It’s all too easy to get excited over the stunning visuals and heartfelt storytelling of your favorite studio’s latest feature movie. So easy, in fact, that one forgets the mammoth amount of preparation and budget that goes into making it happen.
The truth is that even after the three stages of animation (Pre-Production, Production, Post-Production) are over, a lot of work goes into merchandising and pitching a successful animated series or IP (Intellectual Property) animations. We know this because we’ve been down the same roads at Picotion Studio.
Whether you’re a seasoned animation professional looking to refine your approach or a business executive venturing into the world of animation for the first time, this edit will serve as a valuable roadmap.
Here’s our collective effort: a step-by-step guide to producing and pitching an animation series and IP for your reference.
Before We Begin
Picotion’s enthusiastic team has come together to create a guide that’ll help you navigate the animation pipeline process from start to finish. But before we begin, we encourage you to approach the process with a critical mindset.
Remember there’s no one-size-fits-all system to creating an animated series. No matter how you choose to proceed, it’s most important to find the techniques that work for your specific project. To rephrase, your pipeline should be tailored to your unique vision.
So take the time to find what you need; draw inspiration from this roadmap and build your own pipeline. And if you need expert advice from an agile animation studio, just drop us a line here and our team will be thrilled to lend a helping hand.
1. Market Research
The key to success in any project is thoughtful planning.
We learned that first-hand when we embarked on our own IP adventure for the first time. There were initial doubts about postponing research until the pre-production phase, but the teams’ collective judgment led us to a wiser path: research before all.
Thorough research helps you find your audience and know their age group, demographics, social class, sex, geography, sexuality, and interests. It also outlines your competition and gives you what you need to know about the market landscape including:
- Popular genres and subgenres
- Optimal season and episodes length
- Market opportunities
- Regional demand
- Production costs
- The chances of your project becoming a huge success.
1.1. Compare Streaming Platforms
Oh, the lengths we went to in search of the perfect stage for our dazzling creations!
After the initial market research, Picotion did a streaming platform comparison and found that one of the perfect stages for our animated series would be YouTube. Then, we conducted another comprehensive research on YouTube channels, genres, subscribers, and successful IP cases.
It’s safe to say that we left no animated stone unturned, and neither should you!
Start by conducting surveys, analyzing trends, finding focus groups, and doing online research to gain insight into which streaming platform is best for your project. That’s how you can blend your existing wisdom with creative touches and storytelling to make a successful animated series.
Your animation series has the exciting opportunity to capture the attention of quite a number of people. Granted, those people may sometimes be a bit scattered and hard to engage. So you should use your means to show that your product has real entertainment value.
Take a page from the book of multinational studios that have mastered the art of strategic give-and-take. Consider co-productions and mutually beneficial projects, especially with global partners.
Some companies also choose to work with promotional firms from the very beginning to make sure their project is well-known long before it’s released.
2.1. Consider Time
Another thing to consider would be how long-term your strategic planning is going to be. Depending on your goals, you may opt for long-term strategies to foster ongoing audience involvement and franchise expansion, or you may prioritize short-term strategies to create an immediate impact and draw attention to your animation.
2.2. Pick Animation Style
You have already invested valuable time and effort in researching websites, social media pages, and other types of unique animation that your target audience might enjoy. By now, you might already have an idea of which animation style resonates with your target audience.
But it’s ok if you don’t. To get you started, here are some questions you should be asking yourself before picking a style:
- What topics and concepts do you want to touch on?
- How old is your general audience?
- What genre does your animation fall into?
- How do your budget and resources look like?
- How much time and space do you have to bring your ideas to life?
- What emotions do you wish to provoke in your audience?
- What methods would you like to use to get their attention?
Simply put, let your animation’s essence and its goals guide your style selection.
Once you know what you are aiming for, who your audience is, and have a plan in place, you can choose the ideal animation style for your video project. So get started by learning all of the options available to you including 2D, 3D, Stop Motion, Motion Graphics, Anime, and more.
