The Road to Pixar

“Design and storytelling for business“, the creative and innovation process in connection with the corporate and business world.


Mimia Arbelaez is a Founder of CreativeCave and former Creative Director of Pixar. She is an veteran in the animation industry and has been active for the last 15 years. Here she shares tips for upcoming animators, storytellers, and anyone who has passion to leave their imprint in the creative industry.


In this animated movie - “Up”, life of a man and wife has been expressive throughout the duration of the movie. It is about how a man and a woman get together, get married, live life through ups and downs, and then end up in their old age and lying in the hospital bed. The plot of the movie was depicted poignant enough to touch our hearts. But why does it make us emotional? There are two reasons: 1) It was a spitting image of reality, and 2) It was shown through phenomenal cinematography which captured the sentiments of the characters just right.


Are audible words necessary to make you grasp a story? Are textual words required to make you laugh and….also cry? What are the elements in a story that touches our audience? Is it just the story itself or also the process of telling the story that plays a crucial role? The answer lies into design thinking. Let’s also see how storytelling has its deep roots in design thinking:


Design Thinking: The process of listening and understanding our audiences with utmost empathy in order to create a tangible or intangible product.


Story Telling: The process of interconnecting our audiences with the situations, settings, and the whole process of an anecdote or concept. It needs a great level of empathy to be able to intertwine the story and audiences into one.


The filmmaker has successfully broken down the structure of the art of storytelling that works the best with the mental model of audiences.


Structure of Storytelling

Just like anything in this world even a creative process like storytelling does also follow a standard structure. Where does this structure arrive from? The roots of storytelling in visual storytelling structure becomes more important as there are no words to guide the audience from one end to another one.



Context > Action/Incident 1 > Action/Incident (n) > Consequence (Climax) > Aftermath > Resolution > End


Setting a context seems like a common part of any storytelling process. But it sets a foundation for users to tie and comprehend the rest of the parts of the story together. As strong context gives a good start.


It follows the actions taken by the characters or the incidents that happen. Subsequently other actions and incidents do also take place until it arrives to the final ultimate consequence. At this moment the audience should totally be emotionally intertwined with the movie.


And then what other actions are taken by the characters to reach resolution and closure in the story. That could be a happy ending, sad ending, bitter-sweet ending. If done right, it could also be an open-ended ending and leave it upto the interpretation of the audiences.


Filmmaking Process

Following is the whole process of filmmaking from conceiving the story through delivering it to the audience.


Concept > Pre-production > Production > Post-production


The foundation of the storytelling is laid in the “Concept” phase of the timeline. Once the story has been written in words, a storyboard is created for the filmmakers to visualize how they want the story to be told to their audiences.




As you can see in the above example, the filmmaker gets the blueprint of the screenplay as well as cinematography. The filmmaker can add, delete, or reshuffle the sequence of the pictures as well as change the camera angles to ensure that the visuals conveyed the story in a precise and concise manner. This is the best way to visualize not just the story itself but the user experience of the audiences as well. The process of design thinking helps us to understand your users inside out and subsequently it helps us in making informed decisions about crafting the art of visual storytelling.


Written by Dishant Shah

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