captivating, and mysterious nevertheless.
A link to a portrait of Marcus Aurelius, the founder of Stoicism. Hope it works.

Sherm said...

Oh, yes...more please!

Kali Fontecchio said...

AWESOME FEDOR DRAWING I remember it very well.

Trevour said...

This just seems so logical when it comes to writing out cartoons. I can't stand non-stop dialogue.

Agreed that this would be most efficient for comics too. When I read a comic I want to see the drawings telling the story, not a panel filled up with words. Not a static image 6 times in a row with a stretched-out soliloquy. Post more, John!!!

Trevor Thompson said...

The flow of this post made me laugh out loud.

"Here's a couple of Fedor Pizza doodles, I have a story idea about that.... some more pizza doodles, here's a Bugs Bunny doodle, he sure is hard to draw, HEY! Wanna see how we do our cartoons?...."

The best part is, the drawings AND yer narration, plus eb and flow of the post made me laugh. Very funny post. That means you're a real entertainer by definition.

Kudos! Please post the rest. I love how effective and simple your method is.

- trevor.

PS: Where are Eddie's doodles?

David said...

Hey John,

I'd like to know how you got the ideas for the outline. Did you have a brainstorm session? Or were those ideas you had by yourself earlier or events that actually happened in your life? Do you use some kind of story structure for your stories, like the three act structure?

I like to know all this, because I just finished the story and storyboard of a cartoon, and I like to know if we approached it the right way, when we 'wrote' the story and the gags, so I can develop and get better at it. Next week we'll start animating, so that will be fun too!

Bill Wright said...

Fun doodles! Heh heh! Your Bugs drawings were perfect. If only they would let you do a Bugs Bunny cartoon the way you did Yogi Bear and the Jetsons. I can only imagine how awesome it would be.

I totally see your point about cartoon scripts.

And no, I don't take Dr. Phool seriously at all. How seriously can you take a fat guy who used to sell weight loss shakes? ;)

Wormen said...

would LOVE to see more of that "script" dude:)...

Steven said...

Great doodles, John!

But why are pop culture references exactly a sin? Because it's too easy or because you want cartoons to be timeless?

JohnK said...

They are a sin, because that's almost all that's left in cartoon writing.

Ahahnah said...

There is a portrait of Mr Fitzgerald up there! I love George's expressions.

I want to see how you write cartoons!

I'm tired of pop culture references in cartoons. The creators watch too much entertainment news. They need to stop regurgitating the worn out Hollywood fantasy world stuff found in movies and gossip rags and discover something new found beyond their pop culture prison. Fedor could beat them sensible and even help them see stars.

There looks like there is a vanishing point at the beginning of the word ratchet in the Comic Book Day pic. I've been curious how linear perspective is used in the developmental process of a cartoon.

Monk-of-funk said...

yes please, more outlines. It's an interesting way to write a story. I'm currently finishing up a scriptwriting course taught by someone who's never drawn, and it's evident. I believe there is much more potential for giving characters life by writing this way, and not hiring someone who doesn't consider "writing sins".

David Germain said...

I personally don't consider pop culture references to big a sin. When done right, they can really be fun. The problem with them today is that too often they're used as a crutch. Instead of writing a good joke, some writers will merely stick in a reference to something most often from the 1970's or 1980's and hope people will say "hey, I remember that show".
Heck, there was a time when making references made a show look clever. SCTV is credited for doing great things with pop culture references (although their main objective was to satirize the television industry so those references were entirely necessary). But, these days, thanks to shows like Family Guy and any immitators who abuse this sort of thing, more and more people are seeing references as the opposite of clever and that's a crying shame.

Everything else in this post is spot on, Mr. K. I've never seen a full Dr. Phil show in my life and I hope I never do.

JohnK said...


I used to enjoy when characters "broke the 4th wall" once in awhile too, but not when it becomes incessant.

Jack G. said...

I hate Dr Phil - worst thing Operah unleashed on the world.

Always interested in "how to" posts.

Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
drawingtherightway said...

