Amy Keating Rogers talks about writing, Larson, and asparagus by

 
Amy still being way too energetic after a long signing session and interview.

Barely a week ago we, the European division of Horse News (way prettier than our American counterparts, but just as redundant), were at GalaCon 2016 in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

Apart from the usual excessive drinking and embracing the inner child that nobody would want to be friends with, we had Amy Keating Rogers dragged into the interview room right after her signing session.

Find the whole interview after the break, as well as some impressions from GalaCon 2016.



Horse News:
You worked on so many different TV shows and for so many different companies, so you have seen tons of different processes in writing, like how the meetings are set up, show bibles, and everything. Could you tell us something about the differences and which ones you preferred?

Amy Keating Rogers:
When I first started writing for animation it was Cartoon Network and it was on Powerpuff Girls, and that was a storyboard driven show and I wrote outlines for that. So I wrote outlines on storyboard driven shows for Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Lab, Samurai Jack.
What that means is that we would have story meetings and where we would figure out the whole story and I would take notes through the whole thing and then I would go and flush out… I mean we would figure out the whole story but I would make it sound good, so then we could send it to the network. And they would approve or disapprove it and usually we got most everything through. And then that outline, which had a lot of detail to it was given to the storyboard artist who would draw it and write the dialog for it.
Now when I started I was a playwright and so I had written a lot of dialogue, and so when I started writing the Powerpuff outlines I would put little bits of lines in there and I thought these lines were some of the best lines ever and I was like: “that’s a great line for Bubbles”. Of course the storyboard artists wrote their lines and they would never use my lines, no reason they should. And I was broken-hearted, it was like: “They’re not using my great lines.” and so I stopped putting my lines in there, because why do that to myself? So then I got out of the practice of writing dialog and then kind of a change started happening.
By the end of Powerpuff Girls we had fewer board artists who could also write dialog, because that is a skill to be able to draw and write dialog. So near the end of Powerpuff Girls I actually wrote a script, it’s called, I’m gonna say “Mo' Linguish”. It’s either Mo’ Linguish or Molingual when I say that every time I talk about this. And by this point on Powerpuff Girls I had written chapter books and I had written game dialogue and every time the Powerpuff Girls were interviewed in a magazine or Mojo Jojo was interviewed in a magazine, I wrote that dialog. So I knew these characters backwards and forwards and have written lines for them. So Craig was like “Amy, just write a script, because you actually know these characters.” So I wrote that and it was fantastic.
Then we moved on to scripted shows. Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends was scripted. Johnny Bravo was actually always scripted and I wrote some scripts for that. So when we switched over to scripted shows it was different. Well, it was a twenty two minute show versus eleven minute shows. So we would put cards at the walls so we would put act 1, act 2, act 3 and really break it down. So that you could write a much more detailed outline, because then you had [to go to] script. And that was just a different process, an exciting one, because then we got to start back to writing dialog which I really really always loved.
When I left Cartoon Network I was freelancing and I ended up working on variety of shows in a variety of different ways. Some shows I’d go into story meetings like Fairly Odd Parents. I’d go in and you’d go into a big room and throw out ideas with them. If your idea got chosen you’d write an outline and you got to write a script. But then I wrote on a show called Maya & Miguel and on Maya & Miguel it was all over email. And I did a bunch of shows that were just: You’d send in your premise over email, you got notes, you’d send your outline over email and get notes, you’d write your script and you never saw a person. And that was weird and I hate that life of writing.


Our photographer 'brohoofing' a fursuiter after learning what that zipper was for.

[...] So then when Pony came up, it was kind of a combo of both worlds, because we were still freelance artists. So we would come in and have these summits where we got to see everybody, but then you’d go home and come up with your ideas. And when your premise was chosen, you’d go in and when it was season one with Lauren and Rob Renzetti, it’d be more Rob Renzetti and me and you’d have act 1, act 2, act 3 up on the board and you’d figure out all the stuff. You’d go home and write your outline, you’d get notes from them via email, write your script and that was all, through email. But at least you’d have some human interaction.

