Monday, June 25, 2012


If you want to be involved in the TAAFI storyboard workshop and want to work with my girl and light switch characters, here is an outline for a story I wrote:

Most of it is already storyboarded:



CFP is found

CFP decides it’s time to recycle himself, when a mailbox recognizes him.
The mailbox nudges a nearby telephone pole: ‘Hey! Doesn’t that guy match the description of that missing Fuzz character??

Telephone pole: ‘Yeah, that’s the way Tia’s phone described him to me.’

The telephone pole sends a message to Tia’s house: ‘We’ve spotted the Curly Fuzz Poodle, corner of 57th and 3rd, heading northeast, looking mighty ragged.’

Tia’s phone, wall socket, vestibule and tights wait around the corner for the Curly Fuzz Poodle to approach.
The tights jump on CFP and engulph him, tying himself up tight at the top. The tights walk home to Tia’s with CFP inside, and everyone is happy.

CFP gets fixed up

The socket observes CFP’s condition. ‘We can’t take him back like this. We gotta fix him up!’
A drawer in the vestibule opens and a needle and thread hop out. They begin to stitch up CFP’s holes.

The phone pulls his string to try and make him talk. We hear a rusty, garbled groan. ‘He’s all rusted up inside!’

A toothbrush volunteers to help. He sticks his brush into CFP’s ring hole and scrapes the rust off his talking mechanism.
CFP is sparkling and clean.

The objects take him to Roxy’s and shove him back in Roxy’s room through the window.

Mom and Dad argue

Back on Roxy’s bed, CFP just begins to settle in when he overhears an argument outside Roxy’s room.

Dad is accusing Mom of throwing out the Fuzz Poodle and Mom is flatly denying it.
Dad: ‘I can’t believe you threw out that poodle! Roxy hasn’t been the same since! How could you?’
Mom: ‘I’m telling you I never threw it out. You convinced me not to! I have no idea what happened to it.’

The Curly Fuzz Poodle gets an idea. He writes another note to Roxy.

Roxy comes home

She is completely depressed. She hurls her books on the bed and throws herself down for a good sob right smack on top of CFP. She starts crying but we see her back quivering from the agitation of the CFP as he is trying to wriggle out.

A little paw comes out under her belly pulling a talking string.
Roxy hears the string retracting as she has heard so many times before and stops crying.
She smiles as she realizes…she arches her back enough to look under her belly and we hear “Get off.”

She grabs the Fuzz Poodle and gives him a giant hug. She sees the note.

‘Dear Roxy, Your mom never threw me out, I threw myself out. She suggested getting rid of me, and I thought the end was near, so I took care of it myself. Your mom isn’t to blame. She even found me and fixed me up nice for you. So even though she thinks I’m a filthy, repulsive, immature pile of sawdust, she’s letting you have me anyways. That’s how much she loves you.P.S. Please pull my string.’

She pulls the string. Fuzz Poodle says: ‘AND I LOVE YOU TOO.’

Happy Ending

Roxy runs out to the living room and yells, ‘Mom, thank you!’
Dad sees CFP. ‘Holy mackerel! Where’d he come from?’
Roxy beams, ‘Mom found him and fixed him all up for me!’
Dad looks guilty and gives mom a hug. Mom is dumbfounded.
Everyone hugs.
Hug hug hug love love.

If you want to show me your chops, take a small section from this outline and sketch it out. Send me a link in the comments and I'll check it out.

If I think it cuts the mustard and you're interested I'll work with you at the TAAFI storyboard workshop.

**TIP: If you give the furniture and inmate objects lots of personality I will be duly impressed.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Story Process Step by Step


This is very important. Know their personalities and how to draw them.
The stories and gags you come up with should take advantage of their specific personalities and quirks. Not every gag works for every character.


This is the starting point for a story; just come up with an idea. If it sparks many more gags it's worth developing further.

This is just to keep track of the idea. If we were doing the show for TV, we would usually send the premise to the network execs so they could gleefully reject it or "give notes". Do they go to college to get a degree in "giving notes"? I've always wondered where this talent comes from.


Get a couple more funny artists together and toss ideas around based on the situation you've come up with. Everyone will draw quick sketches to show the visual potential of the gags.

It helps to eat bacon or Montreal smoked meat.

Someone should keep track of all the gags and furiously write them down so you don't forget the good stuff.


Then one story person should collect all the gags from the session and type them up in a list -with no particular order.

I use Microsoft Word because they have an "Outline Mode" which makes it easy to rearrange the ideas in a better order.

