Skip to main content Accessibility Feedback

Stories without words

I’m fascinated by Pixar’s ability to tell beautiful stories without words. If you want to become a better storyteller, studying what they do is a great place to start.

One of my favorite examples is at the beginning of the movie Up. There’s a wonderful montage that tells the story of Carl Fredricksen and his wife, Ellie. Not a single word is uttered, but it’s beautiful, powerful and moving.

Some things I noticed…

  • The montage uses just one, simple melody. Notice, though, how the tone, tempo and styling changes based on the mood of the scene.
  • Colors and lighting play an important storytelling role. Happy scenes are brightly lit and cheery. Sad scenes aren’t just dark and shadowy. The colors themselves are duller and less vibrant.
  • Simplicity is a great storytelling vehicle. The folks at Pixar do a great job at directing you to a single facial expression, a single action, a single piece of body language, to drive the story.
  • Repetition creates familiarity. The hammer smashing the glass jug. The role of the “My Adventure Book.” The use of balloons (which of course is foreshadowing of a bigger plot twist).

To learn more about how Pixar does what it does, check out this rare look inside Pixar Studies. For another great example of a story without dialogue, check out It’s Time.


🚀 I just relaunched my Vanilla JS Pocket Guides with new code examples and real projects to help tie everything you’ll learn together. Check it out.

Have any questions or comments about this post? Email me at chris@gomakethings.com or contact me on Twitter at @ChrisFerdinandi.

Get Daily Developer Tips