HN:
And Lauren said that at first she was missing those huge writer meetings where just everyone came in and try to get a room from Hasbro and they just gave her this tiny…

AKR:
Yeah, they gave us a closet basically, it was embarrassing. There was a point where she said: “Can we get a corkboard, or a whiteboard." And it was a board, it was just this ridiculous dinkey board, it was just sad [mimes a board that is smaller than Din A4 / US letter sized].
It was hard because it was amazing the show turned out as well as it did. And it’s a credit to Lauren and Rob holding everything together, because none of us knew what the other person was writing. And so it wasn’t like “Hey what are you doing with Pinkie Pie, what’s her voice?” you know. We weren’t all in that room together bouncing ideas and we didn’t see how all the characters were developing. It was really amazing and the first two seasons before..., I mean the fandom started happening. We didn’t know about the fandom in season two...

HN:
That’s when it really took off.

AKR:
Yeah, so they’d send us each other’s scripts, because we were safe then. After that it got kinda weird, they were afraid that things would leak.
But then we were able to, it’s like “Oh okay, this is what Cindy did with this character." Like I wrote something in Cutie Pox I think it is. I had Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, Applebloom is heading into the Everfree Forest and the other two are saying: “Don’t go in there.” and they’re freaking out. And I didn’t know they had already been in there, because in another episode that happened. Like “Amy, they’ve been in there.” Oh crud. But I would have known that had we all been in story meetings together.
[...] So yeah, that’s when Pony would have been great had we all been in house, but it was kind of the best, at least we got to see each other a bit. And once Meghan took over she tried to set up meetings where it was two writers and her, so there were three brains in a room and we could do stuff.

HN:
So you took your job with Disney now and you write for some of their shows. How is the process there? I mean, now you’re not freelance anymore.

AKR:
So I’m on the New IP Team for Disney Publishing Worldwide. We come up with new ideas that can be cross-platformed for those different divisions. So for instance, I started freelance for this property called Star Darlings and it was starting as a book series. And it was gonna be book series, dolls, and an app was going to come out. And they brought me on to write shorts for it to help promote all of those elements. So I wrote shorts for it. So they timed it that when the shorts were coming out it was when one of the first books was coming out. And the woman that sought me out to do this liked what I did so much, she wanted me to join her team and try and come up with ideas to do this for more properties. And there is something called, you probably saw it on the screen, Whisker Haven Tales, which had a first season. And then I wrote the second season of Whisker Haven Tales. And they’re shorts that are on Disney Junior and on YouTube. And there are little Whisker Haven toys and Whisker Haven books and Whisker Haven that. So, that’s what I am doing.

Vinyl breaking it down. Remember that it is Summer and that there is hardly any AC in Germany.

HN:
You have written a bunch of stuff, Pony took off super well, Foster did super well, Powerpuff Girls did well and other shows like you wrote for Care Bears I think around the same time, too. Which I think never got well received with an older audience...

AKR:
Right, wasn’t really written for an older audience. Just because something doesn’t get well received by an older audience doesn’t mean it doesn’t gonna do [well].

HN:
How do you get feedback on these shows? I mean you don’t have the conventions. Is there anything you can get back from the actual audience?

AKR:
I hear from people that their kids enjoy Care Bears. I mean this is very unusual, I’ve worked on a lot of shows and this is the only one that exploded like this. So I don’t consider the other shows I’ve worked on not being successes just because they don’t have any conventions.

HN:
Just about the feedback, like the channels don’t really exist and I assume it was Larson, said that he was used to sending things out and never hear from them again. With some luck some child of some uncle or cousin will say “I like this so much.” and this the only feedback they really ever get.

AKR:
You know sometimes I’ll see a kid wearing a t-shirt or I’ll see a kid holding a doll of something that I have participated in somehow and then I’m like: “Oh, I’m glad somebody did something with that.” Because yeah, you said you do your writing and then all the other work happens away from you. Like I wrote this one episode of Maya & Miguel and I never watched Maya & Miguel.

HN:
But at least you don’t have to dread a phone call or someone asks you to change a character.

