Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Animation Inspiration - Or, How Disney Taught Me to be Tense

Everything I needed to know about writing I learned by watching Disney movies.

Okay. That's not entirely true. It was really more Pixar.

But in all seriousness, you really can learn a lot about pacing and tension from a good Disney movie. Take the Toy Story series. Those movies are incredible about racheting up the tension. Just when you think Woody's home free *something* heightens the tension, until you are finally, FINALLY given a satisfying conclusion that ties back to something we've seen previously. For example, in the first movie, when Andy's moving, and the toys barely miss the truck, Woody races after them, but time after time they're foiled. First the other toys refuse to help, thinking Woody is still a bad toy. Next, Slinkydog can't reach. Finally it looks like they're out of options, when they remember the rocket strapped to Buzz's back. After some tension-heightening troubles with lighting the fuse, they fly into the air, and Woody exclaims to Buzz that they're flying. Buzz replies that no, they're not flying, they're "falling with style," circling back to something Woody said to him earlier in the movie, only then it was a derogatory comment.

We see this repeated very successfully in the second movie, and again in the third. (In fact, when the characters are finally saved, it references a very well known scene from the first movie.) Genius!

We're told to put our characters in greater and greater peril. Don't give them easy outs. Torture them. Disney/Pixar does a GREAT job of this. Whenever I think about letting my characters off the hook, I kind of think to myself, "if this was Woody, would he be out of trouble yet?" Then I take a deep breath and emotionally pummel my characters a little more.

Man, I have been watching a lot of animated movies with the kids. For my next post, I *might* write about why I believe The Little Mermaid is the greatest love story of all time. Maybe.

How about you? Do you get insight from animated movies, or am I just desperate to find inspiration in my toddlers' television preferences?

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