In accordance with my new commitment to posting art here rather than Facebook, I present the above. I don't feel I should include all sorts of keywords and tags when I do this. Let people stumble upon my old pal.
Meanwhile, I have two projects I wish to develop. One, pitching a studio a show with the characters they already own. The other, my own project to pitch to Amazon or just for myself as a possible web comic (by which I mean a comic book property that I assume no one would publish so I'll slip it online.) Instead of doing either, I drew the above.
That's all for now.
I haven't posted in a very long time. The usual reasons. The development material that I'm most interested in sharing is, by it's nature, legally unsharable since I'm using the characters of someone else. When I'm not in development I using my writing time, trying to come up with something to pitch.
I'm currently directing three, now it looks like a possible six, 66minute action adventure videos based on a series of middle grade books. Again, can't talk about things in production because marketing a production is hard enough without staff posting random art.
And of course, I'm lazy I'm constantly thinking I have nothing worth posting. But I realize that I post creative links to my Facebook page all the time. Links recommended by other artists. So I've decided to put that stuff here, not only as a source of cool information but as reminder that I should post here more often or just shut the place down. So here's a link that John Hoffman posted. John is a story artist up at PIXAR but just before he left he did design work for me on a possible Cartoon Network show.
Animation often lags behind live action film techniques by several decades. Not so much the case with CG fims but when I started at Disney Features in the mid-seventies the film style was no different than what was done in Snow White. Actually, Snow's terrified run through the woods was more avant garde than anything from Jungle Book through Fox and the Hound.
In TV animation, the choice of camera angle slavishly follows Rules #5 and #6. Usually. There are times you WANT to confuse the audience momentarily as to where characters are in relation to each other and then reveal it a few shots later. Audiences like the mini-surprises that happen along the way, even the ones they barely notice.
I remember that in the early days of Disney TV Animation, there was a standing rule that there could be no signage on buildings because the cartoons would be sold around the world. So you couldn't label a shoe store. This led to an establishing shot of shops with giant shoes out front because "You have to have an establishing shot so the audience knows where you are!" Maybe. But why can't that establishing shot be inside, you know - where the character is sitting in a chair surround by shoe displays? Less work for the layout and background department too.
That reminds me of a book I've recommended before. If you have any interest in storyboards, directing, comic books, illustration, in short, any creative art that uses visuals to communicate a mood or story, own this book. FRAMED INK is a beautiful book that is packed with dynamic compositions to use in your own work. Buy it in the usual places.
Jake Parker is another artist that I used in the development of a science fiction series that never sold. Oh, to have that Disney money to throw at cool artists again. Ah well. Anyway, I posted a link to Jake drawing a robot recently. I enjoy watching and listening to artists draw and Jake is a natural teacher. But instead of reposting his recent robot sketch I'm ending with an older YouTube video that shows him drawing a lava monster.
So there you have it. My first post of 2015 about exploring the creative process. I'll try to make this happen more often and come up with some original content of my own.
These next articles weren't numbered originally. I hope to make them more searchable by doing so now. One of the key execs at Disney Junior has said to me more than once that she appreciates the fact that I pitch shows instead of just gags, a group of characters or a character design. I find that weird. What are the other guys doing?
Back at Disney, I was developing ideas for a musical Jeckyl & Hyde, direct to video feature. But I sensed original productions were going nowhere in competition with the never ending parade of sequels so I volunteered to return to TV on a HERCULES series. I loved mythology, the superhero side, the irreverence and the design sense of the feature that was still being animated. Plus I'd be working with Bob Schooleyand Mark Mccorkle, partners on many of my projects. (This was well before they created KIM POSSIBLE.)
We looked at the movie and saw that the best fit for The Disney Afternoon would be to use the teen Hercules instead of making a sequel to the movie. (Although it would've been cool to do a big action series). We used Hercules' trainer, Phil, and the muse with the broadest personality to act as competing mentors to the boy. We pitched to Michael Eisner, he gave his blessing and we had a greenlight... for about five minutes.
