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Cinepresto Interview

New interview on Cinepresto, where I talk about my background, the biz, Gargoyles, Star Wars Kanan and the Rain of the Ghosts AudioPlay!

http://youtu.be/qQCKFiHrd-M!


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Blizzard Sprite writes...

Hello, Mr. Weisman.

I had a question regarding the adaptation of original characters from television to their comic book counterparts. One of the more displayed occurrences of the comic book integrating a character from a television series was with DC comics integrating Harley Quinn from the Batman: The Animated Series. Since you had similar experience when the Aqualad character you created in conjunction with Brandon Vietti and Phil Bourassa became the official Aqualad of the DC comics universe, I thought you could answer a few questions on the subject.

1. What is the official process a comic book marketing company must use in order for its writers to begin using an original character? Do representatives from the comic book corporations contact writers from the television program and make negotiate to gain permission from you and other important figure heads on the television program?

2. How long does the process take for the comic book corporation to acquire all of the rights to the character and include the individual in the comic books?

3. How do these companies determine what makes an original character worthy of being integrated into the comic book continuity of these fictional universes? Since the version of the Aqualad character you created became the official one in the DC Comics universe, I imagine that the officials representing the comic book company would have explained what properties stood out the most.

4. Which party retains the copyright stemming from the creation of the character?

5. What are the chances that another one of your original characters from your Young Justice series, Green Beetle, will be adapted for the DC Comics continuity? After seeing the show, I was very surprised to learn everything about the character had not already been adapted from the comic books, but was an original creation on your part. Despite the limited screen time compared to some of the main characters, the character was fleshed-out and well-developed. I thought you had put enough creativity for the character to make a jump to the comic book continuity.

Thank you for your time.

Greg responds...

1. I'm not too comfortable answering this generically. I'm sure every case is unique. So I can only speak to examples I've been involved with, specifically - as you mentioned - Aqualad. In that case, the thing to keep in mind is that no one employed on the production has any rights in ANY of the characters we create. It's all being done under a "Work For Hire" contract, which means that Time-Warner, the company that owns DC Comics, Warner Bros Animation and Cartoon Network, owns all our work product outright. So they don't need our permission to use characters they already own, including Aqualad, which (a) was based at least in part on the existing Aqualad that they already owned and (b) they owned from the moment the idea for the new version came out of our heads, pens, tablets and keyboards. Geoff Johns did contact us and talk to us about the details of our version. He then went off and did his own revision on that for DC Comics.

2. See above. They already owned it. So it took NO time.

3. I think Geoff just liked the character - and/or thought he could do something with him - but you'd really have to ask him.

4. There are no parties. There is only one big corporation with multiple divisions.

5. I think it's unlikely, because if it didn't happen back when the show was on the air, why would it happen now?

Response recorded on December 17, 2014

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Presto writes...

Need some advice because I just became a screenwriter for a Television series based in Hong Kong. How much should I charger per 24 minute episode?

Greg responds...

I'm not sure how to advise you. The short answer is get as much money as you can squeeze out of them.

Animation Guild Union minimums are just over $7K per 22-minute episode, if that helps. WGA minimums are much, much higher.

Response recorded on September 23, 2014

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My MechaCon 2014 Schedule

The Gargoyles Twentieth Anniversary U.S. Tour continues. Stop #5 is MechaCon in New Orleans, LA: http://www.mechacon.com

Here's my schedule for the weekend:

FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 2014
04:00pm - 05:00pm: VOICE DIRECTING PANEL
Panel Room 1. With Jonathan Klein and Andrea Romano.

06:00pm - 07:00pm: OPENING CEREMONIES
Main Events.

