Pixar’s Story Development- inside The Awesome Engine

“On every project, there’s a point where we think we’ll never crack it. We really despair. We think the story sucks. And that’s when everybody does the hand-holding and commits to making it better.”

–  Mary Coleman, Senior Development Executive, Pixar

As everyone knows, Pixar has an amazing roster of award-winning movies, both short and long format. Actually, far too many to list here, not to mention the billions of dollars those films have generated.  In that, even Pixar make mistakes and fall flat on their faces.


Despite the very rare slip off the storytelling skateboard, the Pixar  crew can craft stories like nobody’s business. Really, really good stories. How do they do it?  Apparently, there are no secret formulas, no Special Sauce to ladle on by the bucket. What there IS is lots of hard work, lots of time, and some supremely savvy story-crafting  extracted from the fruits of study.

Not all the awesome directors at Pixar have screenwriting school under their belts! Surprised? Amazed? Yeah,me too. Inspired? Well, I’m slowly getting there, but to fully get on that bandwagon, and off the dreaded “I can’t believe mere mortals are writing this stuff” bandwagon, I had to read thru Scott Myer’s awesome 2 part interview with Pixar’s Mary Coleman, Sr. Dev Exec.

Here’s an couple excerpts, via Scott Myer’s Blog, Go Into The Story:

Mary Coleman, Pixar; “….we don’t think differently about story because of animation. Really the way we think about it goes back to Aristotle. We may have invented cool new software, but when it comes to story we rely on the deep foundations of good storytelling. We look to myths, to epics, to great literature. And when we look for writers we look first and foremost for great storytellers.”

“… I get calls from producers down in Hollywood asking for the secret recipe. And I always say it’s really hard work, and committing to slog through the bad times. Trusting that if we stick with it and support each other we’ll get there. There’s no short cut for getting it right. We’re willing to keep going back to the drawing board, put it up, look at it, throw it all away and start over. We’re willing to do that over and over and over again. It’s not always fun—despite the images of us all riding around on scooters.”

There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills, if you care to read the interview (Part 1 & Part 2 ). Thrills, chills, hand-wringing despair, rocket-launching high fives, neck snapping hilarity… it’s all there in the process of making good stories, BETTER. Have a read of this great interview, and I hope you find something insightful, inspirational, and maybe even revelatory (dare we dream?).  I was so hoping scooters were part of their process.

Swing by Scott Myer’s fantastic Blog and check his equally fantastic links to a wide variety of handy blogs (right side, up and down). A real run thru the gamut of creativity, writing and of course, storytelling.

BTW, There’s some great stuff on Director Josh Whedon, too– Director of The Avenger’s.  Neat stuff on conflict, character background, and how that stuff informs the tension/ depth of the internal fighting between the Good Guys themselves. Neat stuff.

Have at it!  All the best, M.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s