That's when Dean Valentine, then head of Walt Disney TV Animation, told us, "You don't have a show yet." We grumbled that Michael Eisner seemed to think we had a show but went ahead and re-examined everything we had done. Because we didn't have a choice. I don't remember him giving us notes beyond that.
That re-examination led to a much stronger idea: young Hercules in high school as an outcast along with his outcast friends, Icarus and Cassandra, brilliantly played by French Stewart and Sandra Bernhard. Turned out to be a beautiful show and one of the best written, thanks to Mark and Bob.
Darkwing Duck had a similar, "negative note" stage of development. Originally it was Double O Duck and a one note spy parody. Jeffrey Katzenberg told me it was a one note spy parody and ordered me to do it over. It became a much stronger, much funnier and fresher series.
Greg Weisman pitched a spin off of the Gummi Bears that featured some of the most entertaining characters who had been featured either as villains or as guest stars. He had a solid setup, great potential for stories and no show. Greg learned his lesson and created the fan favorite Gargoyles.
Each of these early concepts had solid characters and plenty of story potential. What they didn't have was a defining focus, a "franchise," the situation that sets up the sitcom. Your characters need to band together to protect the planet, solve a crime, raise a family, run a business or "try to take over the world." Whatever it is, that situation should put them under pressure, socially, physically or ideologically in a way that will make their choices harder or more extreme.
Darkwing Duck fought crime at the same time as raising an incorrigible daughter who wouldn't stay out of his hero business. That's a richer story mine than just superhero parody. Look for a situation that highlights what you want to do with the series. Our first Hercules pitch was okay, Hercules had to learn to be a hero. We gave him competing teachers, one that pushed physical achievements, one that concerned herself with emotions and his sensitive side. But the high school backdrop made it easier to tell those stories and made it more relatable to the audience. Young Hercules had to defeat monsters while trying to keep his grades up and find a date for the prom or whatever.
"Oh yeah? What about--?" Yes, yes. Series sell without a defining focus. I get it. But selling those is often a matter of relationships and having proved yourself ahead of time. There were hundreds of family sitcoms before The Simpsons. What was the hook that sold it?
James L. Brooks was already a television giant with a distinguished pedigree. He was producing The Tracy Ulman Show and wanted small animated bits that would compliment the show's sketch comedy. He knew Matt Groening's Life in Hell comic strip and called him into pitch. While sitting in the lobby, Groening realized that if he sold his comic strip idea, he'd lose all rights to his life's work (up until that time, anyway). He came up with the idea of doing slices of a family's life with the irreverent attitude of Life in Hell. That intrigued Brooks and they produced a series of shorts. Those shorts showed the potential of the idea, James L. Brooks provided comic security and the network approved the series version of that family which went on the air as The Simpsons. It fell under the very broad comedy of "Life with Wacky or Long Suffering Dad" but became much more.
But barring any high profile relationships you have with the Hollywood Elite, put the extra effort into the material you want to pitch. Put your characters into a metaphorical pressure cooker. The ODD COUPLE is not much of a concept without forcing the opposing personalities into the same apartment. The crew of the original Enterprise were well defined characters and ready for adventure but wouldn't have become cultural icons without their "five year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations..."
So look at your characters and the stories you want to tell then ask yourself, "Is it a show yet?"
This post contains rough guidelines on working with someone to bring your idea to a development executive. Sometimes you need help and that might cost you. How much it costs and how painful the lessons of that cost is best addressed at the start.
You are one half of a creative team and you're looking for your soulmate. Okay, that's a little extreme so maybe you're just a writer looking for someone to illustrate your pitch with cool pictures. Or you're an artist with fantastic ideas for cool characters and stories but when you write them down they lose all their life. You need someone. So here's a little relationship advice.
