Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pierre Speaks: Animation 2

Developing an Animated Series

Making an animated series is a lot of work, and it can take months and months of development.

The easiest way to come up with an animated project is to take something that already exist (usually something successfull) and adapt it for animation (Batman Adventure, Ultimate Avengers).

Bob Morane was such a project.

When I started working on Bob Morane... there was a whole team of designers and colorists that had been developping the show for months (I would say 3 or 4.... but I might be misremembering). And they already had some comic artist coming up with an early version of the characters for a few months before that. And once I got on the project, we still were developping/tweaking the look of the show for about 3 months as we started working on the first few episodes.

And that was on something that was already well established before.

We had the original Bob Morane novels, and all the comics that pretty much established who the characters were.

So imagine how much work it can be when you come up with a project from scratch.

And there is never any guarantee that the project will ever reach the TV screen (or movie screen).

I have seen hundreds of proposals (literally) in all my years in animation. And 99.5 of those never made it to the screen.

I have seen proposals never go any further then just being a proposal.

I have seen proposals being turned into a 10 minutes fully animated demo and never go further then that.

I have seen proposals becoming a full episode AKA pilot and never go further then that (X-Men; Pryde of the X-Men is a perfect example of that..... it would have made an awesome TV show).

Heck I have seen proposals where half a season was finished when the project ended up being shelved.

It happens.

As I keep on telling people.... until you see the project on the TV screen... anything can happen and the project could end up on a shelf never to be used for some reason.

For years we heard about the "upcoming" "Nexus" TV animated series, or the "Bone" animated movie, or more recently the "Teen Titans; Judas Contract" animated direct to DVD movie.

But sadly..... we will never see those projects for some reasons.

Heck we often see TV shows with good ratings get cancelled because the toys/merchandising don't sell very well (Batman Beyond).

I suspect that is why "Justice League" became "Justice League Unlimited" in some hope to be able to sell more action figures thanks to the truckload of new characters in JLU.

Essentially, animated TV shows are little more then half hour commercials to sell toys/mercandises. Sad.... but that is how it usually works.

There are no official way to develop an animated project. Each studio I have worked at all went about this in a different way.

Heck I have seen projects where we had a whole 2 weeks to develop the entire project. Can you imagine?? 2 whole weeks. Let me tell you that it was not nearly enough time.

But it happens.

It is not rare to end up on projects with completely unreasonable demands.

Not much choice there.

You either do it.... or tell them to get someone else.

In an ideal world, you have a bunch of writers coming up with some writers bible with a synopsis for the series, and the psychology of the characters explaining who the characters are and what their background is and stuff like that.

And you get a small army of artists to come up with some cool visuals for the look of the project. Some characters model sheets, some locations, and some color samples to try to establish the look and atmosphere of the series.

And animation being a collaborative process, not only does it take various teams of people (writers designers, colorists/etc) to produce the proposal.... but as usual whatever you do needs to go throught a small army of directors/producers for their approuval. And more often then not, each of them will want to have a say in the creative process.

I suspect that in many cases it makes them feel like creative people when they do that.

Once you have everyone's approuval.... that a broadcaster and various investors have been found, and that the studio has all the money.... or at least most of the money... needed for the project, you are ready to begin production....... more or less.

I have seen some productions start with only part of their financing, confident that they would get the rest as the project progressed.

Sometimes it worked.... and sometimes not... and that became one of those projects that never reached the TV screen.

It happens.

So usually, developing an animated project is a bumpy ride. It is not unlike trying to pitch a submission/proposal to a comic publisher, but on a bigger scale.

Instead of being just a lone shmoe or two in their basement trying to come up with some character and some sample pages to show around to some potential publisher, you have this corporation hiring a bunch of people to put together a proposal for a TV show to pitch to various broadcasters and investors.

More or less the same thing.... but on a different scale.

In the next Blog about animation, I will talk about the writing part of an animated project.

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