Pixar’s Cars analysis

I’m still iffy with these two decisions (Story Driver and Story Outcome). However, this goal (Claim a Spot) would be presented as Failure in the narrative, and it would work with the Story Consequence I have previously identified as a possibility.

It still leaves open whether the story is Action or Decision, though.

What are some possibilities for Action drivers?

The major reason I hesitate to say definitively that this is a Story Outcome of Failure is because Pixar generally creates Triumph (Success/Good) movies, from what I remember. I’d honestly be shocked if any of their movies turn out to be Failure/Good.

As I was trying to come up with examples, it seemed like they were all spawned/forced by, never would have happened without, previous decisions. But, as I’ve said, unfortunately, this is my weakest area of the Plot Dynamics.

See Monsters University? That’s another I’d possibly call Failure/Good.

I think it might be a decision for Doc to call the media and alert them to Lightning’s presence in Radiator Springs. Or maybe a decision for Lightning to stay in Radiator Springs and spend some money there just before the media arrive.

OK. True. But I wasn’t considering sequels or prequels.

I actually looked back at my “Claim a Spot” goal, and thought about it some more.

Don’t these all hold?

  • Lightning says something to the effect of “Radiator Springs is back on the map” at the end?
  • Chick actually does win the race?
  • Lightning actually does get the sponsership, but turns it down (possible illustration of his solution)?
  • Sally “gets” Lightning, sort of?
  • Mater finds a friend?

That all seems like Success in Obtaining. Actually, if this is re-framed as “Getting Recognition”, then that is Success, for the town, for Chick (interestingly enough), for Doc, and for Lightning. Really, for everybody.

This is the one that trips me up so much, but I’m actually inclined to agree with you. There is nothing that really forces Doc to call the media, but if he hadn’t it’s unlikely they would ever have found Lightning.

(But therein lies my issue, was it the decision to make the call, or that he made the call at all. I always get myself into chicken-egg situations with this part… Ugh!)

OK. I’m really attached to Success with “Getting Recognition” as the Story Goal, and @Gregolas, you’re likely going to hate me for this. (I also have no idea if this is right.)

So, cleary, everybody gets their recognition by the end of the movie:

  • Lightning is recognized by Dinoco, even though he didn’t actually win.
  • The town is put back on the map because Lightning headquarters there.
  • Doc is recognized, and cheered, as the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, IIRC.
  • The King gets his recognition for finishing his last race. (Lightning helps.)
  • Even Chick has now got the recognition he deserves: He’s a jerk!

None of this recognition would be possible if Lightning weren’t open (MC Unique Ability of Openness) to the values espoused in Radiator Springs, and definitely wouldn’t have happened had he continued to remain stubborn (MC Critical Flaw of Denial). In addition, that sad feeling at the end could very likely be a result of Lightning having to give up his desire to win the cup. (Story Cost of Subconscious).

In this case, I’d say the Consequence would have to be the town dying out and Lightning becoming an annoying jerk, like Chick.

I really feel like this nails it, like there’s nothing to stretch to make it work.

(Also, I blame @jhull for my writing style when it comes to analyses…)


I watched this movie with my kids many, many times too and actually forgot that Lightning doesn’t win the race. Nevertheless, thinking back on it now it seems like a classic Failure/Good story to me. The whole point of the movie is that selfishly pursuing your goals at the expense of having friends and a life is not a good way to live, and that having friends/community is more important than winning.

Sorry, I don’t agree with this. It’s too vague. Getting recognition is a dividend maybe – but the goal absolutely is winning the cup. Lightning (the protagonist) doesn’t spend the movie thinking about how to get recognition. He is obsessed with getting across the country so that he can win. The whole nation is concerned with winning (think of the newscasts – who will win the Piston Cup?). In he end all of Radiator Springs rallies behind Lightning – not to help him gain recognition, but to help him win! Doc teaches him to “Float like a Cadillac, Sting like a Beemer” so he can win, and Mater’s driving backwards trick helps him in his struggle to win… (etc.)

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By deliberately losing the race in favor of The King, LM “becomes” (changes his nature) into a selfless, honorable friend (maybe?). Radiator Springs is transformed too, from a has-been town into a thriving place again.

Side question: if a story is Failure/Good, does that mean that the Consequences come into play but we see those consequences as a good thing?

Eh, that seems to be what’s happening, but it doesn’t seem very Consequencey. This point is one of the things keeping me from going all in with the form I came up with.

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Not at all. Kindly being in total agreement is only good if everyone is right. If I’m wrong about Failure, agreement doesn’t help any of us grow. And I sure hope disagreement doesn’t breed enemies. If it does, I made plenty on the Time/Space thread.