The absolute best way to enter into any partnership is with a contract drawn up by a lawyer. And the contract should be written as if your idea will turn into the biggest animated hit of all time.
But realistically most of you are not going to do that, are you? It means spending money and besides you guys are buds, right? Go ahead. I'm not going to spend time telling you not to do this. Handshake agreements work best with people you really know.
Worst case, you will learn a valuable lesson, hopefully at not too great a cost. Best case, you not only sell something but both of you are happy with the financial results. So I have some basic advice:
First, KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. What do you expect from the other guy? Let me start with a writer's needs. Do you want someone to capture the spirit of the show or produce finished character designs?
Often the best way to go in a pitch is with just an illustration or two. Your characters will appear in the illustration but don't have to be as simplified as animation production models.
Or you might be looking for more of an animation package (despite my previous warnings!) and want some color art that looks like a frame of your show: character design, layout and background style in one shot.
For an artist: Are you sure you need a writer? You don't HAVE to leave anything written so if you can describe your series and characters with passion and excitement, that might be enough. The advantage of this is that the network can assign a writer that they really like to work with you which helps your idea on the road to acceptance. When do you need a writer? If you have cool looking characters, a notion of their stories but can't think of one with a beginning, middle and end. In this case, you're looking for a partner that will create the show with you.
Next, BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT THEY WILL GET. Don't "call in a favor" to get work done on a project; expecting something for nothing is never a good way to go. There are three things that you can offer, separately or in any combination: 1) some percentage of ownership, 2) money, 3) a chance to showcase their work to network or studio development execs. What you can't offer is a position on the series. Why not? Because that's the network's/studio's call. Obviously, you say "either take both of us or nothing" but unless it was a joint project all along, that position can lead to great bitterness.
BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT THEY WON'T GET --before any work is done. If you pay an artist for illustrating your pitch, be clear that it's "work for hire" and that they'll have no rights or ownership of the art or the idea. If you're an artist who hired a writer to come up with story ideas or gags, pay the guy and explain the same thing. But before you have that conversation, consider my next bit of advice.
BE FAIR. Stan Lee stated on record, reluctantly, that he considers himself the creator of Spider-man. He was talking about working with Steve Ditko and what great things the artist brought to the table but when pressed, he felt the creator is the guy with the idea. If he had done those early issues with Jack Kirby or Don Heck or Dick Ayers, it would still be his Spider-man but just a different Spider-man. I guess it depends on your POV. My feeling is that it would be a different Spider-man, especially since Ditko worked with Stan in the "Marvel method" which gave the artist incredible leeway in the storytelling.
And yet, I consider myself the creator of Darkwing Duck. I did rough sketches all along the way but it was Bob Kline who did the first presentation drawings, Toby Shelton who gave him Roger Rabbit cheeks and expanded his hat brim to impossible proportions and although I picked purple, I believe it was Jill Stirdivant who picked his colors. I wrote the bible and the first episode but Doug Langdale, Kevin Hopps, Duane Capezzi and a host of others contributed the scripts that built his world. Heck, half his name was the idea of Alan Burnett (I just added the "Duck").
The point is that animation is a more collaborative medium than most. Back up every once in awhile and look at what the "other guy" is bringing to the project. Is he truly a worker for hire or a partner? Could you sell the project without him? Should he be there at the pitch? If you sell the project and he walks away for another job, are you going to be "up a creek without a paddle?" If so, talk it all through and come to a new understanding.
Good Karma is its own reward. --Tad
PS: Yes, I know I was going to talk about ways of finding people. Next time for sure.
Tom Hart, master improviser, story editor, writer and expert on gum swallowing asked my opinion about using art in a pitch. He thinks it's a waste of time for a writer to pitch without art. And with that, this blog gets another post.
It bothers me to even write something here without a visual so imagine how I feel about pitching with nothing but a font as my visual aid. As an artist I can usually put something together. I keep the drawings a little rough, both to convey that they're only first ideas and because I can't seem to clean up a drawing without sucking life out of it.
