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What Goes into an Animated Pitch Document

I’ve developed and been involved with half a dozen animated pitches in the past few years—both as a writer and an artist. Unfortunately, for this site, I can’t post them as reference because many are still active or in different stages of development (or I’m just not legally allowed to share them). But I can briefly explain the elements that go into a successful animated pitch document. Here’s what you should know if you’re interested in developing an animated show:

First thing’s first, you should understand what a pitch document actually is. A pitch document is a PDF file that gets emailed to development execs after you’ve met with them to verbally pitch your show. It talks about the show in much more detail and is something that can be distributed to all the members of the development executive’s team as well as key decision-makers who may not have met with you in-person. Typically, it’s set up for 8 1/2” x 11” output but can vary in size depending on the kind of impression you’re trying to make. What goes into it is:

A logline

This is a one-sentence description of your project. It’s the shorthand to describe the show you’re pitching and is often referred to when setting up meetings and speaking about the show in general.

A summary of the show

This is a longer description of the show where you can talk about it in more depth. This can—and probably should—include:

  • The basic description of the show and what makes it unique in the marketplace.
  • A description of who the audience for the show is.
  • What the tone of the show is.
  • Any significant themes that your show addresses.
  • What makes this show timely. Why should this show exist now?
  • The world of the show.
  • How a typical episode usually works.

Character descriptions

You’ll want to include descriptions of all the major characters as well as their relationships to each other—and the conflicts those relationships create. Of course, since this is an animated show, your descriptions should also be accompanied by amazing art that showcases your characters and their compelling personalities. You may also want to include short descriptions and art of minor characters in the show as well if you have the room.

Any important location descriptions

Depending on how important the world of your show is, you may need to write up descriptions of the significant locations—and supply some kick-butt art to go with it.

Episode ideas

This should be a sampling of episode ideas for the show. It could be five or six episodes if they’re one-offs, or it could trace the first few seasons of the show if it’s meant to have season-long arcs.

Any impressive biographical information

If you and any partners you’re working with have significant biographical information (such as bestselling books, previous TV shows you’ve been involved in, etc.) you may want to include that in the pitch document as well.

Finalizing

The document should be saved as a PDF file at a size that’s easily sharable via email. And, this goes without saying, but the writing and art should be top-notch and compelling—and representative of the show. It takes a long time to make a successful pitch document so attention must be paid to every detail—writing, art, and design. Only when you’ve got all three nailed, will your pitch document be ready to distribute.

Summing up

The above information is pretty much everything you need to have in an animated pitch document. Once you’ve written and drawn all of that, you’re ready to start taking meetings! But that’s a whole other can of worms. Don’t worry, though, we’ll get to that in a future post, as well as a lot more about that industry. So stay tuned!

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Neil Swaab is a freelance illustrator, art director, author, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. He's an instructor at Parsons the New School for Design and the illustrator of the New York Times bestselling book Middle School: My Brother is a Big, Fat Liar by James Patterson and Lisa Papademetriou. His new authored and illustrated book, The Secrets to Ruling School: Class Election, comes out this September from Amulet Books.

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