3. Idea Generation & Storytelling Animation
Writing a great script is the key to creating an amazing animated cartoon! This means developing exciting characters, settings, and plotlines that bring the story to life.
Remember, storytelling is an art that takes practice and experimentation. Use these tips as a starting point, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box and incorporate your unique ideas into your approach:
- Use the world around you as inspiration. Draw from your own experiences, emotions, and memories to infuse authenticity and depth into your stories.
- Don’t focus so much on the resemblance between your fictional world and the real world as you do on Verisimilitude*.
- Give your characters weaknesses, aspirations and challenges to explore their growth and transformation throughout the story.
- In his post-doctoral research, Howard Sklar suggests that fictional characters’ only become relatable to us because of our personal experiences in life. This means incorporating concepts your audience has dealt with increases the chances of them connecting with your characters. (Here’s where all that market research on your audience’s profile comes to save you).
- Be careful not to take your stock characters’ stereotypes too far.
- Know your story’s structure. It doesn’t have to follow the traditional setup, confrontation, climax, and resolution; but it’s important to know where you’re going with the plot as the show continues.
- Introduce subplots and unexpected twists to keep viewers glued to their seats.
- Universal themes are a safe bet. Explore these such as love, friendship, courage, or redemption to win the audience’s heart.
3.1. Use AI To Bring Your Vision To Life
In this era of technological advancement, Artificial Intelligence (AI) art software has become a powerful tool to express your creativity and give shape to your ideas. With software like Midjourney or DALL-E 2, you can quickly and effortlessly bring your vision to life.
But then again, as John Lasseter puts it, “Computers don’t create computer animation any more than a pencil creates pencil animation. What creates computer animation is the artist.”
Ultimately, the true magic lies in the hands of the artists themselves. And at Picotion animation studio, we can sprinkle some of that magic dust on your AI-generated ideas to give them life and make them look stunning.
4. IP Bible Pitching & Attracting Investors
Think of your IP Bible, or Intellectual Property Bible, as the treasure map of your animated series. This document has all the juicy details marked out for potential investors and collaborators. Your IP Bible should include:
- Series overview
- Production Timelines
- Character Profiles
- Story Arcs
- Episode Descriptions
- Artistic Style and Visual References
- Market Analysis
- Financial Projections
4.1. Crafting An Attractive Pitch
In today’s world, you don’t have to be a Pixar-grade animator to make impressive animation. In fact, you don’t have to have a qualified team of storytellers or artists, or even have the budget.
What you do need is a comprehensive IP bible, an attractive pitch, and a persuasive presentation to have another studio or distributor bring your project to life. Here are some essential tips to help you craft an irresistible pitch:
- Use research to understand your audience’s preferences. Tailor your pitch to align with their expectations and show them why your series is a perfect fit for their investment portfolio.
- Use visuals and storytelling techniques to make your presentation more engaging.
- Demonstrate your understanding of the market landscape and showcase how your series fills a gap or meets a specific demand. You can put all that market research into good use here and show your IP’s potential for success.
- Clearly outline the various revenue streams associated with your animated series, such as licensing, merchandise, and potential spin-offs. Paint a picture of the long-term financial potential to entice investors.
4.2. The Importance of Pitching Your IP Right
There are high-tech studios that take the work off your hand and bring their own set of expertise on board. Crafting an attractive pitch is your ticket to bringing those investors and studios on board.
To rephrase, your pitch is your opportunity to make a convincing case for the potential success of your animated series.
Some companies opt to collaborate with animation studios or distributor companies after completing the pre-production phase (research, strategy, scriptwriting, stylizing, storyboarding), while others prefer involving third-party firms from the first stages.
It doesn’t matter when you choose to involve other professionals and teams in your production process. What matters is that you take proactive steps to involve the “right” professionals and plan for all the joint ventures that come after it.