Accompanying this are a couple of drawings I did for a pitch about the crew of a reality show. There are things I like about the sketches but I realize that I'd feel better if I had gone ahead and done some color roughs or sketchier lines, in short, worked on them as much as I worked on any given paragraph of my pitch. Would the show have sold with slicker art? No. The concept was clear and didn't grab the studios. But I was glad to have the art because, truth be told, development executives seem to respond to art both good and bad.
If you're an artist who has an idea to pitch, feel free to go nuts. If I was more of a painter and designer or just had more time to devote to it, my pitch would be almost all art. Appearing to be set in your show direction is less of a risk because, as an artist, you probably are set in your visual choices.
Back in the day, Disney TV pitches would be art mounted on matte board with the pitch written on the back. And there'd only be three or four sentences on the back of each card so there could be as many as three cards per pitch. This was the beginning of art overkill.
Prior to that, the three broadcast networks would okay a project into development with only seeing a title card, a character line up and maybe a gag situation. The concept and characters were the important thing. The art was icing on the cake. The networks trusted the studios to create pleasing designs. Back then, the major studios had house styles that didn't vary all that much from each other. Clicking through the channels wouldn't bring much in the way of visual surprise. Today the looks of most shows vary incredibly from one another.
For a writer, the risk of pitching with art is that if they don't like your art, they don't like your show. But that's a small risk. Development execs are looking for characters and concepts. If they like what they hear but are lukewarm about what they're seeing, they'll say so. Or they won't, especially if the artist is in the room. Remember, they are looking for shows to mold into what's best for their network. Your first meetings aren't with the top guy so person you're pitching to could easily be thinking, "I don't like the look but maybe my boss will and the ideas are great."
Pitch art is there to sell the characters and tone of the show. Often the finished show will look completely different. Here's the early art on Cartoon Network's show, GENERATOR REX, which was created by a studio of comic book writers, MAN OF ACTION.
You'll see more examples of their pitch art on their site. Here's a teaser for the actual show that Cartoon Network has released. Depending on your POV they were either incredibly faithful or changed a lot. (Sorry, this video has long since disappeared. I ended up writing three episodes for Generator Rex although the show did not perform as well as they hoped.)
In any case, it's nice to have some sort of representation of your characters to sprinkle into your pitch. Ideally, just as in the written elements of the pitch, you're trying to get your audience to see the final show in their head, so having a character in some sort of situation is a plus. If you're working with an artist partner, have a "card" (physical or Powerpoint) per character with personality poses or expressions grouped around a static pose, then three or four situation pieces that help you pitch the story variety of the series.
Don't include character turnarounds: lifeless poses of a character from a variety of angles. They're boring, lifeless and don't communicate personality. They're almost a negative because it crosses into the "we've made all our artistic decisions already" territory.
It's worth talking about how to find an artist, how to find a writer, and how to treat them. I'll do that next time. -- Tad
Another post about pitching an Animated Series. This if for the young students with a fantastic idea for a series. It suggests you might want to get a bit of experience before you call for a meeting.
A lot of the time, this blog reads like a lesson plan, notes for a book or a blowhard spouting off. Someday it may be all of those things, especially the blowhard part. But in this form I try to keep posts to a reasonable length so I may not cover every point that you might hear from me if we were sketching across the table from each other, sharing stories and Chai Tea at Priscilla's in Burbank.
I cut out a huge junk from the previous post about pitching. It felt negative to start out talking about pitching before you're ready. But then I got this comment from Michael Lachman:
Thanks for the advice, Tad. I hope to pitch my first pitch sometime this summer. By the way, what chance do you think a short 20 year old (who could pass for 13) and has no professional experience in animation have with scoring a development deal?
Chances are great... if you're closely related to somebody very high up in the network or studio you're pitching to, or if you have a hard drive in a very safe place, filled with "those kinds of pictures" of the various studio chiefs and development execs. If not, your chances are slim.
