The Pixar Story Structure



Today we’re going to take a look at the structure of good stories.

There are plenty of story experts out there who will tell you about all the key elements of a good story. Some of those experts are good, and some are not so good.

One group that does have a great track record, however, is Pixar.

This is the animation studio behind movies like Toy Story, Up, Inside Out, Ratatouille, and quite a few others.

A few years ago I came across a fairly simple story structure that Pixar tends to use when crafting their stories.

Pixar Story Structure:

1. Once upon a time there was __________.
2. Every day _____________
3. Until one day ________________ (this is what we call the inciting incident – it’s the moment where everything changes and we have a story on our hands)
4. Because of that _______________ – because of that inciting incident something must happen. In good stories, every choice and action has a consequence – good or bad. This is what drives the rest of the story – because A happened, then B happened, and because B happened, C happened.
5. Because of that _______________
6. Because of that ________________
7. Until Finally ____________ – this is the climax of the story, when things change again and the characters of the story overcome the inciting incident.
8. And ever since then _______ – this is when things go back to normal (or to the new normal depending on the story. This is the happily ever after part.)

So that is the basic structure, but it’s kind of confusing when you’re just looking at blank lines. So what I’m going to do now, is take the original Toy Story movie and apply it to this framework.

If you’ve never seen Toy Story before then that’s ok, hopefully this summary will give you a good understanding of it.

Story structure of Toy Story

1. Once upon a time there was a toy cowboy named Woody
2. Every day, a boy named Andy would play with Woody, his favorite toy.
3. Until one day Andy received a Buzz Lightyear toy for his birthday, and Buzz became Andy’s new favorite toy.
4. Because of that Woody got jealous
5. Because of that Woody knocked Buzz out the window (mostly by accident)
6. Because of that the other toys kicked Woody out
7. Because of that Woody and Buzz had to work out their differences and join together to get back home to Andy
8. Until finally, they fly on a rocket and land inside Andy’s car right before he moves away
9. And ever since then, Woody and Buzz have been great friends and both love Andy.

There you go – this is very high level obviously. We could add a lot more “because of that” moments into the story and I could go into more detail with each item, but hopefully it’s enough for you to see how the Pixar story structure works.

Understanding these basic building blocks of story will be useful when you read the Bible. Not only that, it’s also going to help you become a better storyteller with family, friends, and at work!

Next up, there is a short activity where you will pick your favorite movie, book, or tv show and apply it to this story structure. After that, we will apply the same structure to the story of the Bible, starting in Genesis.