Monday, December 17, 2012

My dream job: an animated plan.


      I’m not going to lie or, as the kids say, “front.” This post about my Dream Job has an ulterior motive. It’s going to read like “Oh gosh, gee! I wish I could have this job! If Only!!”


      It’s going to be wistful, maybe some self deprecating humor etc; but in reality, it will be a cleverly crafted, finely honed appeal to some mysterious shadowy animation executive out there to actually give me a shot. I’ll add tags that will attract the attention of high-powered animators and show runners. I’ll shamelessly name drop animators and creators in a way that seems TOTALLY natural but will really reveal how hip I am as to who’s who in “the biz.” I’ll @message actual industry professionals when I “drop” this post on twitter AND there is at least a 75% chance that I will do the following:

      Sneak into an animation studio, disguised as a clumsy and awkward temporary secretary and will strategically plan a random encounter. With mousy hair, over-sized glasses, a frumpy skirt and a partially tucked in (and miss-buttoned) blouse. I’ll walk, head down, holding a large pile of papers and “accidentally” run right into an animation exec. I’ll start apologizing profusely while making no eye contact (they hate that) and during the confusion, I’ll make “the switch.” Grabbing one of her folders containing executive-type paperwork possibly the most recent, really impressive raise for a valued employee such as…

      Aliki Theofilopoulos Grafft; who’s broad experience in film and TV animation has made her one of the most respected talents in the industry! Want to know why? Treat yourself to her Emmy nominated work on the hit animated TV show “Phineas and Ferb!” And after that, be sure to check out her latest project Millie Gorgon!
      An original series about the daughter of Medusa and Poseidon living the life of a modern (ancient greek) teenage Gorgon. It’s full of fantastic writing and character development so charming it’s sure to turn even the stoniest heart to…well, stone… Anyway it’s going to be huge!

      …The executive will have me thrown out of the building of course; not because I spilled her papers and not because I’m obviously a man in drag but because I bumped into her and executives never allow themselves to be touched by anyone “beneath” them. I’ll be tossed out onto the street but the switch will already have been made and she will eventually read this post; captivated, and impressed with how easily she had walked into my perfectly laid ruse. I’m a weirdo who can get things done! …Like Babe Ruth calling his home runs.

      But this is only the most recent step in my 8 step plan that has been two decades in the making.

      To start with, I watched cartoons. I hear you all out there, “lots of kids watch cartoons” you say; to which I reply with a hardy “Pfffffff”. Those amateurs might have THOUGHT they were watching cartoons, but I was REALLY watching them. I stared so deeply into my television set that I gained a more profound understandings of the colorful characters on the screen than anyone should have a right to. From Snagglepuss to Count Duckula, I really got to know what makes those characters tick! Eventually, for some reason, other people stopped watching cartoons and “grew up” but that concept has always been pretty foreign to me. Why stop watching something that’s still so entertaining? Occasionally a coworker will bring up the fact that their kid watches Spongebob and I have to restrain myself from going into a half hour long explanation about how sophisticated the sight gags are on that show. How the world is incredible and the humor is so broad it could span three generations. I don’t even tell them how amazed I was when I spotted a Jack Benny reference in an episode because apparently other people don’t thing about cartoons. Ever. But I do.

      Beginning in elementary school, I took matters into my own hand. Rather than just be a consumer of cartoons I decided to create! The story is an inspiring one and I think it would best by told by myself 8 months ago (from a post on April 29th)

      “When I was 12, the weirdness that up untill then and been subtle, sleeping just beneath the surface, finally became the dominant force in my personality. In 5th grade, I created my first comic book with my friend Brandon. It was called Pizza Man! (Pizza was pretty big in the early nineties, thanks Ninja Turtles!)

      Pizza Man was a lazy and carefree pizza cook working the night shift in a local pie joint. Next store to the pizza place is a bank which, on this night happens to be being robbed. The bank robber sets of explosives to blow the safe which causes an unforeseen chain of events, fusing our hero with the power of pizza. Flat and powerfull his head torso and arms were all made of pizzas and his fingers were pizza cutters! Pizza cutters… Anyway the explosion also shot the bank robber through the wall of the bank and into the pet store on the other side. Merging the criminal with a cat and creating the terrible villain Cat Man-Drew! Pizza Man and Cat Man-Drew would be forever locked in a comment with some kind of vague outcome that I never pinned down as it never got past issue one.

      The following year I kicked my career up a notch by founding “The Quick Witt Cartoon Company! Acting on information (that turned out to not be true) I was inspired by the story of three teenage girls who created a fun cartoon and actually sold it to Warner Bros, creating Tiny Toon Adventures!

A few of the beloved members of the Quick Witt Cartoon Company Family

      I thought “If they can do it, you can too!” And I set to work creating my own television animation masterpiece simply titled “Rover” It was about a Houdini dog that could escape from any leash, fence or yard. The story followed the lives of his owners and their interaction with their faithful escape artist dog. Once he inevitably got away, we would find ourselves in a brand new world full of talking animals…stray cats, a bully dog (owned by the female love interest of Rover’s owner) an extreme sports goose and a bevy of oddball animal characters. The show would constantly shift back and forth between these two worlds both existing at the same time.

