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Pitch perfect: How stories are developed at PixarYears before Pixar Animation Studios releases a film, a team of storytellers lays the foundation by drawing, having "gag sessions," and pitching their ideas to the director. "Monsters University" story supervisor Kelsey Mann takes us through a story pitch.
-What are we looking at? -So, this here, a lot of times, you know, sometime we will go off and we will kinda work in our offices alone, kinda solving a problem or just sort of writing a scene. -Uh-hmm. -But every once-- there'll be something where we're like, okay, we need to come up with a lot of ideas. And we call those gag sessions. -Gag sessions. -And that's-- yeah, gag sessions. -They're not brainstorming sessions. -Yeah, well, brainstorming and gag sessions, you know, -Okay. -it depends upon what we're doing. Sometimes we're solving a problem -Okay. -and it doesn't really necessarily to be funny but you know, we try to, you know, put a little bit of comedy in everything we do. So, we'll get together in that story room and actually, just like all right, we're all here to like discuss this idea and let's go have some ideas. -Right. -And then we just start grabbing paper and we started drawing and then we're like, oh that's hilarious and then go pin that up and then we'll pin it up and we'll react to other paper's drawings, go oh, that's like-- wait, wait, what if you did this and you draw something else and it's really kind [unk] type of thing. -Building on. Right. -You're just kinda building upon each other. So, this board here was-- we had a thing where we needed some monsters who are athletes to get really mad. We're like, okay, monster athletes getting mad. How could they do that in a unique way? Does not just like getting all angry. -Right. -Let's have funny, unique way. So, there's ideas like, oh, like here's the monster. You put all like the three basketballs in the mountain. And he's just like, boom! Bites them all down or kinda like, boom! Slams went on and he's like you know, horn-- like-- -I like this one. -Yeah. This little dude is like, he gets really mad like, he like [unk] gets really big and like, runs around yelling. I also like this one over here where a fray monster gets all mad, he just grabs us for [unk] like, rips it all off with some other good ones. Oh, yeah, yeah, a multi character like, you know, when they get sad, it just-- yeah, it's more of an animation. Oh, you could have if you have them grouped down a little bit or let's see what somebody wants. You know, monster is actually just literally, when they get mad they start to steam and I could actually-- probably what I would do is I like, oh, give me some paper and I draw him on fire. So, this is like a one, two, three and I do a four where he's like-- like fully enflamed-- -Enflamed. -because you can do that in monster world. -And then what happens from here? So, you throw all these ideas on board. -Yeah. -and then how do you-- there's a lot of good ideas here, how do you condense? -We're actually just trying to come up with many ideas as we can, and then what we'll do is we'll get together with the director and we'll say, okay, here is our best, you know, and then I'll go up and I'll pitch them, all of these different ideas. And then we go, okay cool and we have claps and you know, okay great, great and then, you know, Dan, in our case, the director Dan Stanley will come up and be like, all right, cool. Well, you know what? I really like this one. I think that one can really work. That one is really kind of solving it and that's really funny but we can't do that for whatever reason that we shouldn't or it's just not appropriate to the story. -Sure. -So they kinda narrow it down and even sometimes, what's so great about doing it together in a room is [unk] new ideas that you wouldn't think of it on your own. -Uh-hmm. -You may come up with an idea. I may come up with an idea and then somebody says, whoa, both your ideas had just inspired a third idea and they were like, that's it, that's the, you know-- and if we did it all alone, we wouldn't get to that point. That's why I love picks art because everyone working together being collaborative to find the best solution. -Many people are involved in the story chain. -You know, it grows and shrinks depending on where we're at but typically it's anywhere between 5 to like 10 story artists not including myself. -It's not that many. -Yeah, you know, we try to keep it-- -Tight team. -You know, try to keep it small. You don't wanna have a room. I mean, you don't wanna have a room more than like 10 story artists, that will get too crazy.