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I've always wondered how building a writing team works exactly. Obviously Sony liked your pitch for Spectacular (and I'm very glad they did)and we wound up with great efforts from Matt Wayne, Kevin Hopps, Andrew Robinson and Randy Jandt. But did you hand pick these people or were they provided for you by Sony? Or did they have their own takes on Spidey that convinced you that they, out of the many people who must have been vying for a spot on the show, had the right stuff for the series? And you guys had a pretty solid rotation system, so how does whatever selection process used differ from freelancing for a show?
Hmmm.... the order of things...
I think it started with Randy, who had been my script coordinator on many previous series. We offered him the job of apprentice writer, a union position that would allow him to be a script coordinator but also take the next step up and write one script per season.
My next hire was Kevin Hopps, who was brought on as a staff writer. Kevin and I go way back to my Disney days. He's given me work; I've given him work. He's great and someone I can count on.
The rest of the "staff" was in fact freelance. Andrew Robinson was an obvious choice. He had done great work for me on W.I.T.C.H. I didn't know Matt Wayne, but my boss Michael Vogel was big on Matt's stuff... so I gave him a try (with great results).
Having chosen these writers, we did start something of a rotation.
I wrote the pilot and reserved the twelfth (origin) episode for myself. Then staff writer Kevin, was followed by freelancers Matt and Andrew for episodes 2-4 and 5-7. Randy took episode 8, a middle episode that would give him a chance to get acclimated on the series. 9-11 were taken by the "rotation". I did twelve. Kevin did 13.
For season two, I added Nicole Dubuc (another W.I.T.C.H. success story) as a freelancer to give us a another voice. While Nicole got acclimated, we began with the same Kevin, Matt, Andrew rotation for episodes 14-16. Randy did 17. Then we had planned to start the rotation again, with Nicole added in. (So the PLAN was to have 18-21 be Kevin, Matt, Andrew, Nicole). But by this time, Matt was getting pretty busy on other series. So Nicole also jumped in and took Matt's spot in the rotation, and 18-21 became Kevin, Nicole, Andrew, Nicole. We then started a new rotation without Matt. And Kevin, Andrew and Nicole took 22-24. I had reserved 25 for myself. And Kevin again finished out the season with 26.
That's the way I like to work. Have a small "staff" (mostly freelancers for budgetary reasons) that do multiple episodes. That way the writers really learn the show. We all break episodes together, helping each other out pre-outline. It really becomes a team.
My brothers and I are impressed by the fluid animation in Spectacular Spider-Man. We imagine it must be very expensive. How much does it cost to do those cool action scenes?
I can't spit out a number for the action scenes in a vacuum. SpecSpidey had a fairly standard "per episode" TV Animation budget. We tried to get as much bang for our buck as possible.
Hi Greg! I was reading an earlier post of yours where you mentioned that it's harder to pitch original ideas (I'm guessing to networks, but maybe it's the same with comics, books, etc...?) now than it was when you originally pitched Gargoyles:
1. Why is it more difficult to pitch original ideas now than it was then? (I would think they'd be anxious for new concepts???)
2. What's probably the #1 thing that the people being pitched to are looking for?
3. Is a successful pitch sometimes tied to the person you are pitching to? (I mean, if you're pitching to one guy on Tuesday, but had you gone on say, Thursday and had a different guy, could the outcome of the pitch be different? I guess I mean do you depend on getting lucky with whomever you're scheduled to pitch to? And if not, can you ask to pitch to someone else?)
Thanks! I hope my questions were clear enough to get across what I'm trying to ask. I'm thinking of writing professionally (IF I'm any good) and wondered how hard it would be to "pitch". Thanks again! (Love your work by the way.)
1. They're not. They're afraid of new concepts and would rather have something that's "proven" in some other medium or era. This, in my opinion, is a direct result of the vertical integration of these companies that makes the decision making process a long uphill struggle.
2. It differs all the time, but marquis value doesn't hurt.
3. Luck-of-the-draw and incidental timing are huge factors.
Greg, how come in the Spectacular Spider-Man it doesent use realistic gunshot sounds? But, Batman: The Brave and The Bold it uses realistic gunshot sounds, other Batman cartoon shows.
Different networks have different rules, I guess.
In response to two of your previous responses to me (via everyone):
You wrote, "If I am going to "lift", I try to be direct and on the head about it, so that I'm acknowledging the debt as opposed to trying to get away with something."
