Pixar in a Box is an online educational series exploring the various aspects of making a computer animated feature. It begins with the foundational skills of storytelling and then moves on to character, sound, light, color, etc. Each topic starts with a video introduction by Pixar employees. They bring the subject to life interweaving their own experiences. These are followed by an exercise often ones that they utilize in the process, real-life movie making skills.

But I’d like to share the activity presented in the series “character” section: the elevator test. Viewers are asked to put their favorite characters or a character of their own invention in an elevator stuck. Many details about a character are revealed in how they deal with that dilemma. Humor? Frustration? Panic?

Clearly an exercise that will vary greatly depending on the age of the participant, however accessible to all ages. As a more formal classroom exercise, participants would write out their descriptions. But I’d like to suggest, as we currently seek more ways to occupy ourselves at home, gather the family together for a unique spin on charades. Select a favorite character and then act out for your family how that character would respond to being trapped in an elevator. Perhaps have an initial portion of silence to establish the physical and emotional response before moving into specifics of dialogue that may offer a more immediate tip off. The activity is sure to spark discussion of favorite moments and even debate over differing opinions on how that character would handle the scenario.

If you decide to more deeply explore Pixar in a Box, you’ll find many activities like this throughout the program that help to engage the audience in a deeper analysis of storytelling and ultimately a deeper understanding of how to craft a strong story and can even spark some family fun. Best of all, this is free thanks to a partnership with Khan Academy.

You can also discover how one teacher utilized these lessons in his classroom here.