(NOTE: This post is kinda long, but because it is about developing a show that may or may not end up airing on TV in the near future, I feel that everything in here is essential. But if you are not interested in hearing my life stories, go read the shorter version of my topic on the Animation forum. [Link: http://www.tv.com/animation/need-input-on-a-cartoon-i-am-working-on-creative-minds-required/topic/106-3360005/msgs.html] However, if you are interested in hearing full details before you respond, I advise that you read the whole thing here and give the most intelligent response you can come up with.)
Hello, my name is Owen Maki. I am telling you my name because you might see it in the future in the writing credits for some TV show, and hopefully, further into the future, you will recognize my name as the creator of a cartoon that I am hoping will be a hit. I am in the Animation program at a technical college, where I am currently a sophomore. Although I am currently on the wait list for the program, I am probably getting in next year, since I am very low on the wait list as of now. So I have been panning out some ideas on what I want my animated show to be like. So far,some ideas have been confirmed, while others I'm still debating on. Luckily, I have given myself a good amount of time to construct my full plan for my show, about 10 years to be exact. I have been planning out the cartoon since the second semester of my senior year in High School, so about a year and a half now. So I have about 8 1/2 years left to work on it, which is a lot of time, but I'd like to develop my idea a little bit, because it has been more than year now and so far I only have some basic attributes of the show confirmed (my main character's first name and a few supporting characters), along with ideas of wha I want my characters to look like, and I also have some ideas of who I'd like to hire for the show, for writing, music, etc. Other than that, I'm kinda stuck. I want the cartoon to be a hit, so I am looking for other people's input on how it should be, which is why I am writing this.
There are many animated shows on television that got me interesting in animation. I've always been interested in cartoons, for aspects such as character designs, effects, and the like. I think it slowly started when I was in 1st or 2nd Grade, with Rugrats. I've always been attracted to the design of some of the characters, such as Angelica, Susie, Didi, and I think the most attractive, to me, was the new character Kimi (please don't hold this against me, I know a lot of people hated her for taking up space during the final seasons, but when I was little and I saw "Rugrats in Paris" in the theater, I was instantly attracted to the design of her character for some reason). However, my interest in cartoons didn't really start to expand until 3rd Grade (which was the year where literally all I watched was cartoons, namely on Toon Disney), when I got into such shows as Pepper Ann and Teacher's Pet. Not only did I like the characters and cute animation in these shows, but I also kinda liked the smooth humor that was baked into the scripts. I want to have my show kinda capture this laid back, somewhat sarcastic late '90s-early '00's-style humor that I, as well as my siblings, found amusing, whilst having cute character designs similar to those in the animated shows that I loved, which brings me to my next point.
Over 3 years later, I discovered the show that I think was the biggest part of my inspiration to go into animation: The Buzz on Maggie on Disney Channel. Now, I know a lot of people hate this show and consider it one of the worst shows out there, but personally, I loved it! To me, it was the perfect combination of cute character designs, awesome music, a healthy dose of adventure, a relatively normal life on the side (even if the show was about flies), and an endearing homey vibe, which I think comes from the fact that it was one of the few television shows out there that didn't put so much emphasis on romance (which, considering how I've never had a girlfriend [as awkward as that may be for me to admit], was something that made me feel comfortable) and just focused on everyday situations with school and family, while putting a bit of creativity into the script. With this, unfortunately, I think I can easily say that TBOM is also crowned, in my book, the most abused show in history of television. Since it first started airing, bad reviews came in all over the place flaming the show for the fact that it starred flies, its use of flash animation, the characters' personalities, and more. Even now, when it's been off the air completely for FOUR YEARS, and stopped airing new episodes more than SIX YEARS AGO, people still trash talk it in reviews, not to mention they talk about it like it's still on TV. They even compare it unfavorably to some of the dumb shows currently on TV, in reviews for those shows. If you want an example to get what I'm talking about, I have skimmed through some reviews for the Disney show Fish Hooks and in some of the bad reviews for that show, "The Buzz on Maggie" was mentioned, not with other Disney cartoons a lot of people like that I felt were actually similar to TBOM (in terms of writing and storyboarding), such as Brandy & Mr. Whiskers, American Dragon and Lilo & Stitch, but by itself. This was enough to convince me that they were comparing TBOM to Fish Hooks unfavorably, and not contrasting it favorably, if you get what I'm saying. Like I said, I skimmed through the reviews, so I don't remember or know exactly what they said when they compared the two shows. But still, I am curious as to why people would compare them. Last year, I had OnDemand, and I watched some episodes of Fish Hooks on there. While I appreciate the show as a common time killer, as a show in itself, it's stupid and doesn't make sense most of the time. From what I remember, it tries too hard to be silly and random, like iCarly-type random. Not only that, but they put excessive emphasis on pop culture as well, kind of like iCarly does, by centering episodes on things like blogging, and literally having characters say stuff like "OMG" or "IDK" pretty frequently. Now, I haven't actually watched The Buzz on Maggie in almost two years, but from the five years I did on a regular basis (I have it on some tapes and DVDs), I still have most of the episodes memorized from start to finish, and I don't recall the show attempting those things very frequently at all. The only episode I remember that even put a little emphasis on "typical teen behavior" was The Hangout, where Maggie and her friends were doing things like talking on their cell phones and I also distinctly remember Maggie talking about "IM"-ing someone in that same episode. But other than that, from what I remember, it normally focused on common situations in television shows, animated or live-action, and sometimes put sort of an "adventurous" vibe to it (ie. In the episodes Bella Con Carny and The Usual Insects). If anything, "Fish Hooks" reminded me more of "The Replacements", attempting humor similar to a popular Nickelodeon cartoon (FH: SpongeBob, TR: Fairly OddParents), and also, the characters' movements and facial expressions reminded me of "The Replacements" as well. Then again, TBOM was called "The old The Replacements" during the second half of 2006 and throughout 2007, so I guess it was fitting.
