Heroes to Pixar: Strategies for Creating Stories Using Your Collections

Everyone loves a good story. There is something about a good story that draws people in. It communicates something we can relate to, or teaches us something we carry along. Perhaps that is why one of the strongest tools to connect with audiences, to build community, and to create engaging tech experiences is storytelling. However, storytelling is no easy task. It is a craft that needs to be practiced and learned. So how do you tell a good story? Where do you start? This session aims to help you answer those questions. Through a combination of a presentation and hands-on demonstration, we will be introducing different storytelling models. Attendees will gain an understanding of the different storytelling models and use this session as a launching point to craft their storytelling skills and apply them with their collection at their museum. Some of the models that will be introduced are The Hero’s Journey - the story of the departure, revelation, and return of the hero; The Pixar Model - “Once upon a time there was” and then fill in the blank; and Kurt Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories - graphical representations of a main character's ups and downs.


Max Evjen 00:00
Hello, everybody, thank you for coming. This is here as the Pixar strategies for creating stories using your collections. I'm Max Elgin, this is Castle Kim. My Twitter handle is Qantas nine for castles is helping helping Castle, we also established a hashtag hashtag for this if you would be so kind as to use that if you're tweeting about this session. That's the conference, hashtag MC in 2019 than a dash and then heroes number two Pixar, if you don't mind, just adding that that way we can kind of aggregate those unseals later. So just to give you a little reason why we're actually doing this, oh, well, let's let's let it become, there's more people coming in. So wonderful. Well, as you guys come on in. So the reason we decided to do this session is at this conference at other conferences, there are lots of great presentations about using stories to do things over social media or how you're doing things in your content. But we found that maybe there's not exactly even some people might might be at a loss of like, well, where do I how do I start? Where do I start? How do I do this? Right? So we wanted to give a few examples of how you might do this and then do a quick activity. So this will be an activity based set a session. And we'll get to that a little bit. So here's the the session overview is that castle is going to discuss three models of of storytelling, the hero's model, the qurbana, gets shapes of stories and the what's known as the Yeah, we're calling it the Pixar model, but it was really developed by them, but they use it. So and then we're going to be introducing the the activity and showing an example of what that might look like. And then we'll have you all do the storyboarding activity, and then everybody will share back about what they what they found. So I will hand things off to Castle and just talk about the three models that we're talking about.

Unknown Speaker 01:58
Alright, hello, everyone. My name is Castle Kim, as Max said, we're going to be start talking about three different models of storytelling. The three models we'll be talking about is the hero's journey, the Pixar model, we're calling that for now, and then shapes of story. Just to a quick note, this isn't an exhaustive list of storytelling, or the golden key or the best way to tell the story. These are just fairly popular, well known storytelling models and structures, you could use that as a starting off point. So we're just introducing them and they have been been introduced very well. They have been well known. Use effectively. And I'll be talking about those examples in the following slides. The first site first I'm talking about is the hero's journey, the hero's journey was developed a hero's journey is popularly known or is also known as a model myth comes from a long history of study of hero mythology narratives. And it was developed by this. This gentleman right here, Joseph Campbell, who popularized the idea and the hero myth pattern. And in his book, he introduces this in his book, a hero with 1000 faces. And that's how that's the descriptor of what the hero's journey is about. And one of the most famous examples how the hero's journey has been used is a movie that I hope everyone is familiar with, is the very first Star Wars. George Lucas actually credited Joseph Campbell. Joseph Campbell for him when he was developing the story of for Star Wars in the 1977 film. He, George Lucas credited Campbell's work in shaping the story of Star Wars, and we see the cycle of the hero's journey and the movie A New Hope, and also throughout the original trilogy, and thinking about a new hope and mind. This is how the hero's journey is structured, it is a cycle. Here to keep in mind that this story structure focuses on the perspective of the hero, an individual, the central character of the story and what happens around him. So the story structure is not focused on the entire or the big picture is focuses on the individual. So I'm going to quickly go through the 12 steps of the hero's journey. Step one is the ordinary world. So this is where the story begins, where the hero lives, the hero is saved the normal life here we see and learn about the hero that he is just human. He is just a normal farm boy and the planet taught to tattooing. And step two, the call to adventure and step three, the refusal of the call. This is where the hero's adventure begins receiving a call to action. This could be as dramatic as a gunshot or simple as a phone call, or a holographic distressing message from a princess. And this ultimately disrupts the comfort of the hero's normality. Then the hero doesn't immediately accepts the call that he has. He refuses to call. Hero may be eager to accept but he has second thoughts. He has doubts Are there, there may be problems for him to why he can't leave, because he just a farm boy in Planet touch when, then in Step four, he meets his mentor. This is a critical turning point where the hero meets is a critical turning point for the hero. This, the mentor is someone who gives the hero what he needs such as wisdom, historical lessons, or an elegant weapon from a more civilized age. Whether whatever the mentor provides the hero it will serve or to dispel the fear or doubt the hero might have and give him strength and courage to go and fight the dark side. Then in step five, crossing the threshold, this hero may be willing or may be pushed into the unknown world this could be a death in the family, or destruction of their home to go across to the unknown world leaving the comfort of his home. Now there is no turning back. Then in step six, the hero is tested, he meets allies and face enemies. out of his comfort zone, the hero is confronted with difficulty series of challenges, obstacles, like no like one might have different challenges and one might have in a cantina, meet and face enemies at like to Imperial forces, and may even earn allies even if he is a smuggler. The heroes skills and powers are tested and train and we get a deeper insight of what the character heroes character is, and we identify more with him. Step seven. approaching to the inmost cave. The inmost cave may represent many things to the hero. This could be an actual location, or actual location where great danger lies or an internal conflict. The hero may once again face some doubts and fears the hero