AKR:
[Knowing look] Yeah, that’s very true.

HN:
Recently they released one new album with pony songs and on it is the ‘Pony Pokey’, but what we believe is the old version of the song. Was there an old version with not using gala instruments or anything, or could that be something new?

AKR:
I would have to hear it to know what it was, because I am not involved with the recording sessions.

HN:
Okay, because it sounds like something that was taken out of production at an early stage, because I figured they wouldn’t re-record it just for the CD. We also remember that you once mentioned that you wrote more than one song for the gala episode and one got picked up later.

AKR:
One got moved to a different episode, the Piggy Dance. It’s in one of Charlotte’s episodes. I am watching that and I’m like: “That sounds just like something that I wrote." And then I looked into my script and I’m like: “I wrote this song." I emailed Charlotte and I said: “You didn’t happen to write this did you, because it’s exactly like a song I wrote and that would be a really weird coincidence." She said: “No, I didn’t write that.” So we don’t get residuals on episodes, but we do get residuals on songs and she was getting residuals for that. So I went: “Can we correct that a little there?”

HN:
So you could only find out by chance as well pretty much?

AKR:
Yeah, and I was getting residuals for something that Dave Polsky actually wrote. And I was like: “Give Dave that money, give credit where credit is due.”

HN:
And I guess since they might reuse that stuff you can’t talk much about things that got cut or is there anything that got cut that you would be…

AKR:
I don’t think there is anything of mine that got cut that they’d still put in at this point. I mean, they’re really just tiny little scenes and stuff that got cut for time. [...] A song that was cut from Crusaders of the Lost Mark and traded out was after Diamond Tiara loses they do a big ‘ding dong the witch is dead’ type of song. And it was really mean and kind of pointless and we didn’t have the Diamond Tiara song in there of her being like: “My life sucks.” And I hated the ‘ding dong the witch is dead’ song.

HN:
It was kind of stomping on the character.

AKR:
Exactly, it’s like salt in the wounds. So Meghan’s like: “Yeah, that doesn’t work.” And I said: “Good, I just want to dump that one, it’s so bad." And they said they really want a Diamond Tiara song and I said: “Yes, that’s what needs to happen.” Because it’s about her big change, we need her to have that moment in there.

HN:
They let you relate to her more then, instead of just like pitting everyone against her.

AKR:
Yeah, and I actually wrote the original original lyrics to the tune of Jessie’s song from Toy Story 2, which just rips your heart out to begin with in life. And so as I was writing that song I was constantly crying and I send it to Meghan and I was like: “when you listen to this, think of this song.” She was like: “Amy, there is not gonna be a dry eye.” And then the tune ended up changing and she sent me Daniel’s tune and I ended up adjusting lyrics and stuff so they’d work with Daniel’s tune.

HN:
Some people complain that characters sometimes get too easily reformed, but Diamond Tiara probably deserved it.

AKR:
I think she had a long journey. And for me, I’m a huge musical theater person. In musical theater characters change through music and they have those moments and they transform.
Ambassador Sunbutt explains how well his close to 500 subjects are treated.

HN:
Could you tell us anything about your former co-workers that we can use against them? I mean, we are not thinking about a bearded guy or anything.

AKR:
I actually like that bearded guy.

HN:
He’s great, but that’s why he can take it.

AKR:
Exactly. He tripped me once at a convention. We were walking down a hall and he tripped me. And I just turned and smacked him. “Just cut it out or I’m going to hit you in the dick." And he laughed. But he took it seriously and stopped tripping me. [...] I also have a good angle.
No, he cracks me up. I liken him to be the annoying little brother that my little brother never was. My little brother was awesome, he still is awesome. But yeah, Mitch is fun. What’s funny about Mitch is that without these conventions I’d never gotten to know him. Because we only hung out at summits. And so I met him first at Lauren’s and Craig’s house, because at first we didn’t have summits actually at Hasbro. So we just meet up at Lauren’s and Craig’s house.

HN:
She did that once and then never again, right?