First off, you probably won't get a meeting. You know that development guy I talked about who can't say "yes" but acts as a filter for the really bad, redundant, ill-suited and mediocre pitches? Well, you get to him through a secretary who does the first culling. She'll probably ask who you're represented by.
It's not that they're dying to give 10 percent of your potential earnings to somebody who is not you, it's that they want the protection that an agent provides. In other words, they want to be assured that you're not a flake who will try to sue them because you pitch a show with a talking lemur and they put on a show with a talking koala, which is fuzzy just like a lemur. Also, the fact that you have an agent means that you have a certain level of quality in your work; at least one person thinks you will be selling enough work to make some coin for him. BTW, if you figure out a way around the this system, you'll probably piss everybody off.
You might get a chance to pitch if you become an intern at the studio or network where you want to work. I don't know how to become an intern. Different studios have different policies. But sometimes informal pitches or at least casual access to low level development execs are one of the perks. Being an intern is actually a great way to get a feel for things.
But let's forget about the difficulty of actually getting a face to face with somebody on the development ladder. When artists and writers ask me about pitching to development, I often say, "Don't do it." I say that to those who are brand new to the industry, brimming with enthusiasm with a sack filled with ideas they've been working on since eighth grade and a mindset nowhere near being jaded about the world of animation. Don't. Do. It.
Why not? Well, to begin with, you don't know how the industry works. You don't know how a production works. You don't know the cliche ideas, the character-types that no one wants to see or what costs a lot in a script and how to tell the same story cheaply. You need a give amount of time to just soak up the way things work. I trust you'll bring some new ideas and new energy to the table, but you want to know which table you're supposed to be sitting at.
But mostly, it's because I assume you want to be part of the development of your idea. A writer or artist that's only been in the industry for a year is most likely not ready to run a show. An artist might really be impressing people with his storyboard work but it will be a while before that kid is given a chance to direct (if he even wants to). Producing and animated series costs tens of MILLIONS of dollars. Who are you going to trust that money to? An artist with a distinctive style may be paired with someone developing a show but he won't be running the series.
Let's say you get the meeting and they love, love, love your idea. The contract will give you a couple of thou for just optioning your work. Waaaaaay down at the other end of the process, when they greenlight the series, you will get a big payment from them to actually buy your idea from you. (You don't get to own it) In the meantime, if things go well, there's a bible of some sort, an outline, a script and an animatic to be created from that script. None of that work is guaranteed to you. At each point, it will be at the studio'sdiscretion as to whether or not to use you. You'll probably get some sort of "consultant fee" along the way but the only way you get to write any of the above is if they feel you have the experience to pull it off. Otherwise, they can't take the risk. If you dig in your heels and demand to be the one who does all that, they'll walk away from the deal. They can't take the risk. Remember it's TENS of millions of dollars.
I'm not saying wait to make more money. I'm saying wait so that you can be the one to put words into the mouths of your characters, the one to determine the world they live in and the adventures they'll have. That's the joy of show running and you don't want to give it away because you didn't have the patience to wait and learn as much as you can.
And you know what happens as you wait? You get better. The idea gets better or gets tossed and replaced by a better idea. When to pitch? When you know that you can make the major creative contributions necessary to turn the idea into a series. When they'd be fools not to include you in every step of the way because you're the best one to develop it.
So being young looking doesn't hurt you, it's a plus, although the real trick is looking twenty when you're forty. Short? Not a factor. You'll be more memorable and easier for your pals to caricature.
Also don't pitch in November because everyone goes away for the holidays and nothing gets done until February. You probably want to avoid the weeks when new shows are debuting because that's all they'll be worried about.
Obviously this is not just a letter to Michael, it's to every student or young animation worker with an interest in pitching. May you alll have his ambition and confidence. -- Tad
All right, more old posts for those of you who got lost in the archives. Others will tell you different stuff but this is what I think is important when you're trying to organize your pitch. This one is about handling yourself in the meeting itself.