Unknown Speaker 06:46
here we get a little bit more deeper connection we connect with the heroes a little bit more as he faced his this great ordeal, then comes the ordeal. Step eight. The ordeal may be a dangerous physical test or a deep inner crisis, or a death of a mentor by the man who killed his father. And through this some form of death, the hero can be reborn, a metaphorical resurrection that grants him great power great insight necessary in order to fulfill his destiny. Then step nine to reward or seizing the sword. Then step 10. The road back. After surviving the ordeal, the hero's transform into a new state, from a farm boy to a pilot to the resistance, the reward may come in many forms. It could be an object of great importance or a power or a secret or great knowledge or insight. Then the hero takes our journey to the road back to the no known world. Now transformed with a reward, the hero must return to the unknown world, but it's not an easy task. There's one more step step 11. The resurrection. This is the climax in which the hero must face a must face his final and most dangerous encounter with death, star, and Darth Vader. If he fails, there are far reaching consequences throughout the galaxy. And ultimately, with the force, the hero succeeds, destroying his enemy and emerging from battle. Then completing the cycle step 12. returned with the elixir. This is the final stage, the hero returns to the Ordinary, ordinary world unknown world as a change man, and he has a final reward an elixir. This may be literal or metaphorical. And, and there is a huge celebration of the celebration rep could represent three things a change of success, or proof of his journey, like a metal, the hero, and now the hero will never be the same. So that is the complete cycle of the hero's journey. Now I'm going to be talking about a different model, the Pixar model. So without a doubt, Pixar is one of the greatest storytellers of modern time, and they have developed a very structured approach of how to develop and tell a story. Literally, if you do a Google search of Pixar and storytelling, you will see 22 rules of storytelling by Pixar. So hold your horses, we're gonna go over all 22 of them right now. Actually, I'm just going to go over only one of them. Step four. And step four is a closer look at rule number four, or rule number four by Pixar. We call it the Pixar model, but this wasn't developed by Pixar. This is a structure called the story spine. It has been developed long time ago, but what Pixar has done is used as very, very effectively. And the story spine goes once upon a time there was a blank every day blank, one day blank, because of that blank, because of that blank until finally blank. And that is the structure of a story spine. So a story spine helps you create a descriptor of the story that is establishes the Beginning the event, the middle, the climax and the end. So this structure helps you create the paint the big picture of a story. So let me give you an example of by using one a Pixar movie, The Incredibles once upon a time, there was a superhero named Mr. Incredible who was forced to live an ordinary man's life and society were superheroes were outlawed. Every day he grew more and more frustrated with his stifling, boring life. But one day, he accepts a secret superhero job from a mysterious stranger. volume up a little bit. Because of that, better, okay. Because of that he fell into a diabolical trap by a mysterious stranger who turned out to be Sinestro a superville supervillain with a long term grudge against Mr. Incredible syndrome was able to capture and imprison mystery incredible because of that syndrome was able to capture and imprison Mr. Incredible because of that syndrome can now put his master plan into motion by setting a giant killer robot loose on civilization. Until finally, Mr. Incredible escaped from his prison and foiled a bill and by destroying the giant killer robot. And ever since then, he was loved by all and able to be a superhero again. So don't be fooled by this image that the blank is short that that blank could be as long as you need as to fulfill that descriptor of the story.

