Pitching a cartoon series to a network is Hollywood’s “backdoor” because cable networks are more open to unsolicited material and unproduced writers than other markets in the entertainment industry. When you pitch a cartoon you have more creative freedom than a writer presenting a screenplay for a live action television series or movie and could easily become the head writer for the duration of your show. If this is your cup of the tea, the question you might be asking now, is what do I do next? (4/15/16 update: please note, the following steps also apply to pitching a live action television series with some minor differences. See What you need to know about pitching a script or television series )
A marketable concept
A pilot script (standard spec, 22-23 pages)
A bible (a thirteen episode outline of your cartoon series)
Animation and character bios
A Network (or whomever you plan to pitch your cartoon to)
A toy prototype (optional)
A DVD presentation (optional)
If you need help with finding animation software send me an email as I can recommend a few. Occasionally there are free easy to use animation programs out there (See below).
You will first need a high concept plot… for example, take the Power Puff Girls on Cartoon Network. The Powerpuff Girls is about a scientist who mixes a potent brew of “Sugar and spice, and everything nice” thus inventing three adorable little girls who happen to have superpowers and must save “Townsville” from big ugly monsters. This is your outside story. The inside story? The three adorable girls trying to get the professor and “Miss Keane” to go on a date. The Powerpuff Girls is an action/comedy. An example of an action/drama would be Dragon Ball Z or The Avatar.
To pitch your idea, you’ll need to include a few important things. The first of which, is a pilot script. If you’ve already written a few screenplays this is the easy part – especially if you’ve got your story down pact. Most networks prefer a 22 or 23 page script for a thirty-minute program (but only 23 pages since there would likely be commercials). Your next step is writing a thirteen episode outline which is usually called a “bible”. Each episode must include a beginning, middle, and end. To convince a network to use your cartoon series will require you to prove longevity. In other words, is there enough material to last a few years?
Once you’ve completed your bible you’ll need artwork or animation. These are professional looking drawings designed by you or a commissioned artist. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on artwork, a friend with a talent for sketching will do. You don’t need a storyboard either. Each picture should include the character’s name and a brief bio.
Your pitch should have a standard card stock cover bound with acco brand fasteners, following the format of a standard spec script. You may also include a toy prototype to show marketability and possible product tie-ins. If the market for your cartoon is eighteen years or older you’ll need to specify this on your submission to a network that produces TV shows for an adult demographic, like Adult Swim for cartoon network or Comedy Central.
Put all these fine ingredients together, and you’ve got yourself a pitch. Good luck.
Questions? Contact Erica Hughes at
Frequently Asked Questions
I am asked the following question so frequently that I have decided to add it to the article. “How to Pitch a Cartoon” was written many years ago, sometime in 2005 I believe, and at this time it warrants a small update.
I try to answer everyone’s inquiries, but due to being busy I am often unable to. See below before you send an email:
Where/How/to Whom do I submit my cartoon?
The best advice I can offer is for you to find an agent. If that doesn’t work, try the following steps.
Once you have created your material and put your pitch together, you will enter the marketing phase of your presentation and will begin to mail it out to executives for their review. Who do you send the material to? Producers, directors, and talent (ie, actors). You can find contact information for talent most readily on web sites like IMDB Pro at http://imbd.com or you might invest in a HOLLYWOOD CREATIVE DIRECTORY book. This industry directory includes names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers to people you may want to be in contact with. You could also go the poor man’s route and visit network websites. There, you may find names and contact information in the corporate information section. Some network street addresses are public.
- Many producers, executives, production companies and studios fear being sued so most will reject unsolicited material on the basis that they may have something similar already in the works. So you will need to have an agent send the material on your behalf. The catch is that most agents don’t accept unsolicited material or query letters from unproduced talent. So what do you do?
- You could work toward producing your own material and sell it on DVD or develop a web series. You’ll spend less on this effort than the amount you’ll spend mailing manuscripts and projects.
- Or you can submit unsolicited material to someone in the industry and see what happens. For addresses and names, invest in a Hollywood Creative Directory Book or go the poor man’s route and visit the corporate information section of network web site to get the name and address of producers or executives you are interested in working with.
- When I was starting out some 9 years ago, I sent a pitch to a Cartoon Network executive producer — in fact, I pitched my project over the phone to her voicemail. She called back and requested the script (I sent all of the aforementioned material listed above). From there it was sent to a director in Los Angeles.
Success is a combination of talent, luck, timing and persistence. So don’t give up. Good luck!
This is just a rough example of what you’ll need:
There are a lot of tools available to film makers and writers who wish to go into animation. If you are not an artist, don’t know an artist, or can’t afford one there are alternatives available. Also, movie editing software is available to those who wish to make a DVD presentation to go along with your script. If you need one, send me an email. I can refer you to some free movie editing/3D animation software.
Good luck on your project!
Log in to contact E. Hughes via private messaging.