The Pixar Pitch Lesson

What do these animated movies have in common?

Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Up, Ratotouille and Brave (The winner of the best animated film at the Oscars in 2013).


All of these movies were made by Pixar, the animated film studio linked with George Lucas of Star Wars fame and the late founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. Pixar has in less than 20 years become the most successful animated film studio since Disney. These films have been critical and financial smashes but why has this company succeeded where so many others have failed?

In his new book, To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink talks about pitches – concise verbal or visual presentation of an idea for a film made by a screenwriter or director to a producer or studio in the hope of attracting financial backing – and how Pixar have created a simple but incredibly effective template.

The Pixar Pitch Template uses the following sequence adverbs to create a basic storyline.

Once upon a time….

Every day…

One day….

Because of that…..

Because of that….

Until finally….

Reading this part, I realised that it could be adapted to create a simple but effective integrated skills lesson for EFL students:

For this lesson, I have used a simple Engage, Study and Activate plan based on the Harmer model. Follow the link below to read more: ESA method.


ENGAGE –  Tell the students briefly about the last good film you saw. Put them in pairs / small groups and ask them to tell each other about the last good film they have seen. You could board these 3 questions:

What was the last good film you saw?

What type of film was it?

What happened in it?


(You might have to prepare this part before the lesson).

Read a short pitch for a movie you think the students will have seen. Here is an example. As the students if they can you guess which film it is?

Once upon a time, there was a teenage boy called Peter who lived with his aunt.

Every day he went to school where he was often bullied and made fun of because he was a science nerd.

One day he went to a science expedition where he was bitten by a radioactive spider.

Because of that, he developed superhuman powers which meant that he was incredibly strong and fast, could climb walls and could sense danger before it occurred.

Because of that, he started to use his powers to take revenge on people who had made his life unpleasant and realised he could use his new powers to become rich, famous and successful with women. However, he made many enemies and they wanted to destroy him.

Until finally, he realised that with great power comes great responsibility. Instead of trying to become rich and famous, he had to use his powers to become a force for good.

Look out! It's Spiderman
Look out! It’s Spiderman

Simple isn’t it! With this simple template, you can create a simple and concise plot description. Provide the students with this template and briefly analyse the sequence adverbs and pronunciation features.

In order to provide students with a suitable model for a pitch, the teacher should ask them to identify key pronunciation features here such as word stress, intonation, and rhythm. Drilling each component of the pitch might be an effective way to do this and you could provide a simple handout on which they could note down phonological features and practise delivering the pitch in pairs.


You have a range of options here. You could:

  • Ask each student to prepare a pitch for a well-known movie. Then, do a mingling exercise in which the students pitch to each other and try to guess the movie.
  • Give the students a series of genres (horror, romance, comedy etc) and perhaps a location (New York, a language school, an office, a small village) and ask them to create a basic story on their own.Then put them in pairs and give them roles. Student A is a screenwriter and Student B is a producer. A pitches to B and then change roles.
  • Do the above but divide the classes into screenwriters and producers and do a mingling role play. Change roles so everybody has the chance to pitch and listen to a pitch.
  • Put students in small groups and give them a few ideas or pictures to create a story idea. Give them time to create a collaborative pitch and ask them to choose somebody to deliver the pitch in front of the whole class.

I hope you can try out this lesson with your students and I’d love to hear how it goes.

If you like this blog, why have a look at my new Ebook:  A Short Guide to TEFL