3. Story structure
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Introduction to structure
- Hi, I'm Kristen Lester, a story artist here at Pixar. Today we're going to talk about story structure, the way we organize and tell our stories. But before we begin, have you guys heard the joke about the mushroom that goes to the discotheque? A mushroom walks into a discotheque and he walks up to a lady and he asks her to dance. She says, "Ewww, gross, no, you're a mushroom!" So he walks up to another lady and asks her to dance. "Nah, I'm not interested." Lady after lady after lady, rejected, rejected, rejected. Nobody wants to dance with him. Finally, the mushroom walks over the the bartender and he's so confused, he says, "I don't get it, why does nobody want to dance with me? "I mean, I'm a fungi." (laughs) See, this joke has a structure. It's got an opening, a buildup in the middle, and an ending, which is, you know, the punchline. That structure is a big part of what makes it funny. Structure is the answer to the question, what do you want the audience to know, and when? If you get the order wrong, it could be a real problem, check it out. Hey, can I tell you a joke? Alright, so there's this fungi and, shoot, I messed up the opening. OK, OK, hey, can I tell you a joke? Alright, so there's a mushroom who walks into a discotheque and then there's a bartender there. Aw, darn it. (marker scribbling) I messed up the middle. Hey, hey, hey, can I tell you a joke? Alright, so, there's a mushroom who walks into a discotheque and there's a bunch of ladies on the dance floor. He asks them to dance and they say, "yes." (marker scribbling) Dang. Without conflict, joke over. (sighs with exasperation) See, structure is important. Just as structure is a big part of telling a funny joke, it's also essential to making a movie that has the emotional impact you want on your audience. (shushing) This is a great example. - [Marlin] (screaming) Nemo! - [Kristen] In earlier versions of Finding Nemo, the structure of the story was very different than the final film. The director wanted to interweave scenes of Nemo's parent's lives before they had kids as flashbacks throughout the whole movie. So you would see them meet. - [Marlin] Hello. - [Kristen] Fall in love, and eventually move into their house at the drop off in little scenes throughout the film. - [Coral] Oh honey, it's beautiful. - [Kristen] The main story of Marlin and Nemo and their journey was pretty much the way it is now. But, with the flashback structure, it wasn't until the end of the film that you would find out that Marlin's wife Coral. - [Marlin] Coral, look out! - [Kristen] And all of her eggs were killed by a barracuda. (Marlin grunting) (screaming) - When they showed the movie with this structure, they had one big problem, the audiences, well, they didn't like Marlin. Looking at their story structure, the team realized that, in this version of the film, the audience didn't find out why Marlin was acting this way towards his son until the movie was almost over, so they decided to re-edit the movie and remove almost all of the flashbacks, leaving only the scenes where Coral and Marlin's home is attacked by the barracuda, killing Coral and all of her eggs except for Nemo. They moved these scenes to the beginning of the movie. - [Marlin] I promise I will never let anything happen to you. - This change in the story structure changed the audience feelings about Marlin a lot. They knew right from the beginning how much Marlin had lost and how brave it was for him to go after Nemo, and they loved him for it. In the case of Finding Nemo, finding the problem was a matter of rearranging the story structure. Of course, all our movies are different, and their story structure challenges are too. In this lesson, we'll look at the many different ways we think about story structure here at Pixar and you'll get to try out for yourself different approaches to structuring your story. Hm, I wonder if I told the mushroom jokes in flashbacks it'd be funnier. Probably not.