April 4, 2011
Women in Children’s Media and Women in Animation present
Animation Development a la Curious Pictures
Gus Pepperoni’s Sausage Shop, Brooklyn, NY
WiCM Member: Golly, Mr. Pepperoni, how do you make the sausage?
Gus Pepperoni: Don’ ask, kid.
WiCM Member: But Mr. Pepperoni, I came all this way to find out…
Gus Pepperoni: Trust me, pal, you don’ wanna know.
WiCM Member: But I just gotta know!
Gus Pepperoni: Believe me, buddy, if you knew how the sausage was made, you wouldn’t be askin.’
WiCM Member: Mr. Pepperoni, please…
Gus Pepperoni: Nope. This is for your own good, junior.
WiCM Member: Mr. Chorizo, will you teach me?
Frank Chorizo: What goes in the sausage? Tell you what, halfpint…
WiCM Member: You’ll tell me?
Frank Chorizo: …best if ya don’t know.
WiCM Member: Aw, crackers!
George Kielbasa: Chorizo’s right. Don’t ask questions you don’ wanna know the answers to, sport.
Franklin Bratwurst: Now ain’t that the truth. Why, if my name isn’t Franklin Pastorius Bratwurst…
Seamus Hotdog: Perfect. Here goes Bratwurst again, runnin’ his mouth…
Franklin Bratwurst: You shut your trap, Hotdog. You’re not even a real sausage.
Gus Pepperoni: You took it too far, Franklin.
We all love the final result, but how are animated shows made? This week WiCM teamed up with Women in Animation to take us through the process of animated show development. It all went down at Curious Pictures, the top-flight animation production outfit responsible for some of the hottest content for kids (as well as live action, special effects, and gaming). They’re the folks behind Kids Next Door and Little Einsteins, and they’re cooking up some really tasty stuff.
Our hosts were both seasoned animation veterans. First up was Kristin Martin, executive producer of mega-hit The Magic School Bus. Kristin lent us her media developer’s brain as she shared the story of her latest project, an adaptation of a popular kids’ book series to the digital animated world.
Kristin and her team faced many choices throughout the adaption process. The demands and attributes of the new medium drove many of their decisions. The art underwent a facelift to meet the all-angles needs of animation. The team expanded the cast to include a new athletic character, thus taking advantage of new opportunities for more physical humor. And one-note characters acquired more substance to shoulder the many storylines they would need to support. Understanding both the essence of the property and the strengths of the new medium helped Kristin and her team develop a mighty fine-lookin’ product.
Next up was Marina Grasic, who discussed the primetime side of animation development. By way of background, Marina has been the executive producer of a number of films—you have perhaps heard of a little movie called, uh, the Crash?—and is currently developing an animated program for Fox.
Marina explained how writers, producers, and artists all collaborate to develop a show. Just as in kids’ animation, these role players—I’ll call them “developers”—create the show with characters, relationships, art design, animation style, etc. External concerns also drive this process; successful developers must pay attention to practical issues, such as what network would best fit the show.
Marina took us through the building of a show bible, and its distillation into a pitchbook. While this process walks in step with kids’ animation development, an adult animation wrinkle is the increased importance of a network-approved showrunner, the person responsible for the day-to-day operation of a TV series. This person is often the last major ingredient and is crucial to successful development.
Even if a show makes it past the pitch, there’s still plenty of work ahead. The pilot process involves the incorporation of network changes and the development of a pilot script over six to eight months. The introduction of time-consuming elements such as animatics and full animation add to the duration of an already long journey.
It’s a long, challenging process, but a couple of clips showed us how stimulating and rewarding animation development can be. Personally, I was fascinated by every detail of this fantastic event. Our hosts knew their stuff and showed us all the steps in creating their first-class shows. But if you’re worried that a peek into the butcher shop may have affected your appetite, take some advice from my good friend Ahab Alexander Andouille: “Focus on the taste, kid.”