Pixar Storytelling Rules #5: Essence of Structure

– [Voiceover] Story structure is deceptively simple. There are many templates out there, many of them with years of wisdom.

– [Voiceover] Story structure
is deceptively simple. There are many templates out there, many of them with years
of wisdom behind them, and they are all useless
unless you understand what their parts truly represent. Pixar suggests the
following story structure. Once upon a time, there was. Every day. One day. Because of that. Because of that. Until finally. Well, rather than blindly
trying to fill the blanks, let’s try to understand
each part of this formula. (popping bubbles) This formula starts with once upon a time there was a hero, someone we can relate to. This refers to the
introduction of a lonely robot, or an independent ant. Every day, this is our
glimpse into their world. Every day WALL-E would compact
garbage into little boxes. Every day Flick and the
other ants would gather food for the grasshoppers
who would threaten them. But that’s not enough. What did these heroes yearn for? Every day WALL-E watched Hello
Dolly, hoping to feel love. Every day Flick wanted
to make a difference, to stand out within the colony, only to meet failure and ridicule. One day, a fairy tale way to call the infamous inciting incident. Simply put, this is the event
that changes everything. WALL-E meets a fellow robot
and falls in love with her. Flick is expelled from
the colony with the task of saving it from the grasshoppers. Because of that, a chain of
events that is the result of the decision the hero made when faced with the inciting incident. It’s important to note
the difference between “because of” and “after that”. A chronological list of events
that happen one after another isn’t a story, it’s a report. A good story has events
chained by causation. Because Flick attempts to stand
out, he ruins the offering. Because of that, the
grasshoppers threaten the colony. Because of that, the
colony sends Flick away. Because of that, he recruits new bugs, entertainers he mistakes for warriors. Because of that, they are
there to help the colony. Because of the applause
these actors receive, they choose to stay and
continue pretending, despite the danger, and so on. A good story should feel
unexpected but inevitable, as if from the second the
specific inciting incident happened to a specific hero,
everything that follows just had to happen. Until finally, something
irreversible happens, something that changes both
our hero and his world. WALL-E finds a true connection with EVE and returns to Earth to live with her, and with a generation of born-again humans who renew the Earth. Flick manages to get rid of
the grasshoppers for good and also changes the colony, as they adopt his modern methods. The resolution must aspire
to change both the hero and the world around it. That’s part of why endings are so hard. Audiences are more
sophisticated than ever. Show them a grumpy old
man in the first act and they assume he will
soften up to someone by the end of the movie. Show them two toys
fighting with each other and they know they’ll become partners. For Flick to win back his colony
he needs to destroy Hopper. We know that from the
beginning of the film. The harder we make his way there, the darker the moments leading up to it, the deeper the shame and
self-doubt he feels when he fails, the more satisfying his victory will be. And that victory shall
require all of his power, every ounce of his bravery. If you were writing A Bug’s Life, you would know from day one
the ending would involve Flick outsmarting Hopper. Then you have to figure out
how and work back from that. Alright guys, thanks for
watching this episode of Pixar Storytelling Rules. In the next episode we’re gonna talk about believable characters. Don’t forget to subscribe and visit our website
at BLOOPANIMATION.COM. (peppy music with whistling)

19 thoughts on “Pixar Storytelling Rules #5: Essence of Structure”

  1. That was really great, I appreciate high production value videos like these which are so very rare to come by here on Youtube. Keep on producing these!

  2. Thank you so much for this video series! I am an aspiring film maker and these videos have been a fantastic resource to me ๐Ÿ™‚


    I keep relating these videos to my life and how it's been centered on finding love (like WALL-E) and the difficulties in my mind on the way to that. I know that in the end, I will find love…but these difficulties and toils in life, in my mind make it seem impossible and unrealistic. When I get there, it will be so satisfying because of all the difficulties that happened on the way. It's real life in a nutshell, that's what Pixar is doing. It's the most simple storytelling and the most difficult to achieve because it's basically putting real life on the screen and nobody wants to accept that this is what life is like. But it is. And it's beautiful.

  4. I think you are wrong about A Bugs Life's ending. Flick doesn't "win" or defeat the villain because he outsmarts him, he wins when he realizes that he has been wrong the entire movie about wanting to stand out or be exceptional. In the end it's when he learns to be part of the colony and the strength in unity that he see's the truth that had been staring them all in the face the entire movie. The ants win because they are united and loyal, not because they are smarter, stronger or better.

    The irony is that it's only when Flick let's go of his desire to stand out or be looked up to that he finally achieves those things. The moment he lets go of his selfish desire is the moment he gets what he has wanted all along. For all his inventions and clever ideas it's when he lets go of them that becomes the hero that he has wanted to be.

    To me A Bugs Life taught me the value of teamwork and being humble far better than a thousand heavy handed cartoons, kids movie and books ever did.

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