Now comes the heart and soul of the animation production process: the animation stage. This is where the magic truly happens as the carefully crafted illustrations, motion designs, and storyboards come to life, captivating viewers with their movement and personality.
Andy Beane, the author of 3D Animation Essentials, defines the production pipeline as “a group of people, hardware, and software aligned to work in a specific sequential order to create a 3D animation product or asset.”
Naturally, organizational preferences, resources, project goals, and animation styles can all add twists to different parts of the animation process. But the basic structure of the three main stages (Pre-Production, Production, Post-Production) remains the same across the film, video games, and advertising industries.
Think of the animation pre-production stage as an opportunity to perfect your project’s planning and design.
We got two teams involved in the process:
- Design wizards creating ideas and stories galore.
- The management team getting down with budgeting, time frames, and crew numbers.
While it’s not a necessity, taking a team-oriented approach from the early stages of your project sets you up for success later in the production and post-production stages.
5.1.1. Funds & Resources
Securing the necessary funding and production resources is a MUST before diving into production. After all, how can you bring your vision to life if you don’t have the means for it?
But there’s no need to panic if you don’t have the funds. You can explore options like applying to major funding bodies, pitching to the private sector, or crowdfunding to get your IP off the ground.
Unfortunately, gaining access to traditional funding opportunities is a right pain. To add insult to injury, governmental support for the arts almost borders on the ridiculous. So, in an effort to show the world what they got, creatives opt for pitching to the private sector after the pre-production’s over.
And that’s how private investors remain the backbone of the indie ecosystem.
Note that working with another team or for a client brings a different set of considerations compared to producing animations for personal projects. So make sure your choice is an informed one before bringing anyone else on board.
5.1.2. Concept & Script
The script or screenplay is the written representation of the finished narrative, containing dialogue, actions, locations, and character movements. It serves as a reference for the pre-production and production teams who need to gather information quickly. Here are some key points about script formats:
- A typical script format allows for approximately 1 minute of screen time per page.
- The length of a script varies depending on the project type. For feature films, the average length is around 100 to 120 pages. In contrast, a 30-minute TV episode script ranges from 15 to 22 pages (there’s usually an 8-minute commercial planned for each episode).
Note that there are times when your team can’t have complete creative control over the story concept. But if you opt to receive funding after the pre-production is over (like most other creatives), then you have total freedom. Just make sure that concept’s extra good so investors will want to join in.
Now comes the storyboard, the first place where art meets words in the script. Storyboarding is a powerful tool, especially when collaborating with a group. It allows others to get a real sense of your creative vision and know exactly where you’re going with the project.
Storyboards can be simple or complex depending on the project’s scale, budget, and artistic direction. Some productions may opt for basic sketches to communicate ideas and shot compositions, while others may invest in highly refined and polished storyboards with intricate details and dynamic visuals.
By using imagery alongside the text, you can paint a vivid picture and evoke a deeper, more immediate understanding of the desired result. Storyboards are also a great way to get investors excited and involved with a project!
5.1.4. Style Frames
The next step is to create the main style frames, where colors burst to life and compositions come together. These frames serve as a sneak peek into the style, mood, and overall design of your animation series.
Depending on your resources, skills, animation style, and technologies, your animation production phase could be very different. This is an example of an outline of the steps in the following order:
- 3D layout
- 3D modeling
- 3D texturing
- 3D rigging
- 3D animation (in progress)
- VFX in 3D
After the meticulous process of creating your animated series, we reach the final stage where all the elements come together: Animation post-production phase. This is where the post-production team steps in to enhance and refine the footage, elevating it from its initial state to a professional and visually stunning final product.
This stage includes tasks like:
- Mixing elements and scenes
- Final audio editing
- Recording and editing the final voice-over
- Adding elements to the final composition
- Exporting the final animation
For example, many teams choose to integrate 2D and 3D visual effects after the production’s done. These effects can range from subtle enhancements to expensive, elaborate, and immersive elements. So your post-production team must be skilled at troubleshooting and finding solutions to meet the specific requirements and preferences of the client.
