The Kid, the Kat and the Creator: Part 3

      20 Comments on The Kid, the Kat and the Creator: Part 3

Here we are!

The third and final installment with Kid vs Kat creator Rob ‘Boots’ Boutilier. You can find Part 1 of the interview here and Part 2 of the interview here.

You can find the intro post where I discuss my role storyboarding on the show here.

Rob continues his discussion about storyboarding, but now from the role of being a director. You get to hear it from ‘the other side’, so this is valuable stuff.

Then a little about what to do with your own brilliant ideas.

Read, learn and enjoy.

Take it away, Rob.

11. Looking from the other side of the desk as a director, what would you say are the 3 most important skills a storyboard artist can have to make *your* job easier?

Number one is an understanding of story structure.

Scenes are not just thrown randomly throughout a script – they’re placed in a particular order to move the characters and action forward (or backward in some cases).

The more understanding you have of how and why the pieces are put together, the better storyboard artist you’ll become. (Although it can be a dry read at times and is geared much more toward writers, I would suggest getting a copy of Robert McKee’s “Story”. Or attend one of his lectures if you have the money or time to do so.)

Number two is clarity of expression.

I don’t mean expression on a character’s face, but expression of scene.

Once you figure out what the intent of the scene is, ask yourself “what’s the simplest, clearest way to express this?” Your composition, camera angles and cutting should all be an answer to that question.

You want to keep things interesting visually, but don’t get caught up with fancy angles and camera work that do nothing but confuse the intent of the scene!

Number three is learn to improvise.

I’ve said above that there’s a reason why scenes are placed in a particular order, but that doesn’t always mean they’re in the best order.

Sometimes the intent of the scene can be played more effectively by moving things around, deleting or adding to it. This is something that comes from experience, but I’ve also seen rookies that just have a natural feel for what can work better.

The gag provided by the writer is not necessarily the best gag, so if you can think of something funnier then don’t hold it back.

Also, get a feel for writing dialogue in character – sometimes the best line in a show will come from a board artist, not a writer. (Always, always, ALWAYS talk to your director before doing any of this!)

(Editor’s note: Yes! Don’t go changing dialogue without permission. It could backfire on you if they have no intention of re-recording anything.)

Click image to enlarge

12. What is your biggest frustration/pet peeve with storyboard artists during production?

I just don’t have time for people who ‘crap out’ a storyboard with little thought, just to grab a paycheque… and there’s plenty of them out there.

I expect people to care about the project as much as I do. If you are wasting my time by overloading the revision department with problems that could have been solved if you gave a damn, you won’t last very long on the crew.

Bad time management is always a frustration too – it can cause a normally dependent board artist to cut too many corners in an attempt to make the deadline.

Remember that the consequence of lazy storyboarding is that other people will ultimately end up fixing your mistakes and THOSE MISTAKES WILL BE REMEMBERED by the directors you work with!

(Editor’s note: Insert warning music: “Dun, dun, duuuuuunnn!”)

13. For folks out there with their own show ideas, what do you think the reality is of getting a studio on board with your concept and it actually getting made?

Let’s be honest: the odds are against you.

But that should never stop anyone from pitching.

I had the same odds against me, but I still managed to get a series on the air. Sometimes it’s just about timing – an idea presented and rejected one year could be the toast of the networks several years later.

You need a solid concept, but you also need a stroke of good luck in finding that one person who’ll be as excited about the idea as you are.

Think about how many studios rejected George Lucas’ script for ‘Star Wars’ before he found the one guy who was willing to take a chance on it.

Studio B has a great internal pitch mechanism with the ‘BHive’.

It’s pretty rare for a studio to be willing to spend its own cash to take a chance on untested talent. But if they feel the idea is worth it, they’ll throw their support behind you.

If it’s available, you’d be foolish to not take advantage of opportunities like that and learn from the experienced people behind it.

Click image to enlarge.

14. What would be your biggest piece of advice for would-be creators? Your biggest warning?

Everything I mentioned before about clarity of expression should apply to pitches as well.

Kid vs Kat was a simple pitch with a clear conflict, and all the characters were there to either support Coop or work against him. There wasn’t any fat to weigh the pitch down or make it confusing.

The networks noticed that and appreciated it.

Do not go into a pitch believing that you have the greatest idea in the world, because the odds are you don’t.

