How TV Animation Works

Storyboards and Artwork

Homer has to always look the same, no matter who draws him.
Homer has to always look the same, no matter who draws him.
Photo courtesy Fox Broadcasting Company

The storyboard is the first step in adding art to the words in the script.

A storyboard is made up of pages of paper with space for the director to plan out how the episode will be animated. A typical storyboard consists of a boxed-in area containing a loose sketch of the action, with character lines and camera directions written under the image. "Even though storyboards look bland on paper, they really mean a lot," says Micka. "They're a backbone of the show."

For animation, a storyboard must be heavily detailed. "Storyboards provide a lot of information," Micka says. "They provide the different camera angles and shots, and most importantly, we get a sense of timing and character performance."

The director begins sketching ideas for the storyboard upon receiving the final record script, and starts drawing the final boards when he receives the soundtrack.

Once the producers approve the rough storyboard, the lead animators can begin creating the key drawings for the episodes. These artists don't fully animate the action, but instead draw the significant moments of every shot in a scene, as well as all the necessary backgrounds (interior rooms, street scenes, etc.) for the episode.

In order to maintain a consistent look for each character, the animators refer to character model sheets -- collections of drawings showing how each character should look. The character model sheets illustrate each character's body proportions, specify each character's size relative to other characters and show each character in a variety of poses, from multiple angles. This is a crucial tool for making animated characters function like real actors. Without this guide, one animator might draw a character differently from another animator, and the character would seem to change size and appearance throughout the show.