What qualities of story have contributed to the success of highly acclaimed natural history films?
Stories are complicated to define but are undoubtedly important in contributing to the success of natural history films. Strong narratives not only affect viewer engagement with documentaries but have also been shown to positively impact the educational qualities of a film, with important implications for science communication. This thesis aims to characterise effective storytelling and to scrutinise the performance of highly acclaimed documentaries in this area. In this investigation, an element receiving particular focus is a set of criteria put forth by Andrew Stanton, filmmaker and writer behind the stories of several well-known Pixar films. Stanton’s criteria for successful and engaging stories are used to analyse the storytelling in five natural history films: "Kangaroo Dundee: Episode One", "Green", "Chimpanzee", "My Life as a Turkey" and my own film, "A Beetle Abroad". This study found that these documentaries performed strongly in terms of their stories according to Stanton’s criteria.
Advisor: Bishop, Phil
Degree Name: Master of Science Communication
Degree Discipline: Division of Sciences
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Natural history film; Documentary; Wildlife documentary; Science communication; Story; Storytelling; Narrative; Character; Theme; Environmentalism; Plot
Research Type: Thesis