Unknown Speaker 11:37
So the less I'm going to be less structure I'm going to be talking about is the shape of story. So this was developed by a well known author named Kurt von yet, Vonnegut Vonnegut he is known for a slaughter, a slaughterhouse five cats great old and breakfast of champions. So, Kurt Vonnegut had claimed that this is his previous contribution to society. It's not his books, but this thesis that he wrote as a mass when he was working on his masters, which got rejected because the academic thought this was too simple and too pretty. But the thesis argued that the main character has ups and downs and can be grabbed into grabbed to reveal the taxonomy of story. So compared to the other story, this shows you the flow of the story, where's the highest where the low is, and for the story, or a character. So since the shape of story is expressed as the graph there are two axes, so there's the GI axis, which is the y axis, G, for good fortune I for ill fortune. Then there's the b e axis, which is the x axis B, meaning beginning and E for ending. And then with this grab, you could create a flow of flow of the story. And here, the importance is not the origin of the graph, but more of the shape of the graph. So one of the story structures that Kurt Vonnegut talks about as man and a whole this is one of the examples where the main character gets into trouble and then gets out at a better life. Then we have boy meets girl, think of any romantic comedy or any Hallmark Christmas movie, the main character comes across something someone wonderful, gets it, lose it, and then comes back and forever happily ever after. Then there is the Cinderella story, there's a character with ill fortune, but one step at a time gets better and better and better until 12 o'clock strikes. So the fortune all disappears and goes into a deeper ill fortune. Until he she meets Prince Charming and lived happily ever after. And other than these three structures, there are many more structures out there that you could use. from bad to worse, which way is up, you could definitely use one of these are pre existing structures to shape your stories, shape your stories, or even create your own to create or think about the flow of your story. So we have shared again, shared three big well known story structures and approaches. But then again, these are not the golden key these are or the solutions to creating your own story. These are just stories that have been used effectively used in the past, some might even say, Hero's Journey is overused and shouldn't be used ever again. But that's for academics to argue about, but it is effective and a good place to start. So now

Max Evjen 14:34
Okay, so we went through these three models, and we're gonna move on to an activity actually, which we're gonna end up using what's referred to as the Pixar model though somebody else developed it, which is the Once Upon a Time story. So what we're going to actually do with this is, is we're gonna go through really quickly just to go back to slides. Okay, so I'm just gonna go and take a look at this model again. Mm. We're back to here. And, okay, so, for example, and we're gonna, we're gonna be asking you all to get into groups, and you guys are gonna get to identify one object or artifacts from the collection in your museum or in a museum where you guys work. And use that. That to be the object itself, or the object that somebody uses to fill out this model. The once upon a time there was and I'm going to just really quickly do one myself. So I used to work at the embassy Museum, and there is a giant brown bear that is in the galleries, right? For the 100 pound bear. Right. So once upon a time, there was a bear in the museum every day The bear went out at night to collect honey, one day, he found the store of honeys, honey in the in the museum supplies area. Because of that, the whole place ended up stinking and sticky from all the honey, because of that, they ended up hunting the bear until finally, the bear decided that he would just be better back in the museum and not getting any more. I don't know. It doesn't need to be crazy. It doesn't need to be huge. It just needs to be well. Let's take this and see if we can move it through this story structure. Right? Does that make sense? Oh, yeah. And ever since that day, everybody loved the bear forever. More. Right? Yeah. So we didn't actually put it in this. But what we'd like to do is we have this wonderful plan of having easel pads. And we can get you guys up in the walls to write these things on here. Take a look these walls. Yeah, so what we're gonna do is, is actually split you all up into groups. And we have these tables out there. And I hope they're still there. And we're gonna send it out and you guys will pick in your groups, one one item in the in the collection, and move it through the story structure. Okay, we're gonna get started, we'd love to hear from from you about your ideas. So what group wants to share their story first?

