Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Secret Guidelines

Per the Business Review:

[Pixar's] "group of guys" drafted a set of "secret story guidelines," as Andrew Stanton describes them, to help guide them internally against the prevailing winds in the animation world at the time. [This was the early 1990s.]

* No songs

* No "I want" moments

* No happy village

* No love story

* No villain

Which is all well and good. But The Guidelines have been violated by Pixar numerous times since they were drafted, don't you think? (The grasshopper in Bug's Life sure seems like a villain to me.)

The thing about stories? The memorable ones are organic, not mechanistic. To make a set of rules that should be slavishly followed kind of limits creative possibilities. So maybe the best approach is to make your rules, then proceed to break them.

Because good stories go where they need to, rules or no rules.


Anonymous said...

What a crock of stale baloney. Even Pixar films follow basic storytelling formulas. There's just no easy way to make it seem natural.

That article is pure PR bullish*t. Anything to distract from john carter.

Propaganda, PR & Marketing said...

No man is God, so why treat them as such. From an atheists perspective there is no God, so why even have such grand delusions of any man?

They're just a bunch of lucky dudes who wanted to do something other than all that they were seeing at the time. The smarts are in the simplicity of this idea, not in the overblown DVD Special "our passionate story telling agenda!" rhetoric that we all know and flap our gums to and parrot in false praise. Story is the most important thing! Story! Story! Story!, the damn thing is a movie... it IS a story, almost by definition.

Anonymous said...

A. The "guidelines" were specific to Toy Story. That's the movie they were embarking on; they weren't intending to create a dogmatic list they could never deviate from.

B. The Pixar movies that have no villain tend to be stronger than the ones that do.

Anonymous said...

While their intentions are good you could easily argue that all the TS films had villains as well as most of their other films - sometimes multiple villains - or maybe a more appropriate term would be "antagonist". Maybe they weren't traditional antagonists, but they were antagonists nevertheless.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, every film need obstacles and conflict. But an actual villain directly opposes the central story goal.

Toy Story and Nemo found clever ways to create obstacles without a personifying villain who opposed the overall story goal. That is significant because prior to Pixar, no animation studio had done such a thing. Far more sophisticated storytelling.

Anonymous said...

Of course Toy Story and Nemo had villains. The villains were: ADVERSITY.

And for the record, coming up with a truly memorable, effective villain isn't easy. Disney, for instance, hasn't come up with a really good villain since Scar. Mother Gothel? PLEASE. Maleficent would have her for breakfast.

diablo said...

Antagonist and villain are two different things.

The main character's antagonist could even be himself.


Anonymous said...

If Charles Muntz isn't a villain then I don't what is.

Anonymous said...

Someone didn't read the rules from the word go...

Anonymous said...

Toy Story
* No songs - Had songs, maybe characters not singing would be better?
* No "I want" moments - Buzz wanting to really fly
* No happy village - Andy's Room of Toys
* No love story - Buzz and Woody's buddy story is a love story
* No villain - Sid and scud- they were villains without knowing it, Sid especially.

Anonymous said...

What!? Sid, Prospector, and Lotso were all villians. Finding Nemo was one big "I want" moment. (I want to find my son?)
Pixar really needs to get off their high horse and stop bashing Disney. I don't remember many "happy villages" in Beauty and the beast, or any "love stories" in Lilo and Stitch :/

Anonymous said...

Disney, for instance, hasn't come up with a really good villain since Scar.

I dunno. I thought Fantasia 2000's Firebird was pretty badass.

Anonymous said...

All those aforementioned "rules" can be incorporated into a movie if done so correctly...meaning move the story or characters forward. Maybe one rule Stanton should have is maybe not listing any rules.

Anonymous said...

What sexists! I knew that Pixar already had a real "girl" problem, ( at least until they green lit Brave) but to deny a "love story" only because it is "icky" to immature boys who desire action seems a bit unfair. If PIxar really wants to break their mold, they should include:

no "buddy" films
no over-the-top, loud action scenes
no jazz music soundtrack

Anonymous said...

What!? Sid, Prospector, and Lotso were all villians.

Prospector and Lotso are villains, because they oppose the central story goal of their respective films.

But Sid was not a villain. He was merely an obstacle in a subplot.

Explanation: The central story goal in Toy Story is that Woody wants to regain his status as Andy's favorite toy. That is what the story is about. For Sid to be the "villain," he would have to actively oppose this goal. But he didn't know about/didn't care whether Woody became Andy's favorite toy again. Therefore, he's simply an obstacle along the way, not a villain.

The only "villain" in Toy Story is Woody's own jealousy of Buzz. He is his own worst enemy. Which is much more sophisticated than the traditional villains used in virtually all animated movies up to that point.

Anonymous said...

You can convince yourself as hard as you want, but there have been plenty of non-villain films put out by Disney prior to TS. Let's see, just off the top of my head...Bambi, Lady and the Tramp, Pinocchio, Fox and the Hound and you could even make a good case for the Aristocats and Beauty and the Beast not having traditional villains.

But we all know only Pixar would do this because they are soooo wonderful and Godly. Puh-lease.

DianeM said...

JOHN CARTER doesn't need anything to distract from it, i feel safe in saying since I've actually seen it.

Anonymous said...

Princess Merida:

"I just want m' FREEdom!"

No "I want" moment, really?

Anonymous said...

Pocahontas, Hunchback, Hercules, Tarzan, and Mulan were lining up for their spotlight when Pixar decided to go another way like a Nascar car drafting another from behind. They drove up into Disney's air stream and then took off!

The truth is that at that time many Disney artists were more than ready for a change too- but the Pixar car took the lead. All the Disney artists were unfairly made to feel like one-trick- ponies at that time. Pixar's success came at the expense of an downsize, restructure, and unrest at Disney.

Pixar has every right to tout their list of 90's rules... but then again, pride is not considered a virtue.

Anonymous said...

Adversity can't be a villain, its a scenario, not a character.

Anonymous said...

Oh My God! Do any of you people ever take the time to figure out the context in which these 'rules' were formulated and how they were intended? Not really, right? Whatever. Stay stupid.

Even if you wouldn't want to take the time to figure out what they actually meant, wouldn't the better strategy be: hey, these guys are second to none in producing fine quality animation films, they really must know what they're doing, I'm gonna take whatever advice they offer.

The comments of this blog are getting more ignorant, hate fuelled and overall negative by the day. You sour grapes must have miserable lives.

Anonymous said...

No songs
No I want moments
No happy village
No love story
No villain

Andrew Stanton's secret story guidelines.

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