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Bilbo writes...

Considering you are part of the TV animation community, has anyone ever tried pitching an animation to a non-kids network ?

Do you think the cable and broadcast networks are too animation-phobic to actually try one out?

Greg responds...

Yes.

I'm not sure if "animation-phobic" is the correct term, but interest is not high.

Response recorded on April 11, 2014

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Kwesi Brako writes...

Hi, Greg, just following up from what you said on twitter. Did you hear the comments Paul Dini made about why shows like Young Justice were not renewed?

Here's a link to the specific clip
http://helpsaveourheroes.tumblr.com/post/69925938596/i-thought-id-post-the-part-of-the-kevin

And a link to the full podcast in case anyone else wants it
http://smodcast.com/episodes/paul-dini-shadow-of-the-shadow-of-the-bat/

What are your thoughts on this?

Greg responds...

For the record, I listened to the clip but not the entire podcast. So if I missed out on some important context, I apologize.

I agree with a lot of what was said, but I don't agree that the executives didn't want girls to watch. (And I'm not really sure that's exactly what was being said, though that's the way it's been reported on that internet thing.) The target audience for Young Justice was ALWAYS Boys 6-11. If we ALSO got girls that was fine. If we got older kids, tweens, teens and adults, that was fine. If we got younger kids, that was fine.

But we had to hit the target: Boys 6-11. And we did to some extent, but not enough to compensate for the loss of our toy line. Anyone who says the show was cancelled because too many people (of any specific demographic) were watching us, is, I think, grasping at straws. It's not that too many were watching, it's that NOT ENOUGH were watching in our target demographic. Even then, if the toys had sold, we would have been fine. But the toy line was cancelled, which took away our financing for the series. And that was that.

Response recorded on March 20, 2014

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Harlan Phoenix writes...

You had mentioned that you negotiated with Jeffrey Katzenberg to get the publishing rights for Rain of the Ghosts. Did you attempt to acquire the rights to any other property you developed while at Dreamworks?

Greg responds...

I have turnaround rights to pitch a couple of other properties that I developed there.

Response recorded on February 07, 2014

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Laura 'as astra' Sack writes...

Now that I've posted all my episode thoughts...(in theory I still plan on doing the same on the comics, but...) I want to say thank you for the series in general. (I'd go into details, but it seems redundant after posting all those responses.) I've thoroughly enjoyed it in all its parts. Well, by the time you read this the video game will be out. [Yep!] I probably will have to sit it out. Pathetic as it is, I have to admit to some motion sickness from a lot of video games. I'm assuming I'll be able to get some pretty detailed descriptions from the good folks here. I hope that there will be other continuations as well. (Also good luck on your new Star Wars series.)

I have to admit to more than a little annoyance that another show I enjoy is canceled, but also some confusion. If I understand correctly one of the major factors, if not the major factor in the cancellation is that the merchandise didn't sell as well as they companies had hoped. Good viewership numbers are almost inconsequential. If this is true, (big if, I admit), I don't understand the business model. Why continue making cartoons targeting the older demographic at all? I know the show aimed for a broad audience, but it aimed for each part directly. A lot of cartoons aim themselves at kids directly, and place bonus references and jokes for the older viewers. I've loved many shows like that. But the complexity of characters and plots in shows like Young Justice is not a bonus for older viewers, it is integral. (IMHO) A relationship like, for example, Guardian and Bumblebee is more relateable to a college or adult viewer than a kid. (I would have gone to Babs and Dick, but that was mainly expanded upon in the comics.) A kid would gravitate to the first season romances, or the M'gan/L'gan/Conner triangle. All the relationships were interesting and important to the show, and none were simple, it's just different parts resonant (from experience or at least plot type familiarity) better to different age sets. (Or for out of YJ examples- In Green Lantern- the complexity of Razor and Ia's relationship- given his past lost love, her resemblance, his survivor guilt and rage issues and her ultimate sacrifice is not something that targets the younger viewers of the show. They'll just accept the two are a couple and enjoy the fight scenes. It was perhaps more integral to the show than any Hal based plot. In Tron the entire looks of the show was aimed older, high teens and 20s would be my guess, and not particularly conducive to action figures to my eye.)

Older fans are less likely to buy toys, (or have toys bought for them), but they also have control over their own finances to buy what is actually advertised during broadcast. Between the 24 hour cable tv cycle and dvrs, grown ups will be watching when kids can't, allowing for targeted ads of the none happy meal/stompies/pillow pet variety. (For the record, my 4.5 year old adores her stompies. ~she's 5 now~) I get that a franchise like DC or Marvel or Star Wars can expect some cross product sales, and even a show not squarely aimed at a small kid can have a cool iconic action figure that sells well. But no one expects Smallville or Arrow to survive on toy and apparel sales, they stays on air based on the number and demographics of viewers, just like Birds of Prey did not last for the same reason. Have cartoons, or at least the beautifully animated ones, become loss leaders for merchandise like comics have become loss leaders for movies? And is that a reasonable burden to place on a show that does not squarely target the audience that will buy those toys? Is a high level video game an attempt to tap into an action figure equivalent of older viewers?

