I often think that beginning film makers (including animators) have been crippled by high school English teachers. We've all been forced to do book reports and one of the elements we report on is plot. Plot is a series of events that make up the story. It's an easy thing to grasp and English teachers like it because it proves that we read the material, but the reliance on plot is death to creating stories. Instead of thinking about characters, their motivations and their objectives, creators often think about events: first this will happen and then this happens.
The on-screen result is stories that don't ring true. The characters feel as if they're being pulled along by the plot rather than causing it. Events, isolated from emotions, aren't very interesting.
I've recently become aware of Post Secret, an art project by Frank Warren. He asks people to anonymously create and mail him postcards (many include art) that contain a secret that they've never told anyone. He's got a blog that will show you some examples. He's also created four books with the postcards.
These secrets all come from an emotional place. They represent desires, fears, embarrassments and other emotions so powerful that people feel the need to hide them. Only the guarantee of anonymity allows people to expose these secrets. Reading the first of the books, I couldn't help but imagine films and characters. See if you agree:
"I married someone I don't love because I wanted to wear the dress."
"I waste office supplies because I hate my boss."
"I used to fertilize a ring in our lawn every time I mowed it. It grew. My parents still think it was aliens."
"When I was a young teenager I used to babysit my next door neighbour's son. When he was asleep I would go into their bedroom and go through their bedside drawers. I found a packet of condoms. I put a pin through the middle of each of them and thus ensured myself another 5 years of babysitting."
"I paid an 'F' student $50 to write my valedictorian speech. And it was way better than mine could ever have been."
"He wasn't cheating on you. But since you chose to blame me anyway...he will be."
"Once I was asked by a doctor if I was hearing voices. The voice inside my head shouted: TELL HIM NO!"
A film made from any of the above (comedy or drama; the quotes work well for either) would be more interesting to me than the majority of animated films I've seen lately. Don't start with plot. Start with a human need and grow your plot from it. And if you're stuck for an idea, you could do worse than reading these secrets.