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Same Old 'Toon

February 06, 1994

Regarding "Prime Time's New Man About 'Toon," by Daniel Cerone (Jan. 23):

I wish the creators a lot of luck with "The Critic," because I am in the business and a successful prime-time cartoon program would help our entire industry. But I'm afraid this is another case of "here we go again."

First, why is "The Critic" being done in animation at all? The humor, as described in the article, is all of the static, verbal, sitcom, "blah-blah-blah . . . ha-ha-ha!" variety. I'm sure there will be lots of funny lines of dialogue from people who worked on "Murphy Brown" and "Seinfeld." But the fact network pundits always ignore is that animation is a visual medium. It requires a whole different kind of thinking.

"The Simpsons" was a true cartoon concept, created by Matt Groening, a cartoonist. It had already been produced on film before the networks got their hands on it. And the show is blessed with a brilliant supervising writer named Sam Simon, a cartoonist himself, who had considerable background in writing animation before becoming a live-action sitcom writer. Which leads me to my second, but most significant, reservation about "The Critic": the writing.

Every time somebody decides to do animation in prime time, I see the same tired quote: "To keep the writing sharp, (we) carefully selected a stable of writers with experience in sophisticated comedy--not screwball animation." The main reason shows like "Fish Police" and "Capital Critters" and all the other flops did not work is because of the same false assumption--that people familiar with the medium of animation should be the last people on Earth to write animation.

I suppose this sounds like sour grapes, coming from a guy who has 28 years of writing experience in the animation field. But like Rodney Dangerfield, cartoon writers get no respect. My dear former partner, Bill Dance, said it well: "Being a good cartoon writer is like being the best-dressed man in Bulgaria." My suit is still hanging in the closet.


Van Nuys

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