08:00pm - 09:00pm: GOLDPASS MEET-N-GREET
Tertiary Events.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 2, 2014
11:00am - 12:00pm: SIGNING
Signing Room, Secondary Events. I'll be selling and signing copies of my new novels RAIN OF THE GHOSTS and SPIRITS OF ASH AND FOAM. $10 cash for each book, which includes the book and a personalized signature. But if you buy both books for $20 cash, you also get free signed copies of the original development character designs by Kuni Tomita for the television version of Rain that never was. In addition - and by popular demand - I am selling and signing an array of my animation teleplays for $20 cash from such series as Gargoyles, Team Atlantis, DC Showcase (Green Arrow), Men in Black: The Series, The Spectacular Spider-Man, The Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, W.I.T.C.H., Young Justice and even the 2009 Radio Play "The Spectacular Spider-Man Meets Gargoyles". I'll also sign anything else you bring and put in front of me for FREE - especially if you buy my book. ;).

02:00pm - 03:00pm: STATE OF THE ANIMATION INDUSTRY PANEL
Panel Room 1. With Jonathan Klein, Andrea Romano and Steve Yun.

03:00pm - 04:00pm: SIGNING
Signing Room, Secondary Events.

05:00pm - 06:00pm: GARGOYLES TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY PANEL
Panel Room 1.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 2014
10:00am - 11:00am: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN PANEL
Panel Room 1.

11:00am - 12:00pm: SIGNING
Signing Room, Secondary Events.

12:00pm - 01:00pm: RAIN OF THE GHOSTS PANEL
Panel Room 1.

02:00pm - 03:00pm: YOUNG JUSTICE PANEL
Panel Room 1. With Khary Payton (voice of Aqualad, Black Manta, Brick, Black Lightning).

03:00pm - 04:00pm: SIGNING
Signing Room, Secondary Events.

If you're anywhere near NOLA, stop by and say hello!


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A Flash Fan writes...

Hi Greg,

On a slightly different note...

1. Do you watch/like the TV series "The Big Bang Theory"?

2. As you may know (if you've seen or heard about the show) some scenes in some episodes take place in a comic book store. Now I am not that much of a regular viewer but one time in an episode in the comic book store in the background on the racks was a copy of one of the Young Justice comic books! It must have been from a while back because I believe it was either issue #0 or #2. So I'm sorry I don't know the exactness but if I find out I'd let you know (or do you already know?)

3. I ask because I wonder if you are in some entitled to something because your comic book appeared on a TV show. Do you know if there should be some sort of payment or recognition for people whose work appears in such a manner due to copyright material?

4. Do you know or would you know someplace I could be directed about copyright issues? Like say I want to use the Flash in a comic strip; some people would say it's fine, but does credit need to be given to DC Comics or do I have to get permission from DC to use him? Or say I want to take a clip of the Flash from one of the YJ episodes; again should DC be consulted? Do you think the same thing would go for stores?

5. What's been your experience with issues like these? Say you might have wanted in one of your shows for characters to enter a Starbucks; do you have to ask permission from said company first?

Thanks a lot Greg!

Greg responds...

1. Yes and yes.

2. I'd heard, but I hadn't noticed it myself. So I missed seeing the issue/episode.

3. DC owns all that. They don't have to pay me for using it as a prop.

4. Personally, I'd avoid using someone else's property in your work, period. But I'm no lawyer. And, no, I don't know where to direct you to research this.

5. I would pretty much NEVER do that. At most, I'd do a pastiche, like the FOREVER 16 SUBURBAN OUTFITTERS (instead of FOREVER 21 and URBAN OUTFITTERS) that appeared in Young Justice #0.

Response recorded on May 09, 2014

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simone writes...

Do you think if I call cartoon network on a regular and complain about how unfair they are for taking down YJ before we was able to have a 3rd/4th/5th season but yet they have all these other shows like bakugan still coming on.? Im not trying to down play them but seriously. ?! Why that play all the time but yet there is never a rerun of YJ .?? It came on on Saturday and Sunday morning. ..that's it.! I wouldn't blame the ratings if its so low.. who really wakes up at 8 or 9 to watch that show (could have came on at 10, not sure since it been so long) unless they know it was going to play that time.?

And that's another thing.. how is anybody suppose to know is there was gonna be another season if y'all don't advertise it.? I realized that y'all didn't do that for the 2nd season or if you was gonna have one (unless I looked it up on Google or something). There was times were I didn't know if a show was coming on that Saturday morning and I would have woke up for nothing ... just upset and sad.. I think that's another reason why y'all did not have that many ratings... we never really knew when it would come on unless we look it up. Please answer ... I really wanna know

Greg responds...

