Like any successful film or television series, animation relies on the quality of its story. With so much creative freedom in the world you’re building, it can be tricky to keep your characters grounded and create a compelling story that is both engaging and believable for your audience.
So what is the process for bringing your animated story to life? How much teamwork is involved? And how do you create and produce content that will be engaging for an audience of all ages? We’re looking to a few of the leading voices in the world of animation for their advice on harnessing your creativity bringing your idea from script to storyboard to screen.
Here are seven tips for mastering the art of writing for animation from our AFF alum:
GIVE US SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN
It doesn’t have to be a real world, it just has to be believable. Because then, that allows you to set up characters and situations that actually have stakes and that people are going to care about. Because really in animation…you can do anything. There are no rules really, because it’s creating or making on the computer or drawing. So, if there aren’t actual believable stakes in that and you can just say “Oh well it doesn’t matter, I’ll just draw his way out of this situation,” no one is really going to care about your characters.
-Jessica Julius (Vice President, Creative Affairs for Walt Disney Animation Studios) AFF 2009
STICK TO THE RULES OF YOUR WORLD
You kind of have this longevity to it because you start creating your own world, and if you stay consistent with it, it still feels realistic although there is no longer any realism in it. I think that is part of it. You create your world and then try to stick to its rules.
-Glenn Berger (writer/producer King of the Hill, Kung Fu Panda, Trolls) AFF 2011
FIND YOUR PASSION—AND HARNESS IT
If something sticks in your head, you know, write it out and see where it can take you, because you’re going to be spending a lot of time on it. You want to be passionate, and you know, really like what you’re doing, because it is hard. So find that passion and that kernel.
-Rita Hsiao (writer Mulan, Toy Story 2, Disenchanted) AFF 2011
COLLABORATION IS KEY
It is a collaborative effort…I’m putting in what I can, and now I’m seeing how somebody else is interpreting that, and you really start to see the beauty of that, that it’s not entirely yours. It’s this work of your words with somebody else’s visuals, and I think that’s the beauty of animation especially. It’s so many people’s words usually, and so many people’s visuals who are coming together in this, and when it works, it’s amazing.
-Jason Eaton (writer Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs) AFF 2011
GROUND YOUR STORY
What we want in the writing world very often is someone who can come in and ground those characters and ground the emotionality and the dilemma that’s going on so that you want to sit in that seat for two hours and feel that just because anything can happen doesn’t mean that it will, and you need to watch because you just have no idea how these completely fictional characters in this completely fabricated world are going to get their way at the end of the film.
-Maggie Malone (Head of Creative Affairs at Disney Animation Studios) AFF 2009
WRITE SOMETHING WORTH FIGHTING FOR
You just have to care, because all I want to get from watching something is I want to care, and I think that when you’re the one creating the content, you just have to care about it so much that you’re willing to go through the hell of whatever it’s going to have to take to do it. Don’t pick something that you think that you should do because you think someone might buy it. Write something that you really care about.
-Kiel Murray (writer Cars, Cars 3) AFF 2011
RECOGNIZE THE VALUE IN FEEDBACK
Notes are the job. In animation, that’s all we’re doing all day long, is giving each other notes and addressing the notes to get more notes… If you hear, “We have no notes,” you didn’t get the job. They’re done. It’s over. “We have no notes” is probably the worst thing you could hear, so look forward to them.
-Pamela Ribon (writer Moana, Ralph Breaks The Internet; comic book writer Rick and Morty, My Boyfriend is a Bear) at AFF 2016
Interested in hearing tips like this first hand? Join us next Wednesday, April 10, for our On Story Season 9 Premiere Party featuring a FREE live taping of our conversation with Pamela Ribon (Moana, Ralph Breaks the Internet) on the art of writing for animation and the steps for breaking in and having your ideas heard.
For more information or to RSVP for the event, click here.