It's going to be easier than you think. You've created a show that you're excited about and filled it with characters that you like. You've already thought about stories and situations for them. You've seen the show in your head... and probably the toys, the recording sessions and an award or two. You've got an exciting story to tell, just tell it.
Think of it this way: the person across the table from you WANTS TO BUY A SHOW. That's pretty much their job, finding cool ideas to make into a series. If you've done your homework, both on your own project and what they're looking for, you have a real shot.
Final advice? I'll skip the common sense, hygiene and etiquette stuff. Ask your mom if you have questions. I do have a little to say about your state of mind.
Selling your show isn't the most important thing to accomplish. You're there to sell yourself. You want to be in the "creative person we want to work with" category.
Categories to stay out of: Paranoid Guy, Arrogant Bastard, Cynical Chap, Clueless Fellow, Space Case, Boring Man.
You're going to have more than one idea for a series. You're going to have a career that extends beyond your current pitch. Your pitch meeting is a chance to display your talent.
The hard work is done. Your pitch will show them the caliber of your ideas. The natural enthusiasm you have for the project makes you likable. You just need to be professional. Show that you have thought things through but aren't stuck in cement. Be flexible, show you understand things may change in the development process.
You may have concocted a fantastic show only to learn the creative mandate of the network has changed. Or, and this happens more than the paranoid wants to accept, they've just picked up a show that has similar elements as yours. There are all sorts of reasons they might not want your show that have nothing to do with the quality of your idea or the way you pitched it. However, they'll remember you.
You might get a call down the line about a comic they optioned and how they think you're just the person to work on it. They might recommend you for a spot on a show already in production. In any case, if you sold yourself, the next time you have a idea they'll look forward to hearing about it.
Okay, enough with the inspirational pep talk.
RANDOM STUFF TO KEEP IN MIND:
You have about eight minutes to make your pitch. That should be enough time to explain your show in an entertaining way. If you take more time than that you're probably going into unnecessary detail.
If they ask questions, it's a good thing. It means they're interested. Or at least they're trying to understand the show. They may be pitching it to someone else. See below.
You won't get a "yes." You get an "I like it." Generally, you're not pitching to they guy who can say, "Yes." You're pitching to someone who is a filter for all the truly awful ideas. The guy you're pitching to is the guy who'll be pitching to the guy who can say, "Yes." That's why I always choose to leave some sort of written pitch. That way,my words are doing the selling.
Don't mistake politeness for interest. If the development person thinks your idea has a shot, it will be clear. You won't have to do any translating. Rarely will they say a complete negative. They'll look for positive things to say about it. They're being nice.
Listen. Listen. Listen. When told your idea is not what they're looking for, it's not time for you to start your interior monologue about what blind fools they are. It's time to listen closely because they're probably going to say what they ARE looking for. Pay attention.
Don't debate. I pitched an action show that involved a suit which gave it's wearer extraordinary powers. One of the two reasons given for not developing the idea was that it was the suit doing the work so the lead character wasn't special. I suppose I could have retaliated with box office numbers for IRON MAN but I got the message. If they were really excited about the idea, that "problem" wouldn't have occurred to them.
Be excited about your show. Don't try to be the coolest guy in the room by being laid back. You're already cool, you're the one with the fresh ideas. Don't be hyper but give the pitch with energy. Show you care.
These articles sum up the basics of what I wanted to say about pitching. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.
BTW, the spectacular HELLBOB art has little to do with the above. I just hate posting without art and John Thompson did an amazing job on that. -- Tad
One more old post tonight about pitching animation. I'll add more after San Diego Comic Con. If you're absolutely thrilled by these and can't wait until next week, go to the archives - February 2010, and read the whole series of articles. BTW, I'll be on a panel about The Disney Afternoon along with Jymn Magon of Ducktales, Gummi Bears, Talespin fame, Rob Paulsen - the voice Steelbeak and many other Disney characters and Jim Cummings, the voice of Darkwing Duck. It should pop up on YouTube sometime after the con.
