Pixar Storytelling; Rules for Effective Storytelling Based on Pixar’s Greatest Films by Dean Movshovitz dives into the structure and philosophy of the animation studio giant, Pixar. I’ve seen a handful of Pixar movies over the span of the studio’s existence and I’ve found them all to be very entertaining and well made (my personal favorite being Ratatouille), not only from a technical standpoint but also from the story structure. Pixar not only does an incredible job of immersing you into the world of each of their films but also in emotionally connecting you to their characters. The book breaks down the process of how Pixar creates these worlds and characters.
Choosing an Idea
Every moment in the story should evolve out of its core idea. Once you have an idea, “treat it as a seed that you must sprout into a story.”
Create Compelling Characters
Take a character from the comfortable to the uncomfortable. “Pixar excels at putting characters in the worst places possible for them.” Use passion, opinions, and experience to create distinct and memorable characters whose story, appearance, and world are unique.
To create an empathetic character, highlight what is relatable, human and universal about them. Give your character a clear goal and motivation. The character should become a surrogate for the audience’s own hopes and fears.
Drama and Conflict
Conflict is a collision of two opposing forces. Conflict offers a chance for both destruction and construction. Pixar strives to create strong internal conflicts for their characters.
There are many different forms of story structure but most involve three main parts; setup, trials and a climax/resolution. Pixar usually structures their films in a layered style, mixing an adventurous life-or-death action story, an interpersonal story of bonding, and an inner, emotional struggle.
Characters should fit into your story’s grand scheme. They should be drawn with care and imbued with their own stories and personalities. Even minor characters should offer insight or humor rather than just moving the plot along.
Your antagonist is the one who stands between your protagonist and their goal. There are many different types of antagonists found in Pixar films. They can be a mustache-twirling villain or they can be someone with good intentions that just get in your protagonist’s way.
Developing an Idea
Pixar’s greatest strength is its ability to surprise us by avoiding clichés and pushing their stories and characters to more interesting and exciting places. They fully explore the universe of their films by subverting expectations and imposing creative limitations on their stories.
Your ending must be tied to your protagonist’s journey. It should be a reflection of your character and a direct result of the path they’re on. The endings of Pixar films generally involve creating a better world/life. Showing the fruits of labor from your character’s journey creates the most moving endings.
The theme is the underlying message that your story seeks to create and present. It is universal in nature and should arise organically from your story.
At Peppershock Media we see a wide variety of projects every day: anything from TV/Radio commercials, to billboards, websites, and animation. However, the one constant when telling our clients’ (and our own) stories is that we want to create as much of an emotional connection between the clients and their customers as possible. That way we get across our clients’ message while also entertaining the audience.