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How TV Animation Works


Writing the Script
In a live-action show, it would be prohibitively expensive to create all the robots, aliens and spaceships of "Futurama"
In a live-action show, it would be prohibitively expensive to create all the robots, aliens and spaceships of "Futurama"
Photo courtesy Fox Broadcasting Company

A new season of "King of the Hill" generally kicks off with the team of writers gathering to pitch story ideas. After a lot of collective brainstorming, the team narrows down the possibilities to a final list of stories. The producers then assign each story to specific writer or writing team.

After a writer has prepared a story outline, a few other writers will gather to discuss the story, identify any problems, and brainstorm new jokes.

Unlike writers for live action shows, writers for animated shows don't have to worry much about practical production issues. Dave Krinsky, Executive Producer for "King of the Hill" explains "because you don't have to worry about sets, you can have many locations, so you don't really have to worry too much about the reality of [physical production] when you're writing your scripts." Basically, if a writer can imagine in, it can go in an animated show.

Krinsky also enjoys animation because you can do things with the characters you wouldn't be able to successfully do with real actors. "We've found that there's a slight distance with animation you don't have with real actors," Krinsky explains. That distance allows them to get away with more, such as an early episode of 'King of the Hill' where Hank Hill was dealing with constipation. "With a cartoon, you can get away with a little more," Krinsky continues, "We can show a lot of naked butts, which, other than 'NYPD Blue,' a lot of shows can't get away with."

Krinsky doesn't see many disadvantages to writing for animation, but he acknowledges there are some tradeoffs. "There's a definite delayed gratification [to animation], whereas on live TV you get to hear the audience laughing, and you get the feedback right away." The lack of immediate audience response leads the writers and producers to rely on their own comedic instincts to guide them through the process, which necessitates many revisions along the way.