Be willing to accept, or at least consider the advice of the people that you’re pitching to. Their suggestion of changing a design or adding a character is not an arbitrary one. It’s based on their experience in the industry and what audiences react to.

Remember, there’s a reason they’ve been running a studio or network for years and you haven’t.

That doesn’t mean you should roll over and change everything until your pitch no longer resembles your original vision, however.

Be passionate about your project and you just might find that passion will spread to the people you’re speaking to.

Great advice Rob.

I would just like to thank Rob for his time and generosity in making my first interview on the blog an awesome one!

And to you guys, for allowing me to be the lazy ass that I am and drag this out over four posts.: )


Read the Storyboard Blog by RSS Feed or by email to see how I break out of my lazy-ass-ness.

20 thoughts on “The Kid, the Kat and the Creator: Part 3

  1. Elizabeth

    Hi again! I wanted to thank you for the interview with the creator of what is shaping up to be my new fave cartoon. It’s fascinating to get a peek behind the scenes of cartoon production. Sounds like a tough, but fun business.Guess ya gotta be a tough, but fun, person to succeed in it, huh?

    You know, I’ve been thinking about Kat – about why he’s here on Earth in the first place. Maybe it’s like this: you’ve heard about those horrible people who drop their unwanted pets off in unfamiliar surroundings and then drive away? Well, maybe Kat’s alien owners dropped HIM off on an unfamiliar planet and zoomed off, deserting him. Maybe that’s why he’s in a bad mood all of the time. And maybe the reason he got so mad when Coop accidentally destroyed his collar is because it was his only hope that his owners might change their minds and try to track him down and reclaim him. That would give his predicament a little poignancy, no?

    Or maybe he’s just an evil alien lifeform bent on worldwide annihilation. Take your pick. πŸ™‚

  2. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Elizabeth – Yes, it can be a tough business (“business” being the important word here!). It has it’s ups and downs like any other.

    But we ARE making cartoons, so it could be worse.

    Nice theory you have there (Boots you reading this?). I can’t say one way or the other (because I honestly don’t know), but knowing Rob, it just *might* be the latter one. πŸ˜‰

    @ Dan – You’re welcome. And thanks! πŸ™‚

  3. Boots

    I think Elizabeth’s theory is one of the best I’ve heard, but I can neither confirm or deny that she’s correct.

    As the season progresses, there’ll be hints at what Kat’s “mission” may be. It won’t spell it out completely, but a viewer paying attention should be able to piece some of it together. Stay tuned!

  4. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Boots – Way to keep up the mystery. πŸ™‚

    Elizabeth’s was a great theory! I’d be on board with that one.

    Public Service Announcement: Don’t EVER abandon your pets people. It’s horrible and cruel and makes me sick to my stomach.

    And adopt pets from animal shelters, not from pet stores!

    And get them spayed and neutered too!!

    (aren’t I all preachy-preachy today?) πŸ™‚

    @ Angela – So glad you enjoyed it and you are more than welcome!

  5. ScreenwritingforHollywood

    I love your site Karen. It is chalk full of so much good information, sharp form, and style.

    “Do not go into a pitch believing that you have the greatest idea in the world, because the odds are you don’t.”
    This is funny. People either fail because they are too insecure or erroneously sure of themselves. It’s so hard to judge one’s own work. Humbly confident is the best way to go about it.

  6. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Thanks Jaden (and right back at you). πŸ™‚

    Very true. And this can certainly apply to pitching a script as well. Or pitching anything!

    “Humbly confident is the best way to go about it. ”

    You got it. (Just watch one of those ‘American Idol’ type shows for proof too!) πŸ˜‰

  7. t.sterling

    For once I had time to sit down and read this and the last post (part 2). Very insightful, encoruaging and honest inside look and it’s much appreciated.

    And the cartoon was pretty good. I liked it. I like the way style it was animated, it had a kinda fluid-like feel. I don’t know how to explain it. I also loved some of the site gags going on, like the transition from night to day (the sun knocking out the moon), and the perfect hole in Coop’s hair from the baseball. It’s the little things I love and notice.

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but Kat reminds me of Stitch, from Lilo n Stitch. And I mean that in a good way because I love Stitch. I think it’s the eyes, weird spots and color, cute in a freakish kind of way, and oh yeah, they are aliens.

    I don’t have that new Disney channel… I don’t think… but if a season pass isn’t too expensive on iTunes, maybe I’ll continue my Kid vs Kat adventures there.

