While it may be true that Pixar, in its maturity, has slumped into formulaic story structures and characters relationships, it is still a gross mischaracterization to suggest that all of the studio’s story artists use the same playbook of warmed-over story tips.
Industry veteran Mike Bonifer, a founding producer of the Disney Channel who was instrumental in the classic documentary series Disney Family Album, has written a thoughtful corrective called “Rule #23” that addresses the creative hazards of misreading Coats’ tweets. In his piece, Mike looks at the rules through the prism of a personal friend, Joe Ranft, Pixar’s original head of story who died tragically in a 2005 car crash.
Bonifer writes eloquently about Ranft’s approach to creativity and his refusal to put himself into a box:
When it comes to Joe Ranft, he had more than 22 games or rules, or whatever you call them. It went way, way deeper than that. He was a magician, a card-carrying member at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, so he had sleight of hand games and gestural games. A gifted mimic, he had voice and impersonation games. He had a Tell it Like James Brown Would Sing It game, a Conga Line game, a Sling Blade game, a Fake Teeth game, a Boxcar Children game, he had games for losing weight, games for raising his children, games for what to do with the money he made at Pixar. He had a game for deciding which side of the street he’d walk on. He had a game for appreciating how precious water is. He even had a game whereby he’d take a sabbatical from Pixar every few years to work with his pal, Tim Burton. No one else at Pixar could’ve gotten away with that one. See, he was a rule-breaker, and he had as much game as anyone I’ve ever known. He didn’t call them games, that I know of, although he was a Groundlings alum, and surely would’ve recognized his moves as being games in the improvisation sense. Whatever you call them, they were gifts that made things better in a thousand different ways, it didn’t matter if it was storyboarding on a Pixar film or waiting in a supermarket checkout line. Joe’s participation in it guaranteed it’d be better than it would’ve been if he had not been involved.
Bonifer goes on to suggest a perfect rule #23: “There is always another Rule.” It’s worth your time to read the entire piece, which can be found on Bonifer’s site GameChangers.com.