Cartoon Hangover

ryannorth: With RoboChris coming out yesterday (the first cartoon I ever wrote! Go watch it here!) I thought it’d be neat to talk about the writing process.It started when Breehn (wonderful guy, cool showrunner dude) asked if I had any ideas for an episode, I said yeah, let me send you some pitches! And he said sure, let me send you some unaired episodes! (This is the best part of working on anything you’re already a fan of: getting to see stuff like this). So I watched the episodes and then sent in Breehn my ideas. These were short, one-paragraph things that basically say “here’s what a story could look like”. There were three, one of which was this: Danny has built a Backup Robot Chris so if Chris dies the robot can take over, but RoboChris 5000 is way better at being Chris than Chris is: better jokes, a 10% wider smile, and fully in control of his emotional life! Chris is jealous of how the robot’s taking over his life (and of how smoothly it can have long conversations about feelings with Beth), so he uses Danny’s lab and leftover parts to build robot clones of the Danny, Wallow, and Beth. The new Bravest Robots talk about their feelings with each other so effectively that they decide to all merge into a single being of pure energy and explore the universe, and Danny’s mad because that was like three months of work and cool electronic junk that Chris wasted. I talked with Breehn a few days later and he pointed out that the ending was really close Ultra Wankershim. Which, you know, is fair! We talked about different ways the story could go. Here’s some of my notes from that call, with notes I made on those notes just now in bold: emotional reason for building the robot – something about the friendship, misses his friend. [this is what set the course for the episode] Drawing on each other when you’re friends / head getting the wrong idea drawing a big realistic nose and mustache on her face [Breehn and I remembered the cool girls drawing on each other’s arms in high school] Chris head wakes up danny to say “when i hug you today i instantly knew something was off” in the middle of the night. Super drama. [haha, yes, the ol’ “super drama” note one leaves for oneself] Danny’s 17th birthday, everyone forgot, so he makes a robot: chris head. He hasn’t been this angry since last year at this exact time. [I like it when my notes have jokes I can use later, that makes writing easy!] little robots makes a robot, little robots all the way down [this is how the world was made??] gigantic beth made by robot?? [???!?!!]   There were lots of ways we could take the story, but it seemed like focusing on Danny and Chris and their relationship was the most fun. With this in mind, I sat down and wrote an outline, which is a little more filled in than the pitch. Here’s the first outline (of five)! Feel free to scroll past it if you want, I’ll summarize below: Chris and Beth are walking on a beach. They’re about to kiss when Beth transforms into an old man: Chris’ 3rd grade science teacher. Chris’s eyes open and we pull back to see he’s actually a robot Chris head being held by Danny in his lab. Chris screams. Danny tells him to cool his jets, and explains to him that he’s a robot head now. RoboChris is instantly calm and says “Oh, really? Cool. Hey, happy belated birthday, by the way. Sorry I missed it yesterday.” and Danny replies “THANK YOU.” - super satisfied to hear those words come out of (a version of) Chris. The RoboChris head is all chrome and red eyes, like a Terminator skull, but speaks with a regular Chris voice.We pull back again to see all the Bravest Warriors in the lab, with Chris just entering. Danny thanks them for coming and announces he’s invented the RoboChris 5000: an improved Chris with none of his flaws: it knows how to dance, smiles 10% wider, and is 5000x better at talking up the lay-dies, among other features. Chris is confused and a little appalled. “But why’d you want to improve on ME?” he asks. Danny gets angry. “Why? WHY? Didn’t you notice how I was feeling yesterday?”We flash back to yesterday: Danny’s upset, and Chris is saying he has no idea why Danny would be so sad, and that he hasn’t been this sad since exactly one year ago today. We flash back again to a year before, and a younger-looking Danny in slightly baggier clothes looks upset as Chris is again saying he to Danny that has no idea what’s wrong with Danny. We flash back to the present: “It was my BIRTHDAY yesterday, Chris. You forgot. RoboChris 5000 never will.” Wallow is appalled, and says “Dude, we all sincerely wished our man Danny a happy sweet 17 in private! I thought you were on the same page here.” Chris tries to explain to Danny that he cares, but he’s just bad at remembering dates and junk sometimes. Danny says it doesn’t matter anymore: RoboChris is like Chris with all the bugs fixed.RoboChris asks if he can have a body. Beth picks up some metal rods and asks if these would work, and Danny shrugs. Clock wipe. Now RoboChris has a creepy, long, slender body that’s got Mickey Mouse gloves on the end for hands. All noodley. RoboChris 5000 loves it and says “Look what I can do!” and makes music play from his body and starts dancing. Beth and Wallow and Danny all join in, and Chris is left watching everyone dance, sad. He goes and sits down against the wall and helps himself to some punch that happens to be there: the wallflower at a dance.The music continues as we show a montage of scenes:RoboChris and all Wallow’s little creatures dancing in Wallow’s bedroom. Chris knocks on the door and says “You wanted me?” and Catbug says “Oh, RoboChris got here first, it’s okay! We forgot what we wanted from you since learning insane dance moves is so much better anyway.”RoboChris 5000 having dinner with Wallow and he has some food on his face, RoboChris suavely reaches over to wipe it off. Gag is that this robot head is kinda monsterous and has this monsterous body, but nobody really cares.RoboChris and Danny playing in the holojohn together, Chris is outside and knocks on the door and Danny and RoboChris shout in unison “Somebody’s in here!”RoboChris drawing a realistic nose and mustache and eyes on Beth’s face while she draws surprised eyebrows on his face. They both go look in a mirror. They love them! She hugs him.Chris in his pyjamas pulling back his sheets, and finding RoboChris already