Insights for Non Artists:
Greg Weisman Interview, Part 1 - Developer & Producer
Shannon Muir - This article originally appeared
years in animation, Greg Weisman's career includes writing, story
editing, producing, voice directing, and development. Welcome
to Part One of my three-part chat with Greg about these aspects
of the business. In this segment: his roles as development executive
and supervising producer.
After an earlier
stint at DC Comics and freelancing one animated script, Greg became
a development associate (a very junior executive) at the then-small
development department at Disney TV Animation. His boss went away
for what was supposed to be two weeks and ended up being six months.
Since his boss' secretary was shared with publicity and he was
the remaining executive in the division, Greg started aiding his
boss' superior and became "indispensable." Greg admits
it wasn't the path he sought -- he'd known since second grade
he wanted to write -- but the development job gave him regular
contact with writers and story editors (the distinctions will
be discussed in Part Three). It also didn't allow him time to
work on his own material.
duties included managing script coordinators, writers, story editors
and producers; he also regularly evaluated new and existing talent
(writers and artists) for their suitability to current projects.
New projects would come under his scrutiny; he evaluated studio
efficiency to see where improvements could be made and that the
products being made were what had been promised.
When I asked
Greg what he thought someone in development needed in their background,
he replied, "I don't think there are any rules. Definitely
helps to have to have a liberal arts education. It helps to have
done some writing yourself. Sometimes you don't get hired for
that reason. I've known people who won't hire people on the executive
track because those people were writers."
from being in development to producing with the series Gargoyles,
which still airs in reruns on Toon Disney (check http://www.toondisney.com
for a current schedule). Gargoyles began as a notion Greg explored
with his development team. Originally developed as a comedy about
medieval gargoyles awakened in the present, it took two years
to sell and became an adventure show different from other Disney
projects. The timeframe caused a lot of turnover in the development
staff; also, many talents Disney normally relied on weren't right
for the project.
a line producer to get artwork for Gargoyles underway but needed
a creative head. Greg had a "passion for the property"
and stepped in to drive it forward for now. The first couple of
writers didn't pan out, and Greg says, "as we worked on story
I became involved in a more hands-on way than I normally would
but we had the green light and needed to keep things moving."
He began making decisions producers make, not to overstep bounds
but because there wasn't one.
hired Michael Reaves to story edit, and feels that Michael and
he "were a great team." Frank Paur came on as creative
producer but Greg was so involved he "couldn't bear to give
it up." His superiors at Disney did not let him become a
credited producer and required him to continue his development
job while being a supervising producer on Gargoyles' first season;
when it was renewed, Greg became a full-time producer.
For more information
on Gargoyles, visit the websites http://www.gargoyles-fans.org
-- on the latter, Greg has a moderated message board where he
interacts with fans of his work.
I asked Greg
the difference between producer and developer; he responded passionately.
He feels the producer gets the show done, while the executive
does his best job "keeping out of the producer's way."
Greg firmly believes that if someone's hired to produce a show,
there should be enough faith the person can handle it. "If
you're in his [the producer's] face, telling him how to get his
work done, you're not respecting that hiring decision in the first
often reread the same script and give notes. To Greg, this "fosters
an absolute system of disrespect." A lower executive's notes
can be overruled by higher up and "you know who you'll have
to listen to," so it's hard to take a lower executive's notes
seriously. He also feels many of today's executives don't understand
animation; it's perceived as a stepping stone, but many never
escape. "When I came in, I studied it," Greg says. "Every
facet of it
I went to recordings, mix sessions, edits."
Greg feels, rely too much on focus groups and trends; they are
"people without the courage of their conviction." He
also points out that "the largest successes often have passionate
creators behind them" (though the two are not mutually exclusive).
In short, "it's got to start with the passion."
Join me next
time for Part
Two: Voice Directing.
is known in the animation industry for her work as a production
coordinator for Nickelodeon's Invader Zim. She also served as
a Production Coordinator for Extreme Ghostbusters and a Production
Assistant for Jumanji: The Animated Series. Muir is an accomplished
writer and often participates on panels or as a guest speaker
at conventions like Comic Con International.
to Los Angeles in 1996 from Cheney, WA (population approximately
8,000), knowing she wanted to be part of the animation business.
Since then, she's never strayed far from making that dream reality,
whether it be actively working on a production or writing articles
about the industry.
You can email
Shannon Muir at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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