I've lost track of exactly what question you "really wanna know" the answer for. So I'll try to comment on what I can.

I think we can all agree that the series didn't receive as much promotion as we might have liked. Frankly, no show I've ever worked on has ever received as much promotion as I would have liked. None. (Although Star Wars Rebels may be the exception. Lucasfilm has quite the machine up and running to create buzz.) That's just the way things go in a business where promoting an animated series is an additional expense that most networks have decided they can't afford.

Whether you like Bakugan or not, keep in mind it's an acquisition, not an original series. It's considerably cheaper because the U.S. network doesn't have to pay for production, only for a license fee to air it in America.

Calling CN to complain daily does NOT sound like a good plan. Imagine if someone did that to you?

Response recorded on May 09, 2014

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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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Blizzard Sprite writes...

Hello, Mr. Weisman.

These questions are an extension of the previous question I submitted.

6. Before Nielsen ratings were released for animated programs, what size audience had to be attracted in order to keep a show alive on a network? Since you worked on a number of projects over the years, it would make sense that you'd have a pretty good grasp on the matter.

7. How important are Nielsen ratings for animé dubbed into English and subsequently aired on the channels? Ratings for these shows almost never appear on ratings outlets, like Zap2It (http://www.zap2it.com/) and TV Series finale (http://tvseriesfinale.com/).

Thank you for your time.

Greg responds...

6. Nielsen ratings pre-dates my professional career - by a lot. (How old do you think I am exactly?) Anyway, ratings mean different things in different times. Before People Meters, kids ratings in general were way higher than after People Meters became standard. There isn't some fixed number that says this is good. Below this is bad. Everything's relative.

7. As important as for anything. Bigger numbers are better than smaller. But a show that's cheaper to produce can get away with lower numbers and skate by. But ultimately, if a program is dragging a network down, it's toast.

Response recorded on March 13, 2013

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Blizzard Sprite writes...

Hello, Mr. Weisman.

I had a few questions that pertain to the Nielsen's ratings system.

1. Why isn't there any public information about Nielsen's ratings for most of the animated series that have been on television? Classic cartoons and many of the modern ones have virtually no ratings tied to them. In the past few years, the figures have been released for programs that have performed well for cartoons, such as the animated series that currently air on Fox, Avatar: The Legend of Korra on Nickelodeon, Adventure Time on Cartoon Network not to mention Young Justice, as well as a few other programs on or were on the air.

2. Are networks allowed to request that the ratings for a show be withheld or simply not released to the public? In addition, why are the ratings released for some episodes of animated television programs, such as Young Justice or Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, while not being provided for others?

3. As someone who has worked on a variety of animated projects over the years, were you given the exact ratings of a program to work with? By that, I mean were the exact ratings made available to you, and if so, who provided them? Or was that information not provided? And did these particular ratings have any leverage on what would go in the animated universe?

4. What were the ratings like for your original animated series, Gargoyles? A search on Google turns up an article, http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-15899915.html, which requires a subscription to read in full, reads:

"Walt Disney Television Animation's Gargoyles new animated show delivered a strong 2.8 Nielsen metered-market rating and an 8 share average over a special stripped debut Oct. 24-28. That was up 33% in share from its,"

5. Are you even allowed to discuss the ratings of an animated program, or is there a contractual obligation that prevents you (and others) from doing so?

Thank you for your time.

Greg responds...

1. As far as I know, anyone can PAY to get Nielsen results. But if you don't feel like paying, then you're reliant on getting those results from entities that have paid. Those entities tend to be news organizations (that may not think enough of the general public has an interest in cartoon ratings) or networks (who are only going to display ratings that make them look good and/or suit their current strategy). But I'm no expert.

2. You've got it backwards. Nielsen is a COMPANY that charges for its services. It's not some public forum that networks have somehow forced to withhold info from you. If you really want the info, go pay for it.

