As relates to my last post on "real" drama, it's worth pointing out that drama and conflict don't have to be "real" or "logical" to work. In fact I think the opposite is true.
Take "North by Northwest" for example. The central conflict is that Roger Thornhill is mistaken for someone else and pursued by secret agents, right? Well, that story line doesn't even follow a logical thread. I mean, for example - first these guys want information from him. When he doesn't give it to them they decide to kill him. When he foils their plan to kill him, he goes to the police and leads them to where the bad guys threatened his life. The bad guys see him bring the police to the mansion where they threatened him, and yet they still think he's a secret agent. If they think he works for the FBI or CIA or something, why do they think he brings local cops into it? What's a secret agent going to gain by bringing small-town police into his encounters with other powerful secret agents? How are they going to help? Shouldn't he use his resources as a CIA agent to battle them? And their first stated objective was to get information from him and then kill him, right? But they follow him as he seeks out the owner of the mansion where he was confronted by these secret agents. And when he catches up with this guy (Townsend) these bad guys murder Townsend and frame Thornhill for the murder. Okay, seriously, why do these bad guys think Thornhill is seeking out Townsend? Townsend is just a patsy. What kind of genius CIA agent would Thornhill be if he hadn't figured that out already? What do they think he's up to? And why haven't they figured out that Thornhill is a regular guy at this point? And why, if they wanted to kill him, do they murder Townsend instead? How does it help them to make Thornhill look like a murderer? If he really is an FBI or CIA agent, can't he explain that the bad guys did it and have the FBI or CIA believe him? It would have been just as easy to murder Thornhill as Townsend. Why didn't they just do that, if that's what they want to do?
And I like how, at the beginning of the movie, they went out of their way to make his murder look less suspicious by making it look like a drunken car accident. Later in the movie, they attempt to kill him by machine-gunning him from a crop duster. Yeah, that won't arouse any suspicion!
I'm not saying these are flaws in the movie. Quite the opposite! The movie works really well because you ALWAYS know exactly what Roger's immediate goal is at any point (i.e. find Kaplan, find Townsend, etc.). The movie is very clear about saying: this is what Roger is attempting to do. Once you are clear about what he's trying to do it creates great drama as you see what unfolds instead! And the stakes are very clear and emotional. He's an innocent guy who, all of a sudden is running for his life. And he can't go to the police. So he has to elude the police while proving his innocence. And then the girl he loves betrays him. And on and on - great twists and turns, and his life is at stake. Everybody gets that, so it's easy to get on board and relate to it and be scared for Roger. If the stakes are clear and emotional and really visceral, the events themselves don't have to track in a logical way. Emotion always trumps logic. The audience WANTS to suspend their disbelief and be scared, sad, frightened, etc. So if you disregard logic in a way that doesn't talk down to them, and make the emotional component work, you can play a little fast and loose with the logic. As a matter of fact, I think you have to. I think every great film has at least one plot hole somewhere. It may be impossible to tell a great story without one.
And this is something I think that has been a problem at Disney in the past. It's always easy to pick on logic. Anybody can do it and it makes you look smart to poke logic holes in a story. So people used to give a lot of logic notes. It can really take a lot of the entertainment out of a story without really addressing what makes a story work. Instead, you should focus on making the emotion strong enough and make the emotion feel REAL enough that the audience overlooks minor logic flaws. Like I said with "Ice Age", it's a preposteous concept - A Wooly Mammoth, a Sabre-tooth tiger and a sloth work together to return a baby to it's parents. What?!? But I bought it and believed in the characters because it worked. The emotion overrode what might sound like a ridiculous concept to someone with limited imagination. And the stakes were real and gettable and visceral, so I could follow it and invest in it emotionally.
There are two things I have found myself saying at Disney over the last ten years. Number one: a movie doesn't have to make total logical sense. A totally logical movie isn't a movie, it's a documentary. So that's what I say when people are trying to iron out all the logic bumps in a story.
Number two is about a situation we had at Disney as well. People were always trying to make the characters in our story go through some sort of logical psychological journey through the film. They were completely obsessed with tracking where the character was in every stage of their psychological transformation. What is Tarzan thinking in this sequence? Where is he on his journey to self-realization? How does this reralization lead to his next realization? And things like that. Which can be really important, don't get me wrong. You need to be in the character's head and "get" what they're thinking, for sure. But obsessing over that at the expense of the entertainment is a big mistake. Nobody wants to watch a logical psychological transformation, unless it's entertaining too! So I always compare this way of approaching the process to making a watch. You're making sure every (psychological) gear is in it's perfect place and functioning properly and engaging with every other (psychological) gear. And the end result "works" perfectly. Only it's about as entertaining as watching a watch work. Pretty dull, in other words.