You want the gags to build in a logical progressive story order so after you have made the list of all the gags, now rearrange them according to the best order to tell a story.

I usually group them into 3 sections:

1) Setup -

this should be short but should clearly establish what the story is about and titillate the audience's curiosity. It should be entertaining and make the audience really want to see what happens next.

2) Middle

This is the longest part of the story

You develop the situation further and build the gags in a progressive order. Each gag should develop the original premise and situation. Avid going off on a tangent with another storyline that has nothing to do with the original idea. When this starts to happen, just save the gags for another story and get back to developing THIS ONE.

Build the gags and situation to a climax - don't start the middle with your best craziest gag and wind down.

3) Conclusion

This is usually short and sweet too.

Think of the ending to Stimpy's Invention. I had so many gags and so much intense emotional conflict going on in the middle that I was running out of time to have an easy wind-down. Because the cartoon had to fit into the 11 minute TV slot, I would have had to cut gags out of the exciting part (the middle) to make room for a comfortable easy wind-down. So instead I just ended immediately after the climax and rolled over and had a cigarette.

Here's another sample outline - with pictures:


and fill out the details.

The outline is basically your map so that you can keep track of the structure and flow of the story.

It lists all the major plot points, situations and gags and presents them in a logical order.

With this guide you can now concentrate on drawing the details. Since it often takes more than one storyboard artist to draw out the story, then the guide becomes even more important.

I don't know exactly how to teach storyboarding except to say:

Draw funny.

Draw in character.

Act everything out.

People make fun of me when I draw because I hunch over into weird positions and make odd faces. I don't do it on purpose. I am getting into the story and characters. I don't want to draw by formula or by storyboard theories - I just want to get in and draw a story as close to real time as I can hastily draw.

When I draw rough and fast I tend to get a lot more life into the drawings.

My poses and expressions are more custom (less reliant on model sheets) and a lot of lucky accidents occur.

In fact, I would not have any model sheets around while storyboarding. If you have to keep stopping the flow of drawing a story by turning and analyzing model sheets, then you are going to have a jerky unnatural cold story.

The process at this point should be mostly feeling and emotions. Get all sensitive like a 70s pop singer. Get into the harts and souls of the characters. You are performing with a pencil.

The hardest thing for me to convey to artists who have spent too much time in studios that have a zillion rules and are model sheet crazy is how to connect your pencil to your feelings

instead of having your pencil just obey a bunch or predesigned expressions and poses.

I see a ton of modern cartoons where all the characters make the same expressions, hold the same poses and move the same way as each other. I've seen really funny cartoonists who in real life have their own unique expressions, gestures and quirky movements - who when having to draw a story, immediately resort to standard stock "animation expressions" and "animation gestures".

They aren't letting their pencils reflect their own personalities and world views.

The best storyboard artists have pencils that are connected directly to the artists' unique personalities and outlooks - without being filtered by trends and stock style formula.

In fact I would say the same thing about layout artists, animators and every other creative person.

more to come...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

I made a cartoon once based on the first fan letter we got for Ren and Stimpy. It was from a kid named Anthony.
So I featured my Dad in the cartoon playing Anthony's father. I used scenes and images that were etched in my brain from being reared by a man who believed in rules and discipline.
This is how I saw him when I came home from school one day all happy, whistling a Frank Sinatra tune and ready to watch the after school cartoons on TV. He heard me come in the door and slowly, ominously turned around...
He shoved the paper in my face and blurted 'YOUR HERO'S DEAD!!!"
The headline said in huge letters
I went into shock. Then Dad took the opportunity to launch into one of his favorite lectures:
"Now maybe you can put away all your little kiddie cartoons and fantasies about being a big shot Hollywood cartoonist, and start thinking about getting serious about your future!"
"You're 11 years old!! Grow the F*@%$!! UP! It's time you started putting your paper route money in the bank. Earn some interest for when you retire."
When Dad got impatient with me (pretty much every day), he always had to hold back his emotions. I could tell part of him wanted to give me the licking I so deserved, but he would pull at his face with his huge meaty hands - the hands of a working man- to hold in the the explosion trying to rip through his skin.
Anyway all these scenes that I actually witnessed growing up ended up in "A Visit To Anthony". During the production, I told my Dad that I was making a special cartoon to honor him and he really looked forward to it. "Finally, the kid's grown up! He's showing me some Goddamn respect at last!!"
So he started telling all his friends about it: "Hey Earl! What does YOUR kid do for a living? Yeah? Ha, big deal. Well MY KID IS IN HOLLYWOOD MAKING PICTURES!! And he made one about me! ME for Chrissakes! You hear that? Yep, he's real mature. Not like that bum of yours you call a son!"

