ON WRITING ANIMAL CHARACTERS - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A guy I did a screenplay evaluation for is now working with a producer on his utterly charming dog movie. Good on ya, Adrian.

Where I think a lot of animal movies fail is in not making the animal characters distinctive enough. It's not enough to make your dog character doggish. He has to be a very specific dog. Just because you're writing a dog doesn't let you off the hook for creating a distinct character. Is he an excitable dog? A stupid dog? A lazy dog? Does he like other dogs or is he wary of them?

What you do next depends on whether you're voicing the animals or not. If you're not, just be careful to make the animal convincing as an animal. Stanley Ipkiss's Jack Russell terrier, Max, in The Mask, is a very believable Jack Russell. They do jump and bounce around. They are fiercely loyal, and utterly brave.

If you're voicing the animals, then they should be real characters. They should have real personalities. When you read their dialog, it should sound like dialog from a specific person. If you read Winnie-the-Pooh, you'll notice that Eeyore isn't just a mope -- he's a mope with a very specific voice. You can't help feeling that A. A. Milne had a mopey friend of his in mind whenever he wrote Eeyore.

If you're going to treat the animals as people, then you have to write them as specifically as you write people.

2 Comments:

For a great example of animal characters that are clearly animal and yet easy to identify with, read "Watership Down" by Richard Adams.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:36 PM  

To see some great portrayals of animals, especially equines, read "Led By The Grey" by Peter De Cosemo.

http://www.ledbythegrey.com

By Blogger Roger Viggers, at 9:02 AM  

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