It's been said that the secret to Pixar Animation Studios' success is story. That's the mantra. Story, story, story. And, of course -- story.
But this is not quite precise. You can have the same story, and three directors will give you three different movies. Really, the magic lies in storytelling. It's in the telling
of a tale that the emotional appeal takes hold. As with a good joke, the essence of its humor will always elicit a chuckle, but in telling it masterfully, the audience can't help but guffaw. In the right hands, even a lackluster story can be told with such charm and verve that everyone in earshot will give it their attention. The ability to captivate and entertain has less to do with the words on a page, or the beats of a story, as with the performance itself.
Perhaps in being so far removed from the hallowed halls of Hollywood, Pixar has been able to think more clearly than most in the commitment to its craft. Pixar has been described as the perfect storm of art, science and studio savvy. The studio has some 20 Academy Awards to its name, and its seven animated features -- Toy Story
(1995), A Bug's Life
(1998), Toy Story 2
(1999), Monsters, Inc.
(2001), Finding Nemo
(2003), The Incredibles
(2004) and Cars
(2006) -- have grossed more than $3.4 billion at the worldwide box office. With its next release, Ratatouille
(2007), the studio's films just seem to be getting better and better. Whatever they're doing up in Emeryville, California, they must be doing something right.
As the saying goes, if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. Last October, as the centerpiece of Screenwriting Expo 5 in Los Angeles, there was an all-day seminar devoted to Pixar Storytelling. Aspiring filmmakers and studio heads came from far and wide, even overseas, to share in the keynote talks and panel discussions. Writer/director Andrew Stanton spoke on "Understanding Story: or My Journey of Pain." Michael Arndt, who recently won an Academy Award for Little Miss Sunshine
, gave a talk on "Endings: The Good, The Bad and the Insanely Great." The director/writer relationship was discussed by the teams of Lee Unkrich/Arndt, Brenda Chapman/Irene Mecchi, and Gary Rydstrom/Kiel Murray. "Trust the Process: A Conversation with Pixar Story Artists" was hosted by Mark Andrews, Jim Capobianco, Ronnie Del Carmen and Jason Katz. And, rounding out the event, Brad Bird and Andrews bantered about creating The Incredibles