there in his bed.We’re now at breakfast the next day, and RoboChris 5000 is serving an amazing meal that’s so good Wallow takes one bite and starts cackling madly at how good this is. Beth’s still wearing her mustache / eyes / nose drawings. Chris stands up and stiffly asks to speak to Danny in the holojohn. They enter to a dramatic pirate battle scene and have to shout over the noise of the sea, cannons, rowdy pirates doing battle, etc. Chris thinks making RoboChris was a mistake, Danny thinks RoboChris is awesome and a better friend anyway. During this scene, we cut back to breakfast, where Wallow is writing a poem about how good the meal is. He mentions offhandedly to Beth that he wishes there were more people like RoboChris because he’d love to eat like this all the time. RoboChris quietly gets up and leaves.We cut back to the pirate battle, where Danny and Chris argue about RoboChris. Danny admits, quietly, that Chris wasn’t supposed to be jealous of RoboChris. He was supposed to be jealous of RoboChris’ relationship with HIM – but Chris can’t hear this over the noise. Wallow rushes in and says that they have to see something.Cut to RoboChris 5000 in Danny’s lab working on a RoboBeth, who is working on a RoboWallow, who is working on a RoboDanny, who is working on RoboChris. Beth says this is too weird for her, wiping off her mustache. Danny pulls a lever and shuts them all down. As they leave, Chris wishes Danny a happy preemptive 18th birthday and in nice, quiet moment, they fistbump. Door closes, and the “shut down” robots all twitch and their creepy hands reach out to each other. You can tell this is a first draft a few ways, but most clearly in how all the characters are running around telling each other exactly how they feel, which very rarely happens in real life (MAYBE IT SHOULD THOUGH, AM I RIGHT??). And the story is unfocused, and very different: this version is about a new guy who tries too hard and gets rejected by everyone he meets. That’s sad. (Even if I do like the idea of these unloved robots coming back to life to be pals with each other) (this is one of my top five interests)   Breehn and I talked about the story again, and I think he was the one who suggested that it’d be much more interesting if Chris was down with this. Like, it’s this terrifying-looking skullbot and Chris just thinks it’s great. And that seemed way more like how I’d react (yay relatable characters!) and it gave Wallow and Beth more to play off of, which was fun. IMPORTANT ASIDE: I really enjoyed these conversations about the story, because here I was talking to the guy whose responsible for these characters, and we’d both be saying “what if THIS happened?” “omg, wait, what if THIS happened?” which puts you in an intoxicated mood where you want to start writing right away.The second outline had these ideas incorporated, but still ended with everyone turning against RoboChris. Here’s that ending: Cut to Chris, Danny, Beth and Wallow going into Danny’s lab, Danny saying “Hey, you wanna see how I scanned Chris’ neural network while he was sleeping?” As the door opens they all freeze, shocked, as they see RoboChris there in the lab working on a RoboDanny, who is working on a RoboWallow, who is working on a RoboBeth, who is working on RoboChris. They notice the intrusion and turn to face the Bravest Warriors. Then without breaking eye contact with their human versions they all hug each other, and they’re kinda crushing and merging into one another. RoboChris looks at Danny and says “You guys are the ones with bugs.”Beth says this is too weird for her, wiping off her eyebrows. Danny pulls a lever and shuts them all down. The Bravest Warriors leave, and the door closes behind them, leaving the robots in darkness. Suddenly RoboBeth’s eyes open up dramatically, glowing red! Oh no! It’s like a horror movie! But after a beat she says “Yeah actually you guys, this is kinda weird for me too.” But all these other robots were kind of a distraction, and they opened up a lot of stuff just before the episode ended. We decided to focus on just the one little guy for now. By the fifth draft we had the “RoboChris dances for Danny and he breaks up with him” scene, and a much different ending: Cut to someone in bed, sleeping in. We can’t see who it is, but we hear the sound of a chair being dragged over from across the room, red lights getting brighter as the chair gets closer. Music starts, and the person rolls over and we see that it’s Wallow. As the music plays an expression of happy anticipation grows on his face.Final cut is to RoboChris dancing, but we quickly zoom into his eye into extreme close-up and see a backwards “SINCERE HAPPINESS” overlay meter on it go quickly from 0 to 11. Haha, I’m looking at this in retrospect now, and this is such a huge colossal cheat! I wanted a happy ending, so I literally superimposed the words “sincere happiness” over a character’s vision to get it. That’s not exactly how you earn something satisfying. I do admire my audacity though.  Good work, past Ryan. Again, Breehn and I talked about the story, we agreed that Danny since was actually kind of being a big creeper here, maybe he deserves some punishment. Maybe he doesn’t get a happy ending after all, you know? Maybe RoboChris gets it instead. I started writing the screenplay, and that was the ending we went with:The screenplay itself went through five drafts in a week of back-and-forth (a pretty intense week, but lots of fun!) and at that point in this collaborative writing process was done!  Over the next several months the episode came together: actors recorded lines, props got drawn, Breehn punched up some jokes that I’d still get the credit for because nobody would know, and so on!  Every once in a while I’d get sent some cool things like RoboChris’s design, a few stills from the animation, the background music - all really exciting.  And then I got to watch it yesterday with all of you! The only thing that got cut in this process was this little exchange I put in, some blatant pro-crossword propaganda: and the idea that RoboChris slept in a doggie bed (I believe this was Breehn’s idea, but I really really loved it):I’m really proud of my part in this cartoon and I hope you like it and also this lengthy blog post that suggests when you’re in doubt for an ending have characters punch other characters in the boyoings!

