​​Storytelling Wisdom from Pixar

Pixar Framework

Pixar Animation Studios’ latest animated film, Lightyear, a spin-off of the Toy Story series, will be released this week. The first Toy Story film was released in 1995, and since then, Pixar has released many successful films, both in terms of commercials and enthralling audiences.

Pixar films such as Wall-E, Up, Toy Story, and Monster’s Inc. appeal to people of all ages and have a timeless quality. Have you ever wondered why the majority of their films are so captivating and engaging?


Emma Coates, a Pixar storyboard artist, tweeted a series of storytelling pointers in 2012. Every Pixar film, she claims, follows the same narrative framework.

Once upon a time there was ____________

Every day ____________

Then one day ____________

Because of that, ____________

And because of that, ____________

Until finally, ____________

American Author, Daniel Pink uses Finding Nemo as an example of the Pixar Pitch framework:

Once upon a time, there was a widowed fish named Marlin who was highly protective of his only son, Nemo

Every day, Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away.

Then one day in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water.

Because of that, he is captured by a diver and ends up as a pet in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney.

And because of that, Marlin sets off on a journey to find Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way.

Until finally Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite, and learn that love depends on trust.


The Pixar framework is straightforward and adaptable. It can be used to communicate founder stories, product demos, elevator pitches, and even customer or employee stories.

For example, the following is a story about a businessman who uses an inventory software:

Once upon a time, there was a business owner in rural India who struggled to manage his busy schedule and as a result, spent less time with his family.

Every day he would spend hours calling up each store and updating the inventory in his spreadsheet.

Then one day he met a representative from an inventory software company at a local conference.

Because of that, he installed the software and discovered how easily he could maintain inventory even with limited internet bandwidth.

And because of that, he was able to focus his efforts on marketing his product to newer regions, resulting in increased demand.

Until finally, he was able to take control of his time and spend more time with his family.

The Pixar framework looks beyond the solution or output and focuses on the impact.

Try and identify this framework in the next Pixar film you watch. Meanwhile, test out this framework in your next storytelling opportunity.

About The Author
Vinod Krishna

Vinod Krishna is a brand storytelling trainer and consultant at DustyPaths.
He brings 3 decades of experience in leading people, projects, and businesses
to forge new paths in storytelling, communication and leadership development.
He is an avid barefoot runner, trekker, theater artist, and photographer.
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