Thursday, July 08, 2004

What's In A Name?

Well, I spent a good chunk of today trying to come up with new titles for most of the second season episodes. We give each episode a name when we first come up with a premise and that name generally sticks with it through the outline, storyboarding, and recording phases. But yesterday we took a look at some of the clunkers we'd used and thought, "We've gotta come up with something better than this!"

Do the names of episodes matter to you? Do you have favorites? Or, as long as the show itself rocks, we could call it "MLAATR-37B" and you couldn't care less?


Anonymous said...

I, for one, like a nice, punny title. Also, if an episode has a nice memorable title, it's easier for me to reference that episode. "Tradeshow Showdown" is a name that always stuck with me, but I still can't remember then name of the episode with the snow fort.

CoyoteLoon said...

I second Kyle's emotion on that. I appreciate a smart pun, too. My favorite title (and episode, probably) is "Hostile Makeover" - punny, and relevant to the episode's plot.

R.Radna said...

In my opinion, the somewhat abstract art-cards that introduce the episodes have a bigger impact in getting the idea or the feeling of the story across than the titles themselves, which are generally either puns or pithy descriptions of what happens in the episode.

I think it is particularly significant that, unlike most cartoons, I think the characters are never depicted in the cards. This gives the cards themselves a rather eerie feeling that is appropriate for the show.

I had been wondering about why some combinations of letters seem to have a 'ring' to them and some do not. I think there may be some sort of iconography to the letters themselves, perhaps visual as well as in terms of the sounds of the letters, or even perhaps some deeper meaning or connection.

I was thinking of this specifically once, waiting for a bus, in terms of the name/designation "XJ9." Of course, this sort of thing is wide open to different interpretations, and this is just an idea about why "XJ9" seems to 'feel' like a good name/designation for Jenny, while RQ76 just feels like someone threw some random letters and numbers together (because they did).

The use of the letter 'X' can be a symbol for the unknown, or that which is waiting to be discovered ('X' marks the place where valuables are buried on treasure maps, there was that old Daffy Duck cartoon that involves a trip to planet 'X,' Racer X on speed racer, etc). X can indicate a mystery.

J seems to stand for Jenny, a very familiar, ordinary name, which counters the 'unknown' element of the X.

This suggests one of the central questions posed by the show, is Jenny someone who can become accepted as an ordinary part of society, or, as a robot-person, is she inescapably utterly alien and different?

As for the "9," the significance of that was made apparant in "sibling tsunami," where it was revealed that Jenny is only the most recent model of a larger series of robots.

This is joked about at the end of the episode with Dr. Wakeman saying "Goodnight XJ10" as a joke. Jenny's initial reaction to this joke seemed to be one of shock. Jenny's identity as one of a series of robots, who may be overshadowed by an "XJ10," also militates against her ability to be a normalized part of society.

These issues may be part of the reason she seems to have rejected "XJ9" as her name and wants to be called "Jenny." She wants to be a person, not an applicance with a serial number and a shelf life.

So it's a long answer, but I think that the choice of some names could be seen as loaded with a lot of symbolism and ideas, but these ideas or feelings can also be communicated visually, as in the art cards that are shown before the episodes.

In terms of the pure visual design significance of lettering on the show, I also noticed in the costume design for the 'teen team' members posted on this blog, the letter 'T,' as well as standing for the group's name, also is used as an abstract graphic element of the design. I'm not sure to what intent this is, but it's an interesting use of letters in terms of pure graphic elements. There seems to be a lot of places on the show where fonts or lettering were used in an interesting or unusual way.

R.Radna said...

I'd gotten so wrapped up in analysis I forgot to say what my favorite episode was. It's "speak no evil," not because of the title, but because of all the visual correspondences throughout the episode (for example, a lot of the shots of Jenny in Japan and home are repeated, like her being framed against the moon (or the sun), and then landing in exactly the same way)), and also, just for the scene where she's looking at the burning town after the building's fallen over, and then from the other direction, the giant sponge creature arrives. That whole instant, which sort of captured the frustrating idea "Great, the place was on fire, now there's a monster also" was hilarious.

"Raggedy Android" has my favorite art-card on the show so far. That mirror is really kind of creepy.

Also, I forgot a couple of examples of the letter "x" standing for the unknown. X-rays are a good example, because the 'X' was expressly used to stand for "unknown" by their discoverer, Wilhelm Roentgen. Also, there's the x-men, chemical x from the powerpuff girls, the traditional use of 'X' as a variable for an unknown quantity in algebra, and of course, the ubiqutious "Brand X" from all those old commercials.

What all this suggests is that there is a longstanding acceptance of the letter "X" as standing for an unknown quantity or element, and I think that's relevant in this case as well.

Cyberhick said...

I can name every episode... in my sleep! I think you're doing pretty good! Here's a name you could use. How about "The Day The Teenage Robot Stood Still?" See ya.

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