3. Very inconsistently.

3a. For example, on YJ, we occasionally got ratings reports from CN via our bosses at WB.

3b. Often, we got no info.

3c. Absolutely not, because by the time ratings came in we were way past committed to whatever creative decisions had been made. Whether those numbers effected air dates, hiatuses (hiatusi?) or pickups is a your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine thing. I haven't seen enough of the raw numbers myself to make an evaluation.

4. As I recall, during our first season on Gargoyles, when we were weekly, our ratings were very strong. Our second season, when we were on five days a week, was during the peak of the Power Rangers craze, and although our ratings were solid, we were consistently beat by that show, coming in at number two for our time slot week after week after week.

5. There's no contractual obligation, but there are political considerations. Plus, as I said above, I'm not always informed. And I'm not fond of passing on rumors or making half-assed guesses.

Response recorded on March 13, 2013

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Facts and Fiction about "Deadly Force"

Facts and Fiction about "Deadly Force".

We got a shout out here:

http://m.mentalfloss.com/article.php?id=33538

15 Temporarily Banned Episodes of Popular TV Shows

"Deadly Force" made #5!!! Which is very, very cool!

It's ALWAYS nice to be talked about, and I don't want to sound like a churl, but in the very short paragraph describing the situation, there are at least four errors. Here's the original text from the website:

5. Gargoyles, "Deadly Force"
Controversy: Gunplay

While pretending to use a gun in "Deadly Force," Broadway accidentally shoots Elisa and attempts to cover up his crime. Although this episode was initially pulled from the rerun cycle thanks to objections by advisory groups, it was eventually re-aired after editors removed some of the blood from Elisa's shooting. It has since been added to the DVD collection.

Error #1: Broadway wasn't "pretending to use a gun". He was playing with an ACTUAL gun, pretending to be a cowboy. (This one may sound nit-picky, but I don't think the original phrasing is clear at all.)

Error #2: "[Broadway] attempts to cover up his crime". Not really. He's so afraid and ashamed, he runs away and hides. When Goliath accuses Dracon, it takes Broadway a few minutes to own up to his culpability. But there's no attempt at a cover-up.

Error #3: "[T]his episode was initially pulled from the rerun cycle thanks to objections by advisory groups..." That's untrue. In fact, the REVERSE is true. Advisory Groups LOVED this episode. For example, we got a positive write-up in Madeline Levine's "Viewing Violence", which I can tell you was not overly kind to most animated television series. No, the truth is we were fine when the series was in syndication and when it was rerun on the USA network. But when it moved to what was then called "ToonDisney", a new group of Disney S&P execs over-ruled what our original S&P exec had decided and ignored ALL the good press that the episode had received. Thus (for a long while), TPTB removed it from the rerun rotation.

Error #4: "...it was eventually re-aired after editors removed some of the blood from Elisa's shooting..." Again, this is inaccurate. The episode aired ONCE with the excessive blood, because Frank Paur and myself didn't get the retake with less blood back from Japan in time. WE were the ones who wanted less blood, because (a) we didn't want it to appear that Elisa had already bled out and (b) that much blood seemed distracting, like we were trying to get away with something instead of trying to tell the story. By the episode's second airing, the retake was in and the episode aired multiple times with less blood in syndication and on USA before the series' reruns moved to ToonDisney, and the version with less blood was pulled from the rotation. It's reinstatement had nothing to do with quantity of blood. It was originally brought back for Halloween marathons - I suppose because TPTB at ToonDisney thought they could get away with it on Halloween. Then later, when we began airing VERY, VERY late at night, I suppose they figured there was no reason not to include it.

Anyway, so there you have it. Still glad we were mentioned, but I figured I should set the record straight on these points.

I'm sure you're all still wondering why my presence here at ASK GREG has been so minimal. I'm still quite swamped with work, but I wanted to try to post a little something...


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the greenman writes...

1) Reading the Stargate bible, have ever considered a Star Trek animated series? I know Paramount is very strict on that property.

2) Will you ever do another series of your own creation?

Thank you very much. Have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Greg responds...

