23 Mar

Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story

The story can be found here:

Time: 19:16

In looking for tonight’s Blog subject, there were quite a few thoughts that ran through my mind about TED and Ed Talks Ted.  For one, TED is going to continue to produce more videos than I can blog about.  (Atleast, at the current passive rate of one per week.)  Second, does TED need a lone Canadian blogger who is pouring over their site to the point of obsessive?  Probably not.  However, I know a few reasons why this blog exists (to me) but I’ll save that for later.

I openly admit, this TED talk stood out to me because it mentions ‘John Carter’ in the brief summary.  The thing about ‘John Carter’, is that its been in the news quite a lot recently.  – Globe and Mail Newspaper, giving it a mediocre review that is neither too good or too bad – CNN covering how John Carter is a pretty big financial disaster.

Ok, so this movie is considered a flop and failure.  And it looks like this TED talk was done before, which means this TED talk could also be a failed attempt to draw audience members.

Now I admit, I have yet to see John Carter but I actually WANT to see it.  I openly admit that I had no idea this movie even existed until I went to the theater recently to see Spy Against Spy with my friend Amanda.  What I saw, a giant cardboard gorilla in midbattle with a man who seemed impossibly strong, threw me for a loop.  I was confused, and curious, but really mostly confused.  The title of the movie, I knew right away had to be from a book or alternate source because ‘John Carter’ is a terrible name for a movie.  If anything, I was reminded of Joe Carter, who was batting for the Jays during the world series in 1992 and 1993.  On the other hand, the man depicted in the cardboard sure didn’t look like him.

Another quick aside (outside of this entire opening), is that it isn’t my intention to be focusing on Ted Talk / Movie tie ins one right after another (this would be the second in a week’s time).  This could very well be media affecting my mind so late at night, but this talk IS well worth exploring and delving into.

One Sentence Summary:

Again, this is a rather well thought out talk in this manner.  “How can a storyteller make their stories more intriguing to their audience?” 

Now this description is a little different from the subject title “The Clues to a great story” and I stand by the difference.  The clues to a great story is certainly a much more interesting quick summary but the entire talk is about the storyteller perspective. 

This makes me wonder about the blog as well.  How can I make this blog MORE interesting?  What would I need to put here that would make people to WANT to share it with their friends?  That they’d want to say “Hey, there’s an interesting opinion here.”

And that leads to the question that I had earlier, does TED Talks need someone who blogs about them?  The answer is no.  The very method of how I learned about TED Talks was because someone forwarded me a link to the video.  If other people want to learn more about the video there are dozens of references, posted opinions and discussions on the TED talk site itself.  Ted Talks has a means that supports itself for spreading awareness so some could argue that blogging about talks is pointless.

I’ll ask the question again, does TED Talks need someone who blogs about them?  The answer I think is yes.  I think commenting via a blog allows one to respond with a fuller reaction that can exist isolated from the distraction of conversation, at least in terms of the type of conversation people will hold in comments section or public forums. More on this later, it’s already late.

Andrew is obviously a great story teller.  Not only does he have an impressive list of accomplished stories, he naturally speaks with the kind of ‘guiding voice’ that a professional spokesperson will utilize but he is also interesting.  You just know you’re in for something different when he breaks out into a seemingly random Scottish accent.  At first you’re taken back but immediately recognizes that he is going somewhere with it.  Heck, he even tells you that he’s going somewhere with it.

What really stands out to me is not only is this a pseudo ‘historical telling’ of the first years of Pixar but it also tells how it relates directly to him.  There is personal thoughts here and near the end when he speaks about his childhood and parents, I can feel that these memories are strong to him.  (I apologize for being completely out of turn, but I can almost imagine he just recently dealing with issues that the story revolves around.  Either the loss of a parent, child or encountering a baby with a similar condition.  The response seems that strong, despite his reluctance to show the emotion.)

Now the Ted talk does START with mention of John Carter, but it fades away so quickly from it that you almost forget that he mentioned it.  This is NOT an advertisement for a movie despite my initial surmise.  Although it easily could have been, if he desired it.  He starts with the movie clip, and then leads with his ‘final line’.  In hindsight, I think IF he wanted to advertise JC (John Carter) then he should started/finished with it. 

What caught me off guard:

To be honest, this talk didn’t surprise me in any way.  If he went out on a wild mad rant of how the stories he worked on were terrible and that Pixar is controlled by alien overlords than that WOULD have been surprising. 

On the other hand, what he was saying was very interesting.  I never felt bored.  There’s plenty of great details for budding storytellers and how Pixar broke the mold of what conventional story telling is.


When he showed the clip of Woody, did he miss a line?  Will John Carter be a success?  Eventually? 

Ok, the first question is only due to the fact that Woody is a complete A-hole to the other toys.  This scene was obviously not in the original Toy Story but at the same time he doesn’t actually give a full explanation.  I was halfway expecting a line something akin to ‘Test audiences were appalled by Woody’s character and burning effigies of the doll were put up that evening.  So we decided to scrap that scene and add a bunch of scenes where about Mr. Potato head.’

John Carter, to my perspective, should not be written just yet.  There is a thing about advertising and that there really isn’t such a thing as negative media anymore.  Just by posting up so many ‘John Carter is a failure’ articles everywhere, it is generating more interest in people wanting to learn about the movie and even possibly seeing it.  The other aspect about whether or not this movie is a success/failure is also about the ‘machine’ with which movies work these days.

I heard that Ford once said “I could give away cars for free and still earn a profit off of their lifetime of maintenance” and I wonder if this will be the same with John Carter.  I almost want to believe that movies could be ‘seen for free but the studios will still earn a profit’.  The dvds, rentals and related worldwide repeat ‘selling impulses (showings/toys/cross advertising) ‘ could bring this movie back into the black.  That and things like set pieces, innovations in film work and other side benefits of creating the movie still come into play.  I simply don’t know them.

So now that its been discussed, what can I do?

This is a very big question.  As much as I enjoy thinking about TED talks and my reactions to them, I honestly do wonder if these blog entries are at all interesting to someone else.  This could very well be a very important talk as it makes me think of how I could possibly improve my story telling in the future.

– Updated every Thursday.

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: