Animation Development David B. Levy Notes Part 01


Animation Development David B. Levy

This book is a great introduction to the process of creating a pitch bible and the process of pitching to and working with development executives and networks. Two main emphases have been made so far in order for a pitch to be successful:

  • Demonstrate your industry experience as proof of your ability to put a team together to drive your ideas onto the screen.
  • Demonstrate the strength of your ideas with unique characters that drive stories specific to how they react to the world and conflict you put them in (the pitch bible).

I’m aware that my industry experience is relatively small at the moment, with only placement year behind me, but I’ve often read that ‘projects are the new portfolios’. Hopefully by working hard in final year, we can create an outcome which will be proof of our abilities with teamwork, storytelling and production.


Audiobook Notes Chapters 01 – 03:


Pitching is not a job, it is something which you do on top of your day job. Networks buy creators, not ideas. They are looking for people with experience who are capable of putting together a team and putting their ideas on the screen. Meet more people who you can work with e.g. online and at festivals. Experience is key to creating your own show. The odds of your pitch being successful is similar to winning the lottery or being hit by lightning but there are ways of bettering the odds for yourself.

Chapter One: Beginnings

Consider how much more useful it is to work on your own short films than it is to have a pile of rejected pitches on someone’s desk. The short film is a breeding ground to develop your own voice as a director. Your voice could be more suitable to either commercial animations e.g. as advertisements or to series animation which are driven by characters. A character should be funny, even if left alone in their room for 2 minutes. You should make films both by yourself and with a crew under you. Be able to do all the jobs and also have the knowledge to hire people who are better than you. Practicing any form of episodic storytelling e.g. comics, will be useful in writing your own series for television also. Channel personal experiences. Build on jumping off points. Find inspiration everywhere. A twist on the norm leads to natural opportunities for conflict. This concept has worked time and time again e.g. Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo, My Life as a Teenage Robot, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Danny Phantom.

Retain a bridge to your childhood, but don’t let this limit you. Your childhood should be a source of inspiration and not a summation of it. One needs to keep one’s mind sharp. Keep feeding your creativity by creating.

Work from the bottom up. Gain experience, grow as writers and artists and let these experiences inform your creations.

Chapter Two: Preparing a Pitch Part I: The Two-Sheet

Always have as many answers about your project as possible. The less experience that you have, the more heavy lifting that you’ll have to do in a pitch. Build reputation and relationships within the industry.

The two sheet contains: the one sentence logline, some art, brief descriptions of the world and it’s rules, character descriptions and sample plot lines. Steven Hillenberg’s (creator of Spongebob) goal for his first pitch meeting with Nickelodeon was to get a second pitch meeting. A two sheet starts the conversation.

Most development executives are open to seeing your idea evolve over time.

The question of how much work that needs to be put into a pitch for it to be successful varies from person to person. Don’t risk having too skimpy of a pitch but use the shorter two-sheet to prove your idea can work and that you can cooperate with the network.

Chapter Three: Preparing a Pitch Part II: The Pitch Bible – 50 minutes chapter

This needs to be simple, quick and easily scannable. Design the bible like a book. Be aware of page turn, composition, balance, color and readability. Be funny!

Strip your bible down to be concise and make powerful statements about the show. 4- 8 pages is recommended but it varies depending on what you need to show the show. The book should be entertaining by itself. Hook your reader in the first few sentences. The pitch should be as funny and entertaining as the show. Nobody wants to read a 30 page document.

The bible will probably be judged by its cover.

Series logline. Practice writing loglines of other shows. It doesn’t have to capture everything. This will be the first line spoken in a pitch meeting.

Series synopsis The Powerpuff Girls opening is a good example of this.

Sugar, spice, and everything nice
These were the ingredients chosen
To create the perfect little girls
But Professor Utonium accidentally
Added an extra ingredients to the concoction–
Chemical X
Thus, The Powerpuff Girls were born
Using their ultra-super powers
Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup
Have dedicated their lives to fighting crime
And the forces of evil

But also mention that they are ordinary girls trying to balance their school and home life with fighting evil. Mention some villains and how this results in them being called upon by the mayor every episode.

Character descriptions. Avoid long lists of adjectives. Pose twenty questions to the characters and make them answer in their own voice. The same characters show up in every pitch e.g. the shy one, the tech kid who can fix anything. You need to create deeper characters than this. As practice, write a description of yourself. Most people have more than one character trait. What is the one key trait that will make the character funny to watch in any situation?

Characters in the bible must be described in the present. Flesh out the backstories but don’t let this creep into the bible. We watch characters because we want to see what they are doing now. Assault people with a character just being herself or himself.

Show art. The art will kill all the work put into the writing if it is not up to scratch. Get help from the best if you need to. A two sheet can have one or two pieces of art. A bible should have show art on every page. Show that this is a real show. Visually depict the characters, the world, and selected plots. Don’t show the characters in static poses. Show the characters in conflict and interacting with their world. The world itself is a character and should be treated like that e.g. Bikini Bottom in Spongebob. Only have one or two drawings of each character and the world. The show art should be rendered in the style of your final show but you should also include rough sketches for a variety of situations and actions.. Each show art piece will be looked at as if it’s a screenshot from the show itself. Make development executives feel real emotion when they read your bible.

Sample episode ideas. Avoid generic stories. We need stories which are unique to the characters. Your bible will fall apart at this stage if it does not use the characters and world described. Don’t just tell, show. Bugs Bunny could be described as a perfect, resourceful character who always wins. The show only becomes interesting because of the conflict that arises around Bugs in each episode. The characters can react in unexpected ways in order to make an ordinary situation more interesting. “Bugs is at peace, Bugs is provoked, Bugs gives him hell” – a simple 7 minute episode structure in Bugs Bunny.

Ask: “ Does my plot spring from character?” The plot can reveal even more about the character. Don’t end with a question/cliff-hanger about how your character will react. If you say that your character is resourceful then you need to prove this! The resolutions give insight into the characters and their personalities. Include 6 – 10 plots with a beginning, middle and end. Each plot should be 3 short paragraphs.

Contact information: If there are more than one creators, include only one as the main contact with complete name, address, phone, email, website. Also list a short biography of each principle creator on the project with one paragraph each.

A preschool pitch bible also includes a curriculum section.

Pitch Extras: Only include these if they are top quality e.g. a script and storyboard. The sample script or storyboard needs to be an episode that engages the characters in a typical plot that could happen at any point in the season. Never start with an origin story. If sample animation is included with the pitch, it must be a perfect example of what the finished show will look and sound like. Don’t exceed 1-2 minutes. Pitch extras should never be the emphasis of a pitch. Show that you put your time into finding layers within your characters instead.

No faux merchandise. It doesn’t matter how well the pitch bible is packaged e.g. green fur if the development executive doesn’t fall in love with the idea. The first thing done with a bible is usually to tear it apart so that copies can be made.

Chapter Four: Legal
Chapter Five: The Pitch Meeting Part I: The Creator’s Corner
Chapter Six: The Pitch Meeting Part II: The Money Side of the Table
Chapter Seven: Emotional Rescue
Chapter Eight: The Option or Paper Development Deal
Chapter Nine: The Pilot
Chapter Ten: Launching the First Season
Chapter Eleven: Happy Trails: Parting Thoughts and Advice
Appendix: Animation Pitching and Development Resource List
About the Author


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