Storytelling the Pixar way


22 Responses to “Storytelling the Pixar way”

  1. corydodt says:

    I particularly love #9, because it’s basically a trick you play on your own mind.

  2. Samuel Valentine says:

    As a person who likes to go to movies and then discuss them, this was my fave:

    “#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?”

    I feel like critiquing a movie without this step is useless.

  3. Alastair Stephens says:

    We discussed this on the StoryWonk Sunday writing podcast last week, and the only one with which we disagreed was #4. Too many writers spend too much time establishing the world; start your story with trouble, and fill in the details as you go. Your reader — or viewer — will thank you for it.

    • sweetcraspy says:

       I think #4 is valuable for overall story concept.  If you start the camera or the first chapter at “One day __”, you can still fill in “Once upon a time __” and “Every day __”.  I think Toy Story did this well, starting with Buzz’s upsetting introduction, and using the bedroom-changes-montage to convey what life used to be like for Woody. 

    • AnthonyC says:

       This, to me, is the essential difference between Tolkien and JK Rowling. LotR feels like history, because he was a worldbuilder, not a storyteller, while Hogwarts makes little internal sense but is lots of fun to read.

  4. yri says:

    George Lucas, please read #8…

  5. zachstronaut says:

    Awesome!  I am struggling a bit with my assimilation of this one though: “#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.”

    I’d be interested to hear how other people are understanding that one.  What’s the difference between testing and refining?  I guess it is just semantics, but aren’t you refining your story if you are testing different things, and keeping what works?

  6. WillieNelsonMandela says:

    #19 is at the root of neary every “Three’s Company” episode. (“Man About the House” for those of you in the UK).

  7. jtnix says:

    #19 should also add:  Coincidences that let the character think they are getting out of trouble but end up getting into even more trouble are THE BEST!

  8. cooljames says:

    I think that Toy Story 3 is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I’ll watch it again and again. Still, though, the influence of #19 on the plot is overwhelming. 

    I didn’t need an insider’s perspective to know that this is part of the design patterns for their writers. Throughout the movie, Woody’s posture seems to take on an increasingly labored stance as things keep getting worse and worse. 

  9. Mister44 says:

    Great ideas. Pixar has been consistently great storytellers over nearly every one of their films.  I’m a huge fan.

  10. Franklin says:

    I took a Pixar story master class workshop in NYC last year, it was awesome. two full days of  great stuff like this

  11. Damien says:

    They missed the obvious one that’s been Pixar’s primary rule for every feature film to date (though it seems Brave is an attempt to go against type for one sub-clause)…
    Tell a coming-of-age story about an outcast/misfit/loner; who’s a bit child-like and relates to the audience’s inner child; who lacks confidence, and doesn’t know he has the hidden ability to succeed; and can rely on his friends to come together for help when the going gets tough. And, as the main character, is male — strictly male — the few interesting female characters are all killed, removed from the picture, relegated to Supporting Character, or put back into their cliche-box — this must be established in the film’s intro.
    They are getting better in some regards: “The Incredibles” had a token black sidekick, and “Up” had a token Asian supporting character.

  12. Ethan Taliesin Houser says:

    These storytelling ideas smack too much of the specious advice in the “Save the Cat” book–written by the dude who wrote “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot.”   Sound stuff in the abstract, but generic disasterville in the doing.  I think it’s a danger to follow a template too closely because if these story conventions are contrived, they come out pretty lame.

  13. OldBrownSquirrel says:

    …and #19 is why I hate “Jane Eyre.”

  14. Don’t miss the Ted Elliott Terry Rossio ‘Wordplayer’ columns.

  15. timquinn says:

    Ooh, you forgot these;

    23. Make sure your villain is an ugly or bent person and comes from the poor family on the block.
    24. Make sure the poor people in your story are suspicious and sloppy.
    25. Make sure your hero is squeaky clean and boring.
    26. Pimping, bad. Pandering, good.

Leave a Reply