Mind Your Business: Tell Me Something Short

In this months Mind Your Business, Mark Simon tells the good story of Golditoons.

Judge Baby Bear doesnt like overly long pieces for his festival. Courtesy of Mark Simon.

Everyone has a story to tell. Thats great. Just make it short. Oh yeah, and make it good. While youre at it, make sure you give it a good ending. And and wait a minute. Im pretty sure theres something else I wanted to say.

Hmm.

Oh well. While Im trying to remember, Ive got a story for you. Trust me. Its a good one.

Once upon a time in a studio not so far away, there lived a girl named Golditoons who loved to tell stories. She would tell stories to her family and she would tell stories to her friends. The only problem with her stories is that they were always too long.

Golditoons wanted to produce animations to tell her stories. She knew it would be a great way to showcase her talent and storytelling abilities. One of her problems was that her stories were so long she was never able to finish her cartoons.

Golditoons spent years trying to produce different animations. One was so long that by the time she got half way through with it, she was a lot better than she was when she started it. Then she went back and started re-doing earlier scenes. It was a never-ending cycle that ended without enough finished material to present to anyone.

Another partially finished short took so long that the people helping her either moved, got full-time jobs or lost interest in working on someone elses project for free. That one was never finished either.

Inspiration then hit Golditoons. Well, maybe she was just hit with a burning desire actually finish something and make it good. She came up with an idea that was under two minutes long that she was passionate about. She wanted to enter the upcoming Three Bears Animated Festival in the Woods with her cartoon, but she didnt have a lot of time. Good thing her story was short.

Golditoons enters the Three Bears in the Woods Festival with her short film. Courtesy of Mark Simon.

Golditoons pitched her idea to some friends. She pitched it with all her heart and told them that working together they could finish it in just a few weeks. Her friends were inspired by her pitch and agreed to help. She also asked them for feedback on the story and the ending. Her friends had a few great suggestions that made her concept even better.

She had asked her mother for advice on earlier projects, but her mom would only say, Thats wonderful, dear. You are so talented. While it was nice to hear, it didnt help. To learn and make her project better she now asked people who really knew animation and how to tell stories.

In order to make sure everyone would be treated fairly, Golditoons gave a contract to all the people helping on her animated short. Since she couldnt pay them for their work, except for a little porridge during those late nights, she considered them investors in her vision. As investors, she offered them all a percentage of any gross income from her toon equal to percentage of the work they did of the whole project. She budgeted her short as if she were paying for everything and determined if someones work represented 5% of the budget, they would get 5% of the gross until she paid them twice their normal fee. Everyone was happy.

Soon, Golditoons was in production. She had to keep up her energy to keep everyone interested in completing her short.

Before she knew it, they were done. The short looked great and had a strong ending. Then it was off to the Three Bears Animated Festival in the Woods. It wasnt far. Just over the river and through the woods.

Once her short was entered into the festival, it was viewed by the three judges. The judges each viewed a different type of project. Papa Bear judge looked at the long films, and there wasnt enough time to run many of them. Mama Bear judge looked at the shorts that were too long to be short and too short to be long. Most of them seemed to be longer than they should have been and didnt know when to end. Baby Bear judge got the shorts that were just right. They were concise, good stories and they had great endings. It was also easier to fit these shorts into the festival program, so those entrants stood a better chance of getting into the limited time allocated in the festival.

Some of the other successful entries were experiments with style or new technologies. They werent successful just because of their look, they were successful because they told great stories with great endings which happened to be done in a certain style or with a certain software.

Judge Baby Bear was so impressed with Golditoons animated short that he awarded it with their Its Just Right trophy. He also invited his network executive friend, the Big Bad Wolf, to view it and Wolf liked it so much he offered Golditoons a job. Golditoons pitched her short as an animated series to PBS, Pinocchios Broadcasting Service, and soon went into production.

The publicity she got from finishing such a great short was amazing. The entire industry was reading about her project.

Words from the wise: Bill Plympton (left) says Keep it short, while Craig McCracken advises Keep it simple. Photo credit (left) Sarah Baisley; © AOL Time Warner.

The other animators who worked on the short also added it to their demo reels and could now say they were award-winning animators on a project most people knew about. In fact, Golditoons ended up hiring many of them on her new series. It was a winning situation for everyone.

Golditoons and her talented friends lived happily ever after.

Hows that for an ending?

Wait. Now I remember what I wanted to say before. Actually I wanted to quote some friends of mine regarding shorts.

M

Bill Plympton is the king of independent animators and has made a career out of extremely funny shorts, Keep it three to five minutes long. Keep it short. Make it cheap. Make it funny.*

Craig McCracken may not be a fairy tale character, but he is living a fairy tale life partially because he knew how to keep his independent shorts short. Do something you can do and do it right, as opposed to trying to do something huge and not getting it finished at all. Be one of the people who come up with a simple one-minute idea and then make that one minute really nice.*

Thanks Craig and Bill. That was short and sweet. Hopefully with your advice, we can all live happily ever after.

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer and lecturer who is also the author of Facial Expressions, Producing Independent 2D Character Animation and Storyboards: Motion in Art. He can be found lurking around at www.FunnyToons.tv and may be reached at Mark@FunnyToons.tv. Marks books may be found and purchased at www.MarkSimonBooks.com.

Footnote: *Quotes from Mark Simons interviews in his book Producing Independent 2D Character Animation.

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