I'm often asked about my work in TV animation and I thought it would be fun to pull the curtain back a little and shine a light on the process; a process that always starts with a discussion of the story: sitting down or (since I'm usually three thousand miles away from most of the studios) getting on the phone with staffers to dissect the episode. That could mean a two hour call, bouncing ideas back and forth, shaping the basics of the tale, or it could mean starting with specific notes from the producers, explaining what they want to accomplish with the story, laying out the basic beats of the episode—which I'm then expected to flesh out into a very detailed outline.
The outline is the bedrock of the process and, in many ways, the most difficult part. It's where you fall through every hole in your story, bump into every flaw. Once you've got a solid outline in hand, writing the actual script is generally—for me, anyway—a relaxed, and enjoyable, experience. But outlines are where I sometimes tear out what little hair I have left.
What you'll find below—warts and all, I didn't comb it for typos or spelling glitches—is an outline I wrote, a few years back, for the late, lamented Legion of Super Heroes animated series, a first-rate show run by two first rate writer-producers: James Tucker and Michael Jelenic. As I recall, Michael gave me the basics of what they were looking for in the story, then I went off, banged my head against the wall for a few days, and wrote the outline. Give it a read and see what you think.
If you enjoy this let me know and, next week, I'll post the teleplay—if I can find a way to upload it with all the formatting intact. (Oh, and let's not forget that what you're about to read is ©copyright 2014 Warner Bros/DC Entertainment.)
LEGION OF SUPER HEROES
Note: This episode is narrated, in FIRST PERSON VO, by Timber Wolf.
END ACT ONE
“Now what?” Cham asks. “Now I do,” TW says (his head still pounding), “what I do best.” We HEAR the rising, frenetic DRUMBEAT as, in VO, Timber Wolf tells us how he’s sorting through every scent in the room...every trace of every person that was here that day. THROUGH HIS EYES we see TW begin to visualize the events of that day...GHOSTLY, MIST-LIKE FIGURES forming in his field of vision. WE HEAR, OVER THE DRUMBEAT, the sound of ECHOING VOICES: the scientists...Dr. Lando...and Timber Wolf himself on that fateful day.
The DRUMMING in TW’s head reaches a fever pitch now. “The scent...of the attacker,” he says, is voice an inhuman, animalistic growl. “It’s...my scent. My scent. I was here that day. I remember now.” Timber Wolf’s body grows, morphs—into something far more savage and inhuman than we’ve ever seen before: “It was me!” he rages. “I did it!”
END ACT TWO
—a magnetic wave sweeps through the Warrior-clones, blasting them back. Cosmic Boy flies in—followed by Future Superman, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy and Sun Boy. “He’ll never be alone,” Chameleon Boy says, “as long as he has us!” Phantom Girl lands at TW’s side. Timber Wolf turns on her, roaring, raging...but PG goes intangible. “You can do this, Brin! You’re in control, not him! You’re in control!”
—walking away from the others...standing alone by the viewport, staring down at the Earth below. In VO he says: “I’ve battled the beast...and I’ve won. But for how long?”