Hey John I know you say that you usually don't use construction for many of the doodles because you are trying to get ideas out, but some of the bugs bunny drawings you have here appear (to me at least) to have construction. Were they made using construction? If not, your really good at drawing straight ahead and making them look constructed!

Whit said...

Oprah could take Dr. Phil in any style of wrestling.

Jizz Wad said...

The fun is there right at the concept.

The whole script thing seems pointless as your characters are staged so clearly.

Surely the poses and expressions spark/dictate the ideas for the final dialogue and the actual script?

Alex Printz said...

please post some more examples of that script outline- I saved both of those images for references myself, as I am never going to look back on any other way of explaining a script other than that ever again. so simple, and never used.

Geneva said...

Yes, I hate references after references. Family Guy took that to baffling new heights.

I think those Bugs drawings are super cute!

Rick Roberts said...

Dr. Phool is just another quick fix tv physciatrist. Also I love the Bugs doodles.

Rick Roberts said...

There is a major difference between popculture references and parody. Today's cartoons are just references. They just expect the audience to know what they are talking about do little to actually make fun of what the subject is.

Rick Roberts said...

Sorry to triple post but another sin is being so self referential. The Venture Brothers is doing it way too much now. They constantly point out story cliche after cliche instead of coming up with original humor.

Mattieshoe said...

>>They are a sin, because that's almost all that's left in cartoon writing.

Also note the difference between "Reference" (Family Guy) and Satire (Mighty Mouse, Tom Minton Cartoons)

Mattieshoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas said...

Last attempt before I just ask someone how to create link.

Fedor Roman

Thomas said...

>>They just expect the audience to know what they are talking about do little to actually make fun of what the subject is.<<

You're right; and their not making fun of what the subject is, just reveals that they're very conservative; not hip at all.

lastangelman said...

1.)Yeah, but your doodles of Bugs are kick-ass, very close to Bob McKimson model.
2.)Wow, I like the outline method. Makes perfect sense.

Sven Hoek said...

Please post more of the stories. Thats one of the biggest reasons I have been reading your blog since day one. I love the stories you come up with. and the process is so interesting. That drawing of george under the car getting perturbed is hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Phool has Ted Turner's mouth.

sushimaster77 said...

Along with copious crowd scenes, nearly every series I've ever worked on has had a carnival episode: tough to work on for everyone involved, and never any fun, especially the chase scenes.

Vincent Waller said...

And Fabulous drawings thy are.

Rick Roberts said...

Another thing is bad ideas are universal. For example, I work at Wal-Mart and I will hear the same bad jokes EVERY SINGLE DAY from all sorts of people. Like if the item dosen't scan they'll say "It's Free", or if I just open my register I'll hear "You must have been waiting for me !".

Cotton Gin said...

Family Guy plagiarizes itself so frequently that it makes me cringe in disgust on a regular basis. Its such a lazy lazy show. Seth
McFarlane must be an awful person. I hope he chokes to death on a stack of 50 dollar bills.

On another note, I am really interested in what Fedor's magic punch does. Does it cure cancer or help locate kids who ran away from home? Does he need to eat radio active vegetables from Chernobyl to refill his punch power? Does he have to fight caviar smugglers and Russian mobsters led by his brother, unbeknown to him?

Ryan Kramer said...

this is great stuff, John! I love this kind of process, I don't get to do it this way on production the production that I'm on...but when i get home to work on my own toons, this just makes the most sense.

Gabriele_Gabba said...

Hey John, haven't been here in a while!

Anyway, i think i landed back here at just the right time! I wanna start storyboarding/writing something up for a small labour of love project and these writing tips are really useful thanks!

Also good to see i'm not the only one always struggling with bugs!

Have you seen the behind the scenes of Iron Giant? Brad bird was like 'hey my influences are looney toons and i hope that feeling of rawness came through in this movie' Errr is it me or did Iron Giant use like NO principles and all the movement and anticipations were pretty stock. Also what's your take on animating eyes and blinks? Have you covered this?

Your seriously wordy bud in Africa,


P.S. Do you like any of Glen Keane's animation?