At Picotion, we ensure that this stage is executed with precision and finesse, so you can proudly share your amazing animation with the world.
5.3.1. Final Output
It’s the moment of truth, where the magic of animation transforms into a polished masterpiece.
At this stage, studios like Picotion deliver a high-definition and polished master tape of the episode to your team as soon as the production process is done. You can then share it on your preferred channel, be it a streaming platform, your website, social media, or any other distribution channel of your choice.
To learn more about our services and how we can help you assemble the perfect team for your animated series, visit our 2D & 3D animation page here.
6. Launch, Marketing & Advertising
Congratulations! Your project is now officially finished and all you have to do now is post your video online and hope viewers stumble upon it and be wowed. Or at least, it would be that easy in an ideal world.
As production costs rise and the competition to gain visibility intensifies, effective promotion becomes more challenging. Your job is a bit easier if you decided to sell or co-produce your IP with another animation studio or distributor right at the “production” stage.
But 2023 is the year when creative professionals like writers and animators are realizing that being the best at their craft isn’t enough; they need to be great promoters, too!
Here are some insider marketing animation tips to promote your animated series:
- Treat your animation series as more than just a standalone project. Try to look at it as a brand with its own unique identity and value. Think beyond traditional animation strategies and explore ways to expand your brand’s reach.
- Create a comprehensive list outlining the specific offerings and strengths of your animated series and be as specific as possible in detailing what you bring to the table.
- Look for partners who can leverage their existing platforms and distribution channels to expand the reach of your animated series.
- Ensure that proper legal documentation is in place, clearly defining the terms and conditions of the licensing agreement.
7. Extend Revenue Streams / Sales Planning
Now, you might be wondering how to monetize your video career and (hopefully) become rich or (realistically) cover production costs.
Thankfully, there are lots of ways you can make a living as a video creator. You could sell advertising, produce sponsored content, or generate revenue through subscription services. We’ll touch on each of these later in this section, but before monetization, you should learn about IP licensing.
7.2. IP Licensing
Licensing intellectual property lets companies grow their businesses, introduce new products and services, and maximize their market reach.
The process involves a contractual agreement between the IP rights owner, also known as the licensee, and an authorized party known as the licensor. The licensor grants the licensee the right to use and exploit the IP in exchange for monetary value, which can take the form of a fee, a royalty, or a combination of both.
There are three different types of licensing:
- Sole: With a sole license, you give someone the right to use your intellectual property, but you keep the freedom to use it yourself too.
- Exclusive: An exclusive license grants a third party the special privilege of being the only one who can use your intellectual property.
- Non-Exclusive: This type of license lets the owner use the IP but gives the licensor similar or equivalent rights.
In addition to the main types of IP licenses mentioned earlier, there are various other conditions or limitations that can be imposed on both licensees and licensors. For example, an owner may give exclusive rights to a licensee to use a trademark only within a certain streaming platform. Depending on the parties, they may or may not still have non-exclusive rights outside that platform.
By licensing your IP, you open up opportunities to grow your business in several ways:
- It allows you to reach a broader audience and expand into new markets.
- Licensing enables you to explore new avenues and launch merch products.
- Local licensees who possess the necessary expertise and distribution channels will help you penetrate new regions.
7.3. Monetize & Plan Sales
So, what’s the best way to charge people for access to your animation series?
The answer is: it depends.
Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD), Transactional Video On Demand (TVOD), and Advertising Video On Demand (AVOD) are three of the strategies you can choose to make money from your creations and expand your audience.
Here’s a simple explanation of each:
- Advertising (AVOD): Earn revenue through pre/mid/post-roll video advertisements based on the content’s viewership and engagement.
- Transactions (TVOD): Viewers pay for individual content items or events on a pay-per-view (PPV) plan.
- Subscriptions (SVOD): Subscribers pay a monthly fee for unlimited online access to your premium library of content.
