This opening paragraph from "Behind the Scenes of Studio Development" got my tiny brain to spinning:
While the writers strike has put a temporary damper on animated feature development, studios are positioned to resume their quest for narrative gold as soon as the issues are resolved and Hollywood gets back to work.
Say what? Shouldn't animated feature development go merrily on? Since board artists and most feature animation writers work under IATSE contracts, not WGA agreements?
As a Wise Old Animation Producer recently told me:
"Listen, you can't get a studio exec to greenlight an animated feature unless he or she sees a script. Storyboards are beyond them. They don't like to look at them, don't understand them. It's not like the way Disney used to do it, not anymore.
"And the only scripts that execs now want to see are ones from established writers with lawyers and agents and a long list of credits. And that means WGA writers."
Of course, all those "established writers" are currently on strike in the "pencil down" position, and the WGA is leaning on them to not submit material to producers. (Technically, any writer is free to write animation, and several do. But newer, submitted material? There's not much...)
Script-driven animated features have been with us since the late eighties, when Disney -- at the time the major feature animation studio in town -- moved away from its traditional boarding first, scripting-later approach. Today, animated features follow the general trajectory of their live-action cousins: script, then boards, then full production. Trouble is, live action isn't animation. As a feature director with a long track record in story development said to me:
"I've worked with good animation writers who get it, who come up with good stuff and really collaborate with storyboard artists. But I've also worked with bad writers. You have to tear up their script pages and start over to end up with something decent. Usually you have to fight them every step of the way, then they come in and copy down the dialogue under your drawings and put it in their revised draft."
In my time, a seasoned pro like Vance Gerry would visualize a feature prior to scripting, get all the major story beats down, develop the characters. But those quaint days under Walt and Woolie are gone forever. Now the word processing comes first.