Short Cartoon Writing Tips!
OK, here are my ideas about writing a funny 11 minute TV cartoon.
Know your characters and how they relate to one other. Take any great comedy team and you'll find that the humor is based on the personality of each character and the dynamics with the other characters.
When writing cartoons, do not exclude cartoonists from the process! Writers are great and all but they cannot draw a funny expression or work out the poses and timing necessary to make a funny cartoon. Believe it or not there are lots of really funny cartoonists that write funny too!
Imagine if writers wrote the great Termite Terrace 40's and 50's era Warners cartoons and Bob, Chuck and the boys were excluded from the process and forced to work from scripts.
Now I'm not dissing writers here. They are a huge important part of the industry and deserve as much credit and support as anybody on the crew. Unless they suck.
Use outlines and not scripts. This leaves the storyboard artist (who in my mind is really directing the artistic vision of the cartoon) room for his or her mind to work out the funniest gags for the cartoon and write dialogue that fits the gag not the other way around.
If you must use scripts then NEVER write more than 11 pages for an 11 minute cartoon.
A PAGE A MINUTE!
A PAGE A FUCKING MINUTE! OK?!
Do your self a favor and watch the funniest 7 or 11minute cartoons you can think of.
Watch each one over and over with a notepad and a stop watch. Note each sequence paying attention to it's purpose (like setup, gag, payoff etc.). Note the type of gags and how the comedy pays off. Is the reveal funny? How does timing make the joke work, or not.
You will begin to see patterns that are typical to an individual studio, director, story artist and animator. Watch old 2 reel shorts like Laurel and Hardy, the Stooges too. It's what I grew up watching and I learned so much about comedy from them,
When writing an 11 minute cartoon, don't get all wound up in plots, secondary plots and too many characters. This is no way to make a funny cartoon. Keep it simple! Avoid stereotypes and tired old ideas.
Come up with a funny idea. If the initial idea isn't funny then don't bother going forward with it.
Write down about 20 one line ideas.
Stimpy's invention- Stimpy is an inventor. His latest invention makes Ren really mad. Stimpy must invent a helmet that makes Ren happy against his nature.
Stimpy's Chicken- Stimpy falls in love with the chicken that he was preparing for Ren's dinner. He elopes with the chicken and Ren is tortured with Hunger and jealousy.
Now you get the four or five funniest bastards (who all have lists of one line ideas) into the same room and go at it coming up with gags and making quick sketches and laughing their asses off. We used to rent a suite at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood for a week and write the whole season. That was fun!
You have your idea for the cartoon. Now you go through all of the gags and lay them out eliminating the least funny. Start with the setup, put the best gags in order building to the funniest and ending in a ironic funny ending.
Set-up, series of gags, ironic pay-off.
Don't be satisfied with something that is only amusing keep bouncing ideas around until you are actually laughing outloud.
Type it up into about 3 or 4 pages and let the storyboard artist do his job.
Afterward it's good to pin up the board so the director can work on fine-tuning the gags with the other board artists helping out. Always be open to upping the comedy at every level. A funny board can be made ten times funnier by pushing character layoutout and animation. The acting and adlibs that the voice actor came up pushed the comedy again!
Notes on character design and posing.
Here are a few quick character studies for proportion, style and movement.
Gotta do lots of drawing to bring a character to life!
I hope this helps, enjoy!