8. Interactive Solutions / Gamification
Passive viewership is not going to be enough. Incorporating interactive media solutions and gamification elements into your animated series can take audience engagement to new heights.
- Interactive storytelling techniques that let players choose an outcome
- Creative quizzes, challenges, or mini-games related to your series
- AR and VR technologies
Here comes merchandising – the magical art of turning your beloved animated series into tangible treasures that fans can proudly look at and think “cool!” It’s not just about generating extra moolah (though that’s certainly a perk), but also about creating a deeper connection with your audience.
Here are some ideas:
- Character Merchandise: Picture Marvel characters’ action figures, Sakura plush toys, Ben-10 T-shirts, and Barbie accessories. You, too, can adorn any item with the lovable faces of your animated characters.
- Branded Merchandise: Think beyond characters. T-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and even home décor items can capture the essence of your series (like Harry Potter-themed lamps!)
- Limited Edition and Exclusive Items: Think signed items, special edition releases, or exciting collaborations with other popular brands or artists.
10. Metaverse / NFT Collection
Hold on to your digital hats because we’re about to dive into the last stage of our animation pipeline process; metaverse – a virtual realm where your animated series can transcend the limits of the screen and take on a life of its own. And guess what? You can now leverage non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to make things even more exciting.
Create virtual spaces, host events, and let fans explore and interact with your series like never before. Think of it as a wild theme park for your IP. Digital artwork, character cards, or even a concert like what Travis Scott and Fortnite did.
You can also use NFTs as fan engagement rewards. Think exclusive perks, access to behind-the-scenes content, or even collaborative experiences where fans can contribute their creative genius to the development of your animated series.
A Final Word
Think of the 3D animation pipeline process as an assembly line. Each stage is interconnected and requires a coordinated effort to successfully move to the next. It’s a collaborative process where individuals with different skills and teams work together to create an animated series that is efficient, affordable, and delivered right on time.
In this edit, we outlined the many stages of creating and pitching a successful IP animated series as comprehensively as we could. Now you know that making your own animated series is much easier in today’s world.
With advanced tools and investment opportunities available, you can fill in any gaps in your pipeline and embark on your animating adventure with confidence. Sure, starting off can be tricky (like in everything else), but that shouldn’t stop anyone from taking the leap into the magical realm of animation.
While having an in-house team does give you a headstart, collaborating with talented professionals from outside your team can bring fresh perspectives and expertise to your project.
Picotion understands that finding the perfect blend of talent and expertise is essential for a successful collaboration. We have an agile production pipeline that allows us to adapt to any change while staying highly efficient and cost-effective. We’ll be happy to be a part of the amazing creations you have in mind, so connect with us here.
*: Verisimilitude refers to the idea that fictional characters and worlds should be believable and make sense. They don’t necessarily have to resemble the real world, but there has to be authenticity.
Producing & Pitching A Successful Animated Series – FAQ
Total animation costs will highly depend on factors such as animation style, project length, who you hire to produce your video, and more. For example, the animation style you choose will heavily affect the final cost of the production.
You can produce amazing animation even on tight budgets. All it takes is a little budget-management savvy to get stellar results. For example, the animation style you choose will heavily affect the final cost of the production. So opt for a different style if the one you’ve chosen takes a heavy toll on your bank account. This way, you can stay within budget without compromising on quality.
Picotion’s IP animated series pipeline includes the following stages, each with its own intricate sub-stages all covered in this blog:
- Market research
- Idea generation
- IP Bible pitching & attracting investors
- Launch & Marketing
- Interactive solutions/gamification
- Metaverse/NFT collection
First, conduct thorough research to understand your target audience's preferences to tailor your pitch accordingly. Use your market research effectively to show how your series fills a gap or meets a specific demand. Then, clearly outline the various revenue streams associated with your animated series, including licensing, merchandise, and potential spin-offs. Remember to use visuals and storytelling techniques to make your pitch more interesting.