Streamlining the Animation Development Process

Via: Cartoon Brew. Since it's mandatory reading, you can buy it on Amazon. Alternatively, you can try your local library

Via: Cartoon Brew. Since it’s mandatory reading, you can buy it on Amazon. Alternatively, you can try your local library

It’s something that this blogger has been contemplating for a while; just how can the development process for animation be streamlined? Right now there’s a fair bit of black magic and voodoo involved with getting a series created, developed, made and on the air and despite some people’s attempt to change that, the efforts are far from codified. The problem is the changes the entertainment landscape is going though will render traditional development models obsolete. Simply put, the risks of developing an original property from scratch will be seen to be too great and will be sidelined. So what will take its place? Here’s a look:

Only Pre-Existing Concepts Will Be Considered

Essentially, this means that major studios will seek out and only seek out those ideas which are already successful. That includes pretty much anything from comics to webseries. Yes, networks already like to find established properties, but they are not averse to new, unfounded ideas if they check all the boxes. That will change though, and at some point, if you’re not a success on your own, studios won’t want to know you.

Consider it similar to the way franchise are currently sold. Basically, the franshisee must prove a certain amount of capital so for example, although a McDonalds restaurant is practically a license to print money, you have to stump up $300,000 of your own before you can run one.

In the case of animation, this capital will come in the form of an audience. Read: your idea will have to have an audience before a studio will consider buying it. The purpose of this is essentially risk avoidance; i.e. you undertake the risk of creating and marketing your idea as opposed to the studio. Naturally they will compensate you for this when they buy or license it, but if studios can offload risk, then they will absolutely do it.

How big will the audiences need to be will vary, but they will rely on the core, returning audience (i.e. fans). Total visitors won’t be enough to convince them otherwise.

Timelines Will Be Compressed

Animated projects can take months, even years, to develop. That will all change however, as the shift to pre-existing concepts as outlined above will eliminate many of the steps involved with creating an animated TV show or movie. While you can expect some of the pre-vis work to disappear from studios (they will naturally live on outside) this will have the effect of compressing timelines significantly.

Furthermore, if it’s a series that will go out on the web, expect immediate release, perhaps even on the day production wraps. Simply put, if it isn’t online, it won’t be bringing in the bacon. South Park already exhibits this kind of behaviour in the famous Six Days To Air documentary which has also handily kept the series fresh after so many years where others have long gone stale.

Expect Better Classification Of Concepts

Today, development executives and networks are pretty good at outlining the kind of content they are looking for. That said, there is still plenty of room for improvement and saying “I’m looking for a fantasy show for ages 6-10” is a heck of a lot less descriptive than “I’m looking for a fantasy show featuring a lead female amongst a group of four (50-50 gender split) who has been tasked with defeating an evil antagonist over the course of 13 web episodes of 10 minutes each.” Expect studios and networks to really drill down on what they are looking for but within tolerances.

The reason is simple: as audience measuring and tracking tools improve to the point of identifying individual viewers, studios will be able to create truly niche programming that they will [accurately] target at their audience. They will know this audience almost as well as they know themselves, and studios will request concepts accordingly.

Does this mean you have to create something with such a precisely targeted audience in mind? No, of course not, but be open to the idea that you’ll have to persuade someone to buy it based on who it will attract rather then simply ‘girls’ or ‘boys’.

Standardisation Should Become Commonplace

Pitching and development is more of an art than a science but efforts like Amazon Studios is the first salvo in attempts to change that. Their rules are plain and simple and are available for everyone to see. That said, what happens after concepts are submitted is still a bit of an unknown.

Either way, expect future animation development to follow a more regimented pattern that should be universally known within the industry. There is a likelihood that we’ll see a greater number of steps in development primarily as a tool to weed out ideas before they get too far. In essence, development will become close to the ideal of a production line with set steps and procedures. You can also be sure that whichever studio develops an efficient pipeline will see it copied by others, thus proliferating it as a standard.

Animation Development Should Become Easier

Lastly, all the above changes should mean that animation development should become a bit easier for all concerned. With development becoming easier, this can only mean that we will see a greater level of animated content being created and broadcast. Sure, it might still err on the expensive side of things, and it may still take some time to do, but overall, the easier it is to get animated content on the screen, the more likely we are to see it on the screen.

Is there something you would change about the development process as it stands today? Let us know with a comment!

2 Comments on “Streamlining the Animation Development Process

  1. Hi Charles! Thanks for the snap of my book cover!

    I would say there is no “development process as it stands today.” Instead you have each network, web channel, or media company all mixing it up constantly, feeling their way, making mistakes, having successes, and trying to stay relevant in rapidly changing media landscape.

    Another thing I want to point out is that It’s not the “idea” that finds an audience. You can’t make a deal with an idea. You make the deal with a creator. If a creator proves his/her self by having attracted an audience for a creation, it means the creator has a following, and to strike a deal with such a creator is a better business risk then dealing with a complete unknown or untested creator.

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