Now that I'm done venting about that, here's the reason I haven't watched TBOM for almost two years (I feel this is relevant in telling why I'm so interested in becoming an animator). It wasn't because I simply lost interest, it's actually this: I have every single one of its writers memorized. When I started my senior year in High School, I started noticing that a good amount of its writers, namely Lloyd Garver and Katherine Butler, tended to write serious/sweet episodes of live-action shows, as opposed to the rather humorous episodes of these shows that writers from some of TBOM's real "counterpart" shows (ie. Brandy & Mr. Whiskers, Phil of the Future*) would normally write. For instance, Lloyd Garver (who incidentally wrote my personal favorite TBOM episode, Bugtillion) wrote the Suite Life of Zack and Cody episode "Poor Little Rich Girl", which most people appreciate for the sweet and endearing theme to it, rather than its humor. On the other hand, the Suite Life series also had Pamela Eells, who wrote an episode of B&MW, as a writer and executive producer, and most of Eells' episodes were considered hilarious. Despite this, I always thought it'd be really cool if a writer from TBOM wrote for a Nickelodeon sitcom, since I watched that channel my whole life. In fact, most of my favorite childhood tapes are of Nickelodeon shows. So I was pretty excited when I heard that Manny Basanese was going to write an episode of True Jackson VP. Not too long after I found that out, an episode had aired that was written by Tiffany Zehnal from B&MW. This episode even came right before the Manny Basanese episode in production order. I watched the Tiffany Zehnal episode of True Jackson and it was pretty funny. Since this episode gave off little to no signs of seriousness for the next episode, it gave me high hopes for the Basanese episode. I looked at the plot of that episode, entitled True Fame: "A movie star catches True's eye and makes Jimmy jealous." Okay, somewhat serious-sounding plot, but let's see about the outcome. Unfortunately, when the episode finally aired in February 2011, I saw TBOM's true colors when this episode was, in fact, fairly serious. One of the first scenes in the episode ended on a serious note. Okay, so far, this is not going well. Let's hope the epiosde will pick up on humor and laughter. It didn't. The worst part of it, I think, was during the middle when Ashley Argota's character confronted Jimmy in the mailroom: "WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?!?" She then went on, sounding a little sad and upset, to confront him about how he didn't seem to care about True being escorted to that awards ceremony. Jimmy then proceeded to tell her that he was trying not to show that it "killed him inside", which lead to a serious moment involving him talking about somewhat random things that had been botherin him about his overall relationship with True, somewhat similar to when London was talking to Maddie about how her father was almost never around in "Poor Little Rich Girl". Mind you, I never really watched Basanese's episodes of TBOM that much, but when I envisioned a TBOM writer writing an episode of a Nick show, I was thinking something kind of like the iCarly episode "iMust Have Locker 239" (it was written by Eric Goldberg & Peter Tibbals, who wrote an episode of Phil of the Future). One could only imagine how disappointed (and possibly disillusioned) I was when Nickelodeon, the network that I thought was all about bending the rules and just having fun, decided to do a "Poor Little Rich Girl"-type such-a-sweetheart mushy-gushy type of episode for the TBOM writer instead of just a hilarious, just-sit-back-and-have-fun-for-a-half-hour type of episode that they do for writers from EVERY OTHER TV SHOW OUT THERE. Since then, it's become hard for me to watch The Buzz on Maggie (or even Brandy & Mr. Whiskers) without thinking about how much writers from one show are capable of and how much the writers of this particular show are not. So I've just thrown in the towel on watching either of them since then.
