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Picture books that could be adapted into great short animated films?

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Hi there!

I have been involved in independent comic book publishing over the last few years, which has led to a developing interest in producing animation.  I was perusing my six-year old son's bookshelf for inspiration for a potential new animation project to get my feet wet with, and thought that maybe I'd find something better if I came right to the sources of those types of books.  So I have decided to reach out to the great authors and illustrators of SCBWI for ideas and to find out if any of you had any interest in having your book adapted into a short animated film.  I think it could be quite entertaining.  I can not promise great quality in the style of Pixar or Disney.  In truth, this would be more like a student film meant to build a portfolio, but I do know illustrators, storyboard artists, animators, etc., who could treat this as a real passion project with a lot of respect.

Thanks!

Eric Mullarky
eric@newbabyproductions.com
www.DoomComic.com
#1 - November 21, 2016, 01:23 PM

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Hi, Eric. Welcome to the Blueboard!

This is a very interesting area of children's publishing. I was personally a bit confused by what you are actually planning to do and would love to hear more from you about this project. Some questions I immediately had were:

1) Are you looking for writers to submit published books or unpublished manuscripts? This is a very important question because before a published book can be adapted to any other form you would need to get permission from the publisher.

2) Is there any renumeration for the author for submitting their story?

3) What rights will the author retain for unpublished manuscripts submitted for this project? Will the manuscript be used in any commercial way or is it just for portfolios, only and will the author of the manuscript lose their right to submit it elsewhere?

Please keep us posted on what happens with this project. It sounds so fascinating!
#2 - November 22, 2016, 07:39 AM
Verla Kay

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To answer your questions...

1) Are you looking for writers to submit published books or unpublished manuscripts? This is a very important question because before a published book can be adapted to any other form you would need to get permission from the publisher.
While I would consider an unpublished story if it fascinated me, I would prefer to work with a published story.   The idea there is that a published story already has art that can be a guide when setting up the character designs, storyboards, etc.
I understand that I may need to seek permissions from publishers.  I would also consider out-of-print books where the rights have reverted back to the authors and illustrators and that would not be an issue.

2) Is there any renumeration for the author for submitting their story?
As I stated in my original post, this will be treated more as a student film, not for any commercial gain but to develop our animation portfolios.  So I would prefer not to spend anything for the permissions, but that can be discussed if a particular book/author/illustrator has an exceptionally large fan base or list of awards that can be tapped to bring attention to the final film.

3) What rights will the author retain for unpublished manuscripts submitted for this project? Will the manuscript be used in any commercial way or is it just for portfolios, only and will the author of the manuscript lose their right to submit it elsewhere?
All rights would remain with the author, illustrator, and publisher (if applicable) to be used however they want.  I am only looking for permission to start developing an animated film based on their book, and I am not even asking for exclusivity in that respect.  In truth, if a film were produced, I think that it could be a great tool for the author/illustrator to use in promoting their book.

Certainly let me know if there are other questions.
#3 - November 22, 2016, 08:36 AM

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This might be trickier than you suspect, Eric--the contracts of most, if not all, commercially published books include clauses about who is legally allowed to exploit film rights--and publishers might have hung onto those rights. You might be better off working with a self-published or unpublished work, but again, to protect both you and the author/illustrator, a contract should be drawn up between you detailing permissions and just what use the film can be put to.
#4 - November 22, 2016, 01:22 PM
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This might be trickier than you suspect, Eric--the contracts of most, if not all, commercially published books include clauses about who is legally allowed to exploit film rights--and publishers might have hung onto those rights.

This, especially. If the publisher has the rights, they're extremely unlikely to assign them to you for nothing, nor is that in the author's interest.
#5 - November 22, 2016, 05:53 PM
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So the idea is to use the art as a basis for a different artist to do the animation, possibly add scenes and maybe change the characters to make them into something new? Or would these films be more along the lines of what Weston Woods does
(did?), which keeps and uses the original illustrations and moves the camera to create action, tension, and suspense? Or some combination of the two approaches? And what about sound? Would a narrator be reading the story? Actors doing each character?

I have a picture storybook (written by someone else) that I illustrated, and it was published by a small press. The press still owns the rights but I think they might be willing to grant you permission to make a film if you were able to keep the characters very close to the art in the book, which is long by today's standards for picture books, but  that might work fine for a short film. Let me know if you would like more information. I'd also have to contact the publisher and see what they might think. Would you be giving the film (or copies) to the publisher, author, and illustrator? That might be payment enough for some small presses-- ?
#6 - November 23, 2016, 09:09 PM
Sheila Welch,  author/illustrator. Don't Call Me Marda, Waiting to Forget, Something in the Air, The Shadowed Unicorn, Little Prince Know-It-All

So the idea is to use the art as a basis for a different artist to do the animation, possibly add scenes and maybe change the characters to make them into something new? Or would these films be more along the lines of what Weston Woods does (did?), which keeps and uses the original illustrations and moves the camera to create action, tension, and suspense? Or some combination of the two approaches? And what about sound? Would a narrator be reading the story? Actors doing each character?
Much of that would really depend on the book being adapted.  My plan is to keep things in the same artistic style that is used in the book, but with more animation movement than what the Weston Woods productions traditionally had.  I may be interested in hiring on the book's illustrator (if available) to help with storyboards, etc., to retain as much of that style as possible.
And yes, I would like to work with voice-over talent for narrators and characters to make this as professional as possible.

I have a picture storybook (written by someone else) that I illustrated, and it was published by a small press. The press still owns the rights but I think they might be willing to grant you permission to make a film if you were able to keep the characters very close to the art in the book, which is long by today's standards for picture books, but  that might work fine for a short film. Let me know if you would like more information. I'd also have to contact the publisher and see what they might think. Would you be giving the film (or copies) to the publisher, author, and illustrator? That might be payment enough for some small presses-- ?
I'll certainly take a look at your book and anyone else's at this point.  Feel free to reach out to me at eric@newbabyproductions.com.
I plan to release the final film online for anyone to watch and share.  Like I said, I'm doing this with the hope to build up a portfolio.
#7 - November 24, 2016, 06:28 AM

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