Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Writing Toy Story 3

The latest Pixar blockbuster, Toy Story 3, opens in the UK later this month. It has already broken box office records in the US; just like most other Pixar films. And it has had an enthusiastic reception from critics on both sides of the Atlantic; just like most other Pixar films.

So what's their secret?

In a blog post, screenwriter Scott Myers argues that an interview with Toy Story 3 writer, Michael Arndt, in Creative Screenwriting magazine (no link to the full interview), reveals the foundations of Pixar's success.
Pixar's films are such rousing successes because of the attention each individual at the studio dedicates to the screenplays. "Andrew Stanton's rule of thumb is that it takes 10 man-years of labor to make a good screenplay," Arndt explains. "Either two writers working five years or 10 guys working one year. For Toy Story 3, it was even more than that -- probably the equivalent of 10 people working two or three years."

"To me, this is what separates Pixar from almost everyone else," Arndt concludes. "They realize how hard it is to come up with a great screenplay."
Billy Mernit has some interesting reflections on Myers's post on his own blog (now, sadly, retired). At Pixar, he points, out
...instead of throwing everything and everyone at a weak story until something seems to stick, they start with a writer and an idea they believe in, then do it, do it, do it till they're satisfied....

What most studios call development is ass-backwards. The operative ethos amounts to "It doesn't work, but we can fix it... with writer after writer after writer," so we shouldn't be surprised by the results.


  1. This film is a grate film for kids. But I also love it too. I hope adult would love it too.
    Want Toystory3 Collections

  2. One always suspected that Pixar spent more time on its screenplay than most other movie makers. 20 or 30 man years should do it every time, especially if they start with a reasonably good idea in the first place.

    But wait a minute. 20 or 30 man years to write something that takes actors 90 minutes to read out loud? Firstly, that works out at something like 15 hours per word. And second, how come writers from Ayckbourn to Allen can churn out funny stuff about 50 times faster?

    Writing a good screenplay can't be so hard that you need to give writers a day to write each word. We know that because plenty of screenwriters prove it and produce great stuff in reasonable time. It's just that even more of them produce rubbish.

  3. Barry McCann2:11 pm

    Why am I suddenly reminded about the theory concerning how long it could take monkeys to write the works of Shakespeare?

  4. Writing takes what it takes. One might not work on a screenplay for years; sometimes it just seems like that. Sometimes you have an idea on the back burner for years that you give an occasional stir.

    It's whatever works for you... and their system certainly works for Pixar. Respect. Otherwise it's like Tyrone in Coronation Street bragging he can get sex over really really quickly.


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