1 Why animation?
The first question has to be: why animation? Why do you want to animate as opposed to making a movie, a play, a comic, or even an obelisk? When we were starting out, the sadly late script editor Jim Campbell offered us some sage advice. We had sent him some animated comedy scenes, and he indicated that it would be possible to shoot many of them with live action at little expense. It was a good idea. Making animation takes time, and since it will keep you busy to the point of having to draw everything that exists in the world of your film, you could well take advantage of that situation. Don't just put talking heads - launch your characters into outer space, cut off their arms just to make them grow back, and give them a house as big as the moon. Ahead.
2 Ideas for sale
Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, was often asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" His usual response, it seems, was "from an Indiana mail order company." Unfortunately he never indicated the name of the company, so we have to look elsewhere. Read, watch movies and TV, take country walks, drive without the music on, chat with friends, use stumbleupon.com. Expose yourself as much as you can, and then see what comes up in your head. That is all it takes. Seriously.
3 The Ideas Room
So you have some ideas. So, is it time to start doing animation? No. It is the classic mistake we all make. You have an idea. You want to see it done as soon as possible, so you get to do it and you do it and then you sit in a corner wondering why it doesn't work. High or tall! First of all, take your idea to the ideas room. Anything is allowed there. Take your idea and think of all the possibilities it suggests. Having someone (such as a sibling) with whom to brainstorm helps. Don't be shy, don't criticize. That comes later. If you are concerned that a suggestion seems silly, you will soon end up thinking that all your ideas are silly and you will stop having ideas and coming up with them. You will end up whipping yourself with birch twigs again.
This is an article on animation, and not just coming up with ideas, so you will also need to buy some pencils and erasers. Last year my brother Greg and I developed an idea for an animated comedy. For three days we sat across from each other and made each other laugh. I jotted down names, story ideas, character descriptions, location details, while Greg scribbled over and over and over again until we got a huge pile of illustrations. Greg is always sketching and drawing. Often when we were looking for a character for one of our movies we would dig up his sketchbooks and flick through them looking for a character to appear between the pages. We always find the best one.
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