Beautifully animated, but a bit schizo in the story department
An Incomplete Story
Storyforming is the art of figuring out what stories are trying to tell us. That's what I do in this video when I take a look at the story structure of the film Wolfwalkers. There are a lot of films that have (almost) perfectly consistent story structure - The Shawshank Redemption, The Lives of Others, The Empire Strikes Back. Films like that are labeled as 'well-structured'. Wolfwalkers? Not so much.
What starts out as the setup for a Changed Resolve narrative (one where the Main Character abandons her problematic perspective) is quickly replaced with a Steadfast Resolve narrative (where the MC maintains her perspective and the world changes around her). Unfortunately, her father almost doesn't quite follow the narrative...it's complicated, but it's close.
In this video I use my app, Subtxt, to explain why, and what could have been better.
[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to another edition of Storyforming. Today, I want to talk about Wolfwalkers, the animated film from Apple TV.
What I've done here is I am in the Premise Builder for Subtxt. I wanted to go over how I was able to figure out what the structure of it was. And it was pretty obvious. Because, from the very, very beginning, if there ever was a poster child for the source of conflict of element known as Protection, I mean the bad guy's name is the Lord protector. Every single thing that happens wrong in the story happens because people are way overprotecting everything that was exactly where I knew that the conflict was coming from in the plot.
So I know in the objective story, the plot version of the story that all the problems are going to be coming from people trying to protect things. And they're getting too over-protective of stuff. At first, [00:01:00] it seemed like it was going to be the Main Character, the little girl that was going to go from Protection to Inaction because that's of course where the opposite of Protection is Inaction. So if you're always overly protecting things, then the solution to that is to do nothing. That's what actually will stop a problem of Protection.
But about 20 minutes into it, it became really clear that this was going to be a Steadfast story, which is where the Main Character maintains their resolve, maintains their perspective on things. And then it's the Influence Character who actually changes. So once I had that in mind, I still knew that the problem was going to be Protection. And then that put the little girl up here in the present. If there's anything that she's dealing with, this is a classic genre set up here where the main character is in universe. So it's all about their physical status. So she eventually turns into a Wolf Walker. She was a little girl.[00:02:00] And she's always trying to solve problems in the outside world. So you can see up here, the premise that it's starting to build is keep focusing on how the outside world is doing something bad and then you can ...not learn a group secrets. I think eventually I did, learn what is worth fighting for? So the premise here is always a combination of the character element, and a plot element. And it's a crossover between the objective and subjective that gets you the meaning of the story.
So this is a typical setup and what happens is in order for the story to balance itself out, the Objective Story is up here in Physics, it's all about the things that they're doing, like killing wolves and learning what's actually going on out there in the forest. And then the Relationship is going to be something here and right now it's in conceiving. Which means that the main relationship in the story is going to grow by coming into conflict over ideas. And, coming up with ideas of what's actually going on. Which is [00:03:00] clearly what's happening in the father daughter relationship. And then of course the dad is, the Sean Bean character, is very much in Conscious. He has a strict point of view. And has an attitude towards what's right. And what's wrong. And of course his daughter needs to come into line with that.
Of course what happens, as in most animated films, is she's the one that changes her dad over to her point of view. So that's why we have Steadfast here. She is maintaining her perspective and that's the point of the premise is to put across, Hey, Keep doing this and things are gonna work out for you. Of course things always work out. It's an animated film, rarely does it end in a tragedy or something bleak. This one is triumph. So we have that as the ending.
The combination of the main character and the plot devices that gets you the order of events that happens and whether or not there is an effortless flow from beginning to end. Or if there's something where the main character doesn't quite gel with the [00:04:00] plot. She is right in there. She knows exactly what to do. There's a flow that's going on there.
And of course what actually organizes the structure of the premise and organize the story is either reason, like cause and effect or relationships. And this really isn't a Studio Ghibli sort of relationship oriented animated film. It's very linear. Think it's Ireland.
We have everything that's here. The only thing that's missing now is the actual problem element which will depict the two arcs for the Main Character, which is the little girl and her dad.
He doesn't really go from Reaction to Proaction. She doesn't really focus on how there's all this overprotection. It's really heavy handed. It's like hitting you over the head with, we must protect. Everything I do, I do for the good of the people, all that good stuff. What we want is we want the dad here to be Protection. And I think that's it here. Oh, [00:05:00] she's not really not doing anything. I think it is. Either this. Evaluation reevaluation. No, that's not. It. That's it? What is it? Proaction?
