I just came out of John Carter of Mars… I’m a huge Andrew Stanton fan and a huge Pixar fan, but I was really bummed out about this film. This past week Stanton’s Ted Talk on storytelling has been going around the web. It’s a great watch! In that talk he goes on about a number of storytelling techniques he’s learned over the years. Two of his tips kept ringing through my head while sitting in an empty Imax theater watching John Carter.
No matter what, give the audience a reason to care.
Make your Hero likable.
That leads to my question:
How does one of the better storytellers of our generation set out on his first live action film with a budget around $250 million and not follow his own storytelling rules? How does this happen??
Hey, I’m a spectacle guy… (hell, who isn’t into some popcorn munchin space opera?) but Stanton didn’t take his own advice: Does amazing cg give me a reason to care? No… Does a huge weepy score give me a reason to care? No… Does a giant battle scene where JC is buried in the dead bodies he’s carving up make me care? Well… Kinda… BUT, over the top film-making techniques alone don’t make us care! You know what makes us care? Stanton’s rule #2:
Make the hero likable. Repeat: Make the hero likable… Man, after Stanton’s Ted Talk the last thing I thought would happen was that John Carter would be such a dick! In the Ted Talk Stanton showed a board-amatic of early days Toy Story. Tom Hanks is a total dick! He’s berating and bullying the toys, and he’s being a full on dick. That’s right, Woody was a dick (no pun intended). Stanton tells the story of how they had made Woody a dick so that his arc could be more dramatic. The story wasn’t working but through hard work they (Pixar) figured out they needed to write him likable. That lesson, Stanton says, was one of the main things they took away from the Toy Story experience. It’s ironic: With $250mil, armies of technicians and artists, years of planning and execution he couldn’t make John Carter likable. BUT with half of the budget, less time and nowhere near the crew; Brad Bird was able to make Tom Cruise likable in Mission Impossible 4. You would of thought it would of taken the $100mil vfx budget to make Tom Cruise endearing (post 1980’s of course). I guess we know who of the Freshmen Brainstrust has successfully crossed over out of Pixar.
I don’t wanna be a hater, I love Stanton’s films! Wall-E is one of the classic stories in filmmaking. Pixar and Stanton have balls down to their ankles to make the first half of Wall-E a silent film. It set the benchmark for this years Oscar winner “The Artist”. Pixar and the Braintrust have always had balls, going all the way back to Toy Story. As far as story goes, Pixar and their directors would not be denied. As far as John Carter goes: I didn’t care. There was nothing new. AND it was flat out on the nose… John Carter has no balls.
We still love you Andrew! But next time, please, give us a reason to care.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do…” – steve jobs
“Toy Story,” for example, took four years to make while Pixar struggled, yet Mr. Jobs never let up on his colleagues. “‘You need a lot more than vision — you need a stubbornness, tenacity, belief and patience to stay the course,” said Edwin Catmull, a computer scientist and a co-founder of Pixar. “In Steve’s case, he pushes right to the edge, to try to make the next big step forward.”
If he had a motto, it may have come from “The Whole Earth Catalog,” which he said had deeply influenced him as a young man. The book, he said in his commencement address at Stanford in 2005, ends with the admonition “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
“I have always wished that for myself,” he said.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” ~Steve Jobs
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs
Pres. Obama: There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than fact that much of world learned of his passing on a device he invented.
My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.
When Brad Pitt tells Eric Bana in the 2004 film Troy that “there are no pacts between lions and men,” he is not reciting a clever line from the pen of a Hollywood screenwriter. He is speaking Achilles’ words in English as Homer wrote them in Greek more than 2,000 years ago in the Iliad. The tale of the Trojan War has captivated generations of audiences while evolving from its origins as an oral epic to written versions and, finally, to several film adaptations. The power of this story to transcend time, language and culture is clear even today, evidenced by Troy’s robust success around the world… <read the full article here> @ <http://www.scientificamerican.com/>
I’m geeking out on this one, so interesting the idea of a drive for story… As a storyteller it makes so much sense. Great read for anyone creative, or who likes creative products… oh everyone!
There’s plenty of buzz surrounding the new latex-humping horror series American Horror Story, but what’s is this bizarre show really about? We rounded up every detail, image, screengrab, trailer, review and viral ad we could find, and squeezed out every precious piece of information from the heart of horror… <see the first five minutes here> @ <http://io9.com/>
This looks pretty cool… from the creators of Glee? Obviously they can tell a story. The five minute preview looks pretty cool, although the camera is flying around a little much for my liking. But hey, i’m into zombies…
What I’m really into is how they’re releasing a lot of material to drum up interest. So it’s intriguing from a business pov.
This has been a big year for Steven Spielberg — he’s launched two TV shows, including last night’s Terra Nova, and produced countless movies. The Spielberg tribute Super-8 was a surprise hit, and it’s become fashionable for other film-makers to claim they’re paying tribute to early Spielberg. Still ahead this year: the huge motion-capture reinvention ofTintin, the Belgian adventure comic… <read the full story here> @ <http://io9.com/>
Spielberg is a legend… When it comes to high spectacle story telling, he’s probably done more than anyone. This is just a nice little kudo list of accomplishments that he’s not usually recognized for, so I thought it interesting and deserving. Here’s a quick look at the list of ten, the article has full descriptions. I’m counting at least 5 on the list as truly innovative, and having to drive Hight Concept / High Spectacle films. So it’s no wonder we’re fans!
10 ) Being an early adopter and innovator of CGI
9 ) Keeping science fiction alive on TV
8 ) Taking on tough adaptations/re-imaginings, and making them happen
7 ) Showing that video games could be a viable storytelling tool.
6 ) Preserving and shaping the memory of World War II
5 ) Co-founding a successful new studio, and helping bring back animated films
4 ) Bringing back the Saturday morning serial
3 ) Helping to make robot uprising the new zombie apocalypse
2 ) Bringing back our sense of wonder
1 ) Helping to create the idea of the movie “blockbuster.”
The latest short description of Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ reveals a bit more information about the film – and seems to align with certain rumors about Scott’s newest sci-fi flick… <read the full story here> @ <http://screenrant.com/>
Ahhhhhh it’s about the very meaning of human existence… cool! I am sooooo ready to see this one!
At an awards ceremony at George Mason University last Friday, Stephen King regaled audiences with a chapter from Doctor Sleep, his upcoming novel about a grown-up Danny Torrance from The Shining… <read the full story here>
I’m excited about this book. I was never a big fan of Stephen King until a couple years ago when I read the Shining. I was blown away about the economy of words, and the blatant description. I plowed through the book in no time. So I read a couple more of his books, and was thoroughly addicted. It felt really cheezy, like I was selling out all my love for Dostoyevski and Hemmingway… Then I read Steven King’s “On Writing”. (if you haven’t read it, and are a writer of any kind, go out and buy it now!) Man, that was it… this guy is a genius up there with the all time greats. His ideas are amazing, and his craft is impeccable. I recon he doesn’t get the deserved respect because of the genre he writes in, but hey, what great things he’s done for the genre both in books and in movies! redrum…
Stories are the foundation of human communication, even when first relayed over campfires — an inherently social and communal setting. The storyteller can change his tale based on the expressions on the faces of his audience — speed up here, slow down there, give more background on a character. The storyteller may hear someone else retell his or her own story in a different way, and use that experience in telling new stories or iterating upon the original. The story gets stronger and more nuanced in the retelling… <read the full story here> @ <http://mashable.com/>