November 1, 2013

ryannorth:

With RoboChris coming out yesterday (the first cartoon I ever wrote! Go watch it here!) I thought it’d be neat to talk about the writing process.It started when Breehn (wonderful guy, cool showrunner dude) asked if I had any ideas for an episode, I said yeah, let me send you some pitches! And he said sure, let me send you some unaired episodes! (This is the best part of working on anything you’re already a fan of: getting to see stuff like this).
So I watched the episodes and then sent in Breehn my ideas. These were short, one-paragraph things that basically say “here’s what a story could look like”. There were three, one of which was this:





Danny has built a Backup Robot Chris so if Chris dies the robot can take over, but RoboChris 5000 is way better at being Chris than Chris is: better jokes, a 10% wider smile, and fully in control of his emotional life! Chris is jealous of how the robot’s taking over his life (and of how smoothly it can have long conversations about feelings with Beth), so he uses Danny’s lab and leftover parts to build robot clones of the Danny, Wallow, and Beth. The new Bravest Robots talk about their feelings with each other so effectively that they decide to all merge into a single being of pure energy and explore the universe, and Danny’s mad because that was like three months of work and cool electronic junk that Chris wasted.





I talked with Breehn a few days later and he pointed out that the ending was really close Ultra Wankershim. Which, you know, is fair! We talked about different ways the story could go. Here’s some of my notes from that call, with notes I made on those notes just now in bold:
emotional reason for building the robot – something about the friendship, misses his friend. [this is what set the course for the episode]
Drawing on each other when you’re friends / head getting the wrong idea drawing a big realistic nose and mustache on her face [Breehn and I remembered the cool girls drawing on each other’s arms in high school]
Chris head wakes up danny to say “when i hug you today i instantly knew something was off” in the middle of the night. Super drama. [haha, yes, the ol’ “super drama” note one leaves for oneself]
Danny’s 17th birthday, everyone forgot, so he makes a robot: chris head. He hasn’t been this angry since last year at this exact time. [I like it when my notes have jokes I can use later, that makes writing easy!]
little robots makes a robot, little robots all the way down [this is how the world was made??]
gigantic beth made by robot?? [???!?!!]
 
There were lots of ways we could take the story, but it seemed like focusing on Danny and Chris and their relationship was the most fun. With this in mind, I sat down and wrote an outline, which is a little more filled in than the pitch. Here’s the first outline (of five)! Feel free to scroll past it if you want, I’ll summarize below:





Chris and Beth are walking on a beach. They’re about to kiss when Beth transforms into an old man: Chris’ 3rd grade science teacher. Chris’s eyes open and we pull back to see he’s actually a robot Chris head being held by Danny in his lab. Chris screams. Danny tells him to cool his jets, and explains to him that he’s a robot head now. RoboChris is instantly calm and says “Oh, really? Cool. Hey, happy belated birthday, by the way. Sorry I missed it yesterday.” and Danny replies “THANK YOU.” - super satisfied to hear those words come out of (a version of) Chris. The RoboChris head is all chrome and red eyes, like a Terminator skull, but speaks with a regular Chris voice.We pull back again to see all the Bravest Warriors in the lab, with Chris just entering. Danny thanks them for coming and announces he’s invented the RoboChris 5000: an improved Chris with none of his flaws: it knows how to dance, smiles 10% wider, and is 5000x better at talking up the lay-dies, among other features. Chris is confused and a little appalled. “But why’d you want to improve on ME?” he asks. Danny