Oh, There it is.
Okay. There is, it's not pro. Okay. So here we have Acceptance and that would be dad going from Inaction to Protection. So that's not really the course of the story. He doesn't go from not doing anything to overly protecting. So if I switch this to Reaction, So she's Nonacceptance, which is a way of saying she rejects stuff. So she rejects everything her dad says to her. She rejects what everybody else is saying. And it's shown to be a good thing because that rejection of kind of what is accepted is what eventually gets her father to change from Protection to Inaction.
So if we look up here at the Premise, keep focusing on how the outside world is reacting inappropriately to something, which is [00:06:00] totally what the whole story is about. The whole time, she says you guys are just overreacting. And if I keep focusing on that and keep trying to do something to fix it, then eventually they can learn what it's like actually working with people without trying to destroy them all the time.
And then if I was writing this story, so then that's the whole story right here. This is the entire story structure of it. If I wanted to do that, I would click build story and then Subtxt will go out and actually build the entire structure and tell you exactly what's supposed to happen in each act.
I've already done it. So I'm going to come in here. Go into Wolfwalkers.
Keep focusing on how the outside world is reacting negatively to someone. That's another way you notice these are all Reaction illustrations. So it doesn't really matter what the storytelling is in here. It's just the idea that if you keep focusing on the, how Reaction is the problem and how the outside world is just overreacting and trying to fix that, then you can eventually get your dad to stop being so over-protective and not do anything.
And then here is the story [00:07:00] structure that you'd get out of that.
So just with those choices then you can see in here, this is exactly what happens. Act by Act. In the first act, they're trying to learn what's going on. Second act they're trying to go after the wolves, third act they're trying to capture them all. And then the fourth act is when they finally understand everything that's going on.
The problem as you can see for everybody is just a sense of overprotection and gotta keep everybody safe. Keep the walls all closed. That thing is a square wall thing that everything's hidden in.
And then of course here is dad. Same thing. The way he sees things is what needs to be fixed.
So the only weird part in the story is the ending is a little strange because, Dad is supposed to be the one that does the Inaction. It's supposed to be like, he's the one that he's not supposed to actively try and defend. At the end, when they're all friendly with the wolves and everything that is what's going on, but it's not really tied to what solves the plot. [00:08:00] So it's not like it's a bad thing, but it still feels a little weird that it's the bad guy that undoes his belt. I know. He's trying to like. He's trying to protect himself still from, not being turned into a Wolf or whatever, so he'd rather die. So it's not even an Inaction.
It really should have been the dad he would have had a chance to protect and then he doesn't, and then it would have felt a little more satisfying. It doesn't quite work out. It's okay.
The rest of the story fits into place. His Critical Flaw of Need, like he doesn't want anything to happen to her, he needs her because he doesn't have the wife. And so that causes him to overcompensate for things that of course was in there. That's nice.
This looks really weird Induction, but it actually is cool. Again, here you have Need too, which is repeated in their relationship. You know how you need to stay inside and, the father needs to protect the daughter and all the demands that are put on her. When you have Induction as a [00:09:00] condition of the relationship. Induction's a really scientific word, but it basically just means, inferring. Or hypothesizing. So it's oh, if you go out and do this, you're going to get killed. Or if you upset the Lord protector, everything's going to go on, on a, if I let you do this. What could possibly happen if you interact with the wolves? When really what brings them closer together is getting rid of all the superfluous stuff and getting down to the core of what's really going on here. A little bit more Deduction. And, you can see here, this is their growth from beginning to end.
And she can do the things that need to be done, especially cause she eventually gets to the place where she is a Wolf Walker and she can do the work. She can do the things that need to be done. And that's what's makes her able to solve what's actually going on in the Objective Story. And this is like I said, this is a Linear story. So it really is about problem solving. It just, it would have been nicer. It would have [00:10:00] made a little more sense and been a little more impactful. I know it's strange to think of, well how can doing nothing, actually solve a problem of protection? But if you think of when you're over protective of things, and you build up all these defenses that actually makes things worse sometimes because sometimes you really don't need to do that. If you just did nothing, it would be better than overprotecting. And that's basically the meaning of the story.
So that's it for story forming with Subtxt here on Wolfwalkers. If you have any questions, feel free to write to me and I'll see you next time.