Movie Monday: The Road of Trials

After the hero crosses the threshold into the extraordinary world, they begin the road of trials. Often called try/fail cycles, this portion of the story has the hero going against challenge after challenge, failing miserably, then slowly beginning to master their power until they reach the top of their game, only to be shot down into the belly of the beast. But more on that next week.

This also tends to be where character flaws are exposed. The character may get arrogant or show impatience or loss of temper or some flaw that will have to be overcome for them to win later. That flaw is part of what drags them down into the belly of the whale.

Disney does this well with montage. My favorite montage that shows this journey is from Mulan. The many montage songs in this movie feature her trying, failing, trying failing, trying succeeding, trying succeeding, until the last song ends, the stakes raise, she succeeds in one really impressive moment, but that success leads into her downfall.

Other examples include Hercules fighting the monsters, Lilo and Stitch and Nani all dancing around each other, screwing up what the other was trying to accomplish, Mr. Incredible fighting on the island, Carl and Russel making their way through the strange land to Paradise Falls, Rapunzel and Flynn’s trip to the castle, Ralph’s foray through the other games, Ana’s journey to Elsa, and Hiro’s training montage in Big Hero Six. This is the part of the story where manageable and sometimes even humorous problems pop up. It serves as training, confidence builders (or breakers), and landmarks on the journey. I envy Disney’s ability to montage it, because it’s a lot harder to develop in written fiction. The midpoint where everything changes is clear, the start point where everything changes is clear to most writers, it’s the learning curve that’s hard to plot.