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What are the main elements of an animation script?

Animated videos are an increasingly popular medium and there is no better way of succinctly getting your message across or telling the world about your business. In a very short space of time they can grab someone’s attention and connect with them emotionally, in a way that is difficult to achieve with copy and static images.

An animation script, also known as an animated screenplay or storyboard, serves as the blueprint for creating an animated film or video. Creating a script is an essential part of the pre-production process as it informs the whole structure of the animation from the content to the messaging and tone of voice. It is a document that can be reviewed and approved before going into production, thereby cutting down on expensive changes later down the line. There is often pressure to dive straight into the animation process without creating a detailed script, but this is always a false economy as a well-written script is a major contributing factor towards creating a successful animation.

While the format of a script may vary depending on the project, and the specific needs of the production team, there are certain key elements of an animation script which are essential to delivering a great animation. 

Title and Summary

The title represents the name of the animation, and the summary is a brief one or two-sentence overview of the story. It usually encapsulates the main plot and the basics of what is going to happen.

Target Audience Details

It is good practice to note down who the target audience is and what is the main goal of the animation. That way everyone involved in the production process will have a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve.

Themes and Messages 

As well as the goal of the animation, the script should also outline the underlying themes and messages for the animation. Whether it is going to be instructional, educational, promotional or informative and what the key messages are that need to be communicated.

Timing Details

The proposed running time for the animation should be noted. The optimal length for most promotional videos is 90 seconds although longer films can be a solution in some cases. For certain animation styles, particularly in TV animation, the script may include timing notations to help indicate how long specific actions or scenes should take.

Introduction and Scene Setting

This section will introduce the main characters and the setting of the animation. There may also be some background information to give the production team a clear idea of the world in which the story takes place. It is a good idea to assign each scene a unique number for easy reference.

Plot Progression

Outline the main events that will occur in the animation. Each event should build upon the previous one, leading to a series of rising actions. This can be described in words or sketched out in illustrations of each scene.

Dialogue and Narration

If there is any dialogue or narration planned as part of the animation then this should be noted alongside the visuals for each scene. These words can be either spoken by a voiceover artist, presented as graphics on screen or both.

Transition Details

Transitions are used to indicate how one scene transitions into the next and are important elements of ensuring the overall animation flows correctly. Common transition types in animation scripts include “CUT TO:”, “FADE TO:” and “DISSOLVE TO:”

Sound and Music

Although not part of the script itself, sound and music can contribute immensely to the overall atmosphere of the animation. The script should provide an overview of the sort of soundtrack required and any notes on sound effects or music cues to give a sense of the audio elements.

Call to Action

If the animation is for a promotional or informational purpose it is important to end with a call to action that summarises the message of the animation. This can be spoken in words, highlighted with text on screen or both. At this point the company logo may also be displayed to reinforce brand awareness.

Notes and Director’s Instructions

The script may contain additional notes or instructions to guide the animators, directors, or other members of the production team on how to interpret the scene or specific animation requirements. In some animation scripts, specific shots or camera angles may be included to guide the animators on how to visualise certain scenes.

Remember, the style and format of an animation script can vary, so it’s essential to ensure that the script format aligns with the industry standards and the preferences of the production team. The ultimate goal is to provide a clear and detailed roadmap for the animation process and to ensure the vision of the project is effectively communicated to all involved. Finally, it is important to leave room for collaboration and creativity from the production team, as some aspects may evolve or improve during the animation process.

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