Once upon a time, I studied Stanton.
Doesn’t the very word, “story” evoke childhood? Doesn’t it conjure up Once-upon-a-time fairytales, memories of beloved picture-book plots, and scenes from your favorite animated films? Whether you grew up wishing to attend Cinderella’s ball or Belle’s pre-dinner spectacular, a single image from childhood films can wash over you with such a warm sense of nostalgia that you suddenly find your inner-six-year-old again. How can we study story and not consider the way some of today’s greatest creators craft their animated stories?
You may think you don’t know Andrew Stanton, but if you’ve watched Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Toy Story, or Monsters, Inc. - you’re already friends. Andrew is a film director, screenwriter, producer, and even a voice actor who told all of us those stories. He now sits as the VP of Creativity at Pixar and he’s a master at the art of story.
In a 2012 TedTalk, Andrew offers clues to building a great story, from his perspective. Here are just a few:
Does it have a punch-line? Everything you say in your story is leading to a singular goal, ideally confirming truth that deepens our understanding of who we are as human beings.
Does the audience get to work for their meal? They want to solve problems, deduce, and deduct...they just don’t want to know that’s what they’re doing.
Do the characters have a spine? They all need an inner motive, a goal they are unconsciously striving to reach.
Does it have good intentions? It should capture a truth from the creator’s experience – core values you feel passionately about.
You can watch Andrew’s TedTalk here. (Language alert!)