Script Driven vs. Storyboard Driven
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.