Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thoughts On Script Writing For Animation #1

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but when it comes to animation it may take a thousand individual pictures to show what a few words in a script describe. For example: "The two armies of angels clash outside the Gates of Heaven."

For me, an animation script is the beginning of the storytelling process. Using words is the quickest way to download the story ideas from one's mind. It's also the quickest way to organize and develop all the elements necessary to show the story on the screen. Note, I say SHOW not TELL.

The writer should be locking down the characters' motivations, their goals, the plot twists and resolution to the story. Dialogue should be kept to a minimum, being used only to reveal what can't be shown on the screen.

In the script, the writer should be thinking visually, and not be in love with his/her words. Yes, there is a place for "snappy dialogue" between  characters, but not when it stops the story dead in its tracks.

As much as possible, each word of an animation script should be an aid to the story artist who is interpreting those words. The script should be the solid foundation upon which all the film's artists, musicians, and technicians can build their performances and add sparkle to the finished piece.

To illustrate my point, the following two script pages describe an opening sequence. These pages are taken from my screen adaptation of "Little Mexico", one of a series of noir crime fiction novels I co-authored and published with my wife Cathie under the name Cathie John.

For visual design, think of the Dick Tracy world of 1943, with all the caricatured images that suggestion creates in your mind.

"Little Mexico" was nominated for Best Paperback Original Novel in 2001.

In future posts, I will focus on sections of these two script pages, explaining why I chose to write what I did.

(This content is copyrighted, John Celestri)


  1. I'm glad to have discovered your blog and look forward to more of your insight into animation and script writing!

  2. You do a good job of conveying the personalities of the characters in just those couple of pages by showing everything through their actions.