gets angry. “Why? WHY? Didn’t you notice how I was feeling yesterday?”We flash back to yesterday: Danny’s upset, and Chris is saying he has no idea why Danny would be so sad, and that he hasn’t been this sad since exactly one year ago today. We flash back again to a year before, and a younger-looking Danny in slightly baggier clothes looks upset as Chris is again saying he to Danny that has no idea what’s wrong with Danny. We flash back to the present: “It was my BIRTHDAY yesterday, Chris. You forgot. RoboChris 5000 never will.” Wallow is appalled, and says “Dude, we all sincerely wished our man Danny a happy sweet 17 in private! I thought you were on the same page here.” Chris tries to explain to Danny that he cares, but he’s just bad at remembering dates and junk sometimes. Danny says it doesn’t matter anymore: RoboChris is like Chris with all the bugs fixed.RoboChris asks if he can have a body. Beth picks up some metal rods and asks if these would work, and Danny shrugs. Clock wipe. Now RoboChris has a creepy, long, slender body that’s got Mickey Mouse gloves on the end for hands. All noodley. RoboChris 5000 loves it and says “Look what I can do!” and makes music play from his body and starts dancing. Beth and Wallow and Danny all join in, and Chris is left watching everyone dance, sad. He goes and sits down against the wall and helps himself to some punch that happens to be there: the wallflower at a dance.The music continues as we show a montage of scenes:RoboChris and all Wallow’s little creatures dancing in Wallow’s bedroom. Chris knocks on the door and says “You wanted me?” and Catbug says “Oh, RoboChris got here first, it’s okay! We forgot what we wanted from you since learning insane dance moves is so much better anyway.”RoboChris 5000 having dinner with Wallow and he has some food on his face, RoboChris suavely reaches over to wipe it off. Gag is that this robot head is kinda monsterous and has this monsterous body, but nobody really cares.RoboChris and Danny playing in the holojohn together, Chris is outside and knocks on the door and Danny and RoboChris shout in unison “Somebody’s in here!”RoboChris drawing a realistic nose and mustache and eyes on Beth’s face while she draws surprised eyebrows on his face. They both go look in a mirror. They love them! She hugs him.Chris in his pyjamas pulling back his sheets, and finding RoboChris already there in his bed.We’re now at breakfast the next day, and RoboChris 5000 is serving an amazing meal that’s so good Wallow takes one bite and starts cackling madly at how good this is. Beth’s still wearing her mustache / eyes / nose drawings. Chris stands up and stiffly asks to speak to Danny in the holojohn. They enter to a dramatic pirate battle scene and have to shout over the noise of the sea, cannons, rowdy pirates doing battle, etc. Chris thinks making RoboChris was a mistake, Danny thinks RoboChris is awesome and a better friend anyway. During this scene, we cut back to breakfast, where Wallow is writing a poem about how good the meal is. He mentions offhandedly to Beth that he wishes there were more people like RoboChris because he’d love to eat like this all the time. RoboChris quietly gets up and leaves.We cut back to the pirate battle, where Danny and Chris argue about RoboChris. Danny admits, quietly, that Chris wasn’t supposed to be jealous of RoboChris. He was supposed to be jealous of RoboChris’ relationship with HIM – but Chris can’t hear this over the noise. Wallow rushes in and says that they have to see something.Cut to RoboChris 5000 in Danny’s lab working on a RoboBeth, who is working on a RoboWallow, who is working on a RoboDanny, who is working on RoboChris. Beth says this is too weird for her, wiping off her mustache. Danny pulls a lever and shuts them all down. As they leave, Chris wishes Danny a happy preemptive 18th birthday and in nice, quiet moment, they fistbump. Door closes, and the “shut down” robots all twitch and their creepy hands reach out to each other.





