What’s The Point?! (Labour Day/Back To School Edition)

September 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Mrs. Jewls knows the value of having a good point at Wayside School (Nelvana)

So my sister and I were watching this gritty British underworld drama on Movie Central.  You know the kind – where everyone talks in a Cockney accent and swears, and people get beat up a lot?  Suddenly, all the main characters were dead.  The End.  “Two hours of my life wasted!“ my sister groused as the credits rolled.  “What was the point of that?“ I demanded angrily of the gods of Unsatisfying Endings.

Right up to the end, the writer seemed to have something complex to say about a hero trying to protect the prey from the predators while on a mission of personal vengeance.  But the “everybody dies” ending left me wondering what the message was supposed to be.  Crime doesn’t pay?  Live by the sword, die by the sword?  Lie down with dogs, get up with a really fatal case of fleas?

Not that there’s anything wrong with those messages.  Lots of books and films have explored those themes to great effect.  My point is: as viewers, we shouldn’t have to work too hard to figure out what the writer is trying to say!

On the other hand, as writers, we should work hard so the viewers can figure out what we’re trying to say!  So in honour of Labour Day and Back To School Week, here are some thoughts about the never pointless job of animation writing for kids.

When it comes to a children’s series, the person who hires you to write a script is going to want to know what your point is right from the pitch stage.  You can call it the theme, “the learn,” the life lesson, the takeaway message, or to get all Aesop on you, the moral of the story.  It all means the same thing: that special insight that your audience is going to get from watching your story.

“For God’s sakes, somebody teach me a lesson!” ~ Leela, “Yo Leela Leela,” Futurama.

Leela learns it’s hard to come up with story ideas for preschool television on Futurama (The Curiosity Company/30th Century Fox)

They may not ask you to state it explicitly, but whoever is catching your pitch should be able to tell what the point of your story is from the emotional arc of the characters and outcome of the plot.  Every series has its own overall message and the producers and broadcasters need to know if your message fits in with theirs.

Don’t be chicken! Cross over to meaningful storytelling.
(Turbo Dogs, CCI Entertainment)

The Chicken or the Egg?

So when you’re generating pitches, which should you come up with first: the message or a plot idea?  Either way can work.

Maybe you know from the get-go what point you want to make and you come up with a story to illustrate that exact point.  Author Suzanne Collins wanted to criticize the way that television news coverage of the invasion of Iraq had come to resemble reality show-style entertainment.  The result was the dystopian-future young adult novels of the Hunger Games trilogy and an increased demand for archery lessons from teen girls.

Or you may just have a notion that you want to do something with, say, pirates or a big hockey game.  You can reverse engineer a message that will turn your vague idea into a solid story.  Your pirate story could be about not letting greed destroy a friendship.  Sports stories are always good for themes about working as a team, or not cheating, or how winning isn’t everything.  (Although between you and me, in kids’ programming, the heroes end up winning a high percentage of the time.)

Finn communicates his message on Stormhawks
(Nerd Corps Entertainment)

But if you go that second route, it’s best to nail down the message early on so you can choose the best way of communicating it.  Knowing what you want to say will help you decide what characters to use, what story beats to hit and what dialogue to write.  It’s especially useful when you’re editing your drafts and trying to figure out what to cut and what to tweak.  Any bits of dialogue or action that don’t support the theme can be slashed, or should be reworked to contribute to the overall message.

In Your Face!

Some broadcasters and producers want you to spell out the message out for the viewers so they can’t possibly miss it.  You may be asked to take a very in-your-face approach – a style amusingly spoofed on South Park with their end-of-episode “You know, I’ve learned something today…” sequences.

“You know, I’ve learned something today. Family isn’t about whose blood you have, it’s about who you care about. And that’s why I feel like you guys are more than just friends. You’re my family…except for Cartman.” ~ Kyle, “Ike’s Wee Wee,“ South Park.

This tactic is often used when the creators of a series are keen on providing moral or spiritual guidance to their audience.

Eat your VeggieTales. They’re good for you!
(Big Idea Entertainment)

In the VeggieTales videos, at the end of each comic retelling of their bible stories (performed by fruit and vegetable characters), Larry (the cucumber) and Bob (the tomato) talk to the viewers directly to let them know the religious message of the story.  Eg. “What Jesus is telling us in His little story of a father and son, is that God’s love has no limits.  It goes on forever!”

Sailor Moon makes several points (Toel Anmation)

Back in the 1990’s, one version of the Sailor Moon anime series as dubbed for Western audiences had an “educational” segment tacked on to the end of each episode. It was known as “Sailor Moon Says…”  In the segment, Serena states the life lesson of the day.  Eg. “Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is believing in yourself, especially when your grades are, eh, less than stellar, or you’re kind of clumsy. But you never know what the real you can do. Set your mind and heart on it and anything is possible!” Hey, if Sailor Moon says it, it must be so.

