In an interview with Michael Arndt about his experience at Pixar, he revealed what separates Pixar from The Other Guys™.
“People say that writing is re-writing,” he [Arndt] continues, “but that leaves out a crucial part of the equation: the feedback you get prior to your re-write. Pixar stories work because of the robustness of the story feedback system.” Arndt points to statements made by several key Pixar staffers who admit that, at some point in the process, every single film Pixar made was once the worst thing one might ever see. “It’s only by making the movie as a ‘reel’ seven or eight times, and failing repeatedly, and by applying the smartest and most ruthless criticism you can to the story over and over again, that the stories are able to take shape and come out feeling coherent and complete,” he says.
Arndt’s observations on his time at Pixar only confirm what many film pundits and fans have long suspected: Pixar’s films are such rousing successes because of the attention each individual at the studio dedicates to the screenplays.
“Andrew Stanton’s rule of thumb is that it takes 10 man-years of labor to make a good screenplay,” Arndt explains.
“Either two writers working five years or 10 guys working one year. For Toy Story 3, it was even more than that — probably the equivalent of 10 people working two or three years.”
“To me, this is what separates Pixar from almost everyone else,” Arndt concludes. “They realize how hard it is to come up with a great screenplay.”