Tag Archives: Pixar

Not Another Princess Movie: Why BRAVE Matters

I was very surprised and pleased by the Pixar film Brave. This article elegantly expresses why. How many good, fleshed-out mother-daughter narratives do we see?

Strange Figures

(Posted this at zekefilm.org earlier today.  Thought I’d share it with you all, too.)

I didn’t see Brave on many best-of-the-year lists, but it made mine. I’ve been watching children’s movies as a parent for over twenty years and Brave was not only one my favorite films this year, but I thought it was an important film; a movie that matters.

I have young daughters and like most little girls, they like princess movies. We’ve seen our share of Disney princess merchandise pass through the house, and I confess that the youngest daughter even got a Disney princess poster for Christmas last week. We’re also Pixar fans here, and it was exciting news when Pixar announced that it was releasing a film with a female lead – a first! This didn’t just grab our attention, but was heavily anticipated by feminist film critics who were thinking that after 17 years…

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I’ll try not to do this often

I try to avoid re-blogging, but this was posted over at Wanderlust . As a writer, I find that this contains some good food for thought, and I thought I might as well post Pixar’s Emma Coats 22 guidelines for storytelling, which she apparently posted on Twitter.

Pixar’s 22 Guidelines:

01. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

02. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

03. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

04. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

05. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

06. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

07. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

08. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

09. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

I work in the opposite direction to some of these,  but most of the principles seem to apply anyway, especially those that pertain to the physical act of writing. It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that the doing is far more important than the thinking. Just because thought is an integral part of the process, does not mean that it is the most important part.


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