These days a more common, less overt way of stating the message is what I think of as the “thesis statement” approach.  Somewhere in the dialogue, one of the characters drops the “learn” into the dialogue, perhaps during an “aha” moment when they realize the impact their actions have had on themselves and others.

This doesn’t have to be as clunky as it sounds.  Some memorable movie lines have resulted from the screenwriter slipping a “topic sentence” into the script.  “With great power comes great responsibility.”  “It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”  “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”  In a kids’ show, it would probably sound more like, “Gee, I should asked for help right away instead of trying to defeat that giant purple space squid all by myself.”

One series I wrote for went even further.  Towards the end of the episode there’d be an exchange of dialogue that would provide a “script” young viewers could use in real life when faced with a similar situation.  It would go something along the lines of, “I’m sorry I snuck off instead of telling you I’d rather go to the concert than hang out with you.”  “Hey, that hurt my feelings.  I’m your friend and friends tell each other the truth!” “You’re right.  Next time I’ll let you know what I really think.”  The series also had seven main themes to choose from such as “Work Hard” or “Believe in Yourself.”  At the top of each pitch, you had to state which theme your story would use.  While it may sound a little restrictive, it did take the guesswork out of knowing what messages the producers would greenlight.

Brick points out what makes for compelling viewing
on Total Drama: Revenge of the Island (Fresh TV)

With other series, the producers and broadcasters may want you to be more subtle and let the audience draw their own conclusions from the animated characters’ wacky or heroic antics.  But even if said viewers don’t have the analytical skills to articulate what “we’ve learned today,” your story will be stronger if you know what is the point of it all.

So take a moment to think about your message before you write your next pitch or outline and look before you leap because haste makes waste and a stitch in time saves nine.  Then strike while the iron is hot because he who hesitates is lost…


My Black History in Canadian Animation

February 2, 2012 2 comments
The character of Raquel (far left) on The L.A. Complex says a black friend is a TV-only thing.


     I was watching the pilot episode of the new live-action drama The L.A. Complex.  In one scene, a struggling (white) Canadian actress Raquel, tries to bluff her way into an L.A. audition for the “best friend part.”  But the producer (also white) says she’s decided “to go another way…we’re going black.”  Cut to a wide shot: the waiting room is full of black actresses.  The producer says, “I really don’t want an all-white show.  You know, it doesn’t really reflect reality.”  Frustrated, Raquel inappropriately blurts out, “So you’re making the best friend black.  It’s just kind of a cliché, don’t you think?  I mean, who has a black best friend?…It’s a TV-only thing.”

It got me to wondering…is the “black friend” a cliché in Canadian animated series or does having a black character in a show’s cast “reflect reality?”

So in honour of Black History Month, I thought I’d touch on the touchy issue of ethnic diversity in Canadian cartoons, specifically black characters.  I’ll use the term “black” even though it makes some of us Canadians uncomfortable.  We usually use the politer-sounding “African-Canadian” or sometimes the more ethnographically-correct term “Caribbean-Canadian” (as most black Canadians are of Caribbean origin.)


 Over the past decade, I’ve written for a few series where the black character is pretty much in the “friend-zone.”  One was the title character’s best friend.

Best Friend: Jamie voiced by Jordan Francis in Carl Squared (Portfolio)

One was a member of a group of friends of the title character. 

One of the friends: Jamal on Ricky Sprocket (DHX Media)

And one was a member of a team of heroes – but the leader was a white guy.

One of the team: Odie scoots in on Class of the Titans (DHX Media)

 So in my experience, when you see a black character on a Canadian animation series, yes, he or she is usually either a friend of the lead or, more likely these days, part of an ensemble of characters.

How does Johnny feel about being part of an ensemble? I’m guessing…Stoked! (Fresh TV)



Until a show creator manages to sell a production company and a broadcaster on a series featuring, say, the daring adventures of a black superhero from Halifax and his “white friend” sidekick, or the hilarious antics of Caribbean-Canadian family in Toronto, for now most black characters are “one of the gang.”

Black team member (in green) Agura Ibaden in Hot Wheels Battle Force 5" (Nerd Corps)


Some might see that as tokenism.  But I see it as an  attempt to reflect the multi-ethnic reality of North American society. 

And I do say North American rather than Canadian society. 


Wyatt adding diversity to 6Teen (Fresh TV)

According to the 2006 census, the Canadian population was 2.5% African-Canadian, mostly living in urban areas of Ontario and Quebec.  On the other hand, Asian and South Asians make up about 11% of the Canadian population.  Yet you don’t see them represented as often in Canadian-made animation. 

So what’s up with that?


The faces of North American reality shows are reflected in the cast of Total Drama World Tour (Fresh TV)


Well, consider that the US is an important market for Canadian animation.  Their population is ten times ours with African-Americans making up about 12%.  Having a US broadcaster aboard can make the difference between a series going into production, or dying at the development stage. 




Piper: a member of the crew of Storm Hawks (Nerd Corps)



So from a sales standpoint, it’s good for business if your show reflects America’s ethnic diversity.



