Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pierre Speaks: Animation 3

Writing in Animation

They say that a movie is written 3 times. Once when the script is written. A second time when the film is shot. And a final time in the editing room.

It is not unlike that in animation.

I have seen some projects with a supervisor specifically for the writing team. On other projects, the writers deal directly with the director.

After the development stage is done, once the actual series starts, when writing an episode the writer will start with a first draft of the script. Then he will refine his script into a second draft, and a third draft until the script is finally approved for the FINAL DRAFT. By then the writer's involvement with the episode is pretty much done.

I have seen scripts go as far as a seventh draft before being approved as the final draft.
It happens.

Most shows follow what is called the "3 acts structure". Essentially with a TV show, you get the first act of a show, then commercials, then you get the second act of the show, then some more commercials, and then you get the final act. It is not a coincidence that you often get some sort of cliffhanger just before the commercial break. It is planned that way all the way from the writing stage.

Although, I have worked on some series that do not follow the "3 acts structure".
The first show I have worked on called "The Busy world of Richard Scary" did not follow the "3 acts structure". It was made up of what we called an "A" show, and a "B" show. Arthur the show I am currently working on follows the same pattern.

Essentially, each half hour episode is made up of 2 stories.
In the case of "Scary", the "A" shows would happen in the setting of Busytown. And the "B" shows would happen in Busyworld. The "B" shows could happen anywhere in Busyworld in any time period. So we had shows like "The very first Valentine" happen in Roman times.

So once the Final Draft is approved, it is time to "write" the show a second time. Right?
Although in animation, the second time you "write" the show is in the storyboarding stage.
The storyboard is where you can visualise what the show will look like. You can also tweak it/rework it. Rework some scenes. Remove some scenes. Move dialogues to a different scene... and even sometimes add new dialogues.

A lot of work is done in the storyboard stage because the storyboard is what the layout & posing and animation will depend on (don't worry, I will do a Blog to explain what "layout & posing" is.... it is normal if you do not have a clue as to what it is.... I did not either before I worked in animation). They will follow the storyboard faithfully, so it must have as much of the information that they need as possible.

And then there is the editing where the show will get "written" a third time.
What that mean is that some scenes may get shortened a little, or simply taken out. Some dialogs may also be removed for various reasons.

And example is on the Bob Morane show. At some point Bob and his friends get surrounded by a score of EVIL bad guys. And Bob was supposed to say something like "Oh....shit". But when I saw the episode in English.... the scene ended with Bob and his friends surrounded by bad guys..... then the show went to the commercial without Bob saying his line.

Being the curious guy that I am, I went and ask the director.... "Why was the dialog missing??"

He told me that no matter how hard they tried and how many times they re-recorded the line of the guy saying "Oh... shit", it never sounded good. So he simply took out the dialog when editing the episode. It was pretty simple, the shot was a bird's eye view and we never saw Bob's lips.... so there was no way for people watching the show to know that a line of dialog was missing. But I knew. ;)

Sadly thanks to my experience in animation, I can see when some dialogues get changed/edited when I watch a TV show or movie. Or spot when a scene is missing thanks to the way it is edited.

An example of a scene missing is in Heavy Metal; 2000 (or FAKK 2).
When Julie crashes on the planet (I forget the name), we see her come out of her ship and she is fine. Then when we see her right after that, her suit is torn to pieces. The reason is that after she came out of the ship, she was attacked by some creature and that is how her suit was torn.

But the scene with the creature was taken out.

So you end up with one scene where her suit is fine, and the very next scene where her suit is torn for no apparent reason.

It happens.

The next Blog about animation will be about character design.

Until next time.

- Pierre

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