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Movie-Making Magic

The Power of Storytelling

Have you ever wondered how filmmakers create compelling stories that evoke so many emotions for us as viewers—even though we're just sitting in our homes, watching on a screen? Today, we'll learn about the power of storytelling and explore how film studios like Pixar use images to bring stories to life. Then you'll get the chance to create a short film all about...you.


what you’ll need



Ask About Today

How are stories told through film? Where do filmmakers start when creating a movie?

Dinner Discussion

If our family was turned into a Pixar film, what would the movie be about? What would the characters be like?

Skip the Ads

Unfortunately, online videos often start with short advertisements. Remind your campers to click the "Skip" button as soon as they can to move ahead to the video.


30-45 minutes

Before you can become a movie director and producer, you'll need to understand some of the techniques used to create powerful stories through film.


Storytelling 101

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Tune in for a quick introduction to Pixar's storytelling process. After watching the video, ask yourself: Why is it important for a story to be more than just monsters and explosions? How does the director of Monsters, Inc. (2001) tell a story that other people can relate to? If you were going to tell a story from your life, what would it be?

Remember: Online videos often start with advertisements. (Annoying, we agree!) Click the "Skip" button as soon as you can to move ahead to the video.


From Script to Screen

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Every great movie starts with a great script. It's where the story you'll see on the big screen is written out, including notes about what the characters are doing, where they're doing it, and what's happening around them. See how it works in this video, which shows the script behind a scene from the movie Zootopia.



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Watch the preview for Pixar's Coco (2017). After watching, jot in a journal or on a scrap paper: How does the clip tell a relatable story in just a few minutes?


Hair Love

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Here's one more to check out: the Oscar-winning short film Hair Love (2019). When you're done, reflect on the emotions evoked in the film: What emotions does the main character reveal? Have you ever felt this way before? When?


Pixar's Secret Formula

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Shhhh, here's Pixar's secret formula for making perfect films.


How Are Movies Made, Anyway?

It takes more than a good story to make a great movie. What else do you need? Find out in this article from Wonderopolis.


30-60 minutes

Creating a storyboard is the first step to making a movie. Your unique perspective is your super power for creating the storyline for your film.


Pick a Memory

Think of an especially vivid memory—the kind of memory that comes easily to you. Maybe this was a defining moment in your life, or something that makes you who you are today. Why do you think you remember this so well? How did you feel at the time? Try connecting one or more emotions to this memory.


Express Yourself

Now let's get your memory out of your head. Express your memory in whatever way works best for you. For example, you could:

1. Share your memory out loud with someone you know, like a sibling or parent.
Can you make them feel the emotion you felt in that moment? If you have a voice memo function on your phone or tablet, record yourself verbally expressing this memory.

2. Write your memory in less than a page.
If you turned your memory into a script, what would it look like? Who are the characters? What are they saying and doing?

3. Visualize your memory in a drawing.
How do the emotions come out visually, through the lines, shapes, and colors you draw?


Draw Your Storyboard

It's time to make your storyboard! Check out the storyboard from Lilo and Stitch (2002) as an example.

When you're ready, take a blank piece of paper and draw 6 squares. (Here's an example.)

Sketch out one important scene from your memory in each square. At the bottom of each box, write in any important details describing each scene. Remember, it doesn't have to look perfect—even stick figures are fine. Focus on the story!

Bring it all to life by adding some color to your illustrations.


30-60 minutes

The magic of a movie is the powerful story it tells. We connect with movies because they are personal, and we see a piece of ourselves in the movie. Let's try some mini movie-making of our own.


Your Story of Self

Take a walk with your sibling or a family member today. With an adult's permission and supervision, take your phone with you and film the walk as you go. As you walk, talk about your personal story—your "story of self."

- How did you become the person you are today?

- What people and experiences have shaped you?

- What about your walking buddy: How have they influenced your life?

Observe your neighborhood as you're walking, and ask yourself what kinds of stories you see around you.

Be safe: Ask an adult first and don't film other people without asking their permission.