Storytelling is an art, but if you want to create a good story, you need to know the basics of how it works.

There are many different methods and theories out there on what makes a good story, but one that is highly regarded by many people is the storytelling formula of Pixar.

Pixar Storytelling formula

What Is The Pixar Storytelling formula?

Pixar movies have a reputation for being kid-friendly and funny, but they are also known for having heart.

The first two Toy Story films are both examples of this, but it wasn’t until the third film in the series, Toy Story 3, that Disney Pixar was able to fully realize the story that they wanted to tell.

The central element of the Pixar Storytelling Formula is that your protagonist must have a goal.

If you’ve ever seen a Pixar film, you know that their protagonists always have a very specific goal in mind.

For instance, Woody from Toy Story wants to stay Andy’s favorite toy even though Buzz Lightyear is on the scene, Marlin from Finding Nemo wants his son back, and Carl Fredricksen from Up wants to honor his promise.


What Is The Pixar Storytelling Formula?

The Pixar method for telling stories is to create a protagonist that the audience empathizes with and cares about by the end of the story.

When you use the Pixar storytelling formula, you can easily connect with your audience emotionally.

The audience will feel like they’re going on a journey with your protagonist. They’ll cheer for the protagonist and be invested in him or her.

For this to work, three things must be present in your writing:

  1. The protagonist must want something badly enough to take action toward it.
  2. Something must be keeping your protagonist from getting what they want (typically another character).
  3. Your protagonist must have an emotional arc where they learn something or grow as a person as a result of their journey, which will lead them to get what they want in the end.

Pixar Story Rules That Make Characters Memorable

Most people would be surprised to learn that most Pixar characters are not based on or based on real people. 

The Pixar Method is described as a new way of thinking about your story and characters — it forces you to think about the characters from the audience’s point of view.

Pixar Story Rules

The Pixar Story Rules are meant to help you work through your story issues. They have been used by Pixar for years and have helped them create many memorable films, and these rules can also be utilized to help you create your own memorable stories.

Your main character should desire something. This desire can be for revenge, love, or anything else that drives the story’s plotline forward.

 A character must have opposition to drive the story forward. This need not be a villain, but it must complicate the protagonist’s life and force him or her to work harder to achieve their goal(s). 

Every character needs a flaw no matter how minor it may seem. This flaw will cause your character problems throughout the story. 


If your character has a flaw and desires something, give him or her opposing forces instead of just putting him or her up against a wall and forcing him or her to fight alone.

Pixar Storytelling

Pixar has an incredible reputation for the quality of their stories, and the techniques they use to tell those stories.

 Pixar’s co-founder Ed Catmull wrote a book about the secrets of Pixar storytelling. 

Here are some highlights from that book:

The first act is critical

You must hook your audience during the first act, or they will leave before your movie is over. 

This goes beyond merely creating a strong opening scene that grabs your audience by the throat; you have to establish everything you need to know upfront: context, main characters, stakes, obstacles to overcome, and a sense of how you’re going to do it (the second act).

The second act is all about escalation

You must raise the stakes at regular intervals to keep your audience interested. If you don’t escalate the story’s conflict, you risk losing your audience’s attention and interest as they start looking past their popcorn for something more interesting to do. 

The third act is about the resolution 

This is where you resolve all the conflicts in your story and tie up all loose ends. Be too simple, and you’ll bore people; be too complex and you’ll lose them entirely.

Pixar Screenwriting Tips

Throughout the years, Pixar has helped revolutionize the way audiences view animated films. Writing a movie such as Toy Story isn’t easy, but with hard work and dedication, Pixar screenwriters were able to craft one of the most beloved animated films of all time. 

Before you begin writing your screenplay, check out these Pixar screenwriting tips:

Write about what you know  

It’s alright to write about things that you don’t know firsthand if you have a strong emotional connection to them. This will help your writing feel genuine.


Write for yourself 

This can be easier said than done, but if you are going to be happy with the finished product, then this tip is essential. If you are constantly thinking about how someone else will react to your writing or if it’s not “what they’re looking for”, then you won’t be as productive and it will hinder your creativity.

Be consistent 

Learn from Pixar’s past successes and failures and apply them when developing your storylines. This will ensure that you produce a quality product that has been proven to work well in the past.

Give your characters flaws 

This will allow readers/viewers to connect with your characters on a much more personal level and make them

Pixar’s Story Development Process

Pixar’s story development process has been very carefully designed. It has been designed to result in a perfect balance between art and commerce. 

Pixar’s story development process is not just a set of rules for making movies, it’s also the structure for how Pixar creates and maintains its culture.

Pixar movies are made by a committee — one you’ve never seen before. This is a committee that rides motorcycles, plays video games, eats ice cream, and goes to work every day!

The members of this committee are talented artists who love what they do and have fun doing it. Theirs is a creative group that works hard, makes great stuff, and then turns around and has fun with each other. 

They know that if they don’t take care of one another, no one will take care of them.


They know that the best ideas come from listening to each other and arguing with each other. They know there is no such thing as a stupid idea — only stupid people who don’t speak up. 

They know that the key to being successful is not waiting around for someone else to solve their problems; it’s solving their problems themselves.

Pixar has created an environment in which everyone can be creative and look at things differently than the usual way.

Rules For Storytelling According To Pixar

Storytelling is a difficult yet fun activity. It’s about telling a story to people through pictures, words and sounds.

Pixar is one of the best storytelling companies in the world. They’ve proved that the art of storytelling is not an easy task.

But just like everything else, some rules can make it easier to learn how to write stories. These rules are from Pixar’s story trust which consists of a group of creatives who create stories for Pixar films.

Rules for storytelling according to Pixar — you admire a character for trying more than for their successes. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer.