You don’t always need dialogue to tell a story

WALL·E (2008)
WALL·E (2008)

If you are following Pixar on Twitter, or if you are their Facebook fan, you’ve seen this picture before. Beautiful picture with no description, yet the meaning and emotion are somewhat clear – the characters are in love.

People working at Pixar think a lot about colors used in their films. It is by no coincidence, that certain scenes in their movies use warm or cool colors, that some scenes are desaturated or in vivid colors. Color is an extremely powerful tool to tell a story, because with color you can:

  • set the mood
  • define character
  • draw attention to certain objects/people
  • describe emotions
  • convey meaning
  • (and many other uses which I forgot or don’t know about)

Color is in some ways very similar to music. If you look at the list above once again, you’ll realize, that you can basically do the same with music, because color and music share many similarities: Both of them can be described in terms of contrast, color, depth, tone and many other characteristics. Nevertheless, there is one characteristic, which is exactly the same for color and music –  the ability to deliver the mood or emotion instantly, to create visceral emotional response in the viewer/listener. In this introductory article dedicated to color as a storytelling tool, I want to focus on the first item in the list – the ability of color to set the mood.

The very first picture in this post is artwork that comes from movie Wall-E. Because Wall-E is robot with a very limited language skills, people from Pixar couldn’t convey the meaning in this scene using dialogue, so they did it using color palette. All of the colors in the scene (except the light bulbs around EVE) are warm colors – red, brown, yellow, pink, orange. The colors are there mainly because of the sunset (chosen on purpose), but more importantly, on emotional level they tell us, that Wall-E is in love with EVE.

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