Daily Variety Digital Style Guide Feature

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The following appeared in the Daily Variety on October 1, 1996. The citation is Gien, Charmayne (1996-10-01). Hi-tech guide has style. Daily Variety.

Computers have profoundly changed the medium of animation in recent years, but not only onscreen. New technology is also affecting how cartoons are packaged, presented and represented to prospective licensees.

In the same way that the creation of cartoons was once a completely hand-drawn process, traditional program style guides character information and guidelines for licensees to keep the design of products based on animated shows uniform have always been printed catalogues, sometimes encompassing several hundred pages each.

Like many other things in the animation industry, however, that's changing. In June, Turner Home Entertainment (THE) and TSE Intl. teamed to create what is believed to be the industry's first interactive digital style guide. The guide, under the trademarked name DSG, was launched by Christopher Deppe, president of TSE Intl., and RussellHicks, vice president of the Orbit City Art Company, the consumer products support division for THE and its subsidiary, Hanna-Barbera Inc. In collaboration with Apple Computer, the DSG was created in a CD-ROM format, and has been distributed to several licensees worldwide of Hanna-Barbera's new series "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest."

When the DSG was launched in June, Hicks said, "This new style guide will provide our licensees all of the creative elements they need in a fully digital format," adding that it is his hope the DSG will "save time and effort in the design and approval process, thereby enhancing the product development phase and shortening time to market."

Hicks says the time saved could cut costs by approximately two-thirds, which also allows licensees to create products much sooner than with conventional methods.

All elements that would be included in a printed style guide are present on the CD-ROM, with several convenient additions. Included is the ability to access information from video and audio footage, as well as the capacity to download files containing 3-D images, color and black-and-white renderings, situational and character art, icons, fonts, borders, logos and trademark information.

Creators say DSGs are both Macintosh- and Windows-compatible, although only Mac files on DSGs are downloadable, according to Hicks, because most licensees prefer the Mac format. As to IBM-compatible machines, "future developments with IBM will depend on how fast technology moves," says Hicks.

In addition to the Apple Media tool, programs used are Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and the CD-ROM also comes equipped with QuickTime and SoundManager.Although the "Quest" DSG was first, Turner has plans to produce digital style guides for a variety of other THE-owned properties, including the upcoming version of the animated "Scooby Doo," as well as the live-action "Jetsons" movie, and the classic film, "The Wizard of Oz."

Future improvements under consideration include the ability to access particular files and character libraries from the Internet. Those capabilities are currently being tested internally by Turner.

So far, response from licensees on the "Jonny Quest" DSG has been "great," according to Hicks. "This technology takes the approval process and streamlines it," he says.

Opinions at other studios, however, are more cautious. Brenda Guttman, director of creative services at Warner Bros., which is currently in the process of merging with Turner, says she polled certain WB licensees to determine whether or not a digital style guide would be more effective for them.She says that about 70% of the merchandisers said they are currently able to open and download such files electronically. But she adds that many companies around the world are still not highly computerized, especially in certain international markets such as Latin America.

"No matter what, we'd still need to send out a printed guide," she says. When asked if WB has any immediate plans for a digital guide, Guttman replied, "As one of our licensees put it, 'I don't care if you give it to me in a paper bag.' " Currently, Warner Bros. does have some style guide information on CD-ROM for 3-D imaging purposes, but that version is not yet interactive like Turner's. On the other hand, with Warner about to join forces with Turner, such technology would easily be available to the studio if it wants it.

Might others follow suit? Peter Stougaard, head of the creative services department of the consumer products division at DreamWorks, says he talked to Apple and Deppe a little over a year ago, hoping to create a digital style guide. Stougaard says DreamWorks eventually settled on a format for upcoming style guides that will be done digitally, including the guide for the live-action sci-fi pic "Men in Black," due out next summer.

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