I would love to meet the people who create and write for cartoons like Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time or Disney’s Gravity Falls because their imaginations are truly limitless. I can only imagine how writing for shows like these is completely different from any other job out there.
Why? Because if you’ve ever seen either of these shows, you know that there are very few rules that they have to follow. Aside from maintaining consistent character development and overall themes, these shows and their creator’s are not bound my any worldly limitations. Cartoon writers have never had to keep physics in mind, or whether or not something is “possible” in a set of given circumstances. They can make it work no matter what crazy situations their characters are in, as long as they tell a story–that means a beginning, middle, and end.
Take Adventure Time. It’s about a boy and his magical dog in a post-apocalyptic Earth setting known as the Land of Ooo, and nothing like the Earth we know now. There are candy people, other lands and Kingdoms, tribes of empathetic barbarians–there is no end to what may show up in an episode of this show, the world is just that vast. Now, why, you ask, would it be so fun to write for this show? Because I’m willing to bet that in their writer’s room, people just shout out the most ridiculous things and they are taken as valuable suggestions. How can anyone turn an idea down for a show that has a peppermint butler that wants to eat people’s skin, or a mountain that is horribly upset by violence? In addition to flexing excellent story-construction skills, these writers create stories around the most absurd of ideas and are taken 100% seriously, and that is totally awesome.
It’s the same sort of thing with Gravity Falls, which is set is small town that two children are visiting for the summer to spend time with their extremely cheap uncle. They stay in a “Mystery Shack” where crazy, otherworldly things happen all the time. For example, a copier that creates a clone of whatever it scans, or time travelers that are trying to clean up paradoxes that they create by trying to clean them up in the first place. It’s another example of ridiculous ideas, though in this instanced grounded in some sort of recognizable reality, being brought together with great story structure and character development to produce something genuinely entertaining.
The mindset to write these kinds of shows must be one of true limitlessness. When there is almost nothing off-limits, when nearly anything can be done, it feels like there is almost too much to comprehend, to even consider. I am amazed at what these show’s writers come up with, and I wonder if I would be able to do the same. Or would my inner critic be so loud and snarky that I would never come up with anything at all?
They say ideas are the easiest part of writing. I am inclined to agree, because everyone can have ideas, it’s what you do with them that counts. But when you have to produce extraordinary amounts of work week after week, ideas can become a struggle, and that’s when shows like this amaze me the most. They can stay fresh, original, and epic, and I’d imagine that’s no easy task.
I sometimes wish I could unhinge my imagination like they do, just think of something ridiculous, like waiting in line to talk to the leader of a dark world for upwards of days, even weeks, and make it not boring. Or win a pig 50+ times in a weight-guessing contest; to be able to pick the strangest things and fit them together with fun characters and meaningful stories. Then again, isn’t that what all writing is anyway?
I think that’s why I love watching these children’s cartoons so much, even as a 23-year-old. They remind me why I love writing, why I love stories, and what I want my stories to do for others.