It doesn’t take much to spark a good story.
A tall man, a short woman, a setting that’s sterile to the point of soulless, and a couple dozen bananas…
It practically writes itself!
If you’re slow to recognize the potential in these extremely potent elements (culled from the above video’s opening shot), this free online course on storytelling, part of Khan Academy’s popular Pixar In A Box series, might help strengthen those slack storytelling muscles.
The lessons will hold immense appeal for young Pixar fans, but adults students stand to gain too. Children are naturally confident storytellers. Unfortunately, time can do a number on both fluency and one’s belief in one’s own ability to string together narratives that others will enjoy.
The Pixar directors and story artists drafted to serve as instructors for this course are as deft at encouragement as they are at their craft. They’ll help you move that rubber tree plant… for free.
Each short, example-packed video lesson is followed with an activity in which the viewer is asked to parse his or her favorite stories.
One of the most compelling aspects of the series is hearing about the stories that matter deeply to the teachers.
Ratatouille animator Sanjay Patel, whose observations consistently struck me as the most profound and out of the box, went with The Killing Fields, a title that’s probably not on the radar of those most squarely in Pixar's demographic.
The first installment stresses the importance of providing a rich setting for well-developed characters to explore, though the teachers are divided on which should come first.
Director Pete Docter, whose daughter’s tweenage passage into the Reviving Ophelia-land inspired Inside Out, stresses “writing what you know” need not pin you to the narrow confines of your own backyard. He was well into production on Monsters, Inc. when he realized it wasn’t so much a tale of a monster whose job is scaring little kids as a story of his own journey to fatherhood.
As you may have guessed, examples from the Pixar canon abound.
Khan Academy will be taking the whole of 2017 to roll out Pixar in a Box’s five remaining Storytelling units
Find more free courses in our collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.