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?


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: