May 16, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Script Driven vs. Storyboard Driven

Storyboard page from original Rocko Pilot

It goes way back. The art of storyboard driven animation. Cartoons and animated shorts written and drawn at the same time. Because, of course, the drawn picture is also telling you the story and gags. What’s the point in indulging in the delicious art form of animation? The art was not meant to merely illustrate the spoken or written word. This is not a radio play. It’s a perfect marriage. And often a short or cartoon can be told without any dialog at all. ( Roadrunner Cartoons. “Fatal Contraption” Season 3 Rocko’s Modern Life.)

To clarify: A storyboard driven show is written by the artists while storyboarding, adding the dialog to the panels which is later translated to a recording script. Usually starting with a basic story structure ( in the case of my shows, a 3 act outline). A script driven show is written like a live action sitcom by a team of writers, and then handed to a storyboard artist who “connects the dots” without much freedom to elaborate.

Television animation started to distance itself from it, claiming it too costly and perhaps “too funny” for TV. The brilliant John K. resurrected it with “Ren & Stimpy” in the 90’s, and since it was the way I did my indie films, I also used it as my storytelling method. I tweaked the process a bit to make sure it still fit within the budget and time constraints of volume TV, but I felt it was the only way to go. Of course I love script driven Simpsons and South Park. They will always have a place.

After my show, TV animation started thinking that storyboard driven shows were too risky and didn’t pull in the ratings like “Rugrats”.  I was aching for a show to prove them wrong.

Then came “Spongebob”. A storyboard driven show where Steve used the same model we did on Rocko to create the biggest cash cow Nickelodeon has ever seen.

And now Dan and Swampy has one of the biggest hits Disney TV has seen with “Phinas & Ferb” , also using the same Rocko model we used.

Case in point. There will always be room for script driven animated comedies. But a storyboard driven show, with the right crew, will find a flavor all it’s own, and keep the true source of cartoon animation alive. It’s the only thing I teach and I hope it continues to have a long life.


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8 Responses to May 16, 2012

  1. D Sills says:

    I’ve always found storyboarding to be useful, it gets you thinking about the story and visuals in ways you wouldn’t with text.

    Recently I’ve also found drawing layouts to be incredibly useful but from what I understand that isn’t done much anymore.

    That’s what I’m doing right now with my animated short. The whole thing’s been storyboarded but now I’m going back and redrawing the panels and replacing them with detailed character drawings that have their poses broken down composed with a more detailed background.

  2. Mr. Semaj says:

    The success of both storyboarding and scriptwriting depends on who the talent is.

    The first three seasons of Rugrats had a lot of particularly talented writers behind it. By the time Rugrats became the top Nicktoon, the original writing staff was long gone, having moved on to create Hey Arnold! and Recess. The new Rugrats staff at first made a reasonable simulation of the original show, before eventually caving into the pressures of fame and longevity.

  3. Cube says:

    I never liked rugrats. the writing seemed pretty dry and i guess if the animators was not good. they was good the animation would not fit what was coming out if there mouths because it was just a wirtten page and the words on it could look like anything to anybody on the page.

    I think the storyboard is a much better method everybody will know what at least 50% of what is moving on scree has to look like.

    I know exactly what that scene is in that storyboard from rocko and it looks like just what came out in the show.

    I have no idea how rugrats got so big it was my least fav show on nick angry beavers and stuff like that was a lot better of a show and they never got any movies.

    Back at the barnyward and that madagascar penguin show is one of the few shows I watch on Nick anymore and I cant think of anything else they have had other than sponge bob since angry beavers left nick years ago.

  4. Cube says:

    Oh and isnt swampy that crocdile from the disney video game wheres my water?

    OH how I miss disney games epic mickey kingdom hearts and wheres my water are like the last good disney games left and wheres my water is just a cellphone game not a real game..

  5. Matt Stevanus says:

    I know I am going to use storyboards for all my projects, except MiniNova, which I have a pretty interesting idea of how I’m going to lay that out.

  6. Jesse Oliver says:

    I always use storyboards to create stories for my cartoon creations. There’s no way you can write a funny gag on a piece of paper, you have to draw it!

  7. Both are valid ways to write cartoons. There are great script-driven cartoons, lousy board-driven cartoons, and vice-versa. I guess it all depends on what kind of show you’re making.

    I sometimes start writing my cartoons on script, and then go to storyboards, tweaking things along the way. It works for me.

  8. Pingback: Script or ‘Board Driven « Casual Notes

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