Xiaolin Showdown Episode 5, 2003

When Jeff Allen and I turned in our first Xiaolin Showdown storyboard, we were high on our own supply. The two of us had spent years on other cartoons that didn’t always make the most of what we could bring to the table. That didn’t make them unpleasant to work on, just restrictive. Like perpetually driving in a 35MPH zone. When you do that for too long, you wonder if you’ll ever get the chance to open up your throttle.

On Episode 2 of Xiaolin, we did. And when I got our next script (for Episode 5), I could immediately tell that we were in Formula 1 territory. I’ve written before about “magic scripts” in the cartoon biz. At least once in any given season, I get a script that plays out like a movie in my head the first time I read it. Then the storyboard flows out of me with seemingly no effort at all. That’s what this one was like.

“Evil management material.” Get it? When my supervising director saw this,
he congratulated me for channeling the subversive spirit of Termite Terrace.

Two freelance artists also chipped in, both of whom I’d worked with elsewhere, but back then my approach was to thumbnail an entire episode myself and then have them expand those thumbnails into finished boards. Others in the industry thought this was weird. I just thought it was my responsibility as a director. (I don’t do it this way any more, but back then it served me well.)

The benefit to the show was that everyone could spend more time making scenes look good, rather than constructing them from the ground up. Jeff especially thrived on that. As my assistant (and future director), his main job was to repair and revise, which usually meant drawing in a hurry. Because of our working method on Xiaolin, he could focus on making every panel shine. The art was sharper, the gags were funnier, and more personality made it into the finished show. In many cases, the storyboards were better than the finished animation.

Jeff and I have had other opportunities to do this, but I don’t think we ever enjoyed it more than on this series.

Episode 5: Shen Yi Bu

Storyboard completed June, 2003. Broadcast November 29.

Act A Storyboard

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Act B Storyboard

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Act C Storyboard

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


See the finished episode here

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