However, this is also where my motivation to become an animator came into play. I figured that maybe there was some way I could try and create a "better version" of TBOM. That is, I would take the elements I liked best about the show (character designs, music, family-friendly vibe, etc.) and then I could somehow mix in a bit of that late '90s-style humor I've always been fond of, then I would take notes from some of those late '90s show, so that I can learn to construct that kind of "feel" for my show. With this, I want to hire some writers that have full experience with animation and others with a history of writing humorous episodes of sitcoms, and not just revealing, "heartwarming" episodes. I actually have a few people in mind who I might like to ask to write an episode or two of my show. If you're curious to see the people I'm considering for my writing staff (and who I want to hire for music), just read the reply below this post (which I also wrote, heads up). And if there is an aspiring screenwriter or animation writer out there who would like to write an episode of my show, don't be afraid to let know and share your ideas. Especially since my show will probably be the type that is willing to accept any writer's episode(s), as long as everyone is within character and the script does not go beyond the show's style.
Now, like I said, I don't have much going for this show as of now, but here are some details about it that I have confirmed so far:
1. The main character will be an 8 or 9-year-old girl named Mira, who is very energetic and charismatic.**
2. Three supporting characters I have so far are Mira's mother, best friend, and older brother.
3. The older brother will be 16 years old and introverted.
4. Some of Mira's misadventures will be inspired by my life when I was in 2nd and 3rd Grade, while some of the situations with the older brother will be inspired by my life in High School.
Another thing I'm kind of looking into concerning my show is my characters' looks, which is kind of the main reason I'm going into animation. What has always really attracted me to certain cartoons, which in turn helped get me into them, was the characters' looks and designs. The things that first attracted me to TBOM was that Maggie looked a little like Jenny Wakeman from the Nicktoon "My Life as a Teenage Robot" (a show that I also enjoyed very much), only with straight pink hair instead of blue pigtails. So what I want to do here is take the designs of some of my most "attractive" cartoon characters and subtly bake them into my show. So far, I know that my design for Mira will somewhat resemble Frida, the mom from TBOM, and the design for her best friend will somewhat resemble Kimi on Rugrats. These, I think, are the cartoon characters that have been most attractive to me, and that is why their facial designs are first on my list to try and bake into my characters, especially since they are also the only cartoon characters I've really been attracted to tha are not grade school kids or teenagers.
And that's pretty much all I have planned so far for my animated show. I'm still a bit indecisive on whether I should make the characters humans or animals. I noticed that some of the most recent shows that are about talking animals have been slammed for that reason alone, claiming things like "Didn't talking animals on TV go out of style when Mr. Ed went off the air?" or something of that extent. Howevre, if that is the case, then why was "Brandy & Mr. Whiskers" so well-received? Was it just the eccentric characters or because of the hinting of the Brandy/Whiskers pairing? What about "CatDog"? "Rocko's Modern Life"? The current show "The Amazing World of Gumball" on Cartoon Network? (I've never really seen that show, but from what I read online, it's about some cat who always gets into trouble and never learns his lesson.) What do you think? If you think I should make my characters animals, what do you think is a fitting animal to go with the name "Mira"? In addition, what was it that was missing from TBOM that B&MW (or even Phineas & Ferb) had, other than eccentric characters and a hint of romance? Do you think I should work these elements into my show, given the context of what I have planned so far?
Now, I'm not really going for making it as groundbreaking as something like "Phineas & Ferb", but I do want my show to be a hit, mainly to give millions of other kids that feeling where they think "I feel very comfortable watching this show any time of day. It's a great show to watch during the day in your living room or at night, as you're going to bed. The music is great and it feels adventurous, but not so adventurous that it's thrilling. It's a cartoon that I just feel comfortable watching." This was pretty much the feeling I got from The Buzz on Maggie about 6 or 7 years ago, and I want other kids and hopefully, the people who misunderstood (from my perspective) TBOM to see how I felt.
So with all this, again, what do you think? Is there something you think I need to add to my show to make it good? Is there any idea I put out that you would change a bit? Or do you think I've got something flowing already? Remember, I need your most creative/intellectual input on this. Don't troll me by changing every idea that I have to make it more like some kind of action show or romantic drama series, and then proceed to attack me for liking the shows/characters I mentioned or even this particular genre. I will report your response immediately if you do because not only is it disruptive, but I will take it to heart.
So, get your ideas flowing and be creative, because I could use some help in developing this show. And, if you'd like, check out my preferred writing and music staff so far in the post below.
* - I know Phil of the Future is a live-action show, not animated, but it shares a couple significant writers with TBOM (Rachelle Romberg and Dan Fybel & Rich Rinaldi), hence me calling it a "counterpart show".
** - Originally, the name for my character was going to be "Rika", but then I thought about the name for a while, and eventually decided it would probably not be a good idea to name my character this.