Custard (in centre) from The Save-ums (DHX Media)


It’s interesting to note that in even in preschool animation – which often dodges the issue of ethnicity altogether and broadens their international marketability by having a cast of animals characters or brightly-coloured creatures – sometimes care is taken to give a non-human character a black vibe, for example Custard from The Save-Ums (voiced by African-Canadian actor Jordan Francis) or Tyrone and Uniqua in the US series The Backyardigans.  Those producers feel it’s important for young children to have their “reality” reflected vocally.


 Of course, I’m not saying we have too many black characters in Canadian animation.  What I’m hoping for is that in future, show creators will include even more characters of all ethnicities in their series.  I’ve also written for Asian-Canadian and Latino-Canadian and First Nations characters in the past and it would be great to write for them more often.  Canadian animation viewers from a non-European background ought to be able to see themselves  represented onscreen, especially when TV programming is supported by Canadian tax dollars!

 So to all the writers, show creators, production companies and broadcasters out there: Canada welcomes  people of all cultures and ethnicities to make this country their home.  Let’s help our animation industry reflect our reality.

Is Ruby's best friend Louise (left) a "bunny of colour" on Max and Ruby? (9 Story Entertainment/Nelvana)


You Asked For It: How many Locations should I use?

January 14, 2012 3 comments

This dramatic exterior location from Nelvana's "Tales From the Cryptkeeper" is by artist Paul Rivoche. His amazing Rocketfiction artblog is full of astounding design work. Click the image.

This question about locations and Canimation’s response come from the comment section of our recent post, What Happened To Me Script? Part Three. It is  a common enough query that we wanted to share it with our readers who don’t make a habit of checking out the comment section for each article.

Reader Josh asked: “I’m curious about your comment on locations – how limited are most animated series in terms of creating new backgrounds?”

Great question, Josh!

While animation can do more with backgrounds than many live action shows, they still have to be designed and rendered by the animation team. Remember, it’s not just a single design for each location, It’s backgrounds for EVERY shot that have to be planned and produced and rendered.

Another "Tales From The Cryptkeeper" by Paul Rivoche. Click the image to see more at his Rocketfiction artblog.

A good rule of thumb is that in the first half of season one, the production team is probably still developing all the main designs and sets that will will be used the most over the course of the series – the main characters’ homes, rooms, yards, school or headquarters, etc.

Once those locations that will be re-used every episode are established there is more time to expand the world. Even adventure shows that tend take our heroes all over the place will attempt to make use of established locations like a HQ or the interior of Ben 10′s motor home, etc. and try to use any new locations effectively.

I’d suggest avoiding more than 2 extra locations, 3 tops (and that’s pushing it on most shows). Also keep in mind a single location may serve your needs. An Inca Temple is technically one location, even if you’re using the exterior, interior tunnels and a treasure room deep inside.

And don’t be surprised if a new location gets changed. If you’ve written a short scene where the hero gets his orders at the Eiffel Tower but haven’t used the location for anything else in your story (a waste of a great locale!), the scene may be moved to an established, reuse location like the hero’s jet.


Another piece of terrific Paul Rivoche location concept art. This time it's a desolate prison from Studio B's "Class of the Titans". To find out more at Paul Rivoche's Rocketfiction artblog, click the image.


December 29, 2011 1 comment

On the set at Kids CBC

Because animation is primarily aimed at the kids market, it goes without saying that animation writers are also children’s writers.  But there are other formats in the children’s market that have their own rules you need to consider when writing, like puppet shows.  Writing for a show that is partly (or fully) a puppet cast has rules and pitfalls all its own.


“What the heck is this doing here?!”

Most animation writers are also kids writers but not all kids’ shows are animated.  Sometimes they are strictly live-action, sometimes they are nothing but animals, and sometimes they are partly or fully composed of puppets. So I thought I’d share some insights I’ve gained, having worked with, written for, produced and directed puppets. A brief list of dos and don’ts (mostly don’ts) might be all you need the next time you find yourself writing for our fuzzy friends.


This isn’t exactly true.  But if you keep in mind that whenever a puppet needs to get something in their hand or out of their hand, the production needs to stop tape and actually sew the hot dog, bullhorn, apple or whatever they are holding onto the puppets hand, then you can appreciate the level of difficulty involved.

Puppets can pick things up, but it takes time.  So if you write a scene where the puppet picks up and puts down 7 things, the director may come over to your house and strangle you.  Fair warning.


Not just food, also paint, water, ink… etc. These constructs can be very costly and depending on the level of show there may only be one or two copies of any single puppet.  What’s more, you can’t exactly throw a puppet in the washing machine if they get a little tomato sauce on them.

So keeping puppets and real food (or anything else that would stain their fabric) far away from each other is a worthy goal.  This also means if you have a puppet ‘eating’ the food itself will have to be faked, sewn onto their hands and then chewed but not swallowed.


