I posted last week about Production Bibles, the most important document made during the creation of a cartoon. I've only seen two production bibles, for the Batman and Transformers series, but there's enough there to get an idea of what most production bibles will contain. With that information as a template, I set about creating the various cartoons that inhabit the world of Old School Evil.
There are five main topics covered in a production bible. The introduction - the main story of the cartoon, as concise as possible, no more than a paragraph or two. It covers any relevant backstory, characters, and settings. Think of it as the elevator pitch of the cartoon.
Next you have the general series concepts. This is any background info you need for the writing team. Transformers didn't have much in this section, but the Batman: TAS had a few pages devoted to this and was split into three different parts: Writing Style and Structure, 3-Act Structures, and Humor Guidelines. The structures are the most interesting part, guiding writers to take advantage of the animation medium and to keep the viewers interested with big cliffhangers.
Third, you've got the characters. This is a huge portion of the bible, describing each character in detail. Both bibles also include character models to be used in the final animation, sometimes using action poses and faces for different emotions. Every character that has any recurring role is listed here and any pertinent information about them is spilled out. I mean, the reporter in Batman had her own pages! Interestingly, this is the one part that may have the biggest deviation with the final cartoon.
Fourth, and I'm not sure if this is as common as the other areas, you have the settings for the characters. The Bat Cave, for example. It treats their bases as another character, describing what kind of facilities they have. As such, there's also big deviations here, as the Decepticon base had the space bridge inside, instead of the different locations it appeared at in the cartoon.
Lastly, you've got episode premises. These might be listed as the specific episodes planned for the series or just ideas for the writers to expand upon.
When I created the villains of the Old School Evil world, I used the production bibles to expand from a basic idea to a cartoon complete with episode list and toy ideas. It equaled a virtual ton of supplemental information that gives my characters a fully fleshed-out backstory. In the end, I ended up with 13 distinct cartoons, each with their own characters, storylines, and settings (well two of them are connected and share some details). My favorite part of the is they fit perfectly in with the cartoons that existed in the 80s, with their totally out-there origins and nonsense characters.
But beyond just creating extra characters I could use in my book, it got me thinking of actual toy lines; how the figures would look, what articulation they'd have - all of it to fit within the toy aesthetic of the 80s era. And that's something I certainly want to toy around with in the future.
Come back next week to check out the first production bible I created; the Hurricanines!