By Justine Owens.
Family entertainment has always held the promise of a noble enterprise, one that has cultural significance beyond the imaginative and often whimsical subjects of its stories.
Significantly, the family film allows older and younger generations to come together; to meet in a shared experience of values, attitudes, and self-reflection all whilst enjoying the rollicking ride of a family film.
The big-ticket family franchises may not be seeing a decline, but the weekly/monthly family trip to the multi-plex has certainly been hurting. Mid-budget family movies and animation are said by all to be going to streamers. This trend was occurring before the pandemic, but Covid has given it an extra push. This is perhaps even more true for live-action family movies.
The effect of streaming has been noted by some to lead to an increased conservatism when it comes to content. And perhaps, an over-reliance on previously successful concepts, characters, and stories. But the “viewing together” principle of family entertainment has also been seen in the new at-home audience, and this blending of content that appeals to both adults and kids is also opening up new opportunities for new stories and new storytelling innovations.
What’s more, easing travel restrictions and growing audience confidence could make this the year that the family movie bounces back; with many studios releasing movies that had been shelved during the height of the pandemic. Ice Age, Hotel Transylvania, Cheaper By the Dozen, Sonic the Hedgehog, Fantastic Beasts, and Minions are all slated to return this year.
Pixar’s recent release Turning Red is a great example of contemporary family entertainment that has punched through expectations, which tells a much-needed coming-of-age story, and has had heaps of praise from critics and audiences alike.
“If nothing else, narratively normalizing a bodily function that affects more than half the world’s population makes “Turning Red” a cinematic revolution.” LA Times.
Despite the makers’ disappointment that the movie went direct to Disney+, this film has got the industry talking about family entertainment once more, and that can only be a good thing.
So, what should you be doing if you want to make a career screenwriting family entertainment? We asked members of our impeccable Industry roster, our illustrious Alumni, and our amazing Judge’s panel to bring you some top tips.
Let’s take a look at what they said.
Irene Weibel – Producer
Irene Weibel is a producer with 20 plus years of experience in the industry and who is known for her work on Sony Pictures Hotel Transylvania: The Series, the BBC’s Moon and Me, and Nelvana’s Ranger Rob. Irene is currently a Judge for our TV Pilot contest and has this advice for aspiring family entertainment/animation screenwriters:
“As a writer, you should always be focusing on your skills of observation. As you enter the world of animation, use your skills of observation and listening. That skill set will serve you well as you write your stories and learn about the people you are working with. The world of animation is technical in many aspects, but it is always about people working with people. Strong relationships with your working family will always be the key to getting the next job.”
Irene is Executive Producer of a new animated series in production entitled Summer Memories. This is a creator-driven buddy comedy based on a Nickelodeon short. You can read more about Irene’s new project in Animation Magazine.
It’s clear that whatever flights of fancy might be tantalizing in this field, it is the humanity and empathy of the characters that are equally, if not more important. So, sharpen up your observation skills and do not neglect to give your characters depth and realism, no matter how fantastic the setting.