I don't want to turn this into a rant about how annoyed I am that YJ was canceled....er, not renewed. I will admit to being mightily confused why DC Nation isn't aiming to expand into more than an hour of programming. I just assumed it was planned to become a 2 or 3 hour block like the old Disney Afternoon, with perhaps a rotating stable of shows. But I am interested on your more insider insight on what the none creative aims are when a new cartoon is unleashed upon the world nowadays and whether they are reasonable. Thanks,

Greg responds...

I think one thing to keep in mind is ratings these days are NOT what they used to be.

Ducktales was a ratings smash. It made it's money by itself. Any merchandising was gravy.

Our numbers on Gargoyles, back in the day, puts the ratings of many of today's quote-unquote top-rated animated series to shame. (And Gargoyles was a hit, but never a home run, ratings-wise. Just a single or double.)

So with lower numbers overall, that means less income is coming in from advertising. Meanwhile, the costs of production have either held steady or gone up. That's pretty simple math, isn't it?

So to pay for the production of these shows, you're counting on other streams of revenue to balance the books - and for an action show that mostly means TOYS.

So if the toys don't sell - for whatever reason - how do you pay for the series?

Whether that's reasonable or not is somewhat immaterial. It's just the cold, hard truth of the situation.

So EVERY show I've ever been asked to produce has a core target that it's trying to reach, and usually that's BOYS 6-11, because the belief is (whether you agree or not) that Boys 6-11 drive toy sales for action figures. Doesn't mean the networks object to other demographics (girls or younger kids or older kids, tweens, teens and adults) ALSO watching. But you still have to hit the target.

Picture it like a bullseye. Concentric circles. You MUST hit the center. But hopefully in hitting that sweet spot, you are also reaching the other demos. Back on Gargoyles, I was farely successful at hitting that target audience AND reaching other demos too. And that has always been my goal on these shows. We didn't quite manage it on W.I.T.C.H. We did on Spectacular Spider-Man. And our success was mixed on Young Justice. Ratings were decent overall (by today's standards though not by any absolute standard at all), but our ratings in our target demo were inconsistent at best. (We could go on forever about why, but it doesn't change the FACT of the numbers.)

Throw in Mattel's decision to abandon their YJ line (again, without going into the reasons behind it), and frankly it's no surprise we weren't renewed.

Because how could Warner Bros afford to make it?

After experimenting for two seasons and 46 episodes of YJ, why wouldn't they take the chance on something new that might bring in more money? Or at least pay its own way?

Frankly, we need a new business model. But the studios haven't landed on one that works yet. So they still chase hits.

Response recorded on January 10, 2014

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Voice Acting Fan writes...

Dear Greg:

Thank you for answering my previous questions!

You have made reference to SAG before, so presumably Young Justice has to abide by SAG rules or get boycotted. I have a few questions related to this and the voice acting part of the production process:

1. How do the voice talent get paid? A flat rate? Are they paid by the hour? By the line? By the episode? Or some variable rate?

2. When you voiced Lucas Carr, did you have to join the SAG union? Or is production allowed to hire non-SAG personnel as long as they pay them differently?

3. You have stated that getting a second character out of an actor entails no added costs. Since it is free, I am wondering why a few actors (Jesse McCartney comes to mind) doesn't get to voice a character other than Dick Grayson. Was it a matter of actor preference, producer preference, or a mix of the two?

4. How long does a typical recording session last? Do you sit in throughout the whole session, or leave it up to the voice director? How many episode(s) are typically recorded in a sitting?

5. When one of the voice actors sing a song (Reach for a Reach, Hello Megan), they get separately credited. Is this subject to a different rate, or is the singing part simply added as a "character" in determining pay?

Thank you, and I hope by the time you are reading this, you've already got several gigs lined up!

Greg responds...

0. I'm not sure "boycot" is the correct word. The major studios sign contracts with SAG, that prohibits them from contracting non-SAG labor for their acting needs. They can get around this by SUB-contracting, but most don't on major projects.

1. I don't want to speak for EVERY show. In my experience, a voice actor gets paid a flat fee for four hours of work and up to two character voices. For a tiny additional fee, you can get a third voice. But this holds per episode. So for example, even if you could record one guy playing four roles over two episodes in a single four hour session, you'd still owe him two payments. The fee is negotiable, as long as it's above union minimum. But most series pay the union minimum plus 10% and have favored nation clauses in their contracts, which prohibits them from giving any individual actor a raise without simultaneously giving raises to EVERY actor on the series.

2. I first joined SAG to play Donald Menken on Spectacular Spider-Man, and am still a member in good-standing. No union shop can hire non-union actors.

