Directed by: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson | 98 minutes | action, animation, comedy, adventure, family | Original Voice Cast: Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo, Jerome Ranft, John Ratzenberger, David Kaye, Elie Docter, Jeremy Leary, Mickie McGowan, Danny Mann, Donald Fullilove, Jess Harnell, Josh Cooley, Pete Docter | Dutch voice cast: Frits Lambrechts, Rients Gratama, Jary Beekhuizen, Thijs van Aken
After making his directorial debut with ‘Monsters, Inc’ (2001), Pixar’s multi-talent Pete Docter was looking for a bright idea for a new film. The idea for ‘Monsters Inc.’ came from childhood memories: he was always afraid that there were monsters under his bed. During the writing process of ‘Wall-E’ (2008) he worked with Bob Peterson on a story for ‘Up’ (2009). Docter: “Sometimes at the end of a long working day you are so tired of all the hustle and bustle around you that you fantasize about sitting alone on a desert island in the Pacific. We elaborated on that idea. We thought of a grumpy old man, like Walter Matthau and Spencer Tracy used to play them, as the main character. Those grumpies who have something charming and likeable. Because why could they never be the hero in a movie? We brainstormed on and saw the image in front of us of a house flying through the sky, carried by thousands of colored balloons, and that fitted in perfectly with our idea of making a film about escaping the everyday world. The idea for ‘Up’ was born!
‘Up’ begins with a truly dazzlingly beautiful and very moving scene in which a young shy Carl Fredricksen gets to know his lover, the lively Ellie. Both are fascinated by explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), who travels through the interior of South America to discover the most wonderful creatures. When Muntz comes home with the bones of a very rare bird, it is thought that he is kidding. Determined to prove otherwise, the frustrated adventurer returns to South America. There he tries to catch a live specimen of the special bird, but so far this has not been successful. Although in the eyes of many, Muntz has fallen considerably in prestige, he remains their absolute hero for Carl and Ellie. When they get older, they get married. Their ultimate goal is to one day trek to Paradise Falls (modeled after the Venezuelan Angel Falls, the highest waterfalls in the world) to have their own adventures. But their saved money is spent on medical expenses and redecorating their house, and their dream ends up on the shelves. In the meantime, they are not getting any younger. Then Ellie gets sick …
The above scene is largely without spoken word and is accompanied by a truly magnificent score by composer Michael Giacchino, who previously showed his musical magic in ‘The Incredibles’ (2004) and ‘Ratatouille’ (2007). The actual story begins when Ellie has passed away and Carl (Edward Asner) – now 78 years old – has more or less lost his sense of life. He has become a grumpy, sad man who is so lonely that he talks to his dead wife. Contractors are after his tiny piece of land, but Carl refuses to leave home. It has special emotional value to him because he built it together with Ellie. When he is forced to leave his house by court, he sees only one bizarre way out: He ties thousands of balloons to his home and decides to fly home to South America, to make Ellie’s last wish come true. Once in the air, it turns out that he has a stowaway on board: the blood-fanatic eight-year-old boyscout Russell (Jordan Nagai), who hopes to earn his missing badge (‘help the elderly’) from Carl. Initially, the grumpy Carl is not happy with this unexpected guest, but he can hardly throw him overboard! Once in South America, they go on a crazy adventure, where both Carl and Russell learn valuable life lessons. the blood-fanatic eight-year-old boyscout Russell (Jordan Nagai), who hopes to earn his missing badge (‘help the elderly’) from Carl. Initially, the grumpy Carl is not happy with this unexpected guest, but he can hardly throw him ‘overboard’! Once in South America, they go on a crazy adventure, where both Carl and Russell learn valuable life lessons. the blood-fanatic eight-year-old boyscout Russell (Jordan Nagai), who hopes to earn his missing badge (‘help the elderly’) from Carl. Initially, the grumpy Carl is not happy with this unexpected guest, but he can hardly throw him ‘overboard’! Once in South America, they go on a crazy adventure, where both Carl and Russell learn valuable life lessons.
Who doesn’t dream of fleeing from everyday life? The makers of Pixar have once again managed to come up with a universal story that will appeal to many people. ‘Up’ is a lot more conventional (more ‘Disney’) than its predecessor ‘Wall-E’, which is mainly due to the adventure that awaits the remarkable central duo in South America. The second half of the film is full of excitement and sensation. For example, there is a villain, there is fighting and for the first time in a Pixar film, blood is spilled. This conventional adventure contrasts sharply with the first half, in which the heartwarming emotion splashes off the canvas. ‘Up’ is first and foremost a film with a message: Carl learns the importance of friendships in life. The characters are more complex than you have ever seen in an animated movie, which makes them particularly realistic despite their caricatural appearance. We see Carl as a young guy, a bit timid but full of hopes and dreams. Later, when his dreams are shattered and he has to do without his great love, he is clearly disappointed in life. Pixar’s animators portray this beautifully in the angular way they drew Carl. The bouncy Russell, on the other hand, is very round – almost ovoid – and playful. He is still full of joy in life and he radiates that. The Pixar animators portray this beautifully in the angular way they drew Carl. The bouncy Russell, on the other hand, is very round – almost egg-shaped – and playful. He is still full of joy in life and he radiates that. The Pixar animators portray this beautifully in the angular way they drew Carl. The bouncy Russell, on the other hand, is very round – almost egg-shaped – and playful. He is still full of joy in life and he radiates that.
The play with shapes, lines, shades and music in ‘Up’ is truly brilliant. Carl’s mood can be seen, for example, in the color that his surroundings take on. As soon as Russell gets close, things brighten up a bit. The colors become brighter. Ellie also occupies a special place in the film. Her adult release doