A no-brainer for me, when picking movies, is to see a Pixar movie. Sure, I don’t care for all of their movies, but I’ve yet to hate a Pixar movie (well, Monsters, Inc. came close, but then I saw Robots and changed my mind). Pixar has a track record to die for: 7 movies, 7 hits. In fact, Pixar’s track record is even more impressive: 7 projects, 7 releases. When you consider the norm: “A lot of studios talk about a 12-to-1 ratio ,” Andrew Stanton says. “They come in with 12 ideas and one of them makes it.” How does Pixar manage to make hits while everyone else flails around looking for the next TV show to turn into a movie?
One thing that has always impressed the heck out of me is their devotion to story. John Lassiter said they don’t render a single frame of animation until they have the story right. A story idea can take years to percolate through Pixar, but once they commit to a project, they commit to making it work.
Pixar has some rules for story telling:
- Tell a compelling story with humor and heart that keeps people wondering what will happen next.
- Populate it with memorable characters. If audiences invest in your main character, they’ll travel that character’s journey. Even the bad guys have to be likable, because you’re asking audiences to spend the equivalent of a nice long lunch with them.
- Put the story and characters into a believable world.
These are the same frakking rules for story telling since the dawn of time!!
Hollywood churns out crappy stories en masse figuring they’d make it up on home video, or buy buying a big name actor or lots of special effects. But Pixar starts with making a story people want to watch. Just thinking back to Pixar movies brings a smile to my face. The lovable characters, the hilarious gags and the really engaging stories. So few, so very few, movies do that.
But looking at those numbers again tells us why not everyone jumps on the Pixar bandwagon. 7 full-length feature movies over 12 years. Hollywood cranks out over a hundred movies a year. A single studio can crank out 30-40 titles alone. It’s hard to get quality when you’re turning scripts around that fast.
I would like to have fewer, but better titles. Going to the movies might be worth the $12 again.