I know. I just blew your mind.  In fact, this isn’t exactly true, most puppets do have legs and feet, but they don’t often attach to the puppet and are only used if you want them sitting up on something or a POV of their feet.

Patty Sullivan and Pier Kohl as Saumon on Kids CBC.

There’s a big, out-of-context human right below the waist, and we need to always keep them in mind – and out of the shot.  Sure, it can be done.  We’ve all seen that awesome shot of Kermit riding a bicycle in The Muppet Movie, but that was an amazingly complicated shot that Henson really wanted to pull off because no one had seen a puppet do that before.  

So when you picture your puppets, always picture them behind something or in a medium shot.  A wide-angle shot of a puppet in the middle of an empty street is simply not possible.


Ali Eisner as Mamma Yamma on Kids CBC.

Puppeteers are some of the hardest working people I’ve met in this industry.  They cram themselves into small spaces under tables or behind boxes, and hold their arm in the air till they are sweating with the pain.  Neck and shoulder injuries are commonplace for puppeteers.

Henson built all his sets up high, so the puppeteers could walk standing upright, with braces on their arms to avoid fatigue.  This elaborate design is usually too costly nowadays, so puppeteers are sitting down on rolling apple boxes, craned over to the side, holding their arm in the air all day long.  Just remember that if you are writing a huge monologue for a puppet.

It’s often very humane if you are writing a long scene to add a moment where the puppet needs to disappear behind their counter (or box or garbage can) for a moment.  This will give the puppeteer a second to rest their arm, sometimes just a few lines is enough.  This is especially true if you find yourself writing a LIVE show.  A human being cannot keep their arm in the air for 30 minutes.  The puppet needs to go away and come back several times.


Puppets add a lot to a live-action show.  A puppet is like a live-action cartoon character.  They can be big, they can be ridiculous and they can be the comic foil for nearly every situation.  Though there are certain things to keep in mind when writing for them, puppets are a great addition to any live-action show.

The Canadian industry is filled with top-notch puppeteers whose creativity, performance and characterizations are a wonder to behold.  Consider them when coming up with a live-action property.

So there you have it, a primer on puppet proclivities.   Hopefully these few simple rules will help you if you find yourself writing for (or, better yet, decide to augment your own pitch with) puppets.


More behind the scenes of Kids CBC. Phil McCordic directs Sid Bobb, Patty Sullivan, Bruce Hunter as Captain Claw and Ali Eisner as Mamma Yamma.

All photos courtesy of Phil McCordic and Kids CBC.

What Happened to my Script?! – Part Three

October 25, 2011 4 comments

The length of this discussion concerning why an animation writer’s script gets changed after they’re done writing it has turned into a freaking trilogy, there was so much to say about it. I don’t usually write this much material without getting paid for it, so clearly I must feel impassioned and or enraged about the subject. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

In Part One, we discussed possible reasons why your script was changed between your last draft and the finished episode, with an emphasis on changes that could be due to stuff you did.

In Part Two, we discussed the various people who may have changed your scripts for reasons that were out of your control.

The final area of discussion, returns to the creative heads we mentioned earlier who handle your script after it’s finished. These are some specific types of changes that are made by these individuals, listed in chronological order of production stage:

Script Length

"My script started out thiiiiiiiiis long!" - Bob the Builder knows length matters. Do you?

Your script is too long, even after the Story Editor does their final pass on it. This problem is usually caught right away, and other times not until after the voice record, when all the actors’ takes are cut together in their proper pacing and the end result makes the episode many minutes too long.

Unless the series is called The Sopranos, the episodes must always be the same length – without exception. Which means stuff has to get cut. Jokes are usually the first casualty, because cutting them doesn’t affect story comprehension as severely.

Often times, if a line is rewritten at this stage, it’s usually to help with a story hole that was created because of other material that was excised.

Actor’s reads

"Oh yeah! We're tossing out the script and ad libbing, baby! Let's make this sucker our own!" (Image from Phineas and Ferb)

Professional voice actors are a joy to behold when they read your script. The best ones make your dialogue sing. But it isn’t until all the lines are cut together sequentially that the creative heads discover where the episode’s weaknesses lie:

In the story itself.

In the pacing.

In deliveries that sounded great during the record that now sound too manic, too subdued, too over-enunciated, too everything.

These lines must either get re-recorded, or rewritten to help them play better in the finished episode.


(Image from Karen J. Lloyd's Storyboard Blog)

Your lovely description of a Yak valiantly climbing up Mount Everest over a long, arduous week proves to be incredibly boring when it’s storyboarded.

So a new scene showing a TMZ-type reporter doing a story on how the Yak– who already climbed to the peak months ago — is now the most celebrated Yak in all of Yak-dom and just wants to be left alone, is written by the Director to make the show faster and peppier.


Animation is a team sport, with the script passed around after it leaves your desktop. It's how you play without the puck that makes the difference. (Image from Chilly Beach)

The quality of the animation being done is a big determining factor in what cuts and changes occur, post-writing. If a character’s walk cycle always looks silly when they try it, any scene you wrote showing that character walking will be changed to that character driving a car, taking public transit, or being hauled about in a rickshaw.


Once all the editor splices together the various changes to your script, your episode becomes the sum of many parts. (Image from Spliced)

The culmination of all the above instances reaches its endgame here. Do we really need that one line from a minor character whose five other lines we cut earlier, or can now eliminate his part entirely? One action sequence is animated so well, the editor reuses it multiple times, adding extra length which must now be cut from another part of the episode. A decision is made to add a recap from a previous episode, or a new V.O. is added, leaving even less time for your stellar writing.

Sound Mix

"Uh, Mister Sound Editor? Can we get a level on my diabolical, alien kat here before he shatters my eardrums?" (Image from Kid vs. Kat)

A heart-swelling music sting or kickass explosion sound effect is emphasized over some less-than-pivotal dialogue, which was O.S. anyway, so nobody but you ever knew it was dropped in the first place.

By this point, if the cumulative rewriting done on your script is bad enough, you’ll wish they put music and explosions over the entire episode.

Looks like we’ve finally reached the end… of my patience for listing reasons why your animated script gets changed after you’re done writing it.

Not the list itself.

Because just like George Carlin’s famous routine “Seven Things You Can’t Say On TV” grew from its initial seven words to a list that takes seven minutes just to say them all, the plethora of reasons why a cartoon script gets changed will inevitably be expanded in the future.

– DeeAzz

Categories: Uncategorized

2011 Gemini Awards – Animation Winners

October 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Canimation belatedly celebrates this year’s Gemini Award winning animation writers and shows!

“A big congratulations to all of tonight’s Gemini Award winners,” says Helga Stephenson, Interim CEO, ACCT. “We are delighted to be celebrating with such sensational Canadian talent who are truly outstanding representatives in their fields.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. So let’s take a moment to celebrate all the nominees as well as the winners.

Best Animated Program or Series

(Sponsored by the Canada Media Fund)


Glenn Martin DDS

City TV (Rogers)  (Cuppa Coffee Studios)

Adam Shaheen

Jimmy Two Shoes

Teletoon (Astral/Corus) (Breakthrough Entertainment)

Ira Levy, Mark Evestaff, Peter Williamson

Kid vs. Kat

YTV (Corus) (DHX Media Ltd.)

Blair Peters, Chris Bartleman, Chantal Hennessey

March of the Dinosaurs

Shaw Media (Shaw Media)

(Yap Films, Wide Eyed Entertainment)

Elliott Halpern, Pauline Duffy, Jasper James

And the winner is:

Hot Wheels – Battle Force Five

Teletoon (Astral/Corus) (Nelvana Limited)

Doug Murphy, Tina Chow, Ken Faier, Ace Fipke, Chuck Johnson, Pam Lehn, Audu Paden, Ira Singerman, Barry Waldo, Irene Weibel

Hot Wheels - Battle Force 5

Best Direction in an Animated Program or Series


Kid vs. Kat – Kat To The Future Part 1

YTV (Corus)

Rob Boutilier, Josh Mepham

League of Super Evil Voltina

YTV (Corus)

Sebastian Brodin, Steve Sacks

Hot Wheels – Battle Force Five – Sol Survivor

Teletoon (Astral/Corus)

Johnny Darrell, Mike Dowding, Andrew Duncan

Rob the Robot – Puzzled

TVO (TVOntario)

Phillip Stamp

 March of the Dinosaurs

Shaw Media (Shaw Media)

Matthew Thompson

And the winner is:

Glenn Martin DDS – Date with Destiny

City TV (Rogers)

Ken Cunningham

Glenn Martin DDS

Best Original Music Score for an Animated Program or Series


Kid vs. Kat – Fangs For The Memories

YTV (Corus)

Hal Beckett

Sidekick – Identity Crisis/Fart of Darkness

YTV (Corus)

Don Breithaupt, Anthony Vanderburgh

Rob the Robot – Space Race

TVO (TVOntario)

Serge Côté

And the winner is:

League of Super Evil – Ant-archy

YTV (Corus)

Hal Beckett

League of Super Evil

Best Performance in an Animated Program or Series


Jimmy Two Shoes – Bird Brained

Teletoon (Astral/Corus)

Sean Cullen

Stella and Sam – Night Fairies

Playhouse Disney Canada (Astral)

Rachel Marcus

Stella and Sam – Night Fairies

Playhouse Disney Canada (Astral)

Miles Johnson

League of Super Evil – Force Fighters VI

YTV (Corus)

Colin Murdock

And the winner is:

Babar and the Adventures of Badou – Neigbourly Nice Day 19A

YTV (Corus)

Gordon Pinsent

Babar and the Adventures of Badou

Best Pre-School Program or Series


Dino Dan

TVO (TVOntario) (Sinking Ship Entertainment)

J.J. Johnson, Matthew J.R. Bishop, Blair Powers

Kids’ Canada – Wowie Woah Woah


Phil McCordic, Sid Bobb, Erin Curtin, Ali Eisner,Nadine Henry, Marie McCann, Patty Sullivan

Stella and Sam

Playhouse Disney Canada (Astral)

(Radical Sheep Productions)

John Leitch, Michelle Melanson

TVOKids – Gisèle’s Big Backyard

TVO (TVOntario)


Jennifer McAuley, Gisèle Corinthios, Patricia Ellingson, Paul Gardner

And the winner is:

The Mighty Jungle


(DHX Media Ltd.)

Katrina Walsh, Charles Bishop, Michael Donovan, Beth Stevenson

The Mighty Jungle

Best Writing in a Children’s or Youth Program or Series – Sponsored by the Independent Production Fund


Almost Naked Animals – Better Safe and Sorry

YTV (Corus)

Seán Cullen

Degrassi – My Body is a Cage Part 2

MuchMusic (Bell Media)

Michael Grassi

 League of Super Evil – Voltina

YTV (Corus)

Philippe Ivanusic-Vallee, Davila LeBlanc

How to be Indie – How to get Plugged In

YTV (Corus)

Anita Kapila

And the winners are:

Spliced – Pink

Teletoon (Astral/Corus)

Richard Elliott, Simon Racioppa


Best Cross-Platform Project – Children’s and Youth – Sponsored by the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund


Skatoony Interactive

Teletoon (Astral/Corus)  (marblemedia)

Mark J. W. Bishop, Ted Brunt, Julie Dutrisac, Matthew Hornburg, Johnny Kalangis

Stella and Sam Interactive Adventures

Disney Junior (Astral)   (Zinc Roe Inc.)

Anne-Sophie Brieger, Robert Ardiel, Jason Krogh, Davin Risk

The Baxter Online Experience

Family Channel (Astral)

(Shaftesbury / Smokebomb Entertainment)

Shane Kinnear, Jay Bennett, Daniel Dales, Nicole Mickelow, Jarrett Sherman

And the winner is:

Babar and the Adventures of Badou Interactive

YTV.com (Corus) (Watch More TV Interactive Inc.)

Caitlin O’Donovan

Babar and the Adventures of Badou

The Call me Fitz pilot took top honors for Best Sound in a Comedy, Variety or Performing Arts Program or Series.  But two animated entries also earned nominations in this category.

 Bolts & Blip – Robots Don’t Dream Part 1

Teletoon (Astral/Corus)

Roberto Capretta, Kevin Bonnici, Melissa Glidden, Edwin Janzen, Tim O’Connell

League of Super Evil – Ant-archy

YTV (Corus)

Jonny Ludgate, Ewan Deane, Steffan Andrews, Pat Haskill, Gordon Sproule

And finally, an animated property won for Best Cross-Platform Project – Fiction.


Matthew Hornburg, Mark J. W. Bishop, Ted Brunt, Julie Dutrisac, Johnny Kalangis

The Dating Guy

Congratulations one and all. Better late than never, right?

Categories: Uncategorized

David Dias Twitter chat transcript August 14, 2011

October 18, 2011 Leave a comment

As if his recent appearance on TV Writer Podcast (linked in the post below) weren’t enough to inspire and inform, here’s a link to the transcript of his August 14 twitter chat session!


Categories: Uncategorized

David Dias interview on TV Writer Podcast

October 18, 2011 Leave a comment
click picture to view podcast

Need some inspirational and helpful hints on working in the animation industry?  Check out this fun and informative podcast.

Canadian animation writer/creative producer/story editor David Dias speaks with TV Writer Podcast host Gray Jones in a one–hour interview jammed-packed with tasty tidbits.   “All the ins and outs of writing animation for all ages, including many great tips on breaking in, pitching, and getting your idea off the ground. ”

FYI: TV Writer Podcast is sponsored by Scriptmag.com and Final Draft (the makers of screenwriting and production software.)  
Totally true personal anedcote: long ago, the producers of this animated series I’d been assigned two freelance scripts on wanted all their writers to use Final Draft.   (Up till then, my writer friends and I were using MS Word and Movie Magic Screenwriter).   After I bought the new program, the story editors took over writing the scripts for the rest of series.   As we say in the industry, “ARRRRGH!”  I was so annoyed at having to lay out hundreds of bucks and having to get up to speed on a whole new program just to write two scripts!   But as it turned out, Final Draft became the software used by most of the series I’ve worked on since.   Bottom line, whatever scriptwriting software your story editor wants you to use, you pretty much have to use too.  Just remember to keep the receipt.   It’s tax deductable.
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Sponging Off the System: Are Animation Writers Merchants of Stupidity?

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Does Spongebob soak up frontal lobe function?

Once again, animated television – the beloved medium which puts roofs over our heads, coffee in our cups, and digital cable programming into our PVRs – has come under attack.

Some researchers from the University of Virginia showed 20 4-year-old kids an episode of Spongebob Squarepants then had them do some tests to measure their “executive function.” 

