Friday, September 16, 2011

The trouble with pitching shows...

Here's another character of a rat recording details from a crazy crime scene. It was from a project I was actively developing about six years ago that borrowed heavily from shows about detectives from the 50's and 60's. The pencil media is Polychromos Blue.
Now don't get me wrong, there's some great execs who take pitches all day long that get the ideas you're trying to sell...but unfortunately, there are a good number who have a hard time comprehending a good idea...or any idea.
It dawned on me after some rather unsuccessful pitches that a show like this could never fly today. It had a couple of strikes against it from the get go which I'll share with you here.
Strike One - It references a different time period. Because this show evokes old imagery from the 50's and 60's, Executives feel the show would never connect with todays' viewers.
Strike Two - The main character is an adult rat wearing clothes.
This would never fly with some executives because there would be too many confusing questions about the humanoid rat. I.E., Why is a rat wearing clothes? Rats can write? Is the rat really a human that looks like a rat? Why is the rat a detective? Can the rat talk? etc. etc. The questions would be too numerous to answer in a single sitting.
Besides, the rat is an adult and could never relate to children.
Strike Three - The rat character doesn't sing or have a band.  The kiss of death for a show like this. You see no band, no show.
Strike Four - The cartoon is a bit clever.  If the show has an ounce of wit or parody, the kiddies will never get it.
Strike Five - The cartoon has slapstick humor. You can't have characters hitting each other over the heads because kids watching will get the wrong idea and repeat it on their friends. Can you imagine the violence that could erupt nationwide?
Strike Six - The drawings are too slick and professional looking. If the drawing is drafted well, overseas animation studios will never be able to copy it. Better to stick to childlike drawings that are simpler to draw and kids can relate to better.
In other words, strive for the lower possible denominator. It's no wonder why kids don't watch cartoons anymore!


Kevin said...

What was the title of this show? Maybe the suits didn't get that either. Did it have 'Rat' in the title? Great drawing Brian.

Brubaker said...

"Strike 6" does make an interesting point. I'm remembering shows from the '90s that had character designs that are "slick" but were constantly drawn odd due to the service studios used. Some did really good job (TMS in Japan comes to mind), but others like Wang Films/Cuckoo's Nest or Akom really varied.

I can see how simpler styles can be appealing to producers because they're less likely to mess up. They don't always mean poor designs; I can name a few shows with minimalist designs that are appealing. On the other hand there are ALOT of poorly-designed shows.

Brian Mitchell said...

If you look at Disney's new TV shows based off of the classic motion pictures, they have simplified the characters to make them easier for the overseas studios to animate. Some human characters like Cruella DeVille and Captain Hook will look utterly hideous in the hands of someone who doesn't have the chops to pull it off; no less trying to pump out animation by the foot (or by the drawing).
There is nothing wrong with simple designs. Good simple drawings are hard to pull off, it's really the essence of the medium.
But a lot of the simpler designs are amatuerish meaning that there's no sense of design, style and appeal. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, UPA cartoons, Woody Woodpecker, Ren & Stimpy, Baloo the Bear, The Flintstones, Madame Medusa, Huckleberry Hound, The Pink Panther all have it. It's the element that makes you want to watch something. But sometimes different means edgy, at least to a certain group of people. But just because it's different, doesn't mean it's good.
I worked on quite a few shows over the 80's and 90's that were animated overseas. Mighty Mouse The New Adventures, had strong character layouts that were done by great character artists in LA, which Wang studios used in producing that show overseas.
TMS studios was known for producing superior quality TV animation. But those were the exceptions. Aside from the storyboards and model packs that were sent with the sound tracks to overseas studios, if a scene required real acting with strong poses (and if that wasn't spelled out), you couldn't expect great results. Even simple scenes with basic expression changes get screwed up overseas!
The animators trace the model sheets and add a few mouth shapes!
At Warners, I had a scene to storyboard that required a good amount of animation, continuous angle changes and camera gymnastics. Knowing that this would be very difficult to pull off in a feature animation scenario, I told the powers that be that it would be better to divide the shot into three separate shots because the overseas animation house would never be able to handle it as is.
Someone argued that it would look great in the cartoon. Anyway, to make a long story short, my objections were shot down.
The scene went in as scripted... and as expected, the film came back months later with that complicated scene looking like utter garbage.
Oh well.... The Magic of animation!

Brubaker said...

The process of overseas animation does leave alot to be desired. Could you elaborate on this further in a blog post? It's something that I'm interested in knowing more about.