What Happened to my Script?! – Part Three
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.