3. Well, Jesse often DID voice additional characters, like Thug #2 or whatever. But generally, there are some actors who have the ability to change their voice enough that they can convincingly play multiple characters without the audience balking. Others really - as talented as they are as performers - only have their own voice.

4. Sessions typically go three to four hours. But often we'll be there all day. We can only keep each individual actor for four hours without incurring overtime, but we could start one actor at 10am and have him until 2pm. And we could start another actor at noon, and have her until 4pm. And a third at 1pm and keep him until 5pm. That way, we have overlap to record their scenes together, but we also have more time to get everything done.

5. Singing is a separate rate. And it's also an additional character, unless they are singing IN CHARACTER. That is, if Nightwing suddenly burst into song, we'd have to pay an additional fee to Jesse for his singing. But we wouldn't have to count that as a second character (or third, since he's also doing Thug #2).

Response recorded on December 06, 2013

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Aspiring Comic Book Writer writes...

Hello Greg,
My friend and I really want to start a comic book company, but we do not know how. I was wondering if you could give us some helpful hints or tips for getting started. Thank you very much for you time and answers.

Greg responds...

Hints on starting a company? No, sorry. I don't know how.

Response recorded on September 03, 2013

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Barnabas writes...

1a. When you are working on a series and have to deal with a story bible or design document, is it inclusive of scripts and detail or just an over view.
1b. If they get to large is it common to separate them into their own documents? ex. A document for characters biographies and another for plots/timelines.
2. When changes are made to either a script or story bible do you use strike-through until it is finalized or simply delete the content?
3. When I am working on story boards or scripts I try to make characters actions be causality based and driven by their personality, moral alignment and available options. Is this similar to how you create your story lines?
4. How can I make characters engaging and direct through dialogue in scenes that are relaxed?
5. What is your going rate for projects and would you be interested in working with Mark Crilley or Luaren Faust?

Greg responds...

1a. Most series bibles are written in advance of scripts. Mine TEND to be very thorough, including plans for stories, etc. But, no, by definition, it does not include all the details included in all the scripts. I try to update/revise the bible as we proceed. But by that time no one's looking at the darn thing anymore, so keeping the bible on track is a luxury and a low priority and almost always falls by the waysid. I'm not sure what you mean by a "design document".

1b. For a television series that doesn't seem like something that would ever happen. Years ago, I did do the bible for the entire Platinum Comics Universe, and that was so long that I did split it into multiple sections.

2. See above. But I tend not to use strikethrough very often. I tend to just revise.

3. Yeah, pretty much.

4. Get in their heads. Be clear what they want. Be clear on the difference between what they want and what they know they want. HEAR THEIR VOICES.

5. I'm not going to tell you what I get paid. Sorry.

5a. I'm always interested in collaborating with talented folks, but I'm not going to get specific about any individual.

Response recorded on May 01, 2013

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wintersmith writes...

Are you cursed? If so please provide name of curser and last known adress, thank you.

Greg responds...

Let's please not perpetuate this "cursed" thing. I mean, seriously, that's all I need. For the next guy who might want to hire me to think I'm cursed and/or incapable of going beyond two seasons.

Response recorded on April 19, 2013

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Erica writes...

Why do networks love canceling your shows? Seriously, your shows are always my favorite on any network that they're on, and yet that network always thinks that it's a great idea to cancel it!

Greg responds...

It's nothing personal. Believe me. I'd love to indulge my paranoid side and think it is, but it just isn't.

Response recorded on April 19, 2013

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Amy writes...

Greg,

1. When you write an animation spec how much blocking do you put into the episode? My research says I should describe every single twitch of the character's face and body so that the animators in Korea will get everything right. But I wrote a short episode for a company that told me I should only do that if I'm both the writer AND the animator. I should just stick to short details like I would for live action. So who is right?
2. I assume the best way to answer that question is to read examples of animated scripts--Is it possible to obtain copies of Young Justice scripts from season 1 somewhere? Should I go to a script library in LA or attempt to contact Cartoon Network for a copy?

Greg responds...

1. There is no right and wrong. Every series has it's own rules. I'd love to say there's a standard, but there just isn't. On MY SHOWS, we use the scripts to direct the entire episode, including camera angles, etc. The actual directors and storyboard artists aren't restricted to doing the script exactly as written, but by being thorough like that, I feel more confident that at the very least, they know what I'm looking for. If they come up with better ideas, great. I don't know that I've ever seen an animation script that was totally Master Shot style, a la live action. But I've seen many that lean way more in that direction. But it's not the way I work.

2. You can. But I don't recommend it. Currently, though we're not thrilled about it and hope the situation changes someday, YJ is dead. You want your spec script to be for a show that's CURRENTLY IN PRODUCTION. On that level alone, YJ doesn't qualify as a good way to spend your time if you're serious about getting work in the industry.

Response recorded on April 18, 2013


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