You can tell this is a first draft a few ways, but most clearly in how all the characters are running around telling each other exactly how they feel, which very rarely happens in real life (MAYBE IT SHOULD THOUGH, AM I RIGHT??). And the story is unfocused, and very different: this version is about a new guy who tries too hard and gets rejected by everyone he meets. That’s sad. (Even if I do like the idea of these unloved robots coming back to life to be pals with each other) (this is one of my top five interests)
 
Breehn and I talked about the story again, and I think he was the one who suggested that it’d be much more interesting if Chris was down with this. Like, it’s this terrifying-looking skullbot and Chris just thinks it’s great. And that seemed way more like how I’d react (yay relatable characters!) and it gave Wallow and Beth more to play off of, which was fun. IMPORTANT ASIDE: I really enjoyed these conversations about the story, because here I was talking to the guy whose responsible for these characters, and we’d both be saying “what if THIS happened?” “omg, wait, what if THIS happened?” which puts you in an intoxicated mood where you want to start writing right away.The second outline had these ideas incorporated, but still ended with everyone turning against RoboChris. Here’s that ending:





Cut to Chris, Danny, Beth and Wallow going into Danny’s lab, Danny saying “Hey, you wanna see how I scanned Chris’ neural network while he was sleeping?” As the door opens they all freeze, shocked, as they see RoboChris there in the lab working on a RoboDanny, who is working on a RoboWallow, who is working on a RoboBeth, who is working on RoboChris. They notice the intrusion and turn to face the Bravest Warriors. Then without breaking eye contact with their human versions they all hug each other, and they’re kinda crushing and merging into one another. RoboChris looks at Danny and says “You guys are the ones with bugs.”Beth says this is too weird for her, wiping off her eyebrows. Danny pulls a lever and shuts them all down. The Bravest Warriors leave, and the door closes behind them, leaving the robots in darkness. Suddenly RoboBeth’s eyes open up dramatically, glowing red! Oh no! It’s like a horror movie! But after a beat she says “Yeah actually you guys, this is kinda weird for me too.”





But all these other robots were kind of a distraction, and they opened up a lot of stuff just before the episode ended. We decided to focus on just the one little guy for now. By the fifth draft we had the “RoboChris dances for Danny and he breaks up with him” scene, and a much different ending:





Cut to someone in bed, sleeping in. We can’t see who it is, but we hear the sound of a chair being dragged over from across the room, red lights getting brighter as the chair gets closer. Music starts, and the person rolls over and we see that it’s Wallow. As the music plays an expression of happy anticipation grows on his face.Final cut is to RoboChris dancing, but we quickly zoom into his eye into extreme close-up and see a backwards “SINCERE HAPPINESS” overlay meter on it go quickly from 0 to 11.





Haha, I’m looking at this in retrospect now, and this is such a huge colossal cheat! I wanted a happy ending, so I literally superimposed the words “sincere happiness” over a character’s vision to get it. That’s not exactly how you earn something satisfying. I do admire my audacity though.  Good work, past Ryan.
Again, Breehn and I talked about the story, we agreed that Danny since was actually kind of being a big creeper here, maybe he deserves some punishment. Maybe he doesn’t get a happy ending after all, you know? Maybe RoboChris gets it instead. I started writing the screenplay, and that was the ending we went with:The screenplay itself went through five drafts in a week of back-and-forth (a pretty intense week, but lots of fun!) and at that point in this collaborative writing process was done!  Over the next several months the episode came together: actors recorded lines, props got drawn, Breehn punched up some jokes that I’d still get the credit for because nobody would know, and so on!  Every once in a while I’d get sent some cool things like RoboChris’s design, a few stills from the animation, the background music - all really exciting.  And then I got to watch it yesterday with all of you!
The only thing that got cut in this process was this little exchange I put in, some blatant pro-crossword propaganda:
and the idea that RoboChris slept in a doggie bed (I believe this was Breehn’s idea, but I really really loved it):I’m really proud of my part in this cartoon and I hope you like it and also this lengthy blog post that suggests when you’re in doubt for an ending have characters punch other characters in the boyoings!

ryannorth:

With RoboChris coming out yesterday (the first cartoon I ever wrote! Go watch it here!) I thought it’d be neat to talk about the writing process.

It started when Breehn (wonderful guy, cool showrunner dude) asked if I had any ideas for an episode, I said yeah, let me send you some pitches! And he said sure, let me send you some unaired episodes! (This is the best part of working on anything you’re already a fan of: getting to see stuff like this).

So I watched the episodes and then sent in Breehn my ideas. These were short, one-paragraph things that basically say “here’s what a story could look like”. There were three, one of which was this:

Danny has built a Backup Robot Chris so if Chris dies the robot can take over, but RoboChris 5000 is way better at being Chris than Chris is: better jokes, a 10% wider smile, and fully in control of his emotional life! Chris is jealous of how the robot’s taking over his life (and of how smoothly it can have long conversations about feelings with Beth), so he uses Danny’s lab and leftover parts to build robot clones of the Danny, Wallow, and Beth. The new Bravest Robots talk about their feelings with each other so effectively that they decide to all merge into a single being of pure energy and explore the universe, and Danny’s mad because that was like three months of work and cool electronic junk that Chris wasted.


I talked with Breehn a few days later and he pointed out that the ending was really close Ultra Wankershim. Which, you know, is fair! We talked about different ways the story could go. Here’s some of my notes from that call, with notes I made on those notes just now in bold:

  1. emotional reason for building the robot – something about the friendship, misses his friend. [this is what set the course for the episode]
  2. Drawing on each other when you’re friends / head getting the wrong idea drawing a big realistic nose and mustache on her face [Breehn and I remembered the cool girls drawing on each other’s arms in high school]
  3. Chris head wakes up danny to say “when i hug you today i instantly knew something was off” in the middle of the night. Super drama. [haha, yes, the ol’ “super drama” note one leaves for oneself]
  4. Danny’s 17th birthday, everyone forgot, so he makes a robot: chris head. He hasn’t been this angry since last year at this exact time. [I like it when my notes have jokes I can use later, that makes writing easy!]
  5. little robots makes a robot, little robots all the way down [this is how the world was made??]
  6. gigantic beth made by robot?? [???!?!!]

image 

There were lots of ways we could take the story, but it seemed like focusing on Danny and Chris and their relationship was the most fun. With this in mind, I sat down and wrote an outline, which is a little more filled in than the pitch. Here’s the first outline (of five)! Feel free to scroll past it if you want, I’ll summarize below:

Chris and Beth are walking on a beach. They’re about to kiss when Beth transforms into an old man: Chris’ 3rd grade science teacher. Chris’s eyes open and we pull back to see he’s actually a robot Chris head being held by Danny in his lab. Chris screams. Danny tells him to cool his jets, and explains to him that he’s a robot head now. RoboChris is instantly calm and says “Oh, really? Cool. Hey, happy belated birthday, by the way. Sorry I missed it yesterday.” and Danny replies “THANK YOU.” - super satisfied to hear those words come out of (a version of) Chris. The RoboChris head is all chrome and red eyes, like a Terminator skull, but speaks with a regular Chris voice.

