The Extreme Wide Shot: Dissecting Wall-E

All images © 2008 Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures.

This is the first post of the series ‘The Shot Tells the Story’ using the movie Wall-E as my lesson plan. You can find the whole list of shots in the introduction post.

Now, you may not find the term ‘extreme wide shot’ in any film making books (or maybe you will…who knows?). It’s kind of my own term. Because I think ‘wide shot’ has too many variables. Therefore I’m breaking up wide shots into ‘extreme wide shot, ‘long shot’ and ‘full shot’ (you may not find that term in any book either).

They’re all wide. They can all be used as establishing (or re-establishing) shots. You don’t have to use all of them all the time. How wide you need to go will be determined by the story you’re trying to tell.

It’s all relative. And I’ll try to explain that.

But what all of these ‘wide shots’ have in common is one thing. They are answering the same question:

“Where are we?”

This is the first question you generally want to answer for your audience. Now, I’m not saying a wide shot has to be the first shot. But it should be pretty darn close to first. Again, it depends on the story and if there is something you’re trying to hide from the audience on purpose.

But I’m going to keep it pretty basic for these lessons. So I’m saying give your audience a wide shot very close to the beginning.

Or as your first shot.

Or in the case of Wall-E, the first five minutes of your film. That’s right. Except for one sequence where we see Wall-E scooping up the garbage, almost all of the shots in the first five minutes are ‘extreme wide shots’.


Because of the story they’re trying to tell us. The shot tells the story and here’s what these shots are telling us.

Above: “Space. Gotcha. We’re in space. Space is big.”

Earth. Cool. This story is told on Earth.”

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The Shot Tells the Story: Dissecting Wall-E

© 2008 Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures.

I’ve been wanting to do a series called ‘The Shot Tells the Story’.

Because that’s how I view visual storytelling and storyboarding.

In the post series ‘What’s Wrong With Your Storyboards‘, when it was all said and done, I said all that was left was shot choice.

Sometimes your shot choice can be flat out wrong.

More commonly though, is the one you chose still works, but there may be a better one to tell that part of the story.

So I’m going to go through all the commonly used shots and show you when they are a good choice and what that shot ‘says’.

In my series of Feature Favorites, a few people in the comments asked if I was going to do a review of Wall-E. Since it’s now out on DVD (and I bought it…yay) the question was posed again (thanks, t.sterling).

But I didn’t just want to do another story deconstruct (as much fun at that is). If you want to know how I feel about Wall-E, here it is:

Love it, love it, love it. See it. Buy it. Love it too.


So I’m going to use Wall-E as my little lesson plan. And I’m mostly going to use the first half of the film when it’s all him (and Eve) and barely any dialogue or sound. There is no better example of shots telling the story than the first half of Wall-E.

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My Feature Favorites: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

All images © 1999 Comedy Central Films/Paramount Pictures.

First off, a technical note: If the site is looking a little wonky, clear your cache and reload it. Hopefully that does it. I’ve been making a few tweaks.

Yes. The South Park movie is one of my favorite animated feature films.


Well, first off, it’s funny as all hell. Second, I’ve been a fan of the show since it first came on the air (like I said before…it brings out the 20 year old frat boy in me). And third, it proves the point I made in the Toy Story post.

That point being, the technology doesn’t matter. You can tell a good story with stick men.

Or in this case, with paper cut-out, potty-mouthed little kids.

And yes, I’m fully aware of the irony that it’s not made with paper cut-outs but with a super-powerful computer program called Maya. It’s still meant to look like paper cut-outs, so that’s really the point. It’s still simplistic in style and execution.

In other words: Crappy.

And I love it.

My personal opinion is the best seasons of South Park are 4 to 8. The movie came out after Season 3, so I think this is where it really took off. They found their voice. The characters were solid. It was ready to evolve. And it did.

This movie isn’t for everyone. If you already love South Park and haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? If you only kind of like South Park, watch it to see them at their best. If you hate South Park, you’ll either become a convert or hate it more.

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Is Blogiversary Even A Word?

Whoa! What happened here?

We interrupt the Feature Favorites posts to bring you this important announcement:

Today my little storyboard blog turns one year old. Yay!

So it got a make-over and a face-lift. (It will soon buy a Porche and start dating younger men.)

Now things aren’t perfect. I’ve already found some stuff I need to tweak, so it’s still a work in progress. (In other words…Gaa! I don’t know how to fix it!!!)

Like as I write this, the whole site has shrunk from my test version, so the type (and everything!) is smaller than it should be. I don’t know what that’s all about. *pulls on hair* (Update: OK, that’s fixed. I was just a techno-idiot. Many thanks to Nathan. )

But I’ll give you a few highlights to show you around.

As you can see, the banner at the top is basically the same (and click-able). I didn’t want to totally disorient you. But the page navigation is under the banner and there are a few sub headers as well. Do a little hovering and you’ll see them.

One big change is that the sidebar links now are in the Resources page. It’s got cool tabs and I’ll be adding to them as time goes on. You can contact me for any link suggestions. I welcome it!

And one of the biggest changes is the Work With Karen page. I am offering storyboard mentoring and visual story consulting services now. Wee! I just have some primary information right now, but rates and much more information about the services are coming very soon.

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