A character bible is the heart and soul of a cartoon series. Without a proper character bible you cannot even get started on talking to anyone about your concept. I have seen many character bibles from producers around the world in the past few years asking for co-production collaborations. I’ve seen really good ones and absolutely dreadful ones. Having received several questions asked regarding what goes into a character bible, I’ve written this entry to give some insight on this topic. Below are the various ingredients that should make up a good character bible.
It is absolutely important to have a synopsis in your character bible. This is the foundation which you build your entire story upon and it should be concise, but not verbose enough such that it can’t be read or explained in 3 minutes or less. Try to make this a one-pager if possible. The shorter you can make this and still keep it interesting, the better.
Include the designs of the most important characters in your character bible. Be sure to spend considerable time to make them look good and ensure that they do justice to your concept. A character bible should be more visual than wordy, showcasing the character designs to its fullest – with various poses and expressions of the main characters. Props – if any – should also be showcased. These are very important to show the potential of the characters should they become animated or licensed for various reasons. People reading the character bible need to be able to feel the characters for who they are and get an idea of the show through these character designs.
Ideally text descriptions of the characters should not be verbose, because not many people would really read through all that text. The character descriptions should outline only the most important characteristics of the characters to keep things short and quick to read. The visuals should pre-sell, and the text do the selling.
It would be good to showcase certain key locations and also provide illustrations or storyboards of how the world of the property looks like.
Fundamentally, it would be good to leave as little guess-work to the perspective partners as possible, so that the brand identity and values of the property is not compromised.
Lastly – for a property that is being primed for animation – you may want to include something called an ‘episodic synopsis’ – which outlines the stories which could happen in an animated series. These are usually done by a ‘script doctor’ – who can also help out in refurbishing the whole story background and character descriptions.