Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Writing animated specs

A quick bit of advice for first-time screenwriters working on animated movies – Don’t.

The unfortunate reality is that it’s probably ten times harder to sell an animated spec script than it is to sell a live action one. A live-action screenplay can be purchased by any studio in town; an animated script doesn’t have that wide a base. Disney and Dreamworks Animation might not be the only game in town, but they might as well be. On top of that, those two studios tend to develop their stories in house. As a result, an animated screenplay has the odds stacked against it from the start.

However, if you have an “in” at one of those companies, or the resources to do your own animation, then I say go for it. Just keep in mind the fact that animated movies tend to do better when they aim for a broad audience. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to pander to young children, but the content should be acceptable for younger viewing, while not so juvenile that it alienates older audiences. Usually, this is accomplished by developing the story with a comedic tone. Sharper, more sophisticated humor can appeal to older viewers while younger viewers may be entertained by sight gags and sillier moments. It’s a formula that has served Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks Animation well.

I’m always disappointed when I read an animated script – usually they’re full of talking animals - that doesn’t even try for humor. I’m hard pressed to think of a single successful animated film that wasn’t a comedy. Beowulf is the only one that comes to mind and that’s so significant an exception that it isn’t even worth noting.

1 comment:

  1. I just discovered your blog today as I delve into screenwriting. It looks like I have a lot of blog posts to get through!

    I think I'm just after any more information you have rattling around your head in regards to animated screenplays if you have any to offer? I am in no-way misled into thinking that kids writing of any kind is easy. If it was, I'd already have these scripts written right?

    I also thank you for another post I saw (which I now cannot find!) My interpretation of it was: "Don't be deluded that your writing is the exception to the rule/s."
    If I want to reach goal A, I have to be realistic. That is a hard pill to swallow for a compulsive daydreamer.

    Thanks for your blog again, it is very helpful!