Pixar & Khan Academy Offer a Free Online Course on Storytelling

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.

Mark Andrews, who wrote and direct­ed Brave, recalls his vis­cer­al response to the injus­tice of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’s Island of Mis­fit Toys.

Domee Shi who sto­ry­board­ed Inside Out had to bail on The Lion King, she was so effect­ed by Simba’s dis­cov­ery of his dead father.

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

You can com­plete the first unit here, then revis­it their pre­vi­ous course on mak­ing ani­ma­tions, while wait­ing for the rest of the cur­ricu­lum to drop.

Find more free cours­es in our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take a Free Online Course on Mak­ing Ani­ma­tions from Pixar & Khan Acad­e­my

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Sto­ry­telling … Makes for an Addic­tive Par­lor Game

George Saun­ders Demys­ti­fies the Art of Sto­ry­telling in a Short Ani­mat­ed Doc­u­men­tary

John Berg­er (RIP) and Susan Son­tag Take Us Inside the Art of Sto­ry­telling (1983)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and the­ater mak­er, whose new play Zam­boni Godot is open­ing in New York City in less than two weeks. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Comments (12)
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  • Joey Tam says:

    What Sto­ry­telling???? PLAGIARIZING is more like it. The only course they are experts about is the course on plagiarizing–PIXAR and DISNEY are major plagiarists–Fact–they have pla­gia­rized 2 from me: Shad­ow Mon­ster-the cov­er of my book, they turned into the design for scul­ly, my book was done and pub­lished as ear­ly as 1991–1992 and mar­ket­ed inter­na­tion­al­ly by my publisher,–monsters inc was only in the 2000s. And, not hav­ing had enough of that, greedy as they are, next, they took Rata­touille- a sto­ry I per­son­al­ly emailed to Las­seter (I, unfor­tu­nate­ly, was tak­en-in, gullible to have believed PR Mar­ket­ing like this “sto­ry­telling” stunt)– the entire thing, sto­ry-plot-char­ac­ters-res­o­lu­tion.

    So please open cul­ture, do not be used by these mass media crim­i­nals, liars and thieves.

  • Walt Disney says:

    Pho­tos or it did­n’t hap­pen

  • Joey A. Tam says:

    –Best for you to ask Las­seter himself–tell him he knows he does­n’t deserve an iota of those Oscars he got from rata­touille

  • Joey A. Tam says:

    —And, if he does insist he deserves every inch of those Oscars for Rata­touille– he’s lying. The down­side to this of course, is that, you- Walt Dis­ney- have also been duped and tak­en-in, all these years. Of course, that is, if you your­selves did not actu­al­ly col­lude in com­mit­ting that crime.

  • Vilma EloisaBennaton says:

    I am inter­est­ed in the free course of sto­ry telling

  • Roshini ramlall says:

    I am inter­est­ed in your free sto­ry writ­ing course.


    I am inter­est­ed in the free course of sto­ry telling

  • Mathias k Attianah says:

    I am inter­est­ed in your sto­ry telling course, please.

  • Bala Murugan says:

    I want ani­ma­tion course online with cer­tifi­cate

  • tuan says:

    xin cảm ơn

  • Ariza Abbas says:

    I am inter­est­ed in your free sto­ry writ­ing course.

  • Sevda Degirmencioglu says:

    Kur­sa katıl­mak istiy­o­rum. Ser­ti­fi­ka veriy­or­musu­unuz. Ücret nedir? Süre­si ne kadar

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