Pixar Animation Studios are one of the most creatively and commercially successful studios in the history of movie making. With over 21 Academy Awards and worldwide earnings of an estimated $13 billion, few companies have established such major value and reverence in such a short period of time.

Such success only comes from a strong sense of storytelling, a keen understanding of an audience, and a lot of hard work. Pixar represents all of that, but there’s something else they represent that allows them to stand out amidst fierce competition:

Simplicity.

Simplicity is the core ingredient in a Pixar pitch. When a producer has a story they want to bring to life, they present it in its most raw, universal form.

In 2013, Pixar storyboard artist broke down the six simple elements of a successful pitch.

1) Once upon a time there was…

Characters and setting are two of the three fundamentals of a Pixar picture. Though they can be condensed into a single sentence (“Once upon a time there was a toy cowboy named Woody who lived happily with his friends in the bedroom of his owner, Andy.”) producers enter the pitch meeting ready to expand upon their brief descriptions. Audiences need to fall in love with the idea, and that’s only going to happen if the bosses at Pixar fall in love with it first.

2) Every day…

The characters are introduced in the mundane world. Every day, Andy plays with his toys, and has Woody save the day. Every day, Marlin warns Nemo that swimming too far from home is dangerous. The every day is familiar. It’s human – even if the characters aren’t. The every day serves as the audience’s ticket to the world about to be explored.

3) One day…

something disrupts the status quo. Andy gets a Buzz Lightyear toy. Lightning McQueen falls off the back of the truck on his way to the big race. This is the start of something great. Something exciting. Of course, it doesn’t look that way to the protagonist at the time, but change isn’t made of its own accord. Something, or someone, must force it to happen.

4) Because of that…

The every day world disrupted, the characters find themselves out of their depth and desperate to return to the safety of the every day. Woody, jealous of Andy’s love of Buzz, hatches a plan that inadvertently results in Buzz getting knocked out of a window.

5) Because of that…

The characters must take action to deal with the situation. If they don’t immediately do so, there is no story, no reason to care. After a confrontation leaves them stranded, Buzz and Woody must find Andy so they can return home. Elastigirl and her children must travel to Syndrome’s base if they want to protect their husband and father.

6) Until finally…

A new normal is established because of the character’s hard work and the lessons they learnt on their journey. Here is the third fundamental part of a Pixar pitch: the theme. Woody and Buzz overcome their egos and find strength through friendship and teamwork. Marlin and Nemo learn the value of trust. If the characters don’t gain something from their experience, what’s the point?

Simple!

The good news is, whatever you’re pitching, you too can make use of this pitch to ensure your messaging is clear and powerful. Here’s how:

1) Once upon a time there was…

Establish the issue you’re addressing. Let’s say, for instance, your product is a sales program.

“Once upon a time there was an entrepreneur who was struggling to make sales and keep their business afloat.”

2) Every day…

Remind the audience of the world they live in.

“Every day, the entrepreneur makes just enough money to survive.”

3) One day…

Something presents the opportunity for change.

“One day, the entrepreneur receives a call from a sales expert who offers to help them.”

4) Because of that…

The journey begins.

“Because of that, the entrepreneur is given instruction on how to improve their sales process and build their business.”

5) Because of that…

The audience can give up, or take action. The choice is obvious.

“Because of that, the entrepreneur starts doing the work, following the process, and seeing results.”

6) Until finally…

The goal is reached.

“Until finally, the entrepreneur finds success, and the happiness in both their personal and professional lives that inspired their business in the first place.”

Now, don’t equate simplicity with ease. Obviously, it’s not just a case of being able to speak to these six elements. Pixar producers work up to five months on a single pitch, then spend a year in development after it’s approved.

Nevertheless, making sure you can clearly define each step is crucial to making sure your story – whatever form it takes, and whatever its purpose – is heard, and understood.

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