Using the Pixar pitch structure to write your origin story

Your origin story is the perfect starting point to understanding why you want to make a podcast to share your expertise.

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This is a super-simple story structure used purportedly by Pixar when pitching film concepts to execs. The canonical example goes like this (hat tip to Charles Leon for putting this down):

Once upon a time, there was a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo.

Every day Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away.

One day in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water.

Because of that he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney.

Because of that Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way.

Until finally Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.

Spoiler alert for the film Finding Nemo, I guess. 😉

Anyway, this framework is a great way to help you connect with and tell your origin story as it relates to your podcast, or your wider marketing efforts.

The core elements are

  1. Once upon a time there was…
  2. Every day…
  3. Until one day…
  4. Because of that…
  5. Because of that
  6. Until finally…

Here’s an example:

Once upon a time there was a corporate team leader called Kelly.

Every day Kelly would try and persuade her bosses to think more sustainably.

Until one day, she got so fed up that she decided to quit.

Because of that, she did some freelance work to make ends meet.

Because of that, she discovered a knack for recruiting other sustainably-minded troublemakers within bigger systems.

Until finally, Kelly formed her own Limited company to offer training and resources encouraging teams within big companies to act more responsibly.

One thing good scriptwriters often say is that everything revolves around characters. Nothing happens without a character having a motivation to perform a certain action, which then sets other events in motion.

Setting out your story in this format helps you tap into your own motivations, or to borrow another storytelling term, your “inciting incident”.

I also like that it’s simple, and has a really low barrier to entry. You don’t have to be a writer, and you don’t need to be familiar with the Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey of it all… just fill in the blanks.

I use the Pixar pitch structure as part of the Podcast Canvas, a blueprint for a successful podcast that leverages your knowledge and experience. It’s a helpful way for a podcaster to connect with the reason that spurred them pick up a mic. The Canvas is free if you want to check it out.

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