I love movies. I love being drawn into a story. The power of story and the combination of both comedy, fun, and life lessons. There’s very few companies that do this as well and as consistently as Pixar.
Not only is this something that I enjoy personally but this is something that I feel feeds my creativity and productivity when it comes to my job. I get to read, edit, and write kids comedy in several different areas of my job and I’ve tried to incorporate these lessons into especially my editing and writing.
- Your Audience Isn’t Just Kids
This is something that I’ve been bad at before. I try to write to kids and for kids but many times I forget that almost never is a kid my only audience. In Route 252, our elementary environment, there are small group leaders and other adult volunteers helping each week. In our KidzWorld FX programs there are parents, grandparents, and older siblings in the room. In our Big Idea videos there are teachers, counselors, and parents tasting our product.
Few companies write for kids and parents as well as Pixar. If being a parent has taught me one thing it’s that I missed way too many jokes as a kid. Remember this Mr. Potato line to Ham in Toy Story?
No kid cracks up at this line. It’s in there for the parents.
Your audience is kids but they’re not the only one’s in the audience. Throw in some 80’s music for the small group leaders and some old movie references for the parents.
- Physical Comedy is Still Funny
This is probably the inverse, or the opposite side of the same coin, as the lesson above. When you’re making comedy for kids having a clever, more mature, finessed voice of humor draws in adults and older kids. Don’t forget, kids aren’t dumb and if they feel like they’re being talked down to or performed down to they’ll check out.
However, with all that said, kids are still kids. I’ve read a lot of scripts that rely so heavily on puns, spoken jokes, and 80’s references that have been funny to read and total flops on stage. Don’t forget that physical comedy is still funny. While Pixar has the finesse to do humor at a high level it also doesn’t consider itself above physical humor. Whether it’s Mike from Monster’s Inc. or Kevin, the bird, on Up, physical comedy has it’s place.
For the stage in kids ministry, energy, bright costumes, and even classic slapstick is a great salt and pepper approach to adding comedy to the sketches that rely heavily on jokes or puns.
- Silence is Golden
Pixar appreciates pauses. Like this great, silent, moment from Inside Out.
Presenters don’t always. Comedic timing can be tricky. In coaching the many presenters that I interact with, often times I have to hit the brakes. Heading for the punchline too quickly can steamroll the joke. Pregnant pauses on the other hand can lead to some great moments. While in the world of film and animation there’s chances to work and experiment with this timing, on the stage it can be a little harder. Actors and presenters can speed through their lines and miss the timing, pauses, and silence that is needed to make the jokes and moments work. Remember to pause, listen, and respond. This leads to great moments, sometimes improvised, sometimes delivered perfectly but always in a timing that’s just right.