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Expert screenwriting tips by working screenwriters

Be Wary Writing Animation Screenplays

Was anyone not touched by WALL-E, Toy Story, The Lion King, Finding Nemo or any number of other animated movies?

Animated movies emote particularly well to readers and theater audiences. Many have also been incredibly successful at the box office: Toy Story 3 grossed over a billion dollars and over 25 animated tales have grossed over half a billion dollars.

It is easy to see why quite a number of non-pro screenwriters decide to pen an animated spec screenplay.

Finding Nemo

The reality: Animated spec screenplays are exceptionally difficult to sell

If animated tales are your passion then obviously go ahead and write one but be very aware that animation spec screenplays are exceptionally difficult to sell.


The primary reason is that animated movies are exclusively done in-house by Pixar, Disney et al - they have dedicated teams working on each project. They come up with the concept, storyline, characters, script, songs - everything.

Occasionally the studio outsources the script to a well established professional screenwriter, Shrek being a great example. However, the hired screenwriter always works hand-in-hand with the studio team - typically even being based at the studio whilst they write the script.

99.9% of animated movies involve a script written by the studio's own in-house writers.

Songs must be intricately interwoven into the screenplay

Another reason that animated movies are based on in-house written screenplays is that animated tales are almost always intricately interwoven with songs and their score - that's impossible to do via a spec. The writer needs to be closely involved with the song writing team and lead composer.

You're a budding screenwriter with hopefully plenty of potential, but are you a highly talented song writer and composer too?

That's why spec sales for animated screenplays is typically zero every year.

That's a shame but it's the reality of Hollywood.

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External links

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Wikipedia: List of highest-grossing animated film

John August: Are animated specs worth the time?