Executive function.  Sounds like a cocktail party for a bunch of CEOs, but apparently it’s something happens in your frontal lobes.  It comes in handy when you want to learn stuff, keep organized, control your impulses and learn from your mistakes.  (If my lobes had better executive function, I probably would not have gone to see Green Lantern this summer.)

Caillou celebrates his intellectual superiority.

Anyway, the Spongbob kids reportedly performed more poorly than the 20 kids who watched an episode of Caillou or the 20 kids who drew pictures instead.  This led to the researchers to conclude that fast-cutting quick-paced shows like Spongebob could impede the learning process.

Okay, lots of folks, including a spokesdude from Nickelodeon, have already pointed out the flaws in this study…including the small sample size and the fact that Caillou is a preschool show and Spongebob is aimed at older kids.  Or that the study didn’t try leaving a gap between the watching of the programs and taking of the tests.

But what if the results aren’t bogus?  What if a study with a larger sample of kids comes up with the same results?  What if we, the animation writers, are contributing to the stupidity of children?


Let’s say some kids shouldn’t watch TV before trying to learn something.  (And let’s say I shouldn’t have watched two of episodes of Kick Buttowski on YouTube before writing this post.  Think of how more coherent it could’ve been!) 

Then let’s say parents should control what shows their kids watch and when they watch them and for how long.  After all, raising and educating their children is their job. 

Our job is to provide a product.  Some might say a seductive, addictive product…

Can too much Andrenalini impede learning?


TV has often been blamed for producing a generation of obese, socially-misfit couch potatoes with attention deficit disorder and an inability to relate to real people…but enough about animation writers. 

This is about the children and the money we make writing for them.

Is animation the Big Tobacco of television programming?  The more eyes on screens and the more brand loyalty generated for spin-off merchandise, the higher the profits for networks and production companies.  Which leads to more work for us, the animation writers and story editors. 

By making our scripts as entertaining as we possibly can, are we part of a system designed to hook viewers at an early age, leading to a lifelong dependence on the medium?  After all, they do call it viewing habits.

Well, whether the general public realizes it or not, writers, story editors, producers and network execs all work towards keeping their kids’ shows age-appropriate, with positive messages about friendship and cooperation, self-confidence and persistence, consequences for one’s actions and all that good stuff.   And animation has had a long association with educational programming, teaching kids about the world around them and helping them with literacy and numeracy and problem-solving skills.

Lots of things in life are bad for you if consumed in large amounts…booze, Facebook, Chocolate Cheerios…and TV is no different.  It’s up to parents, caregivers and teachers to help kids learn to moderate their consumption of, well, everything.

But I’m willing to do my part.  So hey kids, turn off that TV and go run around outside for a while.  Just not when my episode is on.

Categories: Uncategorized

What Happened to My Script?! – Part Two

Canimation's got a bucketful of creators and executives who weigh on your script after it goes in. (Image from Harry and his Bucketful of Dinosaurs)

In What Happened To My Script? – Part One, we discussed the reasons why your script was changed between your last draft and the finished episode, with an emphasis on why those changes were because of stuff that you did.

Not anyone else — You.

Now comes the fun part where we turn the tables and examine the reasons why your script was changed that have to do with some other animal, vegetable, or mineral.

Meaning it’s someone else’s fault.   They’re the one who ‘messed it up’… or made it awards-worthy, although you would never admit that.

"We've searched the entire universe for someone to blame. I say it's that binary star's fault!" (Image from Flying Rhino Jr. High)

The reasons why a script changes after the original writer has moved on has everything to do what goes on behind the animated curtain. Specifically, the later production stages. Many animation writers have no idea what goes on after they hit ‘send’. But they should, because it would help them become better writers and deliver more consistently ‘animate-able’ scripts. But until productions begin putting a “Welcome Writers!” sign up on the door for these later stages, how else are you going to learn why your sh%$ got changed?

(For more info on the Production Process, check out You Are Never Writing Alone -learning the animation process and The Animation Production Process, Part 2 – The Visual Stream – Editor)

Like their counterpart productions in the live-action world, animation productions are big collaborative efforts. Like a Final Draft baton being passed from hand to hand, your script travels through many different departments before it reaches the TV screen, and the reasons for changing your words range from the logical and budgetary, to the arbitrary and ego-driven.

The number of people who poke, prod, fondle, slap, or even stab your script to death is a long one. So perhaps it’s best to just list those individuals first, then explain the reasons why they changed your script. 

The reasons they changed my script because of THEM:

The Head Writer

"Bwahahaha! Now I, the Story Editor/Head Writer/Executive Producer, shall have the final laugh with my infamous 'sparkle pass'!"

Whether they go by that designation, or by Executive Producer, or Story Editor (the most common), the Head Writer of the animated series you’re writing for will often edit your script at every draft stage. This is preferable to the alternative where they only edit it after you’re done your Polish, for the main reason that you as the episode’s writer, get a unique glimpse into their creative mind by reading their revisions along the way. Reading their edited passes (always recommended) allows you to see what they like or don’t like about your writing, and helps you learn to write better for them.

