Storytelling in 3-D

Earlier today, I let my college-student son talk me into playing hooky from writing and going to see Pixar's latest, UP, because we both thought it looked like such fun. When we arrived at the theater at 10:30 for the first showing, we were informed they'd rescheduled it for a school group (ACK! Avoid at all cost!) so the next available showing was at 11:30 AM, which would be a 3-D screening. I wasn't really interested in 3D, but I'd read it had improved since I'd last seen it (circa 19-mumble-mumble) and, besides, I love any excuse to spend time with the big kid.

After I picked my teeth up off the floor at the outrageous price ($19.50 for two tickets, because there's no early show discount on 3-D films and also a premium charged for those swell glasses) and we sat through approximately three months' worth of trailers, commercials, and little kids climbing all over one another, the movie finally started.

It was exactly what you'd expect from a Pixar film. Fun with a great (surprisingly but beautifully bittersweet at times) story, well-defined characters, and a wonderful story. And most importantly, the beautiful eye candy, especially the 3D, seamlessly blended into the whole instead of calling attention to itself. The effect, like the special effects from this summer's terrific Star Trek movie, didn't jerk you out of the story or distract from what was otherwise a weak effort.

Yea, I say! Someone in Hollywood has finally clapped on. (Is it too much to hope there will never be another Phantom Menace?)

For those of us who tell our stories using the written word, there's a great lesson here as well. No matter what shiny new techniques you trot out, which cover treatments are designed to showcase the book, or what you do so sell it, all the sizzle in the world won't make a three-dimensional experience from cardboard. You need to pour heart and soul first into rounding out compelling characters the audience will want to succeed and tossing challenging problems and lots of surprises (of Plot Bombs, as Joni calls them) between them and their goals.

Special effect notwithstanding, that's the real way to tell a 3-D tale.


Suzan Harden said…
The amazing thing is how the Pixar people have maintained their spirit of fun and creativity in the face of decisions by corporate committees and their own success.

All of the so-called experts said Pixar's first feature-length film would fail miserably. Hah! I can still watch Toy Story would pick up something new I didn't catch in the first hundred viewings.

And the food critique's speech concerning joy, simplicity and creativity at the end of Ratatouille still makes me cry.
Sharon Forret said…
What a great lesson to keep in mind, Colleen! Usually the summer is filled with loud, expensive popcorn flicks. UP does give hope for a change, and I can't wait to see it.

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