AKR:
Yeah, yeah, it was weird. So the first one at Lauren’s and Craig’s house. Then this one for Season 2 at Hasbro and then I wasn’t at the Season 3 summit, so I didn’t see him there. So then it was all conventions. And at the first convention I was at with him was Midwestria, which was outside Chicago. And I walked into his panel, which was in a tiny room. And it was going on already, so I kinda went in and sat down and he sees me. And he’s like: “Oh great." And I didn’t know whether he was serious or not, I was like: “Oh man, does Mitch not want me to be here? Am I totally messing with his mojo kind of thing?”. And he was probably joking, because Mitch is a jokey guy, but I didn’t know him yet. But then we hung out all weekend and I was like: “This guy is super nice.”

HN:
But wasn’t Larson on Foster as well?

AKR:
He was, but not at the same time as me, we missed each other on that. But yeah, then we were at all these crazy conventions. He tries to get me to do shots and that’s not good. [imitating Larson] “Amy, do shots, come on Amy." I go to the bathroom. [imitating Larson] “Hey Amy, I got you shots." And I was like: “Mitch!”. [imitating Larson] “No, got you water."

HN:
I remember that at one convention there was a writers panel at 10 in the morning, and I think Mitch got everyone to drink late the night before. So you’d just have six writers up there…

AKR:
… Who are all hungover. [...] Yeah, at BABSCon, the first BABSCon, they always schedule writer’s panels at 10 am. And we’re like: “Nobody is gonna show up, because everybody’s been partying the night before. All the writers are gonna be hungover." So I said: “We will do it at 10 am, but we need to have Ramoses, Bellinis, and Bloody Marys, so that we can feel better during our panel." And they delivered, they gave us Ramoses, Bellinis and Bloody Marys. And then, oh man, just people were drunk really early in the morning. Because then we went back and there was a meet and greet for all the people who had donated and there was an open bar there; I was like: “This is a lot of drinking, really early.”

HN:
There was this one guy, he told a story and I think it was with you. He approached you in the middle of a convention. You were talking about asparagus or something.

AKR:
[Laughs] Yes, we’ve had fights about this. Mitch and I were discussing what vegetables we like and I really like asparagus. But I like thin asparagus, not like that fat asparagus, that’s gross. I like it thin and I like it crispy. But Mitch likes broccoli. So I was sitting there, there was this brony across from me and he works at this place called ‘Fresh something’, I am not remembering the name of this place. And he’s like: “Oh, we don’t serve asparagus at this place.” And I went: “What, you don’t serve asparagus?”. He said: “Yeah, my boss doesn’t serve it, because your pee smells after you eat asparagus.” And I said: “That’s ridiculous. That’s a ridiculous reason not to serve asparagus. First of all, only a certain number of the population, it has to do with like a genetic thing that your pee smells or it doesn’t smell. So you’re like not allowing a certain number of people to get their asparagus because their pee doesn’t even smell. And then for those of us that do, maybe we don’t care that our pee smells after we eat asparagus.” So then this guy went out to a store, this was in Dallas, he went and got asparagus and he gave it to me and I’m like: “What am I gonna do with this asparagus, I’m not gonna take it on the plane.” And so I signed it and donated it to the auction and then Foal Papers bought it and took it to England. And I’m like: “Wow, I wasn’t even willing to take it to LA and now it’s in England.” That is some ripe asparagus.

HN:
Yeah, because the guy told us that he was pretty ashamed afterwards, because he was super drunk apparently. But it seems he didn’t do too bad.

AKR:
No, he was fine. But yeah, can’t argue with me about asparagus.

A random and very rare find.
Editor's note: Dear Amy, While we love you dearly, the next time you keep hitting the table the recording device is resting on during an interview, making our ears bleed during transcribing, we will let a drunk Larson loose in your garden at 4 am. Just kidding. He would do that without being drunk.

Comments (4)

  1. She'd just hit him in the dick if you did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After all he's sold out to, he still has a dick worth hitting?

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  2. P U R P L E T R A N N Y =

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  3. This was great.
    Nothing more to add.

    ReplyDelete