Eating: The elements of comedy for animators

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I am happy to present my latest video.  Eating is all about the subject of food in comedy.  Great comedy is about common things that all people understand, and food is the most common subject of all.  It has been explored by comedians for centuries, if not millennia.  This video is filled with examples of how comedians have used the various elements of food, such as cooking, table manners and simply being hungry to create laughs.

One topic I didn’t include in the video is the idea of “signature” food.  That is, characters who have specific foods associated with them, such as:

Popeye – spinach

Wimpy – hamburgers

Wallace – cheese

Cookie Monster – cookies

With a lot more research, I could see a part two video that would include “food out of control”  The Three Stooges and Little Rascals, for instance, have had created crazy food in the kitchen.  I fondly recall a scene from The Beverly Hillbillies where Ellie May cooked up some popovers that literally breathed as though they were alive.  I avoided pie fights, as they are well known and practically a topic to themselves.

I would very much appreciate any feedback and suggestions about this topic!  Please comment.

Book review, FUNNY!: Twenty-Five Years of Laughter from the Pixar Story Room

 

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While most of the animation world is clamoring for Andreas Deja’s new book, The Nine Old Men, I have been waiting to get my copy of FUNNY!: Twenty-Five Years of Laughter from the Pixar Story Room.  This hardcover book is a nice collection of gags drawn by Pixar story artists for all of their feature films up through and including The Good Dinosaur.   A few of the drawings are the original concepts that made it into the films, but most are not.  Huge numbers of ideas are generated in the making of feature animated films, and the vast majority of them are tossed to make room for those that work the best.  Still, many of the rejects are quite funny as well, and I find them all very interesting.  I particularly liked this unused gag by Matthew Luhn from Monsters Inc.  It is a slightly twisted reminder of a famous scene from Lady and the Tramp.

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There is quite a range in the quality of the drawings. Some are pleasantly rendered, and others are crude doodles.  What matters is whether it gets the idea across.   One of the real insights in the book are the drawings that include content outside what is typically acceptable in a Disney-Pixar film. Meaning, not everything is “G” rated.  Such ideas show they will push their boundaries.  Imposing too much self censoring is not conducive to creative thinking.

The book doesn’t name an individual author, since the bulk of it is a collection of drawings created by numerous artists.  It has a foreword by John Lasseter, and an introduction by Jason Katz, who is one of the Pixar story artists who has been with the company since the first Toy Story.  It has a few paragraphs explaining some of their working process.  For my purposes, I would love to have had much more of that.  Here is one quote from Teddy Newton I found informative:

The secret to a great story gag has less to do with it’s novelty and more to do with the truth it possesses.  The me, the funniest moments in The Incredibles are not the outrageous bits of spectacle, but the banal moments we recognize from our own lives.

Ultimately, the book is more entertaining than educational.  It is not a large coffee table book, and I went through in about an hour.  If you are a big Pixar fan, or an aspiring story artist, I would say it is worth the reasonable price.

 

Rita Street’s guide to developing animated comedy for kids

Rita Street is a successful producer of television animation.  She is currently executive producer on the Cartoon Network show Hero: 108.  Now, she has used her substantial experience in pitching and selling TV animation to create a free e-book:

A Cartoon Girl’s Secret Guide to Developing Kids’ Comedy Series that Sell!

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If you are seriously interested in creating an animated comedy series for kids, and pitching it to a network, you should spend a little time to read this very informative book.  It contains excellent, practical advice on developing ideas, and preparing log lines and sales bibles to show to executives.  I like to emphasize that comedy is a business.   You NEED to go after an audience.  To create a television series, that means going through the networks.  It is a very challenging industry, and Rita’s book offers sound advice.

More importantly, Rita clearly loves animation. She appreciates comedy and has some good suggestions on the topic.  It’s totally worth the time it takes to read.

Presto gags and animatics

Here are some great videos of preproduction work for Pixar’s short film Presto. I found these videos through the character design blog.

This first video is a collection of various gag ideas. I didn’t realize this is how ideas are pitched. They even add sound effects to sell it.

Here is the animatic. Look at how well worked out all the timing is.

The Seven Laws of Comedy Writing

The Seven Laws of Comedy Writing

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