Andrew Stanton – Making You Care About Cartoons

“Probably the most important story commandment is ‘make me care.'”

– Andrew Stanton

Animation is an illusion. It’s taking something that isn’t alive like a bunch of pencil drawings or some computer data and making you believe they are alive and worth caring about. One animation filmmaker who recognizes this truth and applies it to all his movies is Andrew Stanton.

Stanton also directed a live-action film based on the John Carter of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

There’s a good chance you never saw it because it bombed when it came out

Like many animation veterans, he went to the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) to study animation. After getting rejected twice by Disney, he was finally hired by Pixar, becoming the production company’s second animator after John Lasseter.

That’s Stanton in the middle. Lasseter is the one on the right. The one on the left is someone I’ll talk about another time 😉

When Pixar made a deal with Disney for them to make their own movie, Stanton took up the project as one of the writers of the first computer-animated film ever.

You might have seen it before

Before Toy Story was released, four Pixar workers, including Stanton, realized that if their first movie is a success, they’ve got to start on their next film as soon as possible. Many ideas were thrown around during a quick lunch between them, and after Toy Story’s success, many of their ideas would shape their next movie.

Inspired by the Aesop fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper, Stanton worked as one of the head writers and the co-director of Pixar’s second film.

The animated bug film that is not DreamWorks’ Antz

After finishing up A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2, John Lasseter realized that his animation studio needed overlapping productions and he felt that Stanton was ready to make his own movie.

After taking a visit to an aquarium park, Stanton was awed by the beauty of the fish in the water, and felt Pixar had to do a computer-animated film about the ocean. For the story, he inspired by a real-life event of his where he was extremely overprotective of his son when walking to the park. Stanton thought this would be an interesting story and when he saw a picture of two clownfish peeking out of their anemone, he knew what his movie would be.

That film became the highest-grossing animated film ever at the time, with The Lion King finally being out-grossed. Also, it’s still a beloved film to this day.

After that enormous success, Stanton decided to base his next movie on the question, “what if mankind had to leave Earth and somebody forgot to turn off the last robot.”

The result was another critical and commercial success

However, Stanton’s next film did not reach the same success as his animated films as his first live-action film, John Carter, was one of Disney’s biggest flops and it wasn’t exactly lauded as his previous movies.

Although he was able to bounce back up and make a sequel to his first film and have it earn good reception and even more financial success than Finding Nemo.


Back in 2012, Andrew Stanton did a TED Talk about what makes good storytelling, and he said the most important part of telling a good story is to make you care. I feel that is why Stanton’s films are so beloved because he makes you care about something that doesn’t have human emotions, whether it’s a toy, a bug, a fish, or a robot.

I feel that is why Stanton’s films are so beloved because he makes you care about something that doesn’t have human emotions, whether it’s a toy, a bug, a fish, or a robot.  Stanton finds a way to takes stories that seem strange, like a fish who has short-term memory loss or a robot who fell in love with another robot, and make them feel funny, relatable, and emotional.

And that is what truly makes his films unforgettable.


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