Book Review: Animation Development: From Pitch to Production
While this book covers all the key areas of the pitching, development and production processes, the information is not generally laid out in pithy rules or easy-to-consult bullet points. Someone trying to brush up for tomorrow's pitch cannot just read the headings or first paragraphs of sections. Many of the true pearls of wisdom and the necessary reality checks are a bit buried in the often-skipped Introduction or the middle of chapters. For instance, Levy's "one hard-and-fast rule" for a pitch bible is on page six of the chapter on pitch bibles, in the middle of a subsection. (By the way, that rule is that "a pitch book should be entertaining in and of itself." Good advice, indeed.) But know that this is not necessarily a criticism, but an affirmation of Levy's central point: As is true for all aspects of animation pitching and production, there are no short-cuts to doing the work and gaining valuable experience.
Yet, several times, Levy makes points that are more opinion than fact. For instance, he states that creators do not need an agent. However, I have seen numerous instances where a good agent has been an invaluable asset in getting a would-be creator's idea out there and negotiating the best deal for his or her services once it is sold. Also, the author states that "for a pitch bible, it would be a mistake not to feature art on every single page." While I completely agree that amazing art can help sell your project, this isn't a hard-and-fast requirement from every buyer. The reception to writer-driven projects varies by network, but it is possible for a strong writer to sell a show with no art at all. What all successful writer/creators have in common, though, is a clear vision for their show, a thorough understanding of the animation process and an ability to work collaboratively with artists to make their vision a reality. A writer who feels uncomfortable diving in to help shape the visuals of their show should strongly consider confining their pitches to the live-action realm.
The process of pitching, developing and producing an animated show is daunting, even for very seasoned animation professionals. While there is no substitute for talent and experience, Animation Development: From Pitch to Production can help demystify this process and is a solid resource for people wanting to challenge the odds and pursue this dream. As Levy aptly states, "As a would-be creator, you have no control over any of the fickle, frustrating attributes of this industry. Your own desire to develop your talent, to persevere even when the odds are against you, and to contribute your voice to the mix are the only things you can count on."
Leah Hoyer is a former attorney who left that life behind to attend animation school and pursue her love of cartoons. She is now director of original series at Disney Television Animation, where she has worked on Kim Possible, Recess and Phineas & Ferb, among others/