How do the techniques for writing for animated cartoons differ from the techniques for other script-writing? Is there a guide for writing for cartoons? I suddenly find myself writing for a flash Youtube cartoon series.

  • I don't think it should be any different than writing a screenplay, but since I've never done either, I might be wrong. Or writing for comics.
    – Tannalein
    Jun 21, 2013 at 21:04
  • I've made some edits to your question to focus it on cartoons in particular, since asking about screen-writing in general would be too broad (and I think not what you meant). Please review my edit and feel free to edit further if I've misunderstood your intent. Thanks for the interesting question; I'll be there are differences when you're not constrained by "we have to actually be able to stage this", but I don't know what. Jun 21, 2013 at 21:08
  • There are differences indeed, since you need to worry about the number of pages and the size of what characters are saying. I found some interesting material some time ago but they were in Portuguese and won't help here. In any case, maybe this will help you Short cartoon writing tips Jun 21, 2013 at 21:37

2 Answers 2


Have your target audience in mind, but don't stereotype and don't dumb it down. I mean, if that's a cartoon for kids, make it a nice tale for kids, but get the characters a secondary, non-obvious set of characteristics; have them play it through some behaviors, things that kid will simply shrug away as some insignificant discrepancy but an adult will notice as a nice nod - example, a benevolent wise master is secretly a prankster, half of the trouble - the more harmless half - is not random accidents or omissions but caused by them secretly. Make the story layered - the simple, obvious layer for kids, and a second, hidden layer, an implied play behind the scenes for adults that watch it. That truly will make a difference between that being "just another toon" and something excellent.

Also: Learn your animation crew skill level. There are things that will be difficult to animate and draw. Full views of streets of lively, busy city may be impressive but take ten times as much time to animate as a sequence of talking heads. A sideways walk cycle is a standard pulled out of library, three minutes of animator work, but a rich, dynamic fighting scene will need to be drawn from scratch, a week of work for the whole team for a minute of animation. Talk to them and if that's a series, balance their workload by picking enough "rich animation" and enough "filler" so that making an episode takes roughly the same effort and cost.

You can afford some more flair for pilot, season finale, and 3-4 episodes, but prepare 2-3 episodes of "filler" with roughly half of the core crew missing each - voice actors want a little time off too, and this gives them a week or two of holidays.

In essence, if you write a scene, try imagining how it will look like, when done - and then imagine the workload needed to make it. Make it too hard and expect it will be cut by the storyboard artists at request of the director.

  • Actually this is going to be an adult cartoon. A comedy about alcoholism. It's also a parody of a children's cartoon. Jul 5, 2013 at 23:21

Well, a lot of big animation studios (Disney, Pixar, etc) work with storyboards rather than scripts. Try that.

  • Can you say more about that? Maybe describe the essential differences, since the OP is coming from a screenwriting perspective? Thanks. Jun 24, 2013 at 4:01
  • 1
    Actually, a storyboard comes next after the script. The script is less detailed; the storyboard is closer to a shooting script, except in graphical form (all the key frames), and is THE document upon which the actual animation is based - but still it's made basing on a script; script is the phase when all the major edits and changes to the plot are made, such editing of the storyboard would be extremely cumbersome.
    – SF.
    Jun 24, 2013 at 6:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.