A rare, early "napkin sketch" of The Hit Animated series Rover.

      I didn’t just dream up this cartoon and walk away I put in some real work. Using the unique talents of several of my friends, we created character sheets with personality information…drawings of each character…background shots of commonly used scenes…everything! 

      I even got out my trusty cassette recorder and had individual voice recording sessions with my friends for each individual characters. This was the information I thought you had to put together to sell a cartoon to a major studio (as a 12 year old!) I was obsessed with the project and would put my friends to work every time we got together. I must have been a blast to hang out with!!”

      Coming fresh off the frantic joy of creating a comic book then a cartoon and finally an animation studio, I took the next logical step. I became a dark moody “artist” started listening to underground rock and enrolled in Art School as a fine art major (re: future homeless person). At school I learned a ton of stuff I had no interesting in knowing. And the thing I learned most of all was that I didn’t want to be at art school. I soon left, turning my back on art and artists as a whole.

      I wandered the earth, everywhere I went I did no drawing. Like a gunslinger that hung up his holster, refusing to ever kill again. I destroyed my palettes and put all of my artsy clothes in storage so I wouldn’t be identified. With no creative outlet; I began a sharp, downward spiral, at one point I sank low enough to watch a sporting event. Inevitably I returned to the world of artistic expression but this time I was doing something I actually loved. Had always loved. I was writing.

      Though I love the art of animation (hand drawn and stop motion in particular) such as the amazing character design work of animation pros like Kris W and Alex Deligiannis.  All of my years of getting into the heads of Jem and the Holograms and He-Man as well as creating my own toons as a kid had all been leading up to one thing; writing for animation.

      Unfortunately without the ability to actually create animation, the opportunities are non existent but my ridiculous story ideas and dorky sense of humor would not be contained: The Claymation Werewolf Digital Digest was born. With blogging I had the whole of animation history to work with. I could combine characters, practice my humor and meet fellow nerds. Most importantly I was writing and writing a lot. Setting deadlines and meeting them. It was one of the single funnest projects I have ever worked on and the writing only inspired me to write some more. I even started to consider the idea of returning to the world of cartoon creation and screen writing, as a result of encouragement (whether intentional or not) From Brian at Cool and Collected!

      Through the blog (and the geek community it introduced me to) I learned about a project called Amazon Studios that actually allowed for open submissions to create a film or an animated series. Working against my lifelong system of avoiding rejection by never trying anything, I began to actually put together a submission. As I worked on my “pitch bible” I began to fall in love with the entire process. Creating characters, writing a script, story summaries; world building. I sought advice from everyone I could think of and read every website and listened to every pod cast I could find on the subject of “pitching a cartoon” I recruited friends online to read my drafts and give advice and I wrote and re-wrote. Found an amazing online illustrator named Christopher Tupa to produce my cover image and finally submitted my animated series.
Park Land: A workplace comedy where the office is nature and nature is BIG business.

      In the end my project, “Park Land” was added to what Amazon Studios calls Notable Projects. It amounts to about 35 projects from 700-800+ received. It didn't win but that was just enough encouragement for me to keep my ludicrous dream alive. As we speak I am hard at work on my next submission and at the same time wracking my brain trying to figure out how I can gain the attention of a studio that would allow me to submit a project the old fashioned way. SO far I’m thinking the “pretend to be a secretary and sneak into a studio” thing might be my best bet! Even if I never get my dream job as a writer on an animated project, it’s going to be a blast trying!

      Some folks will try to tell you that breaking into the animation industry is all about going through the proper channels. Going through animation school (preferably The California Institute of Arts or “CalArts“) making contacts and “networking and first and foremost living in Los Angeles but I’m here to tell you that the best path is definitely wacky hijinks, cobbled together into a nonsensical, decades long plan that only you are aware of. But hey, that’s showbiz.

Meanwhile, at League of Extraordinary Bloggers Headquarters!

ShezCraft has a goal I greatly admire; doing nada.

HenchGirl produced my absolute favorite post this week!

Jamie at Q The Adult sends Uhura to the unemployment line and takes her rightful place in Star Fleet


  1. I remember watching a vid of a storyboard artists panel. It sounded like one would need to be multitalented to break into animation, so there wasn't really a need for a writer in the strictest sense. Awww.

    Then again, as a Well-Heeled Exec of a Sleazy Company, I could just pull a Sato and BUY THE WHOLE STUDIO. It seems neater.

  2. It seems like the world of animated television is divided into two separate groups. The storyboard driven shows and the script driven shows. I think it would be fun to work in a storyboard environment (I believe they are typically broken up into teams of two) but I really love writing dialogue and can work pretty easily alone. Either way it would be pretty rad! Besides, we're dreaming here right?

  3. Good luck, you sound determined and that is a big part of it.

  4. Thank you very much! Obsessed, determined...I'm definitely one of those things!