Shannon Muir's Animated Insights





By Shannon Muir


Originally published in three parts at

Read the follow-up at Digital Media FX






With twelve years in animation, Greg Weisman's career includes writing, story-editing, producing, voice directing, and development. Welcome to Part One of my three-part chat with Greg about these aspects of the business.  In this segment: his roles as development executive and supervising producer.




After an earlier stint at DC Comics and freelancing one animated script, Greg became a development associate (a very junior executive) at the then-small development department at Disney TV Animation.  His boss went away for what was supposed to be two weeks and ended up being six months.  Since his boss' secretary was shared with publicity and he was left as the only executive in the division, Greg started aiding his boss' superior and became "indispensable."  Greg admits it wasn't the path he sought -- he'd known since second grade he wanted to write -- but the job gave him regular contact with writers and story-editors (the distinctions will be discussed in Part Three).  It also didn't allow him time to work on his own material.


Greg's job duties included managing script coordinators, writers, story-editors and producers; he also regularly evaluated new and existing talent (writers and artists) for their suitability to current projects.  New projects would come under his scrutiny. He also evaluated studio efficiency, to find places for improvement and ensure that the products being made were what had been promised.


When I asked Greg what he thought someone in development needed in their background, he replied, "I don't think there are any rules.  Definitely helps to have a liberal arts education.  It helps to have done some writing yourself.  Sometimes you don't get hired for that reason.  I've known people who won't hire people on the executive track because those people were writers."


Greg moved from being in development to producing with the series, which still airs in reruns on Toon Disney (check for a current schedule).  Gargoyles began as a notion Greg explored with his development team.  Originally developed as a comedy about medieval gargoyles awakened in the present, it took two years to sell and became an adventure show different from other Disney projects.  The timeframe caused a lot of turnover in the development staff; also, many talents Disney normally relied on weren't right for the project.


They found a line producer to get artwork for Gargoyles underway, but needed a creative head.  Greg had a "passion for the property" and stepped in to drive it forward.  The first couple of writers didn't pan out, and Greg says, "as we worked on story I became involved in a more hands-on way than I normally would, but we had the green light and needed to keep things moving."  He began making decisions producers make, not to overstep bounds but because there wasn't a producer.


Finally, Greg hired Michael Reaves to story edit, and feels that Michael and he "were a great team."  Frank Paur came on as creative producer, but Greg was so involved he "couldn't bear to give it up."  His superiors at Disney did not let him become a credited producer; they required him to continue his development job while being a supervising producer on Gargoyles first season.  When it was renewed, Greg became a full-time producer.


For more information on Gargoyles,  visit the websites or -- on the latter, Greg has a moderated message board where he interacts with fans of his work.


I asked Greg the difference between producer and developer; he responded passionately.  He feels the producer gets the show done, while the executive does his best job "keeping out of the producer's way."  Greg firmly believes that if someone's hired to produce a show, there should be enough faith the person can handle it.  "If you're in his [the producer's] face, telling him how to get his work done, you're not respecting that hiring decision in the first place."


Multiple executives often reread the same script and give notes.  To Greg, this "fosters an absolute system of disrespect."  A lower executive's notes can be overruled by higher up and "you know who you'll have to listen to," so it's hard to take a lower executive's notes seriously.  He also feels many of today's executives don't understand animation; it's perceived as a stepping stone, but many never escape.  "When I came in, I studied it," Greg says.  "Every facet of it… I went to recordings, mix sessions, edits."


Today's executives, Greg feels, rely too much on focus groups and trends; they are "people without the courage of their conviction."  He also points out that "the largest successes often have passionate creators behind them" (though the two are not mutually exclusive).  In short, "it's got to start with the passion."






With twelve years in animation, Greg Weisman's career includes writing, story-editing, producing, voice directing, and development. Welcome to Part Two of my three-part chat with Greg about these aspects of the business.  In this segment: voice directing.





Greg credits his foray into animation voice directing to a longtime interest in theatre.  He acted in high school and college plays, though the majority of his experience was at the collegiate level.  Once he found himself acting alongside people such as Andre Brauer (the star of Gideon's Crossing on ABC), Greg realized maybe he wasn't cut out to be a big-time actor.  However, he very much enjoyed directing college productions and made sure to try his hand at all aspects of play production.  Some things he liked doing, and others not so much.


When Greg moved to New York he left theatre behind entirely.  Greg told me there's really no room for someone who wants to do theatre as a hobby in New York or Los Angeles because "community theatre in that sense doesn't exist because there are so many actors looking for some kind of showcase."  Producing and directing a play for his Masters Degree was the only theatre work Greg did for years after returning to Los Angeles.


While a supervising producer on Gargoyles (see Part One) Greg began to attend the voice recording sessions.  Greg describes these sessions as "the fun part of the process… on the whole," and a "compact moment of three hours all about the possibility."  Problems may crop up later down the line in production, but at the voice recording, you get a sense of what can be.  Of the caliber of voice actors he's worked with over the years, Greg says, "you can get… people, professional voice actors and others to work your stuff.  Absolutely talented and they bring the words you've written to life."  As a writer, he feels 7 out of 10 times voice actors bring words alive, maybe 1 out of 10 times it's better in your mind, but there's 2 times out of 10 where dialogue's improved.


Greg transitioned to voice directing while on Gargoyles.  He sat in the sessions alongside Disney's voice director Jamie Thomason, whom he credits as "a better dialogue director than I'll ever be."  Jamie gave Greg the opportunity to oversee a few "phone patch" (phoned in) sessions and eventually gave him the opportunity to voice direct an entire Gargoyles episode, "Vendettas."  With its small cast, "all five actors made my first experience of directing a show myself a complete and total pleasure," though the final animated episode didn't turn out as well as he'd hoped.


