How to write a funny picture. It’s called the “Animatic”!

I recently read this debate about writing for animation from Something Old, Nothing New blog by Jaime J. Weinman.

Many animators are frustrated by dealing with writers who aren’t cartoonists. Some think that all writers in the old days drew while others say, only some did. Well I can’t say for sure either way, but I do run into trouble with explaining my animation ideas to the people paying for them. Before I can get the idea out and before the client even understands what I’m saying, I’m being revised. It can be frustrating, but ultimately it’s their budget. Hey, making stuff my way?  That’s what Family Pants is for!

(I wrote this in the comment field on Jaime’s blog, but then thought, what the hell, I’ll put it on my blog as well.)

Take a 3-Stooges episode. Watch it. Write it. It won’t be funny to read. Funny to watch, but not read. Writing is the first step of the very long and detailed process of animation. To make judgements on a cartoon based on whether or not you laughed at a script is wrong.

Reading an animation script requires skill. You just don’t read the words and evaluate what you’ve read. You actually have to imagine a finished cartoon, fully animated, with sound effects, in color in you head, then make judgement based on that image.

The previous blogger mentioned Tex Avery worked with real writers. Tex had that skilled tool, called imagination, to evaluate a script, not based on the words he read, but the finished cartoon, 20 steps away, in his head.

Many people in the animation industry as well as clients who hire you to animate for them, do not have this skill. Clearly if they did, they wouldn’t hire you! Often times, they could be holding the greatist cartoon script in their hands and wouldn’t know it.

This is why lots of cartoons today are “wordy”. It requires no skill at all to read a funny piece of dialogue and say, “Hey, this is funny.” But if you read a paragraph describing a funny physical gag, you may not see the humor in it.

You may argue why write at all? Writing is faster than drawing. I could write “100 monkeys dance” much faster than I can draw it. And I could correct it to “100 HIPPOS dance” faster than I can draw it. Unless I had a photographic memory, writing helps get the idea down quickly. A skilled individual, like Tex Avery, looks it over imagining the finished piece, makes some changes, then draws it.

Even without a script, I’ve found clients without the skill of imagination can’t read a story board either. They look at panel 3 when you’re talking about panel 1. They see the board as a comic strip, not a finished moving colorful cartoon with sound.

So, how do you hand feed the client or unimaginative individual your idea? You could film your story board, so the client can only see one panel at a time and in the pacing and tempo you set up. You can add sound effects, dialogue and even music to complete the picture. It’s like “automatic animation” or “animation automated” or an “ANIMATIC”!

Scripts and story boards are very important to the process of animation but should only be seen and used internally by those who know how to use them.

While comic strips and novels are great things, (I’m a comic strip cartoonist at heart) they are only a small part of a bigger thing in animation.



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