How Pixar makes the perfect pitch and totally nails their strategic thinking process

I am sure you’ve watched at least one of Pixar’s movies, after all, they have won 6 Academy Awards for best animated feature – Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up and Toy Story 3. That is an almost 50% ultra-success rate, since they have only produced 13 animated pictures to date. What’s most impressive is that they have garnered $76 billion worldwide whilst doing that. That averages to more than $580 million per movie! No other movie studio has these impressive numbers.

How do they do it? Obviously there is more to it than a simple pitch, yet the go/no-go decision for a movie hinges on their pitch. In a sense, that would be their $580-million-decision! So in this article I will share the Pixar Pitch as outlined in Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human and show how they have totally nailed their intent statement in just 6 lines.

The Pixar Pitch

Pixar uses this structure in their pitch:

“Once upon a time, ___________________. Everyday ____________________________ . One day ________________________ . Because of that, ________________________________. Because of that, __________________________ . Until finally, _______________________________ .”

Let’s see an example.

Once upon a time, there was a widowed fish named Marlin who was highly protective of his only son, Nemo. Everyday, Marlin would warn Nemo of the dangers of the ocean and implored him not to swim too far. One day, in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father 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 an adventure 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.”

And that was the Academy Award winning decision to produce Finding Nemo.

So let’s uncover why this is so successful in nailing the strategic thinking process…

1. It is succinct.

The plot of a 100-minute feature movie is encapsulated into just six lines! And they have done it for all their 13 movies, and more. If we cannot clearly tell our story in such clarity, maybe we don’t really know what we are looking for?

2. It clarifies the intent

The movie is about having trust. And that was articulated so well in the final line. It totally nailed the intent by stated it out so clearly.

3. It shows thinking in time

Notice the second, third and fourth lines paint the main thinking-in-time issues. They frame the situation so well that they clarify both the intent and the solutions.

4. It tells your strategic story

The whole strategy is encapsulated in a simple story. And that will enable more people to understand it, embrace it and finally make it happen.

So, let us end this article by using the Pixar Pitch for our Strategic Decision Making program:

Once upon a time, leaders were not trained ahead of time to think strategically. Every day, they applied their skills to solve day-to-day operational matters. One day, they got promoted and had to think strategically, something they are not ready for. Because of that, they groped around in the dark, making slow or poor decisions. Because of that, they became frustrated and this affected business results. Until finally, companies realize that they had to train their leaders to make the right strategic decisions before they are required to do so.

That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? Now it’s your turn to do up your Pixar Pitch; and do share it with me at

Written by Ian Dyason

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