Pixar Storyboard Class Week 4: The One Word Challenge

This semester I am taking ANM 499 Digital Storyboarding for Feature Animation with Pixar Story Artist Kristen Lester. I am chronicling my experience on the blog for myself and for those interested in learning more about storytelling. I highly recommend trying your hand at the assignments we were given, as well as watching the films assigned. Happy boarding!

*In order to fully discuss Kristen’s notes, I detail events that occurred in the films we watch. Watch the film, then read on to see how we analyzed the film. And you should watch the film, because this week we watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. Classic.

Hello dear readers!

This past week we watched on of the greatest, one of my favorite, one of the best films of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark. I LOVE this movie. I’ve seen in at least 20 times. And we went through a thorough analysis of how and why this film works. So grab your fedora and whip and here we go:


The Three Act Structure!
You know it. You love it. And Raiders follows it well.

The Stakes

The external stakes in this film are ridiculously high – the power of God must be saved from Hitler and the Nazis, or they will use it as a weapon to destroy the world.
The internal stakes are also quite high – will Indy change from being a greedy/selfish lout to a loving and understanding guy?
The philosophical stakes are high as well – violence and non-belief versus belief.

First Act Break
Goal starts off small – Indy, in order to find the ark, must first find the eye of Ra, which is needed to place on the staff which reveals the location of the map which reveals the location of the ark.

The Inciting Incident
As we’ve seen from the three act structure, the inciting indicident in this film is a doozy – the discovery that the ark of the covenant is real! This, Jews and Christians believe, held the presence of God. One could not touch it, or behold it without falling dead. In the film, this is also the McGuffin. We think the whole plot is about the ark, but actually, it is two fold – Indy must save the ark from the Nazis, but in the process, Indy becomes a more selfless person who cares about others, not just fame and glory. He’s also a non-believer, but he becomes a believer in the supernatural by the end of the film.

Excellent Characters
Marion Ravenwood is a badass. Of all the women in the Indiana Jones franchise, she is the best. She serves as the perfect foil to Indy – she’s tough, she lives on the edge, she can outdrink a guy under the table, and all she cares about is herself and money. Before they can learn to love each other they must first overcome their failings as human beings.


Belloq is Indy’s clone. He’s basically what Indy would become if Indy did not change into a better person by the end of the film, he is Indy at his worst. His unscrupulous behavior and inability to change is the reason why Indy becomes the hero and why Marion rejects him. He makes the wrong philosophical choices.
As Indy’s clone, he states the negative value of the world, “I am a shadowy reflection of you.” He’s like Slade to Robin. Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker.


This midpoint works because everything you need to know is explained in exposition. At the midpoint in this film, Marion is killed (at least we are led to believe so), Belloq gives his negative speech, and Indy finds the correct location of the ark.

Second Act Break
Unfortunately, the Nazis take the ark and the stakes are raised even higher:
External – Everyone will die
Internal – Indy will never find love
Philosophical – God is not real and greed wins in the end

Third Act

The Climax and best part of the whole dang show – Nazi meltdown! RaidersArkSceneThe power of God is real and the Nazis are utterly wasted. Right before they are electrified Indy puts faith in the ark and tells Marion to shut her eyes and not look, no matter what happens. The internal stakes have been resolved- Indy is a believer. The philosophical stakes are resolved- God is real and he hates evil Nazis. And the external stakes are real – the Nazis will not gain control over the ark and use it to conquer the world.

Indy is now worthy of Marion’s love and the ark is rescued from the Nazis and placed with “top men” in a warehouse never to be seen again. Weirdly enough, the ark does not melt off the “top secret” label on the box, unlike when in the boat it melted through the Nazi symbol, foreshadowing of something amazing yet to come. Perhaps the ark knows it is best if it is not found again.


Next time, we will watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and after analyzing the three act structure, we will better understand why that movie sucks so bad AND how we could make it better.

Storyboard Assignment

This week we were assigned to create storyboards based on a word and to have our classmates guess the word. I used bizarre 90s perfume ads, Edvard Munch paintings, The Animatrix, and abstract art as inspiration for by story, entitled Unreachable. Depressing stuff. I enjoyed working on it. Amazingly enough, one of my classmates guessed the word. Good job, Christopher. My teacher remarked that the story worked because of the progression of events from small to high stakes (wanting a mobile to wanting to reach Heaven). I learned that this is good in all stories to build dramatic tension.

One Word Challenge: Unreachable

Next week – we are doing an assignment created by the late, great Joe Ranft of Pixar fame, a genre film starring Little Tykes. Until next time.

Raiders of the Lost Ark photos from: http://adammcdaniel.com/AmselArt/Amsel_RAIDERS_rereleaseA.jpg http://img844.imageshack.us/img844/1797/indy23zbd.png http://cinemafanatic.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/raiders_of_the_lost_ark_end.jpg http://www.yourprops.com/movieprops/default/4daebecc03526/Indiana-Jones-And-The-Raiders-Of-The-Lost-Ark-Marion-Ravenwood-s-Shot-Glass-from-the-Raven-Saloon-2.jpg http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Raiders141.jpg


Drawing for Features Storyboarding ANM 372 Week 3: A Cake Story

This semester I am taking ANM 372 Drawing for Features Storyboarding with Disney Story Artist Tamara Lusher-Stocker. I am chronicling my experience on the blog for myself and for those interested in learning more about storytelling. I highly recommend trying your hand at the assignments we were given. Happy boarding!

Greetings Storyboard Fans,

Last week we showcased our character that we drew from life and expanded to give them life and depth. As you may remember, I created Imogene, a character based on a young woman I saw at the Walt Disney Family Museum.

Tamara instructed us to create a storyboard about our character baking a cake. Sky’s the limit. A cake needed to be involved – the rest was up to our ample imaginations.

So naturally I turned it into an action adventure horror story about two people in love battling a cake monster. Because you know, that’s what I do. Actually, my original story was much more pedestrian – a young woman baking a cake for her husband and failing in spectacularly comic fashion. Her bike messenger husband comes home with Chinese and they spend the night lounging on the couch watching TV. The end.

Sounded cute in my head, but boarding it proved boring. And who wants to board something dull, right?

As I worked out a more interesting scenario for myself, I thought of the cake monster. Eureka! This led to a wealth of ideas. A creature lurking in the shadows. Moody lighting. Horror film tropes. This iconic shot served as the turning point for me:




Alien03I ended up not using the shots in the final boards, as they didn’t fit the story. You have to kill your darlings sometimes. But the story is better for it — it served as a good backdrop.

In the story, Imogene, our heroine, owns a bake shop and Yohei, a delivery guy, accidently delivers a box of ingredients that have been contaminated by a chemical of unknown origins. My teacher Tamara and my classmates gave me excellent suggestions to improve my story for Round 2. Click on the arrow on the right of each panel to see the story unfold, as well as read the suggestions from Tamara and my classmates.

Next week, we are boarding a scene from Spider-Man, but instead of Peter Parker, our characters are a Dragon and a Talent Scout. Tamara encouraged us to really push the characters, making them super broad and cartoony. You’ll see what I come up with next week.