Did you ever read the story of the star bellied sneetches by Dr. Seuss? It’s a lively, tongue-twisting tale about the sneetches with stars and the sneetches with “none upon thars”. The story begins where the Sneetches with “none upon thars” are being ill treated by the sneetches with stars. The way I see it, this story has an interesting and unique shape. With two main characters (the two types of sneetches) there are really two story lines that cross over one another. The star bellied sneetches begin with good fortune, being the star bellied elite. The starless have the ill fortune of being the shunned. Once Mr. McMonkey McBean shows up with his star on and star off machines, things get interesting. The Star-On machine makes the star-less the starred, thus lowering the status of the original star bellies. Once the originals have their stars removed, the process starts over again and each group yo-yos between being the best and being the social outcasts. Eventually it all gets so messy they realize that stars were never all that special and they wind up accepting a bi-starred culture and they all find themselves together in the end, sharing their good fortune.
Story Shape: the Star Bellied Sneetches
When I look at the story withing the context of the 22 Rules Pixar Uses to Create Appealing Stories I thought that rule #14 was most applicable to the sneetches story:
14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
The story of the sneetches carries the underlying theme of, “underneath our
stars skin, we’re really just the same”. I feel certain that as Dr. Seuss wrote this story he wanted to entertain children, but also teach them to be kind to others no matter what they look like on the outside – a really important lesson for children to learn.
Now let’s look at the story in another way, through the lens of the “Story Spine”. The story of the sneetches falls neatly into this formulaic approach to storytelling.
Once upon a time there were star bellied sneetches and starless sneetches who played on the beaches.
Every day, the star bellied sneetches snubbed the starless sneetches.
But one day, Mr. McMonkey McBean showed up, promising to cure the woes of the starless by sending them through his star-on machine.
Because of that, the starless sneetches now had stars on their bellies.
Because of that, the star bellied sneetches couldn’t tell themselves apart from the other sneetches.
Because of that, the star bellied sneetches went through McBean’s star-off machine. Then the other sneetches followed. Then it was stars on, then it was stars off….
Until finally, the sneetches were so mixed up they didn’t know who was who or what was what.
And ever since then, they never worried about stars again.