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Obstacles stand in the way of our wants and needs. They can be internal or external, but they challenge characters to face their fears or limitations, to make choices, and to grow. Ultimately, obstacles help characters realize their wants and needs, and in storytelling, they create conflict and drive the story forward.

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Video transcript

- Now that we've thought about what motivates a character to act in the world, let's flip things around and think about things that can stand in their way. These can be referred to as obstacles. Obstacles can be anything. A person, a great distance or something internal, like fear. Whatever it is, an obstacle is something which stands in the way of a character and prevents them from getting what they want or need. Let's hear again from our story artists, how they think about this. - So, the core of storytelling is not only what's your character want and need, but then, what is standing in their way, what's the conflict? - We have this expression that we create these characters, we put 'em in a tree, and then we throw rocks at them. We make their life a little harder. - Marlin's obstacle would be his fear of the ocean. He tells Nemo all the time you stay in the reef, it's safe here, and so in order to get back to Nemo, he has to break everything that he's comfortable with. The obstacles that were in Marlin's way from that point on were engineered to force Marlin out of his comfort zone in order to get to his son and reach a place where he could trust his son. - In ET, Elliott the boy meets ET the alien, and he wants ET to stay with him on earth, but the obstacle is that ET is an alien. He can't stay on earth. He can't survive. He's dying. - I think about what's the best way to make this character realize what they need to accomplish. - Here at Pixar, when we're creating these stories and making these films, we go through iteration after iteration of what this journey could be for this character. - Fear plays a part as an obstacle, depending on the character. A lot of times we try to skirt around our fears and not deal with them, so if you present a character with a fear that they have to confront, it's a very immediate fight or flight scenario that you've created, and so it forces your character to react. - When you're developing your stories, you wanna think, "Okay, what's the fun external, you know, what's the car chase, what's the villain?" But more importantly, how does that car chase and how does that villain reflect the obstacle inside the character and reflect all of their flaws and their shortcomings. - So those kinds of obstacles you put in front of your characters because it makes them think about their wants and needs. - One of my favorite examples is from Cars. McQueen's primary want is to get to California and win the big race, but when confronted by the obstacle of being stuck in Radiator Springs having to fix a road, what he needs is to slow down, enjoy the journey, and make friends. In the next exercise, you'll have a chance to think about the obstacles characters can face and the choices they make in response.