Pixar Storytelling: Rules for Effective Storytelling Based on Pixar’s Greatest Films By Dean Movshovitz

Review by Beverly Nault


Pixar films’ success are unprecedented and studying the techniques their writers use to reach audiences from the youngest fans to the most seasoned movie goers would do well for any writer. Dean Movshovitz does a fine job breaking down the magic into useful parts.

Through ten chapters including choosing ideas, building compelling characters …even villains, instilling empathy, great endings and keeping consistent themes, Movshovitz dissects several Pixar movies to show why they work for all ages and still evoke a range of emotions. Using scenes and examples from all three Toy Story films, as well as Up, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and Inside Out, the author describes in detail how the storytelling works on each level, and how to apply the concepts into your own screenplay.

Movshovitz gives advice on areas such as planting seeds of expectation to constructing a satisfying and surprise ending, how to weave a theme through each level of the story, and how to cast characters who are multi-dimensional and never cliché, some of Pixar’s major strengths. He emphasizes making each scene, prop, and set piece essential to the plot’s overall goal so that every part stitches together to complete the story’s goal.

Even though they focus on animation, Pixar’s techniques can be applied successfully to any genre and could help to enrich and deepen, remove clichés, and raise the bar just as Pixar has done for animated storytelling.

Every chapter has a summary page that could be useful to survey a work in progress or before a rewrite. His questions such as “Is there an honest bonding plot in your story and is it deeply connected to your story?” could be used to find weaknesses or add emotion and depth. His major point is that every element of your story must add to the whole and be true to the overall theme to create a satisfying experience for each reader or viewer.

“No matter what awesome invention (or character or plot twist) you come up with, work hard to tie it to an emotional reality that is part of your fictional universe.” From Pixar Storytelling, p 80.

From the book’s endpiece:
Dean Movshovitz is a script consultant who has worked on TV projects for Cinetive, Blackpills, and wrote episodes for “Limon & Oli.” He has a screenwriting BA from Tel Aviv University and is a graduate of Serial Eyes, Europe’s premier postgraduate training program for television writers and producers.

About Beverly Nault: Beverly Nault was a technical writer for an aerospace software company before she began writing creatively for publication. In 2011, her first novel, Fresh Start Summer, and memoir Lessons from the Mountain, What I Learned from Erin Walton, written with actor Mary McDonough, both released. Since then, Bev’s had ten novels and several short stories published. She’s been a freelance editor for fiction and non-fiction writers, a first reader for a literary agency, and staff acquisitions editor for the literary journal, Eastern Iowa Review. Bev lives in Mesa with her husband Gary where she dabbles in tennis, and excels at spoiling their three grandchildren.

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