That said, I’m still thinking this is a Failure. Like @Lakis said, I can point to three or four instances of winning the Cup being mentioned. I can point to a couple of instances of Lightning saying he needs to get to Dinoco so he can schmooze and, presumably, to get his favor for winning the race. I can’t think of a time when recognition, even without winning the cup, is mentioned as a goal. I think Radiator Springs making its way back on the map is more a sign of how Good the Failure was.

I tried to see how it might be a success, but closest I can get is that it’s a moral victory when he pushes the King across the line. I’m thinking the Cost of winning ends up being too high. Can’t remember what that was on the form I came up with. Subconscious, maybe?

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Good question, and I hope the answer is yes. I would feel much better about this storyform.

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We see Lightening fantasizing/dreaming about recognition and wealth and fame for sure. But this is all in the context of winning the race – i.e. if he wins, he’ll reap the Dividend of the Future that he’s imagining.

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I remember reading somewhere that the answer to this is “yes”.

I’m going to try tackling this a different way, which might very well change my mind. Borrowing from Jim’s “Narrative Argument” format, we would have arguments along these lines:

  • Success: Stop pursuing and you can ??? (Something w/Obtaining)
  • Failure: Peace of mind awaits those who stop chasing their dreams, even if it means [being changed by others]? (Something w/Becoming)

In the context of the narrative for Cars, ??? would have to be something along the lines of winning, or getting everything you imagined. “Getting the recognition you seek” could work, though, but it certainly doesn’t seem as strong anymore. There are a number of different ways to fill [] that make the argument Cars makes.

OK. I can definitely see Failure as an option, now. Of course, now I’m at 55/45, leaning toward Failure… That didn’t help. I think if we could figure out the Story Driver, and especially the first one, then the decision for Success/Failure will come much easier.

Actually, I could see how “putting the town on the map” could be re-framed as “ensuring the town’s future,” which would easily mark that result as a dividend, and the cost of winning the race would be something along the lines of “being alone, disliked, rejected, hated.”

OK, I’m now at 75/25, leaning toward Failure, but now I’m wondering how the MC UA and CF would work.


Is everyone absolutely convinced that LM’s problem is pursue?

I felt like it was the strongest. Do you have other suggestions?

Not necessarily great ones.

I get Pursue, but I’m not sure I get a Solution of Avoid. He doesn’t really run away at the end. He avoids winning the race? And Pursue makes his critical flaw Denial, which doesn’t quite feel right to me.

If you change the Problem to Consider, that gives us a Critical Flaw of Dream …

I have a hard time grokking Consider/Reconsider though, so this could be wrong.

From the Dramatica definition:

“A Consideration is the act of deliberation. A character possessing the Consideration characteristic keeps pondering an issue, running it over in his mind. Once he has latched onto a topic, he refuses to let it go until it is resolved. This trait aids in keeping one’s motivations impervious to erosion.”

One of the gists is: “chewing over something”

I’m thinking at the beginning of the movie when he’s running over his script in his mind: “Speed. I am speed.” And his solution is to Reconsider his single-minded focus on winning.

I’m not at all convinced of this though. Pursue seems better now that I think about it.

I haven’t actually looked at that story form. I don’t have the program in front of me, but I suspect that would make at least these changes:

Main Character

  • Issue: Openness
  • Problem: Consider (maybe: being overly inconsiderate toward others?)
  • Solution: Re-consider (maybe: re-examining one’s thoughts, reconsidering others?)
  • Focus: Faith ?
  • Direction: Disbelief ?

Does re-consider seem to show up more then avoid, when Lightning is usually happy? Hmm…

Influence Character

  • Issue: Dream
  • Problem: Avoid ?
  • Solution: Pursue ?
  • Focus: Consider
  • Direction: Re-consider

I may have IC Problem/Solution swapped, or MC Focus/Direction swapped, or both, I think.
If I have the order right for IC Problem/Solution, then that quad seems to work well for Doc…

Unless I’m not following along right, putting in the MC points you have gives us these points for the IC:

  • Issue: Closure
  • Problem: Control
  • Solution: Uncontrolled
  • Focus: Logic
  • Direction: Feeling

Closure and Control seem pretty on-target for Doc Hudson.

But he does turn down the sponsorship when it’s offered despite his losing the race. He is preventing himself from being their spokesperson. He’s steering clear of a life of speeding past the important things.

I’m not sure if this works, but he denies himself the win in order to help the King.

What problem does considering this cause?