What ‘I Kissed a Girl’ Can Teach You About Cartoons

Probably nothing…on the surface.

But let’s dig a little deeper.

I may go so far into left field with this post you might have to send out a search party. Here it goes anyway, so bear with me.

For my trip to Montreal, I flew Westjet. I dig Westjet because you get your own personal satellite TV that’s embedded in the seat backs. Even better, I got to watch an episode of my guilty pleasure “So You Think You Can Dance” (don’t judge me…yet).

On that show there was a live performance of a singer I’d never heard of, Katy Perry. (Remember, I’m old and don’t get out much.)

I heard this song ‘I Kissed a Girl’ for the first time. The subject matter made my eyes roll. She was all ‘girly-girly’ and that made my eyes roll (I’m so not girly-girly). I like rock songs, not this kind of fluff.

But I had to admit…it was catchy (OK, you can judge me now). Fine. On with my dance show already.

Then during my trip, a strange thing happened.

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“The Beat”: When Silence is Golden

I’m attempting to show two things with this post. And let it be known there are many images ahead.

The first thing is to show how I would have broken down a scene from a TV show (that I didn’t work on). I talked about this at the end of my last post on dealing with dialogue. This is something you can do to practice breaking up dialogue and acting it out.

Why South Park?

Well, I love South Park. It brings out the 20 year old frat boy in me, what can I say? I’ve been a fan since it first aired while I was in animation school. I also have all the DVDs and watch them while I work. Keeps me in a good mood.

Also, it demonstrates that even the ‘simple’ shows can be acted out. South Park is a very ‘wordy’ show too. A lot of the jokes are very dialogue based (as well as visually based). So when I broke this down it got quite long because of all the dialogue, even though it’s only a portion of the actual scene.

It goes to show how much work a TV animation storyboard artist should be doing to pull off the dialogue well.

I would have loved to show the video clip first to go with this. But alas, I have yet to figure out how to easily get that from my DVD onto this blog. Anyone with some advice please offer it in the comments (or email me) and I’ll give you kudos and lots ‘o Karma.

Keep in mind the South Park guys may not have broken down the posing this much. They may have left much more to their animators because they work right there with them. Very different than sending it somewhere else to be animated.

Also keep in mind what I’ve done here is not formatted like a professional storyboard. I’ve just slapped the dialogue under the images, OK?

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Dealing With Dialogue: When the Words Don’t Matter

Now this is not to infuriate the writers out there.

The words *do* matter in many ways. How else would we know what the story was about or what the characters were thinking? And for those very dialogue-based shows (when the gag is verbal, not visual), the words do indeed matter.

But sometimes they don’t.

Please keep in mind I am mainly talking about cartoons here, not live-action. But hopefully the live-action folks can still get something out of this.

I mentioned in a previous post about a show I worked on called ‘The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers!’.

They don’t speak English.

They speak Rendoosian.

Yes, it’s a made-up language. We didn’t get translations to what they were saying in the script either. But it was usually pretty obvious when you read the context of what was going on.

The brothers didn’t talk much and it usually involved their cheer, “Yahzaa!”, so it wasn’t too difficult.

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10 Signs to Know if You’re Reading a Strong Script

Before I get into this, I just want to make one thing clear.

I love writers. I respect writers.

I know how hard it must be to write a script from a blank page. Just as I know how hard it is to draw a storyboard from a blank page. It’s very easy to come in after it’s finished and pick out what could be better.

I just want you (and the writers) to know how artists see their scripts when taking them to the next level in production. I’m writing this from a visual storytelling point of view. And it’s all for the good of the story, right?

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I see myself as the ‘fresh eyes’ when I get a script. Board artists can point out things that may have been overlooked by the writer and director. Sometimes time runs out and it just has to be good enough…because hey, there’s schedule to keep! I get that completely.

I write this out of my experience and opinions of animation scripts.

Read more10 Signs to Know if You’re Reading a Strong Script