Unknown Speaker 16:57
So we want to talk about that first. Oh, sure. So I made a quick edit on this slide. If you could tell if you could tell the difference, can you tell the difference. And ever since then, so right before we started, went out and started doing our story activity. Someone came up to me and reminded me of this small fact about this information. As I mentioned, Pixar adopt adopted this structure of the story spine, but what they did is as they're using the story spine over and over and over again, they slowly started to omit and ever since then, and there was an article out by the actual creator of the story spine, like oh, how it is important critical of that line and how he wants that line to come back in. Actually, in the handouts I made for you guys, that is actually in the handouts for you guys. But on the slides, it was omitted, so I had to include that and bring and bring that to your attention.

Max Evjen 17:52
So if you didn't decide that maybe just real quick. The end of yours come up with one at that point. Who wants to transfer is first?

Unknown Speaker 18:04
Okay. Okay, so we had once upon a time there was a dusty old World War Two float plane. Every day It stared at the water from its perch on the battleship Museum. He wasn't a popular fighter plane, didn't have his own audio tours stop. His radio comes alive. Oh, one day his radio comes alive with a distress call. A pilot crashed and in the water, and none of the other planes believed him and they refuse to help. Because of that, he breaks free from his moorings and starts his engines to rescue the pilot alone, but he had no fuel. And because of that he couldn't complete the mission. But a friendly tugboat comes to his aid. Until finally they rescue the pilot. And ever since then, everyone recognizes the floatplane and tugboat as heroes. They get their own exhibit and audio tour stop.

Unknown Speaker 19:15
Who's next?

Unknown Speaker 19:33
Once upon a time, there was a T Rex named Sue. Every day visitors tried to touch her ignoring the well placed signage. One day a child called Sue fat and Sue decided she'd had enough she sprang to life, packed her bags and went back to South Dakota. Because of that, visitors were sad museum attendance plummeted and Sue missed her best friend the social media Expert. Because of that, the museum president called Sue and begged her to return promising the child would apologize and they'd make the signage even more visible. Sue refused. Until finally the museum offered her her own Twitter account sue the T Rex, and she agreed to return on the conditions that in the future people refer to them in the they their pronouns, and respect their personal space. The ends and ever since then, she's happy at The Field Museum. They Oh crap. They're there are happy.

Max Evjen 20:40
Thank you. Okay, this next like here

Unknown Speaker 20:53
Okay, once upon a time, there was a butter mold. It provided every day it provided delicious butter for the family. One day, the butter mold wasn't taken out of the cabinet out of the pantry because another mold was used a holiday mold. Because of that, the butter mold was sad. Because of that it retreated to the back of the pantry hiding behind all of the tins were discovered. There were other butter molds. Because of that, it learned that molds come in all shapes and sizes. Until finally, it wasn't sad. And it got used again by the family. And ever since then, it's been happy to wait its turn

Max Evjen 21:55
Thank you, thank you. Who's next? Who's next? Are you guys next

Unknown Speaker 22:11
so once upon a time, there was a Kusama pumpkin. That was very fragile. And every day, people took photos with the Kusama pumpkin. One day, the pumpkin felt kind of ugly, and it refused to be in photos. Because of that, visitors stopped visiting the museum. And because of that the pumpkin was sent to off site storage. Because of that, the pumpkin met with other objects that had similar self esteem issues. This is not about a pumpkin. Until finally, the pumpkin realized along with its other friends its inner and outer beauty with the help of the other collection items. And ever since then, the pumpkin only takes hashtag no filter selfies.

Max Evjen 23:05
Who's next? Who's next? You guys Excellent.