  8. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ T – That’s great you liked the show! I’m sure Rob will be pleased.

    You’re right about the Stitch thing! There are some similarities. I’m just not sure if that will please or bug Rob! πŸ˜€

    (I think you’re right…it’s those eyes.)

    That’s awesome if you keep watching.

  9. Elizabeth

    Heya! Been thinking again about Kat. If he WAS dumped on Earth by his alien owners, maybe it happened like this: Kat’s alien family contained two kids – a boy and a girl…and the kids, apart from their alien features, bore a strong resemblance to Coop and Millie. And maybe the alien Coop (unlike the earthly Coop) was a real jerk who didn’t like Kat because his sister *did*. So, after being foiled by Kat again and again from pranking his sister, the alien Coop dumped Kat on Earth. That’s why Kat hates our poor ol’ Earth-Coop on sight – he brings back too many painful memories – and why he tolerates Millie – she brings back good ones.

    BTW, I’ve watched the first ep about 5 times (have it on Tivo). I really love it. and I like the zombie episode too. I wish Disney XD had all the episodes up on its site – it’s so hard to wait for new ones! Keep up the good work, Ms. K!

  10. Elizabeth

    Hi! I just saw the “Trespassers Will Be Persecuted” and “Oh Me Oh Me-ow” episodes, and I just had to intrude here yet again and tell you how much I enjoyed them. There were wonderful comic touches throughout, especially in “Trespassers” – the way Dad kept getting glue on himself was hilarious. And I really couldn’t blame Old Lady Munson for getting really ticked at Coop – it really did look like he was deliberately sabotaging her backyard. It’s nice when a character’s actions make sense, instead of seeming forced, or when they arise just because the character is supposed to be eeeeeevilll. πŸ˜€ She’s just a lonely old lady who wants to be left alone with her dog and lawn gnomes. Strange, but not evil. And Kat was soooooooooooo cool in this ep! The way he fired lawn gnomes at Coop was unexpected and so funny! And when Coop substituted the dummy for Munson to yell at while he ran like heck was funny too. This was a great ep.

    As for “Me-ow” – man whoever wrote that HAS to own a kat, er, I mean, cat. Cats DO sleep anywhere and everywhere and are often underfoot. And it was neat when Kat learned how to get what he wants from a VERY familiar catfood commercial. This episode had a very authentic ring to it, which grounded the situation in reality. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched a cartoon and found myself rolling my eyes. Yeah, it’s a cartoon and it’s fantasy blah blah blah but that’s no excuse for the plot not to make sense. That kind of thing just ruins it and spoils whatever jokes are there IMO.

    Anyway, another great show. Can’t wait for the next one!

  11. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hey Elizabeth! I’m enjoying your KvK reviews. πŸ™‚

    And really, all the credit goes to Rob & the writers and everyone else at Studio B. Keep in mind, I only boarded 5 of the 26 episodes.

    If my calculations are correct, the next episode should have “Do Not Fort Sake Me” which is one of mine, so keep a look out!

    I’m glad you’re so into it and are enjoying the shows. That will be music to Rob’s ears (eyes?). It’s helps us jaded animation folks remember why we do this stuff. πŸ™‚

  12. chris kawagiwa

    I finally caught up and was able to soak up the insights and inspiration from this interview– really great to hear the behind-the-scenes of it all.
    Especially appreciated the advice for thumbnails in pt. 2!
    I totally put to use them handy templates you have up on here! …some results posted to my own blog.
    btw are those new layouts on the PDFs?

    I went to the online episodes site but an ominous robot female voice loops : “This content is currently unavailable”..dang. will try itunes…

    anD happy uber-belated birthday! at least it’s still the same month..! ;P


  13. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hey Chris!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the interview! I’d like to make it a regular feature here.

    I did alter the templates a tad. I made them all 4:3 ratio (for TV). The thumbnail template I had up there was more of a 16:9 (HDTV) ratio.

    BUT! (Self-Pimping ahead) Keep a look out for a whole new template pack and guide I’ll be offering very soon (almost done).

    Still free with an email sign up. Which will also get you on my “Fabulous Folks” list to boot. So keep an eye out if you’re itching for more templates in more sizes. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the belated B-Day wishes! Much appreciated.