So when the cartoon was finished I got on my private jet from Hollywood and flew up to Ottawa with a video tape of the picture. I didn't show it to him right away though. I waited until we went to the cottage for the weekend.
You've heard of the American Dream? ...2 car garage, a nuclear family etc.? Well the Canadian dream is to have a "cottage".
You know your family's doing OK if you can afford to have a summer home - a rustic house on a lake out in Canada's majestic hinterland.
Well we had a cottage and my Dad had lots of friends on the lake who had their own cottages. We were eating barbecued burgers (Dad calls them "hamburgs") and he was staring at my video tape. "Gimme that Goddamn thing" and he grabbed it and tossed me in the canoe. With one furious stroke he paddled us across the lake to his best friend's cottage the only one on the lake with electricity. Inside a bunch of the guys were hanging around drinking beer, playing darts and telling dirty stories.

They said to me, "Hey Johnnie, did you bring that cartoon of your old man?" I shoved it in the VCR and we all sat down to watch it. Dad sat back in his chair beaming - until a couple minutes into the cartoon and his face turned to stone. All the guys were laughing and slapping their legs
and looking around at him as his face turned purple. They were elbowing him in the ribs and stuff. "Man, you really nailed him didn't you kid!? Har har har!!" "He's got you down, Mike! Guffaw, chortle!" Then they went back to the beer. Dad didn't say anything. In fact he didn't say anything for days.

Then when we went home and I woke up one morning, I sat down at the breakfast table. Dad was there eating his corn flakes. He didn't say anything for minutes; he just gazed at me with steel in his eyes. I was eating my bacon and Kolbassa sandwich when finally the ice broke and he said...

I kinda suspected he didn't like it, that I made him look too much like a harsh disciplinarian. I was about to explain how in cartoons you have to exaggerate and take artistic license to make the stories more entertaining when he told me what he didn't like about the cartoon. "You little twerp...

Whoa! That was the opposite reaction to what I thought I was gonna get! The he went on to explain what he didn't like about the picture.

It was these scenes, when Anthony's father thinks the kid has had an asthma attack brought on by the antics of Ren and Stimpy.
Dad said to me. "I never CRIED over anybody!
And I certainly didn't hug you OR ANYBODY ELSE!!"
"Goddamn it now my friends are gonna make fun of me every time I see them! I guess I'm gonna have to close up the cottage. It's all your fault.
I better get a new son. One that's more of a man LIKE ME."

My Dad believes in "tough love" and that's for damn sure! I now admit that yes, I made up this whole soft sequence in the cartoon just to give some contrast and relief to the tough scenes around it.

I'm going to go home for a visit in July and Dad will probably Indian leg wrestle me now that I've reminded him of the shame I brought upon him by featuring him in the cartoons - and making up some crap that didn't happen.

Anyway, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY DAD, and to all the other dads out there. Don't raise any wimps!
Another scene from real life....
Next year maybe I'll tell you the story about the time Dad gave me and all my teenage buddies a lecture about "Gang Splashes".

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cartoons

These gorgeous close ups are from "Fort Better Or Worser", a hilarious cartoon from 1935.
My guess is they are drawn by Roland Crandall because they look a lot like the drawings and animation in Betty Boop's "Snow White". -but I could be wrong.
I just love this style. When I think of what makes the Fleischers unique it's this kind of look. It's more like the comic strips than what was becoming known as "animation style" in Hollywood.
Some particular animators seem to stand out: Dick Heumer , Grim Natwick, Willard Bowsky, Al Eugster and some others whose styles I recognize but aren't sure of the names that go with them. I like Shamus Culhane's early Fleischer stuff though he disparaged this whole school of animation when we met. So did Myron Waldman.I think this is their best stuff!

Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938, Vol. 1

around 1940 it became pretty noticeable that Fleischer cartoons were moving way from their own look and attitude and instead imitating the Hollywood style.
They still did some nice animation but I prefer the 30s when they were really doing their own thing. I think Disney made everyone feel guilty for having unique styles and approaches to animation in the 1930s and it led to a general blandification of much of the industry. Luckily some holdouts continued along their own paths: Avery, Clampett, Tashlin, Jones to an extent, Tyer, Scribner, Mckimson, and later UPA.