Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Story: The Greatest Cartoon Writer Of All Time

Warren Foster

The other day, a discussion on cartoon writing erupted in response to recent posts on the subject in John Kricfalusi’s blog. One of John’s main points is that the golden age cartoons that we all regard as the greatest cartoons ever created were written by cartoonists as storyboards, not written in words as scripts. In support of his argument, he presented video clips of Walt Disney and Walter Lantz discussing the qualifications of the people who wrote their cartoons. (See also, Page 5 of the 1938 Disney Training Manual).

typewritertypewriterThe scriptwriters in the comments dismissed John K’s points as old fashioned and irrelevant to the current scene, while expressing respect of a general sort for the classic cartoons of the past. They claimed that it was just a matter of John’s personal tastes, not a reflection on the effectiveness of the process itself. They never seemed to address the fact that prior to 1960 stories for cartoons weren’t created and developed with words in script form- they were drawn. In listening to these arguments by current cartoon scriptwriters, I began to wonder how much they really knew about the process used to make the classic cartoons they expressed respect for. I posed a simple question…

Who was your favorite golden age cartoon writer?

It’s a fair question- one that I’ve heard animators discuss and argue about on many occasions. Surely current cartoon writers would have golden age writer heros, just like animators study golden age animators like Milt Kahl or Grim Natwick

Disney Story Dept

Disney story man, Joe Rinaldi

But none of the scriptwriters participating in the discussion could name a single golden age cartoon writer. The only names they could mention were other current scriptwriters, or novelists, journalists and live action screenwriters who worked in totally different media. They had no idea who pioneered their profession and the process these people used to create cartoons for nearly half a century. To be fair, this sort of ignorance of the history of our craft isn’t just limited to writers. I’ve heard the same sort of admissions of ignorance from producers and directors, as well as artists and animators.

Here is an example of a story by my favorite golden age story man… Warren Foster.

Warren FosterWarren Foster Warren Foster is responsible for writing many of the greatest cartoons ever made… He started as a gag man on Fleischer’s Popeye series in New York, and moved West in 1938 to join Bob Clampett at Warner Bros. He wrote a string of classic cartoons… "Coal Black And De Sebben Dwarfs", "Birdy And The Beast", "Falling Hare", "Baby Bottleneck", "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery", and perhaps Bugs Bunny’s most shaded performance, "Tortoise Wins By A Hare".

After Clampett’s departure from the studio, he wrote for McKimson ("Gorilla My Dreams", "Easter Yeggs", "The Foghorn Legorn") and Freleng ("Ballot Box Bunny", "Bugs And Thugs", "Birds Anonymous"). Freleng said that Foster was the best story man he ever worked with. In the TV era, Foster wrote episodes of Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, The Jetsons and The Flintstones.

Here is a storyboard by Foster from his days at Hanna-Barbera. This is a model of clarity and simplicity, designed to meet the stringent economics imposed on TV animation at the time. This is a board from the pilot episode of The Yogi Bear Show.

Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster
Warren Foster

WHAT ABOUT ADVENTURE SHOWS
AND COMIC STRIPS?

In his article, "Detour Guide For An Armchair Marco Polo", master comic strip storyteller, Milton Caniff writes…

There has been a tendency recently for artists to automatically assume they cannot write their own stories because they see so many double by-lines. I contend that any man who can invent pictures can invent situations and dialogue. In fact, it should be easier for the artist to pilot his own action because he is not likely to write himself into one of those undrawable dilemmas in manuscripts about which illustrators have complained for years. –Milton Caniff

Sound familiar?

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Animated CartoonsAnimated Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Animation.

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Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Instruction: George Clayton Johnson- Screenwriting For Television

George Clayton Johnson

George Clayton Johnson and Robert Redford
On The Set Of “Nothing In The Dark”

On Saturday January 14th 2012, the Animation Creative League hosted a program featuring the legendary screenwriter George Clayton Johnson.

Mr. Johnson is well qualified to speak on this subject. He was one of the principal writers on Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone”, writing both stories and screenplays for such legendary episodes as “The Four of Us Are Dying”, “Kick the Can”, “A Game of Pool”, and “Nothing in the Dark”. He also was the writer of the first regular episode of Star Trek to air, “The Man Trap” and the feature films “Logan’s Run” and “Oceans 11”. He was part of a group of Southern California science fiction writers that included Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury and Charles Beaumont. He collaborated with Ray Bradbury on the story for “Icarus Montgolfier Wright”, an Academy Award nominated animated film produced by Format Films.

George Clayton Johnson

George Clayton Johnson’s
“A Game of Pool”

If you missed this program, you missed out on a once in a lifetime event. Thankfully, Mr. Johnson has been interviewed extensively and the interviews have been posted to YouTube. Here is a ten part interview that covers his life and career.

