What Makes A Good Story?

Sep 20, 2013
Originally published on April 10, 2015 8:40 am

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Framing The Story.

About Andrew Stanton's TEDTalk

Filmmaker Andrew Stanton explains how the strongest storytelling is joke telling. Later this episode, Stanton shares his best strategies for putting together a compelling story, like the ones from his hit movies Toy Story and WALL-E. Listen to the full interview here.

About Andrew Stanton

Andrew Stanton is a filmmaker at Pixar. He's the writer behind the three Toy Story movies, and the writer and director of WALL-E. Stanton wrote the first film produced entirely on a computer, Toy Story. But what made that film a classic wasn't the history-making graphic technology — it was the story, the heart, the characters that children around the world instantly accepted into their own lives. He has two Oscars, for Finding Nemo and WALL-E.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm Guy Raz. Here's a story told by a master storyteller named Andrew Stanton on the TED stage.


ANDREW STANTON: A tourist is backpacking through the Highlands of Scotland. And he stops at a pub to get a drink. And the only people in there is a bartender and an old man nursing a beer. And he orders a pint. They sit in silence for a while. And suddenly, the old man turns to him and goes, ya see this bar?

(Speaking in Scottish accent) Ya see this bar? I built this bar with my bare hands. Found the finest wood in the county, gave it more love and care than my own child, but do they call me McGregor the bar builder? No. No.

Points out the window.

(Speaking in Scottish accent) You see that stone wall out there? I built that stone wall with my bare hands, found every stone, placed it just so through the rain and the cold, but do they call me McGregor the stone wall builder? No. No.

Points out the other window.

(Speaking in Scottish accent) You see that pier on the lake out there? I built that pier with my bare hands, drove the pilings against the tide in the sand, plank by plank, but do they call me McGregor the pier builder? No. No. But you [Bleep] one goat...


STANTON: Storytelling is joke telling. It's knowing your punchline, your ending - knowing that everything you're saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal, and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understandings of who we are as human beings. We all love stories. We're born for them. Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning and nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories. It can cross the barriers of time - past, present, and future - and allow us to experience the similarities between ourselves and through others, real and imagined.

RAZ: And there's a good chance Andrew Stanton has taken you to that place as well. "Finding Nemo," "Monsters, Inc.," "WALL-E," "A Bug's Life," all the "Toy Story" movies. Andrew Stanton either wrote or co-wrote all of them. You do a pretty good Scottish accent.

STANTON: Except for anybody that's Scottish will tell you I don't.

RAZ: Our show today is about people like Andrew Stanton, about what they do and why stories, the ideas and the conflicts and the truths we find in them, why they shape almost everything we believe. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.