Cartoon Storyboards – where do ideas come from?

By Ray Cowell.

I see that getting ideas for cartoons is the biggest problem with most amateur animators. I find that I usually have an abundance of ideas but finishing them off and bringing them into being is my biggest let-down.

I find that one way of getting ideas for scripts is to use the “1 wonder what would happen if ….?“ idea. By doing this you ask yourself a question and then try to think up something that can be twisted around to give you some funny situations whereby you can work in some funny gags.

For instance, I wonder what would happen if … if Superman should decide to go on strike! Think about it for a little while. He certainly has enough to go on strike about hasn’t he? For a start he could ask for his own changing room. He must be sick and tired of having to change in phone booths all the time. What about having to fly around in all kinds of weather and him being made out of steel and all. Why he might rust!

He is on call for twenty four hours a day and he doesn’t receive a penny in pay. Surely he should be getting at least time and a half.

You see from a small beginning ideas begin to flow. The hardest thing I find is getting started on an idea but if you try my idea then things come easier to you.

Another idea is to send up some of the shows that one sees on TV and Lord knows, some of them are that terrible that sending them up becomes very easy.

Take the show called “Buck Rogers in the Twenty fifth century”, an out of space epic set in the future. The hero is found frozen in space for five centuries end brought back to the earth of the future.

Again if you would let your imagination roam some silly situations present themselves. Can you imagine when Buck awakes and is told he is over 500 years old he might get up quickly and head for the door.

“Where are you going?” someone would ask. “To get my old age pension,” he would reply. “I would have a fair bit of back money to collect.”

What about when he tries to romance Wilma the heroine of the series. “No thanks I already have a date, besides which you are far too old for me. After all there is about four hundred and seventy years age difference.”

Buck: “Who is beating my time with you?”
Wilma; “Twiggy.”
Buck: “But he is a robot.”
Wilma: “Yes, but he is more virile than you. After all he is only thirty years old, and if his parts wear out they can be replaced.”

What about sending up a song? Everyone knows Tom Jones version of “The Green Green Grass of Home”. What about sending it up like this:
THE OLD TOWN LOOKS THE SAME, Long shot of town that keeps going in and out of focus. Shot of man with red blood shot eyes (he is drunk).
AS I STEP DOWN FROM THE TRAIN, Shot of man about to step down from train. He misses his footing and falls heavily to earth with a loud thud.
His parents move into frame to help him.
Shot of an ugly woman smiling at the man. Man does a take.
AND MY FATHER, Shot of man’s father. He is a real
ugly Hill-Billy type and he is even uglier than the mother. Man does a more pronounced take.

Man with hand over his eyes. Shot of laneway.
Shot of a cow running down the street.
Tail end of cow.
Shot of cow dung.
Shot of man smiling.
Shot of rich green countryside.

Surely there are other songs that can be parodied. Have a little think and see what you can come up with yourself.

What about giving an old fairy tale a twist or two. “Snow white and the Seven Wharfies” (Wharfies is an Australian term for people who work on the wharfs as Warf labours).

What about a version of Snow White with an all negro cast.

What about a version of Cinderella where the heroine might be called “Cinders” because she burns everything to cinders. Her stepmothers house, her sisters clothing, everything. The handsome Prince could be called ‘Wednesday’ end Cinders could accidentally set him on fire. He would then be known as ‘Ash Wednesday’. Or is that too sick an idea?

What about changing times, bringing the past up to the present? This has already been done with the Fred Flintstone cartoons. It can be varied to suit other times and places.

What sport do you play? Is there anything about the game that you play that could be sent up? Surely there is. I do a little Judo and Karate, so how about sending them up?

What about an instructor saying to a student who is holding a bleeding arm in his hand, “That was just fine Jones but a little less enthusiasm next time O.K.
Or one of the black belt students running himself through with a sword while one of the students is saying to him, “Oh, come on. You have to lose a contest sometime.

Two students walking off the judo mat. Around the walls are mounted heads of past students. The student is saying, “Just remember one thing son, never back chat the instructor.”

O.K. I have given you a few ideas so let’s get the pencils out and get busy and see what you can come up with yourself. I don’t want anyone to say that they haven’t any ideas for a cartoon.

Printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 9 (Summer 1984)