The Story Boarding Process: Expressing a Story Through Images #MUScareGames

*Disney/Pixar provided me with airfare and hotel accommodations to attend a press day at Pixar Animation Studios. Pictures are used with the permission of Pixar. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

There are many hours, months, weeks, and years spent working on just one animated film at Pixar. For Monsters University, it took about four years for the film to be made. There are also many departments that put in time on these film projects as well, such as the story artists.

Kelsey Mann was the story supervisor for Monsters University and worked closely with director Dan Scanlon to find the right story to tell about Mike and Sulley. I loved how Kelsey explained the story board process to us using the analogy of an artist approaching a blank canvas.

The Story Boarding Process: Expressing a Story Through Images #MUScareGames

And, in fact, that is very much how it all begins with the story board artists. They all meet together in a room and begin sketching out their story ideas rather than verbally expressing them to one another. They sketch out their ideas on blank pieces of paper, but just do the very basic of sketches. Since they don’t know if their concept will even make it into the final story, they do not need to draw a perfect drawing; it just needs to be clear and concise so that the other story artists know what they are trying to say with their picture. About ten to twelve artists meet together in a room well-stocked with drinks, snacks, notecards, pens, and Sharpies.

Once a concept is completed, they get the opportunity to pitch the scene to the director. It’s very much like putting on a performance, and the number one rule is that no one should ever interrupt the artist when he or she is pitching a scene. Kelsey pulled up a scene that he had worked on several years ago—one that did not make it into the film—and showed us exactly how he had pitched it. To bring life to the scene, Kelsey gave each character a distinct voice and really threw himself into the scene to make it as entertaining as possible.

Kelsey Mann truly enjoys his work, and it shows. It challenges him because he feels like he gets to fulfill many roles: writer, editor, cinematographer, animator, and actor. Even though the first part of starting on a new movie—blank canvas—is intimidating, the reward is a completed movie that make its viewers relate, smile, laugh, and even cry.


Jen currently lives in Utah with her family, and enjoys reading and writing in her spare time. She is active on popular book websites including paperbackswap.com, Goodreads.com, and luxuryreading.com.

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