Sunday, October 5, 2008

Telling Tales

When you're leading a pack train through the wilderness, every man in the group has a job to do. Some know what plants are useful for food or medicine. Others are experts at horse-wrangling. There are blacksmiths, saddle-makers and gunsmiths in our outfit. Everyone has an essential skill. When asked what I did to benefit the group, I answered, "I tell the stories." I believe storytelling is essential to survival. Storytelling preserves the history and accomplishments of a culture and, if well done, entertains as well, thereby assuring their repetition. Telling tales is what I have done all my life. Coupling this talent with an ability to draw led to a career in animation.

I still tell stories as a living. As a layout artist, the way I pose a character tells a story about the character through their body language or dress. The way I compose the character against the background I design sets the mood for the story to be told. As a storyboard artist, I interpret the script in a graphic manner that creates a film around the story told. As a writer, I determine what story will be told on the screen. An animated tale lives or dies by the story that is told through a multitude of hands and minds.

When you're telling multiple stories for a television series you don't just tell one story at a time. You design a series as you would design a painting. You choose a point of focus and you lead the eye around the painting through a series of planned elements, shapes or color, to give the desired effect. You didn't know that's what an accomplished painter does? That's good! The exceptional painter never wants you to know that you're being manipulated.

So it goes with an accomplished storyteller. You design the first episode to introduce the key character and all the people he will being working closely with throughout the series. You create an exciting story that will set the tone for all the stories to come. And, more importantly, besides the beginning, you design a through story that gives you a middle and an end of the series, or at least, the first 13 episodes. This allows the creator or story editor to instruct his writers in the type of stories that need to be told to advance the goals the series is heading towards. Have you noticed that the most successful series on television, with the best written stories, all have this forethought put into the direction of the show? You haven't noticed that connection? Then, the next time you're planning on producing an animated television series, give the Mad Animation Prophet a call!

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