• Joseph Morganti

Rules to Follow When Writing an Animated Script

Animation continues to be a staple of cinema and television, with countless animated films and TV series made yearly. Thus, many aspiring screenwriters are interested in writing an animated script. As a result, there are a lot of questions about an animated script and if there are any differences from a traditional live-action script.


Nevertheless, below will highlight everything you’ll need to know about animated scripts, ranging from animation questions to the specifics of the script. By the end, you should know better what to do with an animated script and where to begin.

Still from 'Toy Story'. Photo credit: The Guardian


Do You Know to Animate?


Generally speaking, animated scripts come from within an animation studio. Thus, most animated scripts are developed by someone who knows how to animate (or at least the basics of it) and is a part of the studio behind the script. It’s much more challenging for someone to sell an animated script without an animation studio behind them or knowledge of animation.


Therefore, before you start to seek a lifelong career as a writer in animation, consider turning into an animator yourself. That is the least demanding and most direct way into animation writing. You can either go to school for animation or look for online resources to begin your journey into the world. If you don’t plan on knowing how to animate, understand the challenge of selling an animation script without being an animator.


Screenplay Formatting


First and foremost, understand the basics of screenplay formatting before diving into screenwriting. There aren’t many differences between an animation script versus a live-action script. Hence, you need to know the rules of screenwriting, no matter what specific niche or genre you dive into.


As long as you got the rules and screenplay format down, you can begin writing any story you want script-wise. For whatever reason, people worry that there’s something extravagant about an animated script. Try not to worry and learn how to write the best script you can write.


Core Elements


● Scene Heading

● Scene Description

● Character Names for Dialogue

● Dialogue


Enhanced Character Description


No matter what the script is, character descriptions are imperative for painting the picture of a character to the person reading the script. With animation, search out chances to add a bit of visual energy connected more to animation than a live-action film.


Examples can include exaggerated physical appearances, vibrant colors, the specific look of a made-up creature, etc. Get creative with it and see how other successful animated scripts handle their character descriptions. It’s best to find a script that’s similar to your story or style.


Endless Scene Description Options


Similar to enhanced character descriptions, the same can be said about scene descriptions. The possibilities are truly endless with animation, meaning a studio executive won’t wonder how you can get a particular shot. Remember that it’s possible to animate anything, so be as creative as possible.


Investigate and make energetic universes. Put your characters through bands and obstacles that the real world wouldn't permit. Make universes that shout for movement and invigorate animators. Develop a world that needs to come to life through the lens of animation.


Improbable Props


Similar to the general rule of endless scene description options, this can be said with any props or vehicles in an animated script. For example, a live-action script would refer to a car with nothing more than its color or make. You can take that to a higher level with an extra line or two of depiction to catch an improved visual.


What to Keep in Mind


As great as knowing about some fundamental components of an animated script, there are plenty of other points to be aware of with the script. These points include your target audience, reading other scripts, and exploring common themes in animated stories. Let’s take a look at what this means.


Know Your Target Audience


Having your target audience in mind is incredibly useful with any script, especially with an animated script. The target audience can refer to any demographic, and with animation, it mostly signals around age. Is your script rated R, PG-13, PG, or G? These are questions you’ll need to ask and answer before beginning your script.


Read Other Animated Scripts


Other work is there for us to appreciate and analyze. Do whatever you can to read other animated scripts and see what you can take from each of the respective scripts. Even if the script or film isn’t great, there is another side to knowing what you shouldn’t do with the script.


Explore Themes


No matter how great your story is, every story, especially in animation, has a running theme or central motif to it. Common examples include love, humanity vs. technology, sacrifice, good vs. evil, redemption, transformation, and so many others. Take a look through, see what can fit your story, and help juice it up.