We pull back again to see all the Bravest Warriors in the lab, with Chris just entering. Danny thanks them for coming and announces he’s invented the RoboChris 5000: an improved Chris with none of his flaws: it knows how to dance, smiles 10% wider, and is 5000x better at talking up the lay-dies, among other features. Chris is confused and a little appalled. “But why’d you want to improve on ME?” he asks. Danny gets angry. “Why? WHY? Didn’t you notice how I was feeling yesterday?”

We flash back to yesterday: Danny’s upset, and Chris is saying he has no idea why Danny would be so sad, and that he hasn’t been this sad since exactly one year ago today. We flash back again to a year before, and a younger-looking Danny in slightly baggier clothes looks upset as Chris is again saying he to Danny that has no idea what’s wrong with Danny. We flash back to the present: “It was my BIRTHDAY yesterday, Chris. You forgot. RoboChris 5000 never will.” Wallow is appalled, and says “Dude, we all sincerely wished our man Danny a happy sweet 17 in private! I thought you were on the same page here.” Chris tries to explain to Danny that he cares, but he’s just bad at remembering dates and junk sometimes. Danny says it doesn’t matter anymore: RoboChris is like Chris with all the bugs fixed.

RoboChris asks if he can have a body. Beth picks up some metal rods and asks if these would work, and Danny shrugs. Clock wipe. Now RoboChris has a creepy, long, slender body that’s got Mickey Mouse gloves on the end for hands. All noodley. RoboChris 5000 loves it and says “Look what I can do!” and makes music play from his body and starts dancing. Beth and Wallow and Danny all join in, and Chris is left watching everyone dance, sad. He goes and sits down against the wall and helps himself to some punch that happens to be there: the wallflower at a dance.

The music continues as we show a montage of scenes:
RoboChris and all Wallow’s little creatures dancing in Wallow’s bedroom. Chris knocks on the door and says “You wanted me?” and Catbug says “Oh, RoboChris got here first, it’s okay! We forgot what we wanted from you since learning insane dance moves is so much better anyway.”

RoboChris 5000 having dinner with Wallow and he has some food on his face, RoboChris suavely reaches over to wipe it off. Gag is that this robot head is kinda monsterous and has this monsterous body, but nobody really cares.

RoboChris and Danny playing in the holojohn together, Chris is outside and knocks on the door and Danny and RoboChris shout in unison “Somebody’s in here!”

RoboChris drawing a realistic nose and mustache and eyes on Beth’s face while she draws surprised eyebrows on his face. They both go look in a mirror. They love them! She hugs him.

Chris in his pyjamas pulling back his sheets, and finding RoboChris already there in his bed.

We’re now at breakfast the next day, and RoboChris 5000 is serving an amazing meal that’s so good Wallow takes one bite and starts cackling madly at how good this is. Beth’s still wearing her mustache / eyes / nose drawings. Chris stands up and stiffly asks to speak to Danny in the holojohn. They enter to a dramatic pirate battle scene and have to shout over the noise of the sea, cannons, rowdy pirates doing battle, etc. Chris thinks making RoboChris was a mistake, Danny thinks RoboChris is awesome and a better friend anyway.

During this scene, we cut back to breakfast, where Wallow is writing a poem about how good the meal is. He mentions offhandedly to Beth that he wishes there were more people like RoboChris because he’d love to eat like this all the time. RoboChris quietly gets up and leaves.

We cut back to the pirate battle, where Danny and Chris argue about RoboChris. Danny admits, quietly, that Chris wasn’t supposed to be jealous of RoboChris. He was supposed to be jealous of RoboChris’ relationship with HIM – but Chris can’t hear this over the noise. Wallow rushes in and says that they have to see something.

Cut to RoboChris 5000 in Danny’s lab working on a RoboBeth, who is working on a RoboWallow, who is working on a RoboDanny, who is working on RoboChris. Beth says this is too weird for her, wiping off her mustache. Danny pulls a lever and shuts them all down. As they leave, Chris wishes Danny a happy preemptive 18th birthday and in nice, quiet moment, they fistbump. Door closes, and the “shut down” robots all twitch and their creepy hands reach out to each other.