Unknown Speaker 23:19
So you all did such a nice job personifying your objects, I don't know that ours is quite that endearing. But let's see you once a once upon a time. So this is this is a true story. I'm sure all of yours are true as well. But there was a will into Kooning painting at the UA Ma, which is the University of Arizona museum of art. Every day visitors admired the painting. And one oh, sorry about that. Oh, one day to visitors cut the painting from its frame and drove off with it. And because of that, the FBI archives division recommended a 30 year anniversary story on the 30th anniversary of the theft. And because of that two amazing antique store owners realized they had $160 million painting in their store in Silver City, New Mexico. And until finally the painting which had been hidden behind a bedroom door for 30 years, was returned to its rightful home in Tucson. And ever since then. Those two antique store owners have been the museum's very best friends.

Max Evjen 24:46
Thank you. Thank you, and I think we have one more. Yes Excellent.

Unknown Speaker 24:56
Maybe or I don't even have to do the reading We can go over there yeah okay, we also have a T Rex story. Once upon a time there was another T Rex. His name was his name was Henry and he lived in New York City. Every day, Henry had to stay put at his museum and watch people, and he got lonelier and lonelier. One day Henry observed children and realized that they were friends. And they were talking about a triceratops named Geraldine at another museum. Yes, this gave Henry an idea. Henry decides to leave his museum and make friends with Geraldine. Because of that, the museum misses Henry and tries to get him back. There's a chase scene in the subway. Because of that, let's see he evades Chase, Henry, he uses his little arms and he actually gets on the subway. And he makes his way to the Midwest. And he experiences life with small arms. Until finally, Henry makes it to another museum and he finds Gerald Dean. But when he gets there, he remembers he's a predator. And he may or may not eat her. And ever since then we've never seen Henry or Geraldine.

Max Evjen 26:39
I think that's all six. Is that right? Is there other any other stories?

Unknown Speaker 26:42
I think that was six.

Max Evjen 26:43
Excellent. All right. Any questions?

Unknown Speaker 26:48
So that ties up our presentation? Do you have any if you have any questions, we have about 510? Five minutes here, but

Max Evjen 26:54
buttons 10

Unknown Speaker 26:55
minutes. All right. Yes, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike.

Unknown Speaker 27:04
These are really a lot of fun. And they all focused on the object being the hero. And I just want to throw out that for when you're actually doing story. Development at home. You don't need to make the object the hero, you can have somebody else be the hero and the object is the object of the journey. The price is something that the hero finds rescues whatever is the power thing. It's I mean, it can play different roles in this story. Just play with the stories.

Unknown Speaker 27:34
Definitely. That's I mean, the story structures we talked about, these are again, not the golden rule, but it's a good starting off point if you want to, as you're creating a story. We mentioned like the hero's journey, focus on an individual's perspective of what happens around them. The Pixar story creates a bigger picture of like, what the flow is, the shape of the story is more of the flow, where's the high word the lows are, but the perfect fit. But the stories perspective is completely up to you. You could place it on an object, you can place it on a person, you can place it on the museum, whatever story you want to construct, we're we're presenting this as you're starting off point, because there's a lot of talk about how important storytelling is. But But we haven't really talked about how do you create a story. And we just want to give you guys the starting off point of where you could take this. And for the exercise, we focused on objects. But that but again, you could you approach this in any area you want as you're creating a story? Yes,

Max Evjen 28:26
yeah. It could be the object that somebody uses to or so you focus on the person that uses it, right? For something, right. And that map person could go through the story arc, right? So it just depends on, on, on how you want to tell that story, right? But you get to make those decisions. And really, as you probably saw here, there were no wrong answers. There were no wrong stories. There were no bad stories, right? They were just different stories, right. And I actually found them all entertaining. So any other questions or thoughts that you want to share?