Would you say that this is simplified explanation of the difference between 'homage' and 'rip-off'?
As for Free Comic Book Day, it's the first Saturday in May every year and is sponsored by some of the larger comic book companies as a way to support the industry and local comic shops. Here is their website:
Yes, I think in bald terms that is the difference between 'homage' and 'theft'.
Hey, Greg. I heard some scenes in Gargoyles were censored by Disney. In one episode in season 1, I remember a part where Hyena says "Would you like an autograph?" a girl (forgot her name) pulls out a knife on the guy and says, "Maybe I should signï»¿ it on your face!" And that's when Jackal says, "Might as well get in on the fun." And I heard there were a few more episodes that had censors.
I would say Spectacular Spider-Man is a little violent for a children's show. So far, your show has had drug addiction, Tombstone getting stabbed in the back by the Green Goblin, Doc Ock promising Rhino the "permission" to impale Spiderman's heart, George Stacy saying the F word in "Shear Strength", a funeral, and also violent fights. I've considered most of the fights in this show (especially the season 2 fights) a little bit violent for little kids.
So here's my question: Will Spectacular Spider-Man suffer from censors the same way some scenes of Gargoyles have? Were there any censored scenes in the show so far in Spectacular Spiderman on Disney? If yes, which scenes? Also, I heard the "Natural Selections" episode had censors. Is that true?
Thank you for answering my questions.
GARGOYLES wasn't censored in the traditional sense of the word when the shows first aired. Since then, I'm told, ToonDisney/Jetix/DisneyXD may have made some cuts. But I haven't watched their versions of the shows.
George Stacy never said the "F-word" unless you and I have VERY different ideas of which F the F-Word stands for. I don't think THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN is too violent for kids. Of course, I grew up on Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons.
You're sort of throwing the c-word (censorship) around willy-nilly. I'm not sure you really get what it means in a practical sense. But in any case, the 1st Season and half the second season have all aired on DisneyXD, and nothing has been cut from the versions we made.
And, no, nothing was censored out of "Natural Selections". Where did you hear that?
Got easily a hundred calls, texts, e-mails yesterday about the big Marvel/Disney news and a few about the Sony/Marvel/Spidey news, so here are a few random thoughts to go with what I posted yesterday...
1. SPEC SPIDEY: The main thing that's changed about the Spec Spidey situation is that Sony is now out of the loop/decision making process about whether or not there's a third season. Before Sony was waiting to see if Disney picked up the series. Then they'd decide on its economic feasibility for Sony. Now Sony isn't part of that equation, leaving the whole thing in Marvel and Disney's hands. Of course, now that Marvel and Disney are kinda one hand, so-to-speak, I don't know what that means for us. Other than the obvious, which is that I'm sure we're not exactly Disney/Marvel's highest priority at the moment. How and when this decision gets made is really up in the air, but a former negative does feel good -- now -- that our last six episodes won't start airing on Disney XD until late October. That means our last episode won't air until early December, which may be a better time for Disney/Marvel to focus on the show. (Or not.) Of course even a positive decision in December or (more likely) January means a HUGE gap between Seasons Two and Three, but I'd take that over no new episodes.
2. FLASHBACKS:I can't help but be reminded of events in the mid-nineties, when Michael Eisner (then CEO of Disney) wanted to buy Marvel, so that he'd have super-heroes to compete with Warner Bros' DC Universe heroes (including Superman and Batman). Back then, however, Marvel was, or so I was told, a corporate mess. And it wasn't just that -- as now -- various studios already had the rights to individual characters, but that the rights had been double sold all over the place, and that every character pretty much represented a lawsuit in the making if not already in the works. Eisner was advised NOT to buy Marvel, and of course he didn't. But he REALLY wanted to be competing in the boys action/super-hero market. That was when the Gargoyles Universe was raised as a possible alternative. We pointed out that the Marvel Universe began with the Fantastic Four, and that we could use Gargoyles as a springboard to more properties and to an entire Universe. We were encouraged by Michael to create spin-off properties, backdoor pilots, etc. And that was THE major impetus for us to work on things like New Olympians, Bad Guys, Pendragon and Dark Ages. (Gargoyles Future Tense -- which became Gargoyles 2198 and TimeDancer came later.) It was also a reason to be expansive with the World Tour and introduce more and more new characters, etc. Of course, by the time all this stuff was actually made, the world had changed again. Frank Wells died. Michael and Jeffry Katzenberg went to war, with Jeffry eventually leaving to found DreamWorks, and taking two of my immediate superiors, Gary Krisel and Bruce Cranston, with him. Rich Frank (another of my bosses up the chain) also left. Dean Valentine was placed in charge of Walt Disney Television Animation and he had no affinity for Gargoyles or its spin-offs. And Michael, who had initiated the whole thing, had way bigger concerns on his plate. I was more or less forced out. But for one bright, shining moment...
3. GARGOYLES: I'm sure a lot of people are wondering what this means for our favorite winged warriors, but in the short term, I'm sure the answer is "Not much." Gargoyles is pretty much under Disney's radar right now, and really doesn't exist on Marvel's radar at all, as far as I can tell. We'll be an extremely low priority. Our best bet is still SLG, which HOPEFULLY will be motivated by the sales of the Trades to want to make more content with me. Having read Dan "Mr. SLG" Vado's recent reaction to the Disney/Marvel merger, I'm hoping he isn't too discouraged by being in bed with his competition. But I have no doubt that the best way to get Dan fully on board is to make it worth his while by having those trades sell VERY well. So again, buy the trades and/or SPREAD THE WORD!!!!
Okay, in the period of just a few days, I have been rocked by two incredible pieces of news.
1. Last Thursday (8/27/09), Vic Cook and I were informed that in exchange for some concession vis-a-vis the live action Spider-Man features, Sony returned the television rights (including the animated television rights) for Spider-Man to Marvel. This took place the day before ComicCon, I'm told. But I was only informed of it this past week.
2. Today (8/31/09) comes the news that Disney has purchased Marvel outright.
NOW, before you ask -- before you post a thousand duplicate and/or overlapping questions to ASK GREG -- let me be clear: I have NO IDEA what this means for either Gargoyles or The Spectacular Spider-Man. Neither of these developments are by definition good news or bad news. Shocking news, sure. But how it will play out for either or both properties is a complete mystery to me. As soon as I have ANY information on either property, I will post it here at ASK GREG. Until then, don't ask. Seriously. Just don't. There's just no point in bogging down the queue with questions I have no answer to. Thank you for your cooperation.
Hi Greg!..iam a full supporter of your show....this show is by far the best spidey show ever...everytime i watch an episode i need more!! AMAZING JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Truly amazing! AMAZING !!!!!!
I have 3 Questions And A Request. :)
1) How much time does it take the crew to make one episode? and then a whole season ? i mean the final thing when every things (editing etc) finished,
2) If the confirmation for season 3 comes out (i hope it does!) ...how much time will it take for it to air? i heard season 2 came late because of the whole channel changing thing...now that every things set how much time will season 3 take ? i mean which month?
3)If ratings on all future seasons are good how many seasons would you plan to make ? (i hope more than 10 !!!lol)
And a Request
This show....has made me an addict to the extent that ive spent my holidays discussing episodes of Spectacular spiderman with my friends and not doing anything else lol....and i like it !!! this is the 1st show that im in love with ....i want you to promise your fans that other than the ratings you will do everything in your power to make this series a success and by success i mean doing more seasons! :)...Please please please please x 100000 Dont Stop making new seasons please.And i pray that this success will continue.:)
Eagerly waiting for your reply.
Long Live Spidey.!!! Long Live Spectacular Spiderman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
1. It takes between eight months and a year to produce a season of animation, with multiple steps going on simultaneously on multiple episodes, a bit like an assembly line.
2. No way to know at this point. We'd need the pick-up. I'd have to plan the season, then we'd get started. And even once we finished, they could choose to hold the episodes for a more auspicious launch time (at least to their minds).
3. Generally speaking, I'm shooting for 65 episodes and then hope to continue with Direct to DVDs. But I'll take more or less... basically whatever I can get.
As for your request, it's just really not up to me. If they offer me the opportunity, I will make more. But I have no control, I'm afraid.
1. You've often mentioned how you chose Tombstone as the new "Big Man of Crime" because the Kingpin was unavailable due to legal issues. What other characters besides Tombstone did you consider for this position? Also, is the phrase "Big Man" a title given out to whoever happens to be in control of New York's crime rings at the time and is passed on to their successor, (ie, like a king or queen) or is it an alias that is permanently attached to Tombstone? I've seen evidence to support both cases.
2. How exactly does Doc Ock get dressed in the morning? The part of his harness that lines up with his spine clearly goes on underneath his clothing but the ring around his waist goes overtop of everything else. Can the harness still open up in front or is that fused shut too? Just watching Ock go through his morning routine would probably clear most of this up, plus the notion of him using his tentacles to brush his teeth is just hilarious. (Just be glad I'm not asking how Rhino goes to the bathroom.) I also assume that for the duration of Season 2 he's had enough time to acquire or build a new power source for his harness that can last for years at a time?
3. You burned down the Big Sky Billiard lounge! I loved that place. Every comic book needs a place where the supervillains can go for some downtime and hang out. Please, I know you don't want to spoil anything you have planned for season 3 but at least give us a vague hint that we'll get to see a new "Bad Guy Bar."
4. Is Chameleon's white visage a mask that he wears with other masks going on top of it, or is that actually his face after being surgically altered to have any distinguishing features like a nose and ears removed? Typically one would expect a face-changer to remove as much of their original face as possible and then add on top of that as needed, (just look at Metal Gear Solid's Decoy Octopus, the guy shaved down his cheek bones and cut off part of his nose and ears.) Wearing two masks doesn't seem to be that effective since you're doubling the amount the disguise is lifted above your actual face.
5. Exactly how long has Norman been inhaling the gobulin green? I'd assume he'd either start as soon as he'd invented the stuff, shortly after he was nearly killed by a giant geriatric buzzard and wanted to make sure he didn't have to rely on Spidey the next time something similar happened, or shortly after his first dealings with Hammerhead when he started planning to overthrow the Big Man. By the way, what kind of guy develops an experimental highly dangerous performance enhancing drug and then brings it home to show his family and then just leaves some lying around where his son can start chugging the stuff without anyone noticing it's gone?
6. We didn't see much of Aunt May in Season 2, but with so many characters floating around this isn't too surprising. If May does play an important role in any season three episodes is she going to get a spot in the opening credits for that episode?
7. When comparing animated shows through the years there doesn't seem to be a large change in the style and tone from the 1960's through to the late 80's. All the animated shows had a simplistic plot and generally weren't mentally demanding. However sometime in the early/mid 90's we started seeing shows like Fox's Spider-man, Batman The Animated Series, Reboot and Gargoyles, all of which felt more sophisticated than earlier shows and had such features as real character development and story arcs that could last through a season. Somehow I have a hard time imagining an episode like "Lethal Force" being done on G.I. Joe. As someone who has been in the industry a while did you notice a change in attitude from networks or executives towards animation at around that time? When producing Gargoyles did you find that in general people were more willing to let you attempt making a show with more mature themes relative to what you had done before?
8. Should Spiderman not get a third season or become cancelled for certain after season three wraps up, how likely is it that production could continue on direct to DVD movies? Generally speaking is it easier to convince producers or whomever to greenlight a single movie length piece of work comparred to an entire season of an animated show?
1. No one really. Tombstone was pretty much my instant second choice to replace Kingpin. And as for the "Big Man" title, I've seen evidence to both sides too.
2. I'm mostly content to leave Ock's morning routine to your imagination. As for his power-pack, he has had time to find one that lasts a long time. But he still NEEDS the power-pack. The arms won't function without it.
3. Yes, eventually.
4. Again, I'll leave this to your interpretation.
5. As you indicated, he started immediately after surviving Vulture's attempts on his life. He did not like feeling that powerless.
7. I think Batman the Animated Series was a revelation to many of us, and gave us the courage and evidence of success that allowed us to at least attempt to match or better that great series. Simpsons helped too, as did Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Little Mermaid (the movie), and to a lesser extent The Great Mouse Detective. Animation seemed to be in something of a renaissance. But it shouldn't have been surprising. A generation of multi-discipline writers and artists who grew up on cartoons, comic books and genre fiction -- creative types who had learned to be discerning readers and viewers -- began to execute the kinds of shows they wanted to see. As for Gargoyles specifically, the miracle wasn't that people let me do what I wanted, but that they left me alone, which allowed me to do what I wanted. A subtle distinction, I know. But a significant one.
8. If we got cancelled or not picked up after Season Two is done airing, it would, I believe -- despite all evidence to the contrary and no matter how unfair that perception might be -- put the stink of failure on the series. Which would make it hard to get a greenlight on a DVD.