He also had the opportunity to assist dialogue director Sue Blu with pickup sessions while working on the several series with her at Sony.  These were Starship Troopers (the official show link is; also is also worth checking out) and Max Steel -- see sites at and  Greg's big opportunity came when a former USC student, Jonathan Klein, asked him to voice direct a new English adaptation of the Japanese series 3x3 Eyes which the company wanted to make a more prestige -- and union -- project.  If you're not familiar with the series, you can get more information at and, but be aware this series is considered for ages 13 and up in the United States.  Greg recruited many of the voice talents he'd worked with on other projects, including Christian Campbell (Josh McGrath/Max Steel from Max Steel), Brigitte Bako (Angela from Gargoyles), and Edward Asner (Hudson from Gargoyles as leading characters.


Automatic Dialogue Replacement (the technical term for the dubbing process, often called ADR) differs from creating original animated product.  When animation's created, the process goes from script to voice record, then storyboard and animation. With ADR, the finished animation already exists.  Greg told me that the challenge is "translating Japanese to English not only literally… also idioms and that it fits the lip synch."  


At the time of our conversation, Greg had just begun work as voice director for the new Disney series Team Atlantis, based on the summer movie release Atlantis (see for the official movie website).   Of the first session he said, "It was fun but it's too early to say how the whole thing will go."  He looks forward to the challenge and feels all his work up until now prepared him to helm voice directing for a series. (NOTE: not long after this was published, Disney decided to shelve the Team Atlantis series.  The exact reason is unknown.  There are plans for a direct-to-video using some of the completed material.)


Greg also enjoys directing original radio plays every summer at the "Gathering of the Gargoyles," an annual convention dedicated to the Gargoyles series he worked on as supervising producer.  The convention's official website is






With twelve years in animation, Greg Weisman's career includes writing, story-editing, producing, voice directing, and development. Welcome to the conclusion of my chat with Greg about these aspects of the business.  In this segment: writing and story-editing.




Writers craft the scripts, but Greg says a story-editor’s job is “responsibility for the script process. A writer may story-edit his or herself, or a producer may story-edit, but story-editors always have writing credits on their resume.  Multiple writers help shows meet deadlines, so a story-editor sees their stories are within guidelines, have a consistent tone, that the scripts are the right length, and are clearly understood for the actors, artists, and crew to bring to life.


On Gargoyles, four story-editors worked on the second season. All reported to Greg, who acted as supervising story-editor.  They sought consistent work from their writers, and then Greg supervised them in turn.


Greg co-wrote for JEM --  see -- before he moved back to Los Angeles.  At Disney, he story-edited the last five episodes of Ducktales uncredited because he was a development executive (see Part One).   He developed premises, gave notes, and did some rewriting.


The amount of rewriting is “directly proportional to how in sync the writer is with the story-editor,” says Greg.  “I’d also like to say how talented the writer is, but sometimes that’s not the case… if someone gives me a script that needs a lot of work, I’m going to be doing a major rewrite.  If someone gives me a script that doesn’t need a lot of work… I’ll do as little as I have to in order to get it to be the kind of script I want it to be.”  A talented writer may not understand a show, so being rewritten doesn’t necessarily mean lack of ability.


With Gargoyles'  third season, Greg wrote and story-edited – but didn’t produce – the first episode.  It “can be a dangerous process but it’s… more rewarding than having someone else story-edit,” he said.  An advantage is getting “the individual’s unadulterated vision… strong but powerful, not always good… pure, and there’s something to be said for that.” As to dangers, he admitted, “you get concerned with little details and lose track of the bigger picture.”


Greg explains, “freelance story-editing is tough.  One is, financially it’s not as lucrative thus you’re forced to do more work in a shorter time to make an equivalent amount of money.  The second reason… you’re not on site.  You’re not engaged in… daily dialogue with the other people working on the show.  The only advantage I can think of is the certain amount of freedom… that allows you to simultaneously do something else.”


About writer/story-editor relations, Greg says: “when people are in sync… the whole becomes more than the sum of the parts… if you’re self story-editing, you lose the opportunity to collaborate with another individual… who might provide additional ideas that make it better.” However, it can become “an effort of mutual compromise and homogenization, where you’re…not in sync with each other… not challenging each other… finally you wind up with nothing of interest in the story.” 


Greg feels a good writing team also challenges its members “to create something greater than the sum of its parts.” Since the same pay often gets split amongst the members of a team, he states, “there’s no real financial advantage being a team, unless… you get the X and Y name and you’ve got them working on multiple, multiple shows… it becomes a brand… the brand can cover more territory and thus bring more money in.  Mr. X is working on Show A and Ms. Y is working on Show B… it becomes a quantity thing.  A true team, it’s not about quantity any more than an individual is about quantity.”


On his early partnership:   “I think we were really challenging each other to do better work… we went off to do some separate things… not because the partnership was failing… we had these opportunities.  Having done that, I wasn’t comfortable going back into the partnership, and I would say that was a failing on my part.  I didn’t want to subsume myself in the way that it was before, even though that was a challenging partnership I was appreciating the challenge of my own work.”


About a writer’s education, Greg feels that (besides writing) you need to be willing to self-edit, take others’ notes, proofreading, and read extensively – this is classic as well as modern books, more than industry trades and newspapers.   Also, watch contemporary and classic films and “look at the history of these mediums.”  For animation, he recommends taking classes, reading animation scripts, and studying series to see “what works for you and what doesn’t.”


Thank you, Greg, for taking time to share.





Return to the articles page








All content copyright 2001 - 2011 Shannon Muir. All rights reserved.