GEORGE CLAYTON JOHNSON INTERVIEW
(Click to play all ten parts back to back as a playlist)


PART ONE (Direct YouTube Link)


PART TWO (Direct YouTube Link)


PART THREE (Direct YouTube Link)


PART FOUR (Direct YouTube Link)


PART FIVE (Direct YouTube Link)


PART SIX (Direct YouTube Link)


PART SEVEN (Direct YouTube Link)


PART EIGHT (Direct YouTube Link)


PART NINE (Direct YouTube Link)


PART TEN (Direct YouTube Link)


PART TEN (Direct YouTube Link)

Many thanks to George Clayton Johnson for generously spending his time with us.

George Clayton Johnson
Stephen Worth and George Clayton Johnson
at the Creative League meeting.

George Clayton Johnson
George Clayton Johnson
Photos by Eddie Fitzgerald and Alex Camarillo

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

INSTRUCTIONINSTRUCTION

This posting is part of an online series of articles dealing with Instruction.
TheoryTheory

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Theory.

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Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

Online Screening: STORYTELLING

Storytelling Screening

STORYTELLING
Event held February 21st, 2015 at 7:30pm
Sponsored by The Animation Creative League
Animation Resources Screening Room in Pacoima, CA

One of the most concentrated form of writing is the short story. In just a few pages, the writer needs to get across character, atmosphere, action and tie it all up at the end with a satisfying conclusion. Sound familiar? Animated shorts have the exact same goals in mind.

For those who missed our program, here are YouTube links to the films we screened. We are looking for donations to purchase lights and video cameras for our screening room. The goal is to be able to live stream our events. If you would like to contribute to this project, either monetarily or through technological assistance, let me know at sworth@animationresources.org.

"Oh Whistle And I’ll Come To You" by M.R. James (1968)

M.R. James was an academic at Cambridge and Eaton. He was a renowned scholar with expertise in Medieval manuscripts. To entertain his students he wrote a ghost story for them every Christmas. These ghost stories are among the most famous short stories in English literature. James was a living contradiction. He lived through the industrial age and World War I, but at heart, he was a Victorian with a fondness for Britain’s distant past. This adaptation of James’ “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” clearly reflects that dichotomy. The lead character is a rigid minded man of science who comes face to face with an ancient horror.

There are several interesting techniques in this teleplay… the use of non-verbal under the breath muttering similar to Popeye cartoons, and “micro-gags” which pepper the whole introductary section of the film. Micro-gags were used a lot in Disney features, they are amusing secondary actions which are not the focus of the scene, but serve to reveal the personality of the character in an amusing way. Here, they are skillfully used to bring the viewer into the lead character’s world and point of view. But while we are distracted by the micro-gags, the real point of the story is going on in the shadows, just out of sight. It’s a brilliant touch by the director Jonathan Miller, and it acts like a magician’s misdirection to keep us occupied while something big sneaks up on us. This is one of the greatest British television programs ever aired. Enjoy!


Click here to view “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come To You” (1968) in full DVD quality.

"The Signal Man" by Charles Dickens (1976)

Today, when we think of Charles Dickens, we don’t normally think of him as a writer of ghost stories, but think about “A Christmas Carol” for a moment. He wrote many eerie short stories, and is widely considered to be the father of supernatural fiction. Before Dickens, ghosts in literature were primarily vague shadows of Kings and Queens that existed in ancient times, but Dickens was the first to place his ghosts in his contemporary Victorian times. It’s a tribute to how effective he was at this that we still set many ghost stories in the 19th century.

Take a look at his story, “The Signal Man”. Dickens not only uses real everyday people as the lead characters, but he bases the whole story on the most modern technology of the day… railroads. This would be like setting a ghost story today on the space shuttle or on a jet airliner. Yet Dickens uses our fear of technological catastrophe to heighten our fear of the unknown. This story may not seem so much like it today, but for its time, it was a great example of “thinking outside the box”.


Click here to view “The Signal Man” (1976) in full DVD quality.

"The Hitch Hiker" by Roald Dahl (1980)

Roald Dahl was quoted as saying that he labored more over a short short story and it took longer to write than a novel. Distilling atmosphere, character, conflict and resolution into a few short pages took months of writing and rewriting. Because of this, he rarely wrote more than one short story a year. But the ones he wrote were absolute gems. In 1979 he adapted all of the short stories he had written into a British television series titled “Tales of the Unexpected”. This is one of the best episodes from that series.

When George Clayton Johnson, writer on Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” spoke to us at a Creative League meeting last year, he said that the way he approached writing was to come up with two characters, each with their own diametrically opposed argument and point of view, to create a conflict. But he didn’t want the audience to be able to pick a side. Each argument needed to be perfectly balanced in opposition with the other, so the audience’s sympathy alternates back and forth between the characters. Here is a drop dead brilliant example of that. In addition, the direction the story is going is revealed in perfect little glimpses, until the truth is finally revealed. Dahl was a superb storyteller with a great sense of timing.


Click here to view “The Hitch Hiker” (1980) in full DVD quality.

I hope you will view these films with your co-workers and fellow artists and discuss the techniques that you are able to glean from them about story construction and pacing. Feel free to discuss it in the comments section of our events page on Facebook…

Storytelling Event Page
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