  14. judyindisguise

    Hi, Karen. Just found your blog and have enjoyed it immensely, particularly your commentary on the show Kid vs. Kat. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the show has sparked some debate at Toon Zone, a great website for cartoon enthusiasts. The debate revolves around whether the later episodes (available via the magic of Youtube) show a change in Coop’s character – from hapless underdog, as he was in the first 4 episodes, to a sort of kid hero. I think the latter development is unfortunate. Here’s what I posted about it:

    “When I saw the first ep of KvK, I too was thinking “Oh man, this poor kid’s getting reamed”, and yet…I kept going back and watching again and again, laughing helplessly at things that some would find an outrage. And why? Because it was funny and it made sense. Coop’s a kid! The Cat is a highly intelligent alien specie! Of course it isn’t an even match! It shouldn’t be! In “Trespassers Will Be Persecuted”, Coop finds out that going head-to-head with Kat is well beyond his ten-year-old capacity, and the result is hilarious. The only way he can get his licks in is with a sneak attack, like with the water balloon at the end. That’s the kind of conflict I can get into. Plus in the first 4 episodes, Coop acts like a believable kid. Like in this scene:

    (Coop and Dennis have fended off an attack perpetrated by Kat with cardboard cutouts. Kat finds their “victory” extremely amusing, a nice touch)

    Coop: He’s not so tough. Besides, we have enough candy and juice to keep us up all night! (He and Dennis munch and guzzle).

    (Right. Next scene, they’re both snuggled in sleeping bags, fast asleep. Coop rolls over and cuddles something. Sensing that something’s not right, he wakes up, looks down and sees that he’s now sleeping with one of Old Lady Munson’s lawn gnomes)


    Dennis: (sitting bolt upright out of a sound sleep) AAAAHHHHHHH!!!!

    (Dennis runs blindly out of the tent, straight into Old Lady Munson.)

    (Coop looks out of the tent) Old Lady (wince) I mean, Mrs. Munson! What are you doing in my backyard?

    Old Lady Munson: I was about to ask you the same question!

    (Camera pulls back to show that sure enough, Coop, Dennis and the tent are smack on top of Old Lady Munson’s petunias)

    Coop: Wha-?? (Looks up to see Kat up in a tree snickering at him) Rrrrr!

    Dennis: (looks up at Old Lady Munson and dances, a little TOO full of candy and juice) Can I use your restroom?

    OLM: Grrrrr!

    Dennis: Didn’t think so. ‘Bye Coop!

    Now that is one of many excellent moments in an overall excellent episode. Why? Because Coop and Dennis were acting naturally – not like kids out to save the world from an alien menace, but like members of Our Gang. Which is funnier? You decide! Besides, Coop’s scream – the second so far in the series – is a riot, on a par with McCauley Culkin’s in Home Alone. Will we see (and hear) more of it? Betcha not. What we’ll get instead is “That evil kat will pay for this! He must be stopped!!!!” Sigh…”

    Opinions on this will vary, no doubt, but I think it’s kinda too bad that Coop, in later eps, becomes more aggressive and worse, *cocky* when he wins. (ecchh). He’s no longer the poor put-upon kid with lousy luck facing an alien intelligence he can in no way handle. He was so much funnier and more sympathetic that way. “Trespassers Will Be Persecuted” is as brilliant as the best Looney Tune in my opinion – poor Coop’s scheming backfires again and again and builds to a glorious climax when he gets entangled, Wile E. Coyote-style, in the very machine he meant to use on the cat. I honestly haven’t seen such a truly funny cartoon in some time, and that’s taking Spongebob into account. But Coop’s not quite the same kid in later episodes, and that affects the comedy – and his pathos. It’s just too bad. I understand why someone would decide that Coop had to be the “hero” so kids can supposedly identify with him (although that may be a mistake; if you go to the YTV website and check out the Kid vs Kat fanart, just about all the drawings submitted by kids have been of Kat, not Coop. Clearly, Kat’s the one the kids are fascinated with). But it seems to diminish Coop, and well, it just seems to bad, that’s all.

    Obviously this show is aimed at younger kids than me. But the best toons entertain kids of all ages. Anyway, I just thought I’d put my two cents in. Thanks for reading. (By the way, I liked “Do Not Fort Sake Me”, which I understand you storyboarded. Great work!)

  15. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Well judyindisguise, I also took a peek at the forum and after reading all this, all I can say is you guys sure get passionate about your cartoons!