You can tell this is a first draft a few ways, but most clearly in how all the characters are running around telling each other exactly how they feel, which very rarely happens in real life (MAYBE IT SHOULD THOUGH, AM I RIGHT??). And the story is unfocused, and very different: this version is about a new guy who tries too hard and gets rejected by everyone he meets. That’s sad. (Even if I do like the idea of these unloved robots coming back to life to be pals with each other) (this is one of my top five interests)

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Breehn and I talked about the story again, and I think he was the one who suggested that it’d be much more interesting if Chris was down with this. Like, it’s this terrifying-looking skullbot and Chris just thinks it’s great. And that seemed way more like how I’d react (yay relatable characters!) and it gave Wallow and Beth more to play off of, which was fun.

IMPORTANT ASIDE: I really enjoyed these conversations about the story, because here I was talking to the guy whose responsible for these characters, and we’d both be saying “what if THIS happened?” “omg, wait, what if THIS happened?” which puts you in an intoxicated mood where you want to start writing right away.

The second outline had these ideas incorporated, but still ended with everyone turning against RoboChris. Here’s that ending:

Cut to Chris, Danny, Beth and Wallow going into Danny’s lab, Danny saying “Hey, you wanna see how I scanned Chris’ neural network while he was sleeping?” As the door opens they all freeze, shocked, as they see RoboChris there in the lab working on a RoboDanny, who is working on a RoboWallow, who is working on a RoboBeth, who is working on RoboChris. They notice the intrusion and turn to face the Bravest Warriors. Then without breaking eye contact with their human versions they all hug each other, and they’re kinda crushing and merging into one another. RoboChris looks at Danny and says “You guys are the ones with bugs.”

Beth says this is too weird for her, wiping off her eyebrows. Danny pulls a lever and shuts them all down. The Bravest Warriors leave, and the door closes behind them, leaving the robots in darkness. Suddenly RoboBeth’s eyes open up dramatically, glowing red! Oh no! It’s like a horror movie! But after a beat she says “Yeah actually you guys, this is kinda weird for me too.”

But all these other robots were kind of a distraction, and they opened up a lot of stuff just before the episode ended. We decided to focus on just the one little guy for now. By the fifth draft we had the “RoboChris dances for Danny and he breaks up with him” scene, and a much different ending:

Cut to someone in bed, sleeping in. We can’t see who it is, but we hear the sound of a chair being dragged over from across the room, red lights getting brighter as the chair gets closer. Music starts, and the person rolls over and we see that it’s Wallow. As the music plays an expression of happy anticipation grows on his face.

Final cut is to RoboChris dancing, but we quickly zoom into his eye into extreme close-up and see a backwards “SINCERE HAPPINESS” overlay meter on it go quickly from 0 to 11.

Haha, I’m looking at this in retrospect now, and this is such a huge colossal cheat! I wanted a happy ending, so I literally superimposed the words “sincere happiness” over a character’s vision to get it. That’s not exactly how you earn something satisfying. I do admire my audacity though.  Good work, past Ryan.

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Again, Breehn and I talked about the story, we agreed that Danny since was actually kind of being a big creeper here, maybe he deserves some punishment. Maybe he doesn’t get a happy ending after all, you know? Maybe RoboChris gets it instead. I started writing the screenplay, and that was the ending we went with:

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The screenplay itself went through five drafts in a week of back-and-forth (a pretty intense week, but lots of fun!) and at that point in this collaborative writing process was done!  Over the next several months the episode came together: actors recorded lines, props got drawn, Breehn punched up some jokes that I’d still get the credit for because nobody would know, and so on!  Every once in a while I’d get sent some cool things like RoboChris’s design, a few stills from the animation, the background music - all really exciting.  And then I got to watch it yesterday with all of you!

The only thing that got cut in this process was this little exchange I put in, some blatant pro-crossword propaganda:

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and the idea that RoboChris slept in a doggie bed (I believe this was Breehn’s idea, but I really really loved it):

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I’m really proud of my part in this cartoon and I hope you like it and also this lengthy blog post that suggests when you’re in doubt for an ending have characters punch other characters in the boyoings!

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    So coooooooool
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