Picture yourself in a room with two of the definitive Brain Trust Minds of Disney/Pixar as they do a Show & Tell type presentation of how they take a story to a storyboard to the screen.
After you pinch yourself and thank God for your charmed life, you sit up and pay attention with great interest, because, let’s face it, these guys are Storytellers with a capital WOW. There’s no danger of there ever being a dull moment in this presentation.
“It all started years ago with Andrew (Stanton) when he said to us “I knew if I said the words ‘Finding Anything’ it would start a snowball. But then back in 2010 Stanton had a notion about wanting to resolve Dory’s issues, that there might be a story worth talking about but he waited until the end of 2012 to even say anything, because it was just too loaded.” And thus Finding Dory and the story of how the forgetful little blue fish came to be was born and was finally a tale ready to tell.” ~Co-Director Angus MacLane
But how, you may ask, can you create an entire film around a side-kick type character who can’t remember anything? That, of course, is the question that is answered and the premise of ‘Finding Dory.’
I was privileged to attend this delightful presentation which the filmmakers called, “Finding Story: The Story Process for Finding Dory” on the recent trip I took to Monterey Bay in which we got to mingle first-hand with these brilliant filmmakers. Read all about my trip here.
Angus MacLane is the Co-Director of the upcoming Disney/Pixar animated film, ‘Finding Dory.’ Max Brace is the Story Supervisor for the same. They were our hosts as they walked us through the process of storytelling via storyboards.
Story Supervisor Max Brace sat down at his computer with a storyboard program open a lovely piece of in-house software they call Pitch Docter (sic), named after Director/Writer Pete Docter (Toy Story, Wall-E, Up, Inside Out – but that’s not important right now). He also had the script for ‘Finding Dory’ open in front of him.
Co-Director Angus MacLane sat off to the side and gave us a very entertaining and informative play-by-play as Max showed us exactly how they flush out the story using the magical storyboard software.
Max basically read aloud from the script and quickly created (using a stylus connected to his software) a series of rough sketches of the action that was to be happening on the screen. Meanwhile, Angus sat to the side and played Director. (Because, duh.)
While Max drew, Angus narrated to us and explained, “These drawings need to stay very loose. Not too tight, so we can work around the story.”
Max interjected, “I am just trying to get my ideas down. I don’t want to labor over the drawings. I just need to get all the shots down in place to tell the story.”
The software basically took those rough sketches and interpreted them into a frame by frame cartoon in which they could keep going back and changing the action with incredible ease. It was all quite fascinating, as you can well imagine.
Before working on each scene, they would, of course, do their research, which serendipitously took them (and eventually me, thankyouverymuch) to the Monterey Bay Aquarium were they could study the fish and in this particular scene, how people interacted with the sea life in the touch pools.
Picture, if you will, the horror and trauma to the poor starfish as multiple arms plunge into their habitat and poke and prod them to within an inch of their lives. Of course, in the Pixar version, you experience all the crazy fearful emotions while simultaneously laughing out loud at the comedy.
That, my friends, is where the genius of the Storytellers at Disney/Pixar shines through. They never sacrifice the story for a comedic bit, but every single thing that happens carries the story with their characteristic humor and grace.
In fact, one of the bits that they drew and commented on involved a starfish having one of his legs ripped off by an over-excited kid playing with the starfish in the tide pool tank. It got a big laugh from us, because it was truly hilarious when they presented it, but they didn’t keep it in the film because it was just a little too dark. And as Angus kept reiterating, “if it doesn’t serve the story, it doesn’t stay in.”
Eventually, Angus himself went over to the computer and took the stylus to add some more detail that helped solidify the action. I particularly loved that they both played their parts so naturally. We felt very much a part of the Pixar storytelling process.
Their presentation ended to thunderous applause. (As thunderous as a dozen bloggers can get, but that’s not important right now.) I was reminded that the particular genius of Disney/Pixar is that they have one common goal. As they constantly remind us, in word and in their finished product, “Story is King.”
Personally, I can’t wait for Dory’s story to hit the big screen, because I feel sooo accidentally cool to have experienced a small part of that movie-making magic that Disney/Pixar is so famous for. As Max reminded us, “It’s an army of very talented artists who make these films.”
And an army of talented storytellers is just exactly what this world needs more of. Am I right?
I’m super grateful to Disney for inviting me to Monterey Bay to experience the movie-making magic of ‘Finding Dory’ firsthand. I was invited to participate in all of this as a guest of Disney and PIXAR in anticipation of the release of ‘Finding Dory.’ All opinions (and all the gushing about what I experienced) are my own.
‘Finding Dory’ opens in theaters everywhere on June 17th, 2016. Dont’ miss it!