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Fleischer’s Secret Story-Telling Chart

Well, I don’t know if it was a secret, but here’s a rare publicity photo of Dave Fleischer with a “story mood chart” indicating story beats for Mr. Bug Goes To Town (1941). Click the photo above to see a close up of the chart. I don’t know if they really used anything like this in production, but however they did it, they created a masterpiece – and that’s all that matters.

  • Peter H

    I’ve seen it reported that Dave made a study of several successful features, and concocted a formula for structuring the highs and lows of a ‘successful’ storyline.

    Mike Dobbs writes (http://madeofpenandink.blogspot.com/) “One of his innovations of which he seemed most proud was a story chart, which could analyze the script of a movie or play and determine its audience appeal. Dave claimed that he had used it to show how the “Francis the Talking Mule” films would be a hit.”

  • Wow. That’s exactly my kind of crazy.

  • Tom

    Great post! Are there any links to a more readable version of the chart? It’s pretty awesome.

  • Jorge Garrido

    I’ve made charts like these before after screenplays were written… and they’re useful for recording what you’ve already written. Not so much planning a film around them.

  • Great photo! had never seen it before.

  • Mark

    Wow. Looks like the snake oil that hack Bruce Block hawks. If this were a key to successful features, why didn’t it produce any?

  • I’ve made color charts and color boards…Really rough to show the mood throughout the story. Sooo important when art directing so you can hand out specific scenes to certain people to work on and keep the consistency.
    Story beats are done on the script and a rough board. Need that for recording.
    This looks pretty technical. Interesting.

  • Regardless of the success rate of the people using it I still think this sort of chart can be utilized for some really effective planning around a script.

    Very interesting post!

  • Angry Anim

    I remember seeing that during early Prince of Egypt days at Dreamworks before they first moved to Glendale. They had it in the hall and a different colored piece of yarn would track the emotional highs and lows of each character. I’ve been kinda out of the loop with DW since those early days, tho… unsure if they continued using them.

  • Southern Fried

    Dave Fleischer allegedly developed this story chart after having seen the play “Abie’s Irish Rose” zillions of times. It worked well enough on short films but the stories in the Fleischer features felt like short cartoon stories that couldn’t sustain well in long form. Of course Fleischer only got to make two features before Paramount shut them down and their second was vastly superior to their first.

  • Nancy Beiman

    Disney didn’t assume there was a pattern that would ensure successful features. They would plan color scripts and story beats, but they would vary from picture to picture.

    Friends who worked for Fleischer told me he was never that concerned about story, so this looks like he heard about Disney story beats and decided to do a publicity shoot. MR. BUG has a pretty standard story, though I like it for the setting and some of the layouts, it isn’t very memorable otherwise.

  • Bill Turner

    DisneyToon Studios used to do this for their direct to video films. Don’t know if they still do.

  • What you see there isn’t a lot different from what screenwriting gurus like Robert McKee are preaching today. Fleischer just got it down on one chart instead of 500 pages.

    I like the “Mr. Bug” structure and it worked well for Pixar in “A Bug’s Life” too.

  • Christina

    It is a beautiful photograph. Thank-you for posting this!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Being a little off-topic right now, only a few more weeks away until the Japanese Mr. Bug Goes To Town DVD is released over there.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Meanwhile at a board meeting at Disney Studios…
    “Mr. Iger, we must find that chart. It is the only thing that will save our company!”

  • Karen

    Is this like all those dumb colored yarn “personality” and “emotion” charts all over the story walls at Dreamworks?

  • David

    Wow, great find.

    Fischinger did similar drawings in the 20’s of music, but this must’ve been for the press. It looks like an EEG reading!

  • Robert Barker

    I wonder if anybody to save those rare and beautiful models of the characters.