Dissecting Pixar & The Blue Umbrella

The Blue Umbrella Pixar FCPX

They say Pixar are great storytellers.  And I’ll have to agree.  They’re so good at what they do that Hollywood is pretty much scared to copy them.

“Everyone in Hollywood says they wish they could do it like Pixar, but they really don’t. There’s no secret at Pixar, but there is a belief in letting people pursue something with passion and take chances, and most of Hollywood, really, doesn’t like that. It’s too scary. Some studio executives will say they love obsessive creators who take risks, but really most of them would rather play it safe.” — Brad Bird (Hero Complex interview)

The secret? There is none.  Just be passionate of your story and don’t be afraid of changes. See what works, and see what doesn’t. Take your time — kinda.  Let others believe and become involved in your project. I know, the story is your baby. But let it be passed around a bit. This is something I learned from the interview with Mary Coleman, Head of Story at Pixar, as she talked about the the importance of developing the story with their focus group and how an original idea is molded to something greater.

“One of the most unique aspects of our studio is that you get feedback from their peers. And peers who are very committed to your success, as much as you are to theirs. You get this incredible input before there’s even a first draft. You can call on individuals or the whole Trust at any point to get the feedback you need.”

This is their focus group, their so called “Brain Trust. ” I suggest you start yours.

So I’m working on my web series. Digging deep into writing, storytelling, theme, superheroes, animation and other little things that I think will serve the idea. It’s keeping me super busy, I won’t lie. I’ve downloaded a bunch of scripts, pinned a lot of art and visual references, written some trailers,  re-read The Invisible Ink book (like twice), re-visited Brian McDonald’s old blog posts (which are still relevant and true) and even watched Indiana Jones Raiders of The Lost Ark in between all of that. It’s been a bumpy ride.

I’ve encountered so many great resources on the web. This is just some:

“My humble advice for Superhero filmmakers? Think Pixar. One key to their success is they pay as much attention to the movie’s Small Story as they do to the Big Story. “

As you see can see, I don’t have a lot of time in my hands. I guess, I’m worrying about the importance of telling a good story. Don’t think I did to well with my last film. The Pixar model has been an incredible encouragement to change it up and do it better for this next project. So I came up with something interesting. I acquired the script and film for Pixar’s short The Blue Umbrella and made it a personal study guide.  The goal was (and still is) to spot story/dramatic structure, the three acts, conflict, weakness, emotion and etc..

First, I started with the script. [Available to you here]

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Then I brought the film into Final Cut, and chopped it up. Again, trying to spot timing, structure, camera movement, and etc. It’s fun and a great learning experience. I hope to share my findings soon.

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” To understand Pixar’s story telling techniques, it’s often easier to study their short films. By browsing through their different short film descriptions, you can get a rough idea how each story works. Then search for that particular video on YouTube to see how they tell a story visually that begins with an opening grabber, a problem, conflict, and a resolution of some kind. These Pixar short films have a definite structure that you’ll need to understand when writing your own screenplays. If you’re just getting started, writing a full-length, 120-page screenplay might seem too intimidating and overwhelming so try to write short Pixar-like short screenplays instead. ” — The 15 Minute Movie Method

I try to not to be so hard on myself, I know the important thing here is to just write, create, and repeat again. You know, learn by doing. Eventually the research has to die, and I will need to bring home the bacon — my story.

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