How to Write a Script for an Animated Cartoon

Posted on February 6, 2014

1, Before any script can be formed, the writer must have an idea of a story. If you dont have an idea yet and need some ways to find some, try looking at comic books, novels, your favorite cartoon shows, fairy tales, movies, anime, and so forth. Maybe you want write about superheroes, or cowboys, or aliens, or detectives.

Here is another idea. Maybe you could animate your favorite joke? Since cartoons should be simplistic, it wouldnt be a bad idea. Purchase a joke book online or get one at the library so you can add some good gags and jokes into your script. Even in serious cartoons like anime, there is usually an element of humor. Once you have the idea, write it down before it goes away. Make a series of rough notes to flush out the idea. These notes don’t have to be very detailed just yet, just enough to form a story.

2, Develop a storyboard, which is basically a series of rough drawings that comprise a story. Some animators choose to do a storyboard after the script is written, but others find that it helps the animator figure out the pacing and how it should look on screen. The storyboard could even be a series of stick figures or even simple shapes designating people or objects. As long as it works for you, anything goes. Take your time developing a story, because if the animation is crude but the story is well written, it is still a good movie. If however the animation rocks but the story is terrible, than it is a bad movie.

3, Start the script. Here is a good example of a good script layout:

  • Title
  • Scene (Whenever your characters are in a new locale or a new set of characters are introduced in a new spot, a new scene begins.)
  • Description: (Add the characters in the scene, their interactions, and their reactions to what is happening)
  • Dialogue: (Whatever talk is going on and who is talking)
  • SFX: (Sound fx you plan on adding later)

4, Document your desired camera angles: If you want, you can even add in camera angles in your script. Here are some choices:

  • Close-up: A close-up shot is when the camera gets really close up on someone or something, like a persons face or a telephone on a table.
  • Long-shot: A long shot is a camera angle that takes in all the characters of the scene and a view of the scenery. Say your characters are standing in a field or a mountain. This is when you will want to use this shot.
  • Overhead (or birds eye view): This is a shot from the point of view of a bird or someone up in the air. These dramatic shots can add a lot to your movie.
  • Worm€™s eye: Also a very dramatic shot. This is a shot from the point of view of a worm. Think about looking up at a huge building when you are really up close to it. Use these shots for menacing monsters or villains.
  • Extreme close-up: Use this shot when you want to get up front and personal into a shot. Maybe you want to focus on the eyes of a person who is glaring or in distress. Maybe you want to focus in on a characters smile or frown. Maybe you want to focus in on the violence of a tragic scene.
  • Pan: This is when the camera moves across the whole scene quickly, from left to right or right to left.
  • Silhouette: This is where your characters are in shadows and can see their side profiles or shapes of their bodies. If you are doing say an eerie cartoon or a gritty noir type cartoon, this might be a good type of shot to use.


  • Your movie script can be long or short. Many cartoons are only 5 or 10 minutes, and some are as short as one minute! If you wanted, you could make a three-hour movie, but it would take awhile to animate, unless you have a crew of people to help you. When you are writing your script, don’t think about if it is going to be too hard or too easy to animate, because that comes later.
  • The important thing in this step of the process is to get your story on paper. The sky’s the limit, so have fun with it! By the way, this sort of script can be used to make movie scripts, comic books and television shows. If your story doesn’t end up working as a cartoon, try one of these other options.