The Writing Process

In July at JibJab, we are 100% focused on Christmas. In August, it’s time for Year in Review. Clearly a lot will happen between August and December 31, so we start with three simple goals. First, identify a tune that will be well suited for a “list song” (a song whose lyrics will be comprised of a fast moving list of events). Second, compile a list of the events that have happened so far so we have some material to play with. Third, find the “hook”.

This year we went through a list of about twenty songs. One of them, “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze”, really jumped out. “That’s Obama!” What better metaphor for the fresh, young President playing high stakes geopolitical games than a man flying through the air, hoping he can grab onto the next ring, and suffering devastating consequences if he misses.

We were energized by the idea of meshing the Year in Review with a political voice, something we hadn’t done since 2005. With a list of events from the year, the song melody and lead character in mind, we set out to find “the hook”.

The hook is the elusive few words that will be so catchy and memorable that it fuses into people’s brains and has them singing it for days, weeks, or years to come. This year’s hook, “So Long to Ya, 2010” came pretty quickly. It just felt like how our caricature of Obama would say goodbye to a year that didn’t treat him very well. While it’s not overtly rude (e.g., @#$% you, 2010), under the surface, in the way he sings it, you know the year can’t be over fast enough for him!

With the hook in the bag, the month of September and October are spent playing with lyrics. We like to have a 90% lock on lyrics by mid- October so we can hit the ground running in November when the team rolls off of the Christmas productions. This year, in mid-October, we were plagued with a sinking feeling that Obama, by himself, was having a hard time carrying the song. That’s when we came up with the idea of turning it into a duet, adding a foul-mouthed Joe Biden as Obama’s sidekick. It made us laugh and it opened up a whole universe of new gags.

With a ‘Year in Review’ there is always the uncertainty about what is going to happen between the time you write it and the time it is produced and released. Until the very end, when we have the voice actors in the booth, we are ripping out lines of lyrics, adding new lines, and tweaking the lines we have to better fit the stories. For example, prior to the mid-term, we knew the Dems would get an ass whopping, so we wrote the line “Yeah, you pummeled us good in the mid-term”. The real-Obama gave puppet-Obama a much better line “You shellacked us real good in the mid-terms”.

Even after the lyrics are recorded and there is nothing we can do to change what the characters sing, there is always the chance to get in last minute visual gags. For example, in late November, when Obama took a basketball to the face, we couldn’t get the vocalists back in the booth, but we could have a basketball fly onto the screen at the end and knock Obama off his perch! Good times.

Writing year in review videos is a unique challenge, but nothing compared to the heavy lifting of visual production that is yet to come…

6 Comments

  1. Coco Pazzo
    Posted December 19, 2010 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Another great job. My two personal favorites were Biden’s BFD comment on Health Care and their exit slide out of 2010.

    Two Thumbs Up…Way Up!

  2. Tina Pryer
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I would like to see some Biz Markee songs to personalize heads onto. Such as “You got what I need” along with the “Oh Snap” commercial. Or the Super Bowl Shuffle Song that the Chicago Bears made happen back in their day! Those would be hilarious. My kids told me that I need JIB JAB REHAB for I’m using your website way too much. I’m lovin it. They think I secretly work for you. Hummmm, not a bad idea, eh?

  3. M.J.Shear
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Another Fantastic job,Please tell the Team what a Great Job! Very Funny and yet to the point. One of the best parts is the large elephant knocking them both out. Should have been done sooner. Keep up with the unbiased humor.

  4. Toni
    Posted December 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I love all that you do! Only Nacho Libre and Elf can make me laugh as hard as your funnies do… keep up the great work! I had no idea just HOW MUCH work goes into making a short video like this; thanks for enlightening me. I wish I could work in your company!

  5. Sylwester
    Posted December 27, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    not bad… but to be honest JibJab you could do better, from top title i read you didnt want to make it rude like “@#$% you, 2010″ but i must say its catchy :P
    music is the best part in it, “meshing the Year in Review with a political voice, something we hadn’t done since 2005″ im not sure it worked so well like in 2005 do you?
    but the muppet style doll’s just dont fit the style of other “years review”, they shitty in my personal opinion,i dont know why did you decide to us them they easier to animate meaby, they dont fit for me. I was always at big impresiion of work you put in oryginal video all Years Reviev and others like “This Land” “What We Call the News” and my favorite “Weird Al: C.N.R”. when i was watching your video i wanted to learn about what you sing, i was watching 2007 with openned wikipedia and read to better undestand whats up.The “Time for some Campaing” make me read about McCain and Obama who are they what is that they want want,i was learning something new in funny way i love this style in you, music you use in what we call a news make me watch it like 100 times till now But this one is so boring that i dont even want to watch it again.IM not from USA not even from Amercia, i live in Europe in poland we have a lot of politycal trouble in our country, we dont care mostly what happen in USA i didnt even know it was hard year for obama, whatever you say. To be honest im not sure that your Vice-president was in our TV even once, didnt see him. i Got account on this website i love most your work, can i have hope that you will do another reviev with “real-head” version of this work? i Hope im not only one that think this year preview was worst of you all videos, still not bad i know you put a lot of hard work and sacrifice to do somethink like this right. I was I am and I will be your big fan. theres was time i wanted to work with you, but if you gona keep doing videos with muppets coz this is your new style, then i dont want to anymore. Its just not funny for me anymore.

    Best Wishes Sylwester From Poland
    PS; I wonder do anyone from JIBJAb even read this comment.

  6. Mary Small
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Another great video. I have to comment on the commenter from Poland. He’s right – they don’t hear about Obama’s failures over there. Their news media treat him like he is a God. Of course they think 10% unemployment (theirs is more like 15%), $3 gal gas (they pay almost $8), expensive vacations (ecept for France you never hear about their wives), etc are fine. At least he is not running around with 17 year old prostitutes (like the President of Italy)so what is funny about all that? I thought it was hilarious – as usual. Thanks


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