August 22, 2012 by bck1402
Over the last few years, I’ve mainly been writing scripts or screenplays for cartoon series. The first was a sweet little thing called, “Sugar Pals” and I really don’t know what the plans were for that. I think they wanted it to go on local television, but I never saw it pop up on any schedule. Then again, despite encouraging local talents, these local media outlets don’t do a very good job of promoting anything.
Case in point, a friend was writing, and then moved into directing an animated series locally. It was a big deal when the project first started. There were magazine articles, even articles in the newspaper that took several pages. I don’t know if it actually made the news on TV. Production on such a series takes years, and by the time “Saladin” made it to our local TV screens, no one knew anything for sure. The newspapers obviously get the TV schedule from the stations and for the first month, “Saladin” was not listed on the schedule, even though it was airing. The second half of the series never got to our screens, although my friend told me that the series is a huge success in the Middle East. It’s a cool series done in mo-capped CG animation and if you get the chance, you should check it out.
I learnt that “Sugar Pals” is out there in the world only because I got curious as to what happened to it, and did a web search. Of all places, it’s available through iTunes. There’s a free app you can download and through that app, you get the first episode for free. You can then download the rest of the episodes for a small price each.
From there, I moved onto a series called “CingKus Blues” (contributed 12 stories) which made it to Nickelodeon (Asia) and then I was asked to write for another series, “SoccerBugs.”
First off, I know squat about football or soccer. It’s a game that I could never get into or understand why these 20 odd guys in shorts keep running up and down a field way too big, chasing this little ball. And here I was, writing for a series that had bugs playing football. My friend, same guy mentioned above, wrote a pilot where the bugs were the worst team ever. A new coach was brought in and in the span of that first episode, turned them into one of the best teams ever. It’s great for a one-off movie, but this was the start of the series… we really had to come up with some weird and wacky challenges for these bugs after that. What did I know about football anyway?
Over the last year, I did about 22 scripts, out of which I had to revisit 4 of them for some reason or another. Sure, rewrites are part of the job and I suppose I’ve been lucky that I’ve had to go over 4 out of 22. I try to be flexible about how I’m writing the scripts giving leeway to the producers to make changes as needed; give a little space for the animators to play around with the story; let the actors change the dialogue to fit the character in their heads. Starting out on this series, all I had was the pilot script to work off, so how I perceived the characters was surely not going to be how they would be in the end. Flexibility was key so that adjustments could be made. I wasn’t going to be precious about the scripts and the writing.
One script looked into the past. I tried to give it a documentary feel, you know those shows on TV where the host looks at a team, looks at its history and the players, talking to a bunch of people who give insights of the players and where they came from. There were interview bits, re-enactments and I focused on three of the five main characters. After I submitted the script, I was told it was too similar to another plot that another writer had done.
It took a while, but they agreed to send me that script. That writer had focused on one character – the coach – and had him relate to his many, many, many grandkids of his humble beginnings up to where he was at the present time. I really couldn’t figure out the similarities, but I did a bit of a rewrite, removed references to the coach on my end, and then I created a timeline of events, based on her script and mine to layout just what was happening, where and when, and how they all linked up. Just as a reference. The producers seemed happy enough with that.
Another rewrite had a most unusual request. I had a story where the players would take part in a charity auction. Easiest bit would have the players attend a ball function and auction themselves for the night to provide company on the ladies who would bid on them. Dancing would be involved – except that the bugs first had to learn how to dance a formal social dance, like a waltz. I had a scene where dancing was associated with tackling the ball on the field, it was all in the footwork. The request was – nix the dance…
…because the animators can’t draw/animate dancing.
Well… okay, sure, why not. It’s your show, you’re the boss.
Out went the dancing, and the bugs became utterly clumsy waiters during the function. Cue the slapstick.
Towards the end of this project, and at the producers suggestion, I was eager to send the bugs off to Japan. I wouldn’t say I’m a Japanophile, but I find certain aspects about Japan, the culture and the people rather fascinating and I wanted to reflect some of that into the scripts (2 part story). I referenced two different hotels, the massive shared bathrooms / hot baths, the food, the arcades and even took on sumo wrestling and kendo. I modeled the episodes after some various anime episodes, borrowing liberally from various series, mixing and matching, and giving the bugs a rather rose-tinted trip. It was towards the end of the series, it would be nice to relax a little after all the weird matches (not that I didn’t throw one in).
It was not what they wanted. They were hoping that the yakuza would be involved and the coach would get into some mess with them which would result in a match between the bugs and a yakuza team to help get the coach out of trouble. I thought it felt similar to another episode that another writer (the lady mentioned earlier) had done.
There was already some rewriting done on these, and maybe another rewrite is on the cards here. We’ll wait and see…
UPDATE (Sep 10): It’s a page one rewrite… They want to go with the generic gangster/yakuza story. Don’t you just hate it when people think of Japan, they have to associate the yakuza with it?