of How to Write for Animation
by Shannon Muir
How to Write for Animation
Author: Jeffrey Scott
Foreword: Joe Barbera
dFX Review Rating: 8 out of 10
Info from Amazon.com
1. Understanding the World of Animation
2. Tools of the Trade
3. Basic Overview
4. How to Write a Premise
5. Developing Your Story Beats
6. How to Write an Outline
7. How to Write a Script
8. Writing Description
9. Writing Dialogue
10. How to Write Funny Stuff
11. Feature, Internet, and Sample Scripts
12. Creating an Animated Series
13. Writing a Presentation, Bible, and Pilot
14. How to Get an Agent
15. How to Break into Toon Writing Without an Agent
16. How to Pitch Your Project
17. How to Prosper in Toon Town
to Write for Animation enters the market as one of
the first books of its kind devoted solely to writing for animation.
Others have covered it in paragraphs, or a chapter, but only in
the last several years have entire volumes come out on the subject.
Jeffrey Scott's contributions as an animation writer include over
six hundred animation television scripts going back to the mid
1970s. Mr. Scott began his career at Hanna-Barbera and has worked
for such diverse companies as Jim Henson, Sony Pictures Family
Entertainment, DIC Enterprises, Walt Disney TV Animation, and
Fred Wolf Films; awards include three Emmys and a Humanitas Prize.
His father also worked as a Story Editor, and he is the grandson
of Moe Howard of the Three Stooges. This gives him a wealth of
information and experience to share, in a volume that's easy to
understand yet doesn't talk down to the reader.
credits mainly encompass comedy and action-comedy non-prime time
series, which is reflected in the book. In order to provide examples
that will contain relevance to comedy and action writers alike,
he chooses to use samples of a premise, outline, and script for
an action-comedy series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Generally
this tact works successfully since the majority of animated shows
range from comedy to action-comedy. If a writer intends to do
preschool writing (think Clifford or Dragon Tales) or action-adventure
shows such as Justice League, these samples still provide the
basic groundwork but lack advice specific to the format. They're
even less practical for those who aspire to write prime-time animation,
as its format is a hybrid between screenplay and sitcom script
format and does not use written premises since prime-time animation
has roundtables like a sitcom staff. Mr. Scott does interview
Futurama Supervising Producer Patric Verrone to get some contrast
and insight to the prime-time animation world, but this book is
not designed to teach prime-time animation writing.
the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles samples are exercises. The reader
is encouraged to try their hand at creating a written premise,
beat sheet, and outline for the episode "Mobster from Dimension
X" before being shown the actual versions of each as used
in production. Being able to try and compare allows the reader
to just not passively absorb the pages, or worse, think they understood
but when they go to apply it find he or she didn't quite understand
the information. It's interactive learning to be certain concepts
are understood. I found the exercises to be extremely effective,
more so since they related to an actually produced product versus
a writer making up a script for the sake of the exercises.
Mr. Scott's credits include a fair amount of educational and preschool
writing, I would like to have seen more time also devoted to this
challenging arena. In the dialogue section, he does refer to finding
appropriate word levels for the viewing audience, and also deals
with it to some extent in character development, but there are
special considerations with these scripts in terms of how to deal
with appropriate themes and storylines. There are usually special
advisors hired on these shows to help assure they meet the audience's
needs. A walk-through from premise to script on a Muppet Babies,
Dragon Tales, or similar show I feel would have brought a lot
to the book. Personally, I've never attempted a script in this
area because I feel so daunted by all the nuances and I think
exercises like this might help me break through.
dreamed of creating your own show, Mr. Scott provides useful information
in this area. The book includes a complete sample bible for a
existing property he helped develop called The Extreme Adventures
of Wacky Willie, a show about extreme sports created around a
mascot for an 'extreme' shake. Mr. Scott also includes advice
on how to write an effective pilot script; the most educational
statement for me was that don't always assume a pilot is designed
to be the first one aired. Also covered are whether or not you
need an agent, how to get an agent if you want one, and guidelines
for designing a show pitch.
also deals briefly with feature and Internet animation. In the
case of features, there's not much to say since everything is
done in-house, which also appears to be true for direct-to-video.
Internet animation is too new to speak to in great length. That
said, it's to Mr. Scott's credit that the areas are at least acknowledged.
He also goes to the effort to explain the pre-production process
to readers so they understand the relevance of the script and
what happens to it in the television animation process. However,
having been a Production Coordinator on several shows, I do have
to point out that what he describes is not the exact process at
every studio; for example, his description puts dialogue recording
after the storyboard, while every show I've worked on (for Sony
and Nickelodeon) recorded dialogue first so that storyboard artists
could work on acting poses from the dialogue track. These are
however minor nitpicks and folks will get the general idea.
I want to
emphasize that everything in this book is worth learning from,
but due to the fact that there are delays in the book-publishing
world, some references already make the book appear dated though
its information is relevant. The introduction speaks of "Toon
Town as a Boom Town," though the industry was on quite a
downturn at the time of the book's release. Mr. Scott portrays
Internet animation as "the frontier of animation," virgin
territory waiting to be explored and exploded, but he does acknowledge
this will happen "once the bandwidth increases"; unfortunately
this is looking much later than anyone envisioned. I hope these
are lessons Mr. Scott takes in mind for future editions of the
How to Write
for Animation works best as either a primer for people new to
the animation format but have familiarity with live-action scriptwriting,
or as a refresher course for the more experienced animation writer.
Even as someone who has studied animation writing for some time,
the book brought me new and valuable insights. However, if you
do not know general screenwriting basics of three-act structure,
plot development, and character, study those before diving into
How to Write for Animation. This book walks you step-by-step from
premise to beat sheet to outline to script, but if you don't understand
the principles behind the mechanics, it will likely be useless.
There are sections that are very short that other people have
written entire books on, such as getting an agent, but this book's
goal is simply to stress what is specific for animation; knowing
the live-action equivalent is required to get the most out of
How to Write for Animation.
- Easy to read and understand.
- Interactive exercises.
- Samples from a produced animated episode.
- Complete sample series bible.
- Not immediately clear you need basic knowledge of live-action
scriptwriting to fully appreciate the book.
- Comedy and action-comedy heavy; not much information for
action-adventure, educational/preschool, or prime-time animation
if you're familiar with scriptwriting fundamentals and want to
take the plunge into writing a blueprint for the animated screen,
get your hands on How to Write for Animation. If your ultimate
goal is prime-time animation, it would behoove you to understand
how non-prime time animation works so you can understand the differences.
A man with Jeffrey Scott's experience has much to teach.
You can order
How to Write for Animation by clicking
Muir 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.
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