    Thanks for the kudos on “Fort”, I appreciate it.

    I’ve mentioned before that I barely watch TV cartoons anymore. Occupational hazard. πŸ˜‰ So I don’t even know what to say to all this.

    So I’m just gonna step back and maybe let Rob handle the rest. (Rob, you there?)

    Because I don’t create ’em and I don’t write ’em…I just draw ’em. πŸ˜€

  16. Boots

    I’ve been aware of the ongoing KvK discussions on the Toon Zone forums for some time now, but have deliberately chosen to stay on the sidelines. I’m glad to see that KvK has at least inspired debate instead of a collective shrugging of the shoulders and a flipping of the channel, but I’d like to see that conversation stay with the forums and not continue on Karen’s blog. I’m sure most people come here to learn more about storyboards and less to debate the finer points of Kid vs Kat.

    I will say this to judyindisguise: I’ve enjoyed your insights into Coop’s character and I’m sorry to hear that his (slightly accelerated) evolution into the “hero” has lessened your excitement of the series.

    Balance, however, was always in the cards. There’s a reason the theme song repeats “kid vs kat vs kid vs kat vs…”: it’s meant to be back and forth. That has proven to be tricky: Coop getting too beat up can quickly turn audience sympathy for him into annoyance of him; an overly victorious Coop can conversely make him appear cocky and unlikeable. (Although it could be argued that Coop has been a cocky kid from the start.)

    The episodes currently on youTube – though not yet seen on Disney XD – are still fairly early in the series, and perhaps we were still trying to find that proper balance. My hope is that if you stick with it you’ll still see the Coop you enjoyed. Trust me, he takes a beating in many episodes… so does Kat, and BOTH deserve it when it happens.

    Thanks to everyone who expressed an opinion, be they fans of the show or not.


  17. judyindisguise

    Thanks for your answer, Boots. I’m relieved to hear that the Coop I laughed at and cared about will return. And for what it’s worth – as your humble viewer – balance has always been fine with me. What concerned me was the idea that the emphasis for such balance might take precedence over the type of humor in such great eps as “Trespassers Will Be Persecuted”, where Coop lost logically and in a very funny way, yet managed to get a lick in at the end. (That ep holds a place of honor in my Tivo, along with some South Parks and Shin Chans; I watch them whenever I need a good laugh) I must tell you – when I first saw KvK, I think I was a little floored. I haven’t seen a really good new toon in sooooo long, and so it’s so easy to get discouraged and fall into a cynical find-fault-with-anything mindset. So when I saw the first episode of KvK, I was – like some others at Toon Zone – initially harping about how “unfair” Coop’s treatment was…yet I found myself going back to the ep on my Tivo and rewatching it, as I mentioned. Took me a while to figure out why, despite the “unfairness”, it was so darned enjoyable, but I did, and wow, all it took was opening my mind a little. πŸ˜‰ And anyway, I’d rather praise cartoons than criticize them; what fun is that? It’s much more satisfying to encourage good work, and that’s really all I was wanting to do when I posted my concerns here and took up so much of Karen’s bandwidth (like I’m doing now, sorry about that). I’m really looking forward to seeing more episodes. (Maybe we’ll see Kat show a flash of kindness someday; might enrich his character). Anyway, I’m sure you’re proud of KvK. It’s a very well-crafted and well-written toon, and there’s no doubt in my mind it’ll be a big success. I’m rooting for you.

  18. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Boots & judyindisguise – Awwww…group hug! πŸ™‚

    Thanks for dropping by Boots. I’m sure the visit was much appreciated by your viewers. Because that’s who we do all this stuff for, right?

    Like you said, getting a strong reaction in either direction is *much* more satisfying than apathy, that’s for sure. They care! Yay.

    And don’t worry about your lengthy comments ‘judy’. It’s all good and were an interesting read. It’s nice to see you so passionate about the work we do.

    I guess when seeing this kind of discussion we (the makers) say “Well, it’s too late now!” because all of the shows are ‘in the can’ now and we can just hope for the best.

    I hope you do keep watching and picking them apart on the forums. It’s a pretty damn good show and Rob’s a pretty damn good guy. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for dropping by and I hope you visit again!
    (P.S.: The next episode you’ll probably come across of *mine* should be ‘I’m Okay, You’re a Kat’. It’s a pretty fun one.)


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