23 April, 2008

Series Bible

The playing field for pitching cartoon shows has changed considerably in the last 10 years. Our various animation series have evolved to encompass several different styles for both service work to original properties. Thanks to Flash, the production pipeline has changed to allow animation to stay in North America. But in the 80s and 90s, it seemed all you needed was a face to face meeting or interview with an executive and a nice concept scribbled on a napkin to get a potential show off the ground. If your pitch was a good idea, you'd enter into a development phase whereas writing, visual development and rough character/location designs would begin. Eventually once the show was green lit by the broadcasters, merchandising would begin production as script, voices and boards would be done and animation would be shipped overseas, returning to North America a few months later with full color animation complete, then music/sound effects would be laid in for a final cut.

Nowadays broadcasters and executives need more a lot info before putting a new show concept in to full production. They need to know your resources, they need in depth research on the marketability and originality of your product and preferably a ton of pre-design and script writing to help get a chance to even be considered. Some need fully developed concepts, episodic scripts, color keys, animatics, and animation tests all included in your pitch. In essence, spend a lot of your own time and money to develop your idea... yourself. The competition is the same, but it's gotten a lot more intense, a one-sheet or a 10 page bible may not be enough to sell your idea anymore, making contacts, working harder with your research, and fully developing the idea yourself has become the norm.

Now most major studios look for catch phrases and marketability above all. Quoting Denny Furlong and MickMak from Frederator:
Sometimes you will even be asked to sum up a characters entirely using catch phrases, and be ready to explain your target demographic. Oh and now they love to see you walk in with a fully animated pilot or a few shorts because that allows your idea to go straight to market testing at very little cost to the company (executive types like saving money).

The Series Bible is a pitching tool to show executives that you have the nuts and bolts down to sell a show to them. It's size ranges from 1 pg (called a One Sheet) to 15pgs (a Presentation) and usually consists of a setup (What the show is about), character designs and descriptions, what the world is and why it's different or not different from the real world and then a list of either Springboards (think TV Guide) or a season of synopses (beginning, middle and end). Generally in that order.
Here at Collideascope, our templates have always been something like this:
• Main Concept of the Series
• Characters - Descriptions/Designs
• The Environment/Style- Descriptions/Designs
• Story Outlines / Episode Synposis

A simple 10-20 page bible describing the visual style, character development, and stories of the series is all you would normally need, but many have gotten off the ground thanks to the internet, releasing their own YouTube channel or webisodes/independent short films online. Garnering attention with lots of hits for it's original & entertaining content and eventually landing a deal to expand their concept to broadcast television, all this is slowly becoming a more common occurrence, but still quite rare.

Here's some links on advice and strategies for developing and pitching animated series:

Shown below is one of our very first pitch packages. Constructed about 10 years ago, Teletoon gave us the chance to make this half-hour pilot that got us off the ground and got the ball rolling with our first cartoon series. This pilot was made up of 10x2min. shorts and was one of the very first times Flash had been used to produce fully animated content for television.

Eventually the show looked like this:

Art by Sean Scott.
In comparison to the final product, the designs and characters changed quite a bit, but Teletoon was stoked about getting their own Calvin & Hobbes style show about a kid who escapes into his own imagination, so after a year in development we got started in mid-2000, the Bible helped us get our first show off the ground, got us funding for the pilot, and eventually continued the series into 39 full-length episodes (in full HD 1920p resolution) that kept us busy for 3 years in which all scripts, voices, designs, storyboards, animation and post were produced here in-house.


Jake Macher said...

That's Ollie?
Beano & Jorge are the only 2 that look like what I remember

Gillian said...

O..Ollie? o_0

Anonymous said...

Wow, this was incredibly informative, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Truly inspirational for those of us coming out of college with show ideas in hand to pitch to various studios, thanks!

Denny Furlong said...

The things you find thanks to Google. I'll be keeping an eye on you.

Sandz said...

Thank you for your information.
We have an assignment due which is to create an Animated Series, along with a Pitch bible and show 6-frames from an episode.

so Thank you. I have a 'direction' on how to put together this Pitch bible.

Who knows maybe I'll have the audacity to really pitch it @;-)

sketch said...

Man I can't tell you how helpful this page is! Thanks you for this information. Indeed "the things you find thanks to Google". :D

Anonymous said...

Hello what should we write in the Bible? Thank