Unknown Speaker 28:58
I know that you both have a theater background. So I'm curious about if you've seen some storytelling practices that have worked really, really willing to that you believe go very well translate into a museum practice. So probably the question I'm gonna be on Android

Max Evjen 29:19
it really depends. I have a lot of experience like working with playwrights and like helping, like some to devise scripts, some that like, have scripts that they want to adjust in certain ways. And really, you know, it, that the one word more common sort of theme that I see and a lot of things that and that you hear about storytelling is that there needs to be a beginning middle end, there needs to be a conflict in the middle there needs to be some sort of thing that the protagonist like butts up against and overcomes to get to the other place. But i That's why we were looking at these models because we like to have one to flesh that out a little more, right? To look at like, well, what, as far as like, what are the stories that are out there? How are they being told? What are the things? You know, I can't really say that that all museums can benefit from one specific storyline, right? You know, we chose one to work on but really it depends on the organization. It depends on the mission that you have. It depends on your collections. It depends upon the personality of the museum. If you recall, Kate Wiseman's Ignite talk from three years ago, about their friend the museum like what, what's the personality of the museum? How's that going to shine through in your story? Right.

Unknown Speaker 30:36
So, for me, I have to two different answers to that question. First one is a word. Storytelling is not a one person process, you can start creating a story. But it is important that you work with the other professionals that it's related to that story to create that accuracy component to it. When we think about story we have, we feel like we have the creative freedom to go a little bit more abstract or a little bit more broaden. But I think it's important as museum professionals to maintain some sort of accuracy to that. And that can only come by collaborating and talking with the individuals working on those objects, or within that story, or within that story that you're developing. That's one. The other one is I'm currently teaching an undergraduate course called Digital Storytelling this semester. And one of the big things I'm emphasizing to the students, as I'm teaching them, as they're telling a story as what is your emotion of the story? So you, what is your emotion of the story? So you have to decide where the emotion what the emotion is, at even if the emotion changes? What are they? And depending on that emotion, you got to make the decision like how you're going to tell that emotion that could be if it's a vocal storytelling, how do you tell that through a tone and rhythm or pitch? Or if that's more of a physical storytelling? How do you tell that through body? Or if it's a graphical representation? How do you represent that through graphical choice? Or if it's a written text? How do you convey that emotion with the word choices you make? That's one of the big things I talk about? Again, the story doesn't have to have one continuous emotion, it could change emotion to emotion. But it is important to think about what emotion Am I trying to tell and this is what I'm telling my students right now as I'm teaching them how to be a better storyteller.

Max Evjen 32:16
Maybe other questions? Okay. Well, thank you, everybody, for coming. Thank you for participating. Thank you for your awesome stories. They were incredible. Seriously, I was I didn't know what to expect. But oh, yes.

Unknown Speaker 32:39
Okay, if everybody will bring their giant pieces of paper to the back of the room, I will document and tweet out these stories because they were so magnificent. And I don't want them to be gone. Oh, am I not allowed Chatham rules, as long as I have permission. So if you would like your story, print, tweet it out. I don't know. I just don't want to lose the stories there were so great.

Max Evjen 32:59
If there are no objections to the stories being put out to the Twittersphere. Are there are other objections? Got it.

Unknown Speaker 33:13
Yeah, I just, I just wanted to legislate, enjoy. Just to be totally honest, as I just wanted to name as like as much of a fan of directors as I am, I did worry that the story maybe made light of folks who use they them pronouns, at least in terms of how it came across, or at least in terms of some of the laughter that I heard, and I just wanted to name that as at least an impact that I felt just as something to consider. Yeah, well, you should include that context. I guess.

Unknown Speaker 33:50
Just for context for everyone else here. Sue, actually, we, when we started writing the story, we had written it with all she her pronouns. And then when we by the time we got to the end, we were made aware that actually on Twitter, Sue uses they them pronouns, and it's a very deliberate and inclusive choice. And so we wanted to acknowledge that for people who did know and saw that we had been calling Sue as she and so we didn't shoehorn it in in the best way, obviously, but there, there was a true intention of reflecting a thoughtful decision made by the Field Museum.

Max Evjen 34:39
Yeah, okay, so we won't put the one for Sue. But if anybody else wants to share the stories, then they can.

Unknown Speaker 34:46
Yeah. Sure, you could definitely keep it for yourself. Instead of you could keep it for yourself and not for Twitter.

Max Evjen 34:55
All right. Well, thank you, everybody, for coming. Thank you. A couple of minutes about time thanks. imagining