pixar employees are spies

…in that they keep secrets really, really well.

Last night, I got to hear a Pixar executive discuss story development using examples from movies such as The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and Toy Story. I didn’t think it was actually that substantial, but it was cool seeing reels from early story ideas. Also, I had no idea that Brad Bird voiced Edna Mode or that Woody was originally intended to be a meaner character (not that I immerse myself in Pixar literature).  Thank goodness for iteration.

The core lessons that she based her talk around were very simple and abstract (as well as easy to find on the Internet):

  1. Memorable characters
  2. Believable world
  3. Story that keeps you on the edge of your seat

Good things to keep in mind, I suppose. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of nuanced discussion of each of these elements. What makes a character memorable? Clips were shown of characters that apparently embodied these traits, but only broad strokes of explanations were given (i.e. “make the audience identify with him; give a reason for his meanness”).

If anything, the big lesson came at the end during the Q&A period: it’s hard to get a job there because everyone is expert with their technical skills and it’s more about chemistry than anything else.

Still, it was entertaining to get a glimpse of their work culture and old animation. Also, it makes me feel like I should have kept up with a friend who now works at Pixar. But since telling stories is part of my job, I guess I can’t complain too much!

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