where the character driven industries meet

CE:  As the grandson of Stooge Moe Howard and son of writer, comic book artist, director, producer and pioneer of 3D comics Norman Albert Maurer, Jeffrey Scott comes from a family that has American movie and comic book history written all over it. As someone who was born with storytelling practically in his blood, was there ever any doubt in your mind, as to what you wanted to be when you grew up?

JS:  I knew as a kid that I was going to be in the creative arts.  I did some acting as a child, wrote a screenplay, inked comic books, created some gift items, and a piece of fine art (an American flag made of a 117 crisp new one dollar bills that’s hanging in the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library). But I didn’t focus on writing until my dad asked me to be his assistant story editor at Hanna-Barbera.  I thought “Learn to write and get paid $500 a week?  You bet!”  So I got a priceless apprenticeship from dad, learned how to write premises, outlines and scripts, and six months later I was given the “Super Friends” series to write and edit.


CE:  Pac-Man, Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, Spider Man, Dungeon's & Dragons... your list of animation writing credits would fill this entire page
(for a full list, please click here). After having worked on a such a wide variety of character-based properties, have you developed a Jeffrey Scott way of approaching new characters?

JS:  Yes, I have developed the “Jeffrey Scott” approach to writing characters.  But I’m afraid to say that no other writer in the world can use it.  You might say it’s patented...in my mind.  That’s because my secret is to “become” the character.  I first absorb all I can about the character and then I just write from the character’s point of view which is now mine.  So I love writing for Superman because while I’m doing it I’m the guy ripping holes through walls and grabbing the villain by the throat!

CE:  A few years ago you exec. produced and wrote "The Three Stooges Live-Stage Show", worked on "Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling" and you were recently a series developer on an upcoming major cartoon series, which is based on one of the biggest names in Hollywood. How do you develop characters that are modelled after well known public figures? Are there any special challenges in creating, developing and scripting characters that are based on real people?

JS:  I just do what I wrote above and become them.  It was especially easy for the Stooges.  Having grown up with Moe as my granddad and watching/hearing him for 23 years, it was easy to become his character.  And it didn’t hurt that I have his genes. 

Curly Moe Larry (Bob's pic B&W email version)

CE:  What do you look for in a property when considering new writing offers?

JS:  MONEY!!!!!!  Oh, and secondarily, I look for elements that will lead to good storytelling.  That’s the most important factor of any project: Do the characters, goals and world lend themselves to telling dozens and dozens of stories?

CE:  Thank you, Jeffrey Scott. If our readers don't already know Jeffrey's great book "How to Write for Animation", we recommend it highly.


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Character Topic

Can characters have universal appeal?

In Asia, Europe and North America character design styles can differ greatly. What appeals to one culture often doesn't to another. Is "appeal" tied to cultural backgrounds, or is global appeal possible? These are questions that recently sparked a debate in our Linkedin group "Characters".

One group member thought that because of the difference in design styles, universal appeal would be very difficult to achieve. According to him, any attempt to combine the design elements of differing styles could result in strange style hybrids. He also said that forcing such a process was like trying to make a ball fit into a square box.

Another member of "Characters" was not convinced that blending the cultures was the answer. He thought that making characters generic constituted something of a failure for character designers and writers alike. He said that characters needed to be well rooted in their own culture to be attractive to all other cultures.

Then, a group member shared an interesting personal observation. She had noticed that the characters children, she had worked in the US and Japan, found most appealing were characters that represented animals or inanimate objects.

She believed that stripping away the human form just left the character's personality. According to this group member, this made it easier for kids to determine whether or not they liked a character, while establishing a stronger bond in the process.

In response to the many different thoughts expressed during the discussion, one commentator said that one point had become obvious to him, "As characters are manifestations of stories, it therefore seems, judging by some of the great comments here, to be a question of universally appealing storytelling, as well as universally appealing design"

What do you think? Is universal character "appeal" possible? Why not join our discussion and add your thoughts here.


Another contributor wondered whether there already were some characters that have very wide appeal. He said, "I'm thinking specifically about manga characters, which seem to be able to work well in the US and Europe, as well as Asia".

He went on to ask, "... is there something about "Kawaii" characters that has intrinsic global appeal?".

Someone else thought that there was. He disagreed with the first point of view though and went on to say that a new, hybrid design style was beginning to emerge as a result of combining the sensitive, cute character type of the East with the more aggressive, cool characters of the West.

Cedric Hohnstadt is an award-winning illustrator specializing in toy design and character design. He's worked on hundreds of projects for end clients including Hasbro, Disney, Verizon, Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy, Target, and General Mills. Cedric has designed toy concepts for properties including Toy Story, Cars, Ben 10, How To Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, Little Einsteins, and Winnie the Pooh. Recently Cedric won a silver award in Toy Design from the Play Illustration 2011 International Art Competition.


Cedric is also active in the animation industry. He supervised the animation of Mr. Potato Head for the Hasbro website, designed costumes and props for VeggieTales, and was a character designer on the animated TV series "3-2-1 Penguins!" on NBC. Last year he produced, co-wrote and co-animated a short film about Christianity called "Are You A Good Person?" that has received over 300,000 views on YouTube.


In November Cedric will be hosting a session on freelancing at the 2011 CTN Animation Expo in Burbank, CA. The session "Be Your Own Boss: Freelancing Tips and Tricks" will be held at 4:30pm on Saturday, Nov. 19 in the Exec Ballroom.


You can view samples from Cedric's portfolio on his website. To get the latest updates on his work you can follow his blog or join his mailing list.

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