How do they do it?
There are probably a number of interrelated reasons, but no one will discount the stories themselves. Pixar story artist, Emma Coats has cracked the code and argues that every Pixar film shares the same narrative DNA – a deep structure of storytelling that involves six sequential sentences:
1. Once upon a time there was …
2. Every day …
3. One day …
4. Because of that …
5. Because of that …
6. Until finally …
Take for example the plot of Finding Nemo.
1. Once upon a time there was … a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo.
2. Every day … Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away.
3. One day … in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water.
4. Because of that … he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney.
5. Because of that … Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way.
6. Until finally … Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.
This six-sentence template is both appealing and supple. For it allows pitchers to take advantage of the well-documented persuasive force of stories but within a framework that forces conciseness and discipline.
Now, let’s bring this to a community example where you are seeking to dramatically improve early childhood reading outcomes.
1. Once upon a time there was … an education crisis haunting our schools and communities across North America.
2. Every day … large percentages of our children were not achieving proficiency in vital literacy skills to the point that some in our community even doubted whether they ever could.
3. One day … we developed a simple and shared definition of what children had to know to be ready for school.
4. Because of that … our early childhood centers and parents became better at helping all children enter kindergarten ready to learn
5. Because of that … teachers were free to work more on skill development for each individual child.
6. Until finally … every child, irrespective of ethnic or economic circumstance, became a proficient reader by the end of third grade.
The Working Differently communities -- like Erie, PA and Decatur, IL and Shelby, IN and Austin, TX -- have all made transformative progress on K-readiness. In common, they were able to engage their entire communities (not just those in the early childhood sector) in the story of what is possible for all our children. They knew intuitively how to give the Pixar Pitch! You should try it for your collective impact vision.
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