1. I'd love to do one, but no one's asked me. (Keep in mind, I was asked to develop Stargate. I don't just go out and independently develop series based on properties that somebody else owns.)

2. Again, I'd love to, but no one's bought anything original that I've pitched in a VERY long time.

Response recorded on December 28, 2012

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Tom writes...

Young Justice: Invasion is the only comic series I've bought regularly (came close with the Jaime/Blue Beetle one couple of years ago). Like the TV series it's got a great mix of characters and tells a bunch of engaging stories at an all ages level. I love being able to read a series and share it with my younger brother (So many of the 'normal' series are intensely violent and feature sexual assault so often...).

So, thank you and your staff for making this series so great! It's always sold out at our local store. I'm sorry to hear that it's ending in two months.

What are your thoughts on how to keep comics relevant and get them to people, particularly younger crowds? Are downloads making a difference? Would releasing more series as longer graphic novels twice a year rather than shorter monthlies help? What about the content? Thanks for your time!

Greg responds...

I don't claim to be an expert on these topics. Generally, I just write the kind of stories that _I_ would like to read.

Response recorded on December 26, 2012

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Freeman writes...

Hello Greg Weisman, thank you for this interesting opportunity. I'm a big fan of Young Justice and it's great to see another great DC show around. I'm sorry to say this is the first show by you that I've watched (I should fix that). Snappy writing, fun undercurrent of mystery, and from what I understand is a staple of your shows, not assuming your fans are incapable of following an ongoing plot line.

I love the fight scenes in the show. Very fluid animation; and I enjoy in particular when the "normals" get to cut loose and drop some martial arts on each other. I also find it fun when Superboy gets to utterly wail on people.

Anyways, I have a question that has been plaguing me in recent years. I'm not sure if the answer varies from show to show but here it is. How much say do the writers get in the crafting of the action scenes? Do you guys lay down some guidelines for what must happen in a fight or do you ultimately leave it up to the animators and/or artists?

Well, there's my question that quickly devolved into a multi-question, I'm sorry. But, please, keep the awesome coming man! I hope this show keeps on keepin' on! Six seasons and a movie!

Greg responds...

Every series is different. On YJ - and most of the shows I've produced - I make sure that the script spells out the action in real detail - in part to attempt to assure that we're not winding up with an episode that's too long or too short. Having said that, I then am happy to have our board artists, directors and my fellow producer (on YJ that's Brandon Vietti) go to town and PLUS the action and visuals. But I do get approvals on all this to make sure we're staying on point with our story and not doing stuff that's out of character or off-tone for our series. Then you have the timers and, of course, the animators contributing too.

Response recorded on October 08, 2012

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Anonymous writes...

I just read a comment there about shows being leaked on youtube. Not taking away from what you creative guys do but I think a lot of the blame should go to how the industry is structured. Taking Young Justice for example, If you live somewhere like America were Young Justice is screened on tv, catch up service on the Cartoon networks website(probably), available for purchase digitally from Itunes or Amazon or on a region 1 DVD, then there's no excuse. But due to international copyright laws that's not the case for those outside of the US, the show hasn't been made available to purchase in any way.

And it goes both ways. There are popular european tv shows, particularly british shows that US citizens want but can't purchase due to the DVD region system. Or if they can they are expected to wait for two-three years possibly, indefinately. Look at Gargoyles. It's only been partially released in the US, there's been zero releases to the rest of the world.

The best way to discourage piracy, in my opinion, is to make content available universally, so people are actually able to purchase the SAME content at the SAME time. If not through DVDS then digitally. I don't know why the entertainment has such a problem with this?

Greg responds...

I'm very much in favor of entertainment companies making their product available.

Response recorded on September 26, 2012

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NY writes...

Hi Greg! I looked through the archives and found that you previously mentioned that the first couple seasons of Gargoyles cost $400k-500k per episode to produce.

Assuming the cost of haven't changed dramatically, it seems as though animation is cheaper than the standard scripted network show. Given that, I'm surprised there aren't more animated shows on the major networks, especially with anime so popular in the US now, particularly among older audiences.