The characters you create are probably the key element of whether or not your show has longevity. The audience has to like them or love to hate them. Yet in the pitch, the most important thing is the concept, the "franchise," the "sit" of the sit-com.
Cartoon Network wants to develop an original show based on a pitch of mine. I think I came up with a group of main characters who are entertaining on their own and even funnier when working off each other. Yet, as I move through the development process, I could change every facet about those characters and still be true to the show because the concept is the meal and the characters are the seasonings.
A concept can be character based, like Neil Simon's THE ODD COUPLE, yet all the specifics of those characters can change as long as they remain polar opposites. The idea of a slob and an anally retentive guy sharing an apartment are great choices. Those traits are VISUAL: sloppy, trashy, unkempt vs. neat, clean and organized.
The traits can also be applied to all aspects of their personalities. One guy forgets appointments and anniversaries, scribbles thoughts on scraps of paper, eats month old leftovers while the other guy has his pantry alphabetized and arranged by height. But the same concept can be played out, and has been, with conservative and liberal, gay and straight, hero and villain, predator and prey. The choice of characters will affect how the concept is played out and the possible stories.
Possible stories. Just as you should describe characters in terms of their actions, gag types and situations they find themselves in, the story potential of your concept must suggest the same... without examples.
Many of you have heard the term, "logline." Before the internet and DVR menu options, people looked up what shows were on in a "TV Log." Under the name of the show would be a description of the episode condensed into a single line like, "Gilligan has trouble hiding Mary Ann's body." or "Phoebe marries Ross's monkey." It's more than a description; it's a promise of entertainment.
It's all right for an episode logline to raise questions. "OMG, Gilligan killed Mary Ann! How did that happen? How will he cover the smell?" Or maybe promise a storyline the audience has been waiting for, "Finally! The end to all that monkey tension." But a series logline does the opposite. Upon hearing it, you immediately see the potential for stories and what kind of stories they might be.
"Darkwing Duck fights crime as a dark avenger of the night while trying to raise an incorrigible daughter who refused to be left at home." As discussed previously, the juxtaposition of duck and dark avenger promises superhero spoof stories but it was the addition of the incorrigible daughter that sold it to Jeffrey Katzenberg at Disney. It promises a family relationship at the heart of the series and the potential of exploring the sort of parent/child disagreements the audience is living through, played out on a superhero stage. That's the part that made the show "Disney."
Loglines can be mash ups like "Dawson's Creek meets Superhero Comics in 'Smallville," but it's more likely the went with "The stories of Superman as a teenager, when he was just discovering his powers and his place in the world.... with a really hot cast of twenty somethings." If you switch "hot twenty somethings" with "ducks" it's not all that different from Darkwing Duck. Instead of exploring parent/child relationships it has a teenager facing sometimes scary physical changes and wondering what he's supposed to do with his life. That promises stories that a wide audience can identify with. It keeps it from just being a geek hit.
You need to be able to boil your show down into just a couple of lines. Don't worry, you'll be able to use plenty of examples and details when you pitch a show. In fact, you may not even pitch your logline verbatim, but having one focuses you on the core of your show. Does the premise, lead to many stories or just a couple of great gags?
There are "lightning in a bottle" shows that don't fit neatly into any category and sometimes those are the biggest hits. I have no clue what the logline of SpongeBob Squarepants is. You could cobble one together after the fact but it wouldn't indicate how hilarious the result would be. Selling a show like that depends on your track record with the studio, the execs trust in you, your track record and the lucky star you were born under.
The rest of us have to slam our heads against keyboards until the brilliance leaks out. More musings and what pitching is like dead ahead. -- Tad
Find more art by the artist of the piece below here