NOTE: This is a very different thing than helping you learn to become a better writer. You will not always agree with the liberties the Head Writer took with your script. Many times you’ll think what they did suck ass. But in the greater employer/employee universe, never forget that you’re the subordinate being hired to give them what they want. Save your artistic expression for your own projects, and give them what they want already.

The alternative to a Story Editor editing your script at every stage, is when they just relay notes from the broadcaster, or whoever has a say in the script, directly to you, the writer, to implement. Only when you’re done your last draft in this scenario does the Story Editor do any rewriting themselves. From a notes perspective, all the bigger problems should have been ironed out by this stage, so anything from this point on is most likely the Story Editor getting their own creative rocks off, or juggling last-minute notes to get the damn thing out of their hands forever. Their draft can be anything from a light polish to a complete rewrite depending on their creative temperament.

The Animation Director

"Seriously dudes and dudettes. You've gotta see this show through an animator's eyes. Try mine." (Image from Beetlejuice)

This creative head always has their own vision for the series, and for your script. It’s what they’re paid to have. So in terms of what we will see on screen, the artistic buck stops at them. And in that capacity, the Director will put their stamp on your episode in whatever way they see fit. This stamp could include rewriting the odd line of dialogue, entire scenes, or in rare cases, the entire script.

Good Directors will only do what they need to enhance your script because the bigger story demands should have already been addressed by the Story Editor. This leaves the Director to focus solely on making the show look great and play out well dramatically. Not-so-good Directors believe that any script that wasn’t written by themselves sucks and will change every word that either you or the Story Editor wrote. Because they can.

Like it or not, your script will always be filtered through a Director’s sensibility. When your vision jives with theirs, the end result is magic, and the show becomes bigger than the sum of its parts. When your vision doesn’t merge with the Director’s, it’s usually a disaster in the making. Not to mention a heartbreaking experience for the writer who spent endless hours crafting a script that got moulded into some other beast for broadcast.

The Producer

"Hey guys. Is there room for a little product placement for this way-cool, zoomy car? It'll help pay for all the bloody actors your script is using." (Image from Gerald McBoing-Boing)

Somebody has to keep the budget and schedule of an animated production in line. If your script is a negative influence on either of those aspects, rest assured that the Producer will tag it with a bullseye. You included a new location in your script? The Producer has to pay an artist to draw it. You introduced a new character who only says two lines? The Producer has to pay an actor to read those two lines (FYI – you’d do well to research how ACTRA voice actors get paid. Word count matters. In some cases, losing one word from one line can save the production hundreds of dollars).

Unlike Directors and Story Editors, Producers aren’t always creative. Nor do they have to be. Some are only paid to handle cheques and calendars. In the live-action series world (specifically the U.S.), they’d be called ‘Non-Writing Producers,’ who deal only with logistics. This species of Producer generally leaves writers alone as long as they don’t mess with their budget or schedule.

Other Producers however, integrate themselves into the creative process in ways which overlap with all the other creative heads: the Writer, Story Editor, and Director. They give notes on your script. Attend voice records. Make cuts in edit sessions. In the animation world, there is no hard and fast rule for what a Producer does or doesn’t do within the creative spectrum. It’s different with every Producer on every series. And much like the Writer’s relationship with the Director, if the Producer is in sync with you creatively, the show will work fine. If not, expect to feel pain in all your creative places.

Additionally, it’s important to note that the Producer is the individual who represents the commercial and creative interests of the Production Company making the series you’re writing on. Your relationship working with this Producer could determine whether or not you’ll have a long, fruitful relationship with that production company, or never work for them again. Either of which could be a blessing or a curse.

The Network Executive

"We must find a way to put my stamp on this perfect script, Minimus. Or I swear, someone's gonna get atomized." (Image from Atomic Betty)

This person wields a huge amount of power over your script. A single, dismissive comment from them could kill your episode at any stage. But like everyone else involved in the production, they want it to be as good as it can be. Their notes on your script can run the gamut from being constructive to infuriating.

When it comes to your script, the other creative heads on the production generally handle anything that’s too serious coming from the Network Executive. So when you receive the Executive’s notes, they’ve usually been edited down to the more manageable stuff. The more experienced you get, you’ll more likely you’ll get to receive all their notes (whoopee!). Be aware that the more you get to know Network Executives on a personal level, and the more they get to know you, the more receptive they will be to your writing… and to forgiving any choices you make that they don’t like. Meaning they’ll just ask for changes in the next draft… and not necessarily demand that you get fired immediately.

So those are the main culprits who are responsible for changing your script after you’re done writing it. But there are also some specific reasons that are worth mentioning as well. Specifics that will outlined in a rousing Part Three cliffhanger to this blog entry.

Stay tuned for What Happened To My Script – Part Three!


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