I think the only weakness to Young Justice is that it feels like the stories are big enough to fit in a whole hour, but are being condensed to thirty minutes. Again, assuming the cost of animation is in the ballpark of what it was for Gargoyles, an hour-long show doesn't strike me as financially prohibitive.

1. Can you say how much Young Justice costs to produce? A ballpark would be fine if you can't/don't want to give exact numbers.

2. What are your thoughts on the lack of non-Fox/non-comedy prime-time animation? Do you think this is something that can change in the future?

3. Do you think we might one day see hour-long dramatic animation? Did you ever consider making YJ an hour long?

Thank you very much for many excellent shows and opening yourself up for questions from the community!

Greg responds...

Your assumptions are faulty. Animation and anime have not - in this country - hit the kind of critical mass among adults that you seem to think they have. A few comedies, like Simpsons and Family Guy have worked in primetime, but others have failed. Even the great BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES - which was a huge success in the afternoons - didn't fare well in primetime.

In addition, costs HAVE changed dramatically. Budgets have not, but that means we have to learn to do more with less, generally.

More important is the issue of shelf space. An hour - per conventional wisdom - is a LONG time for kids to sit and watch an animated show. We're told, with some evidence to back it up, that they get bored. And kids still define the economics of most animated product. So if you are going to use up the VERY limited shelf space that any network has with an hour show, it darn well better kick some major butt in the ratings. Because otherwise, for nearly the same money, they could put on two shows (if not four) and have twice (or four times) the opportunity to grab the audience.

In fact, the trend isn't to longer shows, but to SHORTER shows. 11 minute episodes.

So with all that in mind:

1. No. That's proprietary information I'm not authorized to reveal.

2. Yes, I think it can change. But I won't pretend it would be easy to change the corporate culture that doesn't believe in this notion at all. What it takes, of course, is one network taking a chance on one show that's SO GOOD, that it's a hit in defiance of that culture and all conventional wisdom. That would break the floodgates. The inevitable result would be a lot of crap would go on the air, fail, and the conventional wisdom would come back into play with a vengeance. The one hit would be the "exception that proves the rule" and that would be it for awhile. That's what happened after Simpsons. (Who remembers Fish Police?) But the door would be open at least a little. Over the very long haul change is possible.

3. One day? Sure. In fact, I hope so.

3a. I'm not saying it's never crossed my mind. I'd love it, of course. But (a) it's not up to me, and (b) it's never been a realistic possibility.

Response recorded on September 19, 2012

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Todd Jensen writes...

The first season of "Young Justice" takes place over the course of half a year, starting on the Fourth of July and continuing to New Year's Eve in the Season One finale (with episodes set on Halloween and Thanksgiving along the way). I remember that the first season of "The Spectacular Spider-Man" similarly stretched from the start of the school year in September to Thanksgiving (with a Halloween episode along the way), and that the second season got up at least to Valentine's Day. The time progression in "Gargoyles" was more vague, but we had two Halloween stories ("Eye of the Beholder" and the Double Date story) and three wintry episodes in New York ("Her Brother's Keeper", which ends with a snowfall, "Re-Awakening", and "The Price"), as well as a clear timeline for the Stone of Destiny story.

I like this sense of the year's progress through the seasons and landmark days (like the Fourth of July and Halloween), but it doesn't seem that common in animated series outside your own work. I've seen two speculations on why that element is so rare in animated series. One is that a lot of the people who engage in such creative work aren't big on continuity and change, far less than you are. Another is that most people involved in creating animated television series live in or near Los Angeles and other parts of California, where the climate is pretty much the same year around and there's less a sense of four seasons than in other parts of the United States. I was wondering what your thoughts were on these theories.

Greg responds...

Both these theories seem valid to me, but they probably pale from the economic explanation: if you progress through the seasons then you have to redress backgrounds and characters, and that's expensive. Me, I believe it's WORTH the expense. But that's only true if you're really going to DO something with it. If you're not, then there's not much point. (We also did it on W.I.T.C.H. by the way.)

Response recorded on September 12, 2012


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