Originally posted at TV Tome. A detailed interview with acclaimed animation writer and book author Jeffrey Scott. Learn all about his work.
If you've watched even a few animated cartoons in your life, then you'll wanna know what's on the mind of Jeffrey Scott. Learn about his work on shows such Superfriends, Spider-Man (1981) and Dragon Tales, his book, and more!
Jeffrey Scott - you may not have realized it, but his work has made a major impact on the television animation industry. Jeffrey Scott won a Humanitas Prize for his work on Muppet Babies and has written and story-edited for numerous animated shows. His credits include episodes of SuperFriends (various versions), Disney's TaleSpin, Spider-Man (1981) and Dragon Tales, to name only a select few. He has also written an acclaimed book now available in paperback titled How to Write for Animation. This book is nothing less than a complete guide to script-writing for animated shows and also discusses show development, movie pitches, development of on-line animation projects and more. Recently, Jeffrey Scott was kind enough to consent to answer some questions about his animation work, his book and a few personal tidbits by e-mail:
Agent0042: Your book How To Write for Animation was a great guide to writing both for animation and for television in general. Have you heard from anyone who's read the book and has since gone into the business, or anyone already in the business and read the book? Any plans for a future book, or an updated edition?
Jeffrey: I've received loads of positive emails thanking me for writing my book, and have had one or two from people who said they used the information to break into the business. One gentleman got a gig writing scripts after reading the book, and several others got up the nerve to try pitching after suggestions in the book bolstered their nerve. It's very rewarding to hear these stories, as that's exactly why I wrote the book.
Agent0042: What are you currently at on writing or story-editing?
Jeffrey: I just finished up writing the Psi-Kix animated series for The Krislin Company. It's a very cool CG series about a bunch of kids with psi powers who use it to control giant robots that magnify their powers. I also just developed a very hot new boys action series for DiC. I can't say much about it, other than that there's a whole lot of fast racing action in it.
Agent0042: What's the status of the shows Firecrackers," Toyzania and Psi-Kix? Are any of these already released, or might viewers, particularly in the U.S., be seeing them soon?
Jeffrey: I've written two scripts for Firecrackers, which have been animated for use in a presentation that will hopefully sell the series. They've recently mentioned that they'll be needing some new scripts soon. Toyzania is still in the development stage, and we're working on the best way to package and sell it. See above re Psi-Kix. None of these series have been released to TV yet, but that's expected to change in 2005.
Agent0042: I understand that you wrote the bible for Dragon Tales and I know you also wrote many stories for the show and story-edited the first season. Can you comment on how you feel the show's progressed since the first season? Have you heard about the third season of the show coming in February and if so, what do you think?
Jeffrey: To be precise, I co-developed the series, story-edited half of the episodes (Agent0042's note --- of the first season), and wrote 29 scripts. Unfortunately, since I had nothing to do with the second season, I didn't watch any of the episodes, so I cannot comment on how the show has progressed. And no, I hadn't heard that a third season is coming.
Agent0042: Many fans of Dragon Tales are curious about the unreleased pilot "One Small Step For Cassie / Circle of Friends." How far along did this story ever get and is there any chance of it or any portion of it ever made available publicly?
Jeffrey: These pilot scripts were written to completion, but the series was redeveloped after they were written so they were never produced. I seriously doubt anything will be made available on these.
Agent0042: Having worked on the Bibles for so many shows and developed the characters, do you have any one particular character from any of the shows you've worked on that you would say is your favorite?
Jeffrey: My favorite characters of all were the Muppet Babies. Although I developed the series, I honestly didn't have to do too much to distill the essence of Jim Henson's grownup characters that resulted in the baby versions. It was probably because the Muppets already had so much life in them that I enjoyed so much "being" the characters and getting into their skins (or felt). When I wrote the Muppet Babies series my wife would think I was going crazy because she would hear me doing Piggy, Kermit, Gonzo and Fozzie's voices while I wrote. After three years I was pretty good at mimicking their voices. And it helped a lot in finding the best dialogue.
Agent0042: When you're not writing for animation, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Jeffrey Well, I love to golf. Just wish I was an Emmy-winning golfer! If they gave awards for my level of golf it would be more like the Mulligan Award or the Golden Divot. Unfortunately, I don't know any other toon writers in the Westlake area that golf, so I usually just go out by myself at the end of the day and shoot nine holes.
Agent0042: Have you watched every episode of the shows you've written for, or at least the ones that you worked on? How about other animated shows?
Jeffrey: I've written well over 600 episodes in my career. Although I used to watch most of them when I first started writing back in the stone age (no kidding, one of the first shows I wrote for was Captain Caveman & the Teen Angels), I was usually so disappointed in the quality that I wound up not watching many. I would say that over the years I've seen maybe 5% of the shows I've written, if that much. Since I started writing them I haven't watched a ton of TV cartoons, whether I wrote them or not. As a kid, I loved to watch cartoons. My favorites were the Disney shorts that used to be shown on The Wonderful World of Disney, but my all-time faves were Max Fleisher's Superman cartoons. I loved the drama in them. I couldn't get enough of those. But by the time I started writing cartoons the quality was far below Disney and Fleisher, so it wouldn't hold my interest. I did, however, always take the time to see the Disney features, and now try not to miss the Pixar and DreamWorks features as well. They're great writing and great animation.
Agent0042: You touched on your book about animated shows on the Internet. While this does seem to become more prevalent, it seems that it's still in its infancy. In the future, do you think that maybe more of the shows that are currently on T.V. will also be made available formally (not counting fan-made digitizations) on the Internet?
Jeffrey: Many of us in the business were taken in at the beginning by the dot.com frenzy as it related to the possibilities of online animation. We all thought it was going to explode. In fact, it fizzled. However, someday I'm sure it will grow into something big, especially once computer and TV converge. I certainly think that at sometime in the not-too-distant future, all TV and film material will be available for viewing on the Internet. It's just too easy of a way to make money. I mean, if you could simply scan down a list of every cartoon ever made and click on the "Show It Now for 50 cents" button, wouldn't you click that button a few times? That should answer your question. It's just a matter of time.
Agent0042: Are there any animated shows out there currently that you're not writing for, but would like to some day?
Jeffrey: Some of my fondest writing memories were of writing Superfriends episodes. I think I wrote about 150 of them. So if Warner Bros. ever asked me to write for Justice League or Batman or whatever, that would make my tail wag.
To learn more about Jeffrey Scott, visit his website at http://www.jeffreyscott.tv