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Posted by shannonmuir in animation, Interview.
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[AUTHOR NOTE: This is a reprint of an interview I had the honor of doing with Hilary J. Bader not long after I met her in 2001, and a relatively short time later she passed away. I encourage looking at it, not only as a chance to see more about her and her work, but to compare it to the state of the industry today. I also did a post later remembering her that is currently available at digitalmediafx.com.]

Animation on the Web initially looked poised to take the industry by storm.  Startups like Icebox.com rose to the challenge of providing content but did not last.  Some avenues for animation on the Web have weathered the storm, including the original offerings from WB Online.  One of the popular features at WB Online is Gotham Girls, detailing the adventures of the women of Batman‘s Gotham City — Batgirl, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn.


Hilary J. Bader works as the principal writer for Gotham GirlsRecently she graciously answered some questions for me about writing Animation for the Web.



SHANNON MUIR:  How do you come up with ideas for Gotham Girls?


HILARY J. BADER: Since the Webisodes are so short,  (3 to 4 minutes) the scripts don’t take me much time to write, however, it takes me a few days to come up with an idea that I can set up and pay off in just three minutes.  Mostly I toss the characters into bizarre circumstances (in my imagination) then if something comes out of that, I flesh it out.  When I’m in the midst of coming up with a story, everything I see is fodder for that story.  I get my car washed, “Hmm.  What if Harley and Ivy ran a car wash.” I go to the dentist.  “Hmmm. What if Barbara Gordon had a toothache when…”  You get the idea.  I go through dozens of ideas before I find one or two that seem to hold up as stories.


SM: Is there any difference in the script for a web-based animation like Gotham Girls versus a TV half-hour such as Batman Beyond?


HJB: Because it’s animated using the computerized animation method known as) Flash animation and not normal cell animation, I try to simplify the action somewhat.  In some ways it’s closer to a comic book than a cartoon.  You try to make your point using fewer images, or make a point using a single strong image. You’ll notice there are a lot more still moments in a Flash animated work.  Although I’ll put in stuff I don’t think they’ll be able to do, sometimes the Flash Animators amaze me and find ways to pull it off.


SM: Does the fact a story’s being done in web animation put limits, if any, on your storytelling?


HJB: Not on the storytelling.  In fact, since there is no network censor you have a bit more freedom.  The limits are due to the time constraints.  Most Webisodes run for a maximum of three to four minutes.  This is the norm for several reasons – number one being it would take anyone with a dialup modem a lifetime to download a long cartoon.  But at the same time this limit opens up more possibilities.  You get to make a single point and, for me, that makes the point come across much clearer.


SM: What are your thoughts on the future of web animation?


HJB: More, better, longer.  As soon as enough homes have faster computers with mega-mega-bytes of memory and every household has a cable modem or DSL or(whatever the next step in online access is) then Flash will be replaced by the next (yet to be created) computer generated animation  which will rival cell animation.


The only constraints then will be habit and money.  Right now, the industry seems to feel that, though people will sit in front of their TV and watch 22 minutes of entertainment, their attention spans shorten in front of a computer screen.  It may be true, but I think even that is going to change as the technical quality of online products improves.


Of course, that means product becomes more expensive to produce.  Then, the webmasters (companies with a strong presence on the web) will have to find a way to make money from this new, improved, more expensive product or it won’t be “worth” doing.  But I have faith that both these things will happen.



Thank you so much for your time, Hilary.  I really enjoyed learning more about Web animation from you.


(originally posted 2001 for Suite101.com)



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