Continuing on the subject of my interaction with writers on various projects over the years: For the first half of my career (1983 to 2006) I had a lot of leeway with the writing, especially early on, working at DIC Entertainment on such shows as “Rainbow Brite”, “Alf”, “Alftails”; at Kirshner-Locke on “Spiral Zone”, Warner Bros on “Batman”, Disney TV on “Gargoyles”, and, as a director, on “Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys”. The general rule of thumb was, don’t mess with the dialogue but do whatever you need to make the action work or the humor to pay off (sometimes we would even suggest dialogue changes). On my first pro gig, (1983) storyboarding at Ruby-Spears on “The Puppy’s New Adventures” and “Rubic’s Cube”, (and a couple months later, free-lancing at Hanna Barbera on “The Dukes of Hazzard”, “Richie Rich” and “The Little Rascals”) the script was sacred. I was trained to cut and paste the script, staging directions and all, onto the storyboard and draw to that. Plussing the action was frowned upon.
A year later (1984, after an eight month layoff where I was unable to find work), I was doing my first freelance assignment for DIC Enterprises, on “Rainbow Brite”. My director was Bernard Deyriés. When I was handing in the first half of the storyboard, he asked if I wanted to do my own changes. “Yes”, was my terse reply; inside I was practically doing cartwheels. The previous year, starting out at R&S and H&B the only training I’d gotten was admonishments not to jump cut or flop screen directions. I felt like I was working blind; finally I would get some real feedback.
I sat and looked over Bernard’s shoulder as he proceed, working rapidly and easily, to sketch changes to 2/3s of my storyboard, mostly to go off script to heighten the drama or play out the humor. Early in this process, I defensively interjected that I had been following the script, to which Bernard jovially rejoined, “But is this not bet-air?” (Bernard was French).
Of course it was fucking “bet-air”. It was great, it was awesome, and it totally messed with my head as I went home to draw his massive quantity of changes.
Then I had to complete the remainder of the assignment. It occurred to me, almost like a religious epiphany, that I could “make it real”: I could take this lame-ass script (actually “Rainbow Brite” was written by Howard Cohen, a nice guy and an excellent writer with a droll, subversive sense of humor) and pretend I was making a real movie. It was a life changing experience; it makes me teary eyed to remember it. When I handed in the rest of the board, Bernard only called changes on a third of it; on the next freelance board he only changed a quarter, then he put me on staff. I will be forever grateful to this man for taking me under his wing and mentoring me at this formative stage of my career.
This is page #10 from Dark Horse Comics #15, “The Mark: What Goes Around”, written by Mike Barr, drawn by Brad Rader, published in December, 1993.