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Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling

A look at the most important rules of storytelling, as set out by the masters of practice: Pixar.


Pixar is the organization that has been able to tell us excellent stories for several decades. Film after film, their ability to make us experience a range of emotions in 2 short hours is extraordinary.


Maxime at the office sent me an article this week saying, “Read this!”


The article from No Film School introduced me to the 22 rules of storytelling at Pixar, published on Twitter by Emma Coats in 2011.


These 22 rules have since become an excellent reference on the approaches we should all have in our storytelling development process. Whether intended for children or your brand’s audience, these rules are at the heart of what makes storytelling a powerful tool in our arsenal as content creators.


In the article Maxime recommends, Vanessa Reyes takes 5 of the 22 rules, which happen to be very well explained in a video of just under ten minutes from Insider, and analyzes them in order to understand what makes them the major pillars of an excellent story:


  • Rule #4: “Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.”
  • Rule #13: “Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.”
  • Rule #19: “Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.”
  • Rule #6: “What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?”
  • Rule #3: “Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.”



In content marketing, we don’t have toys that come to life, or monsters living in closets, but we have characters, stories, themes to address. All these elements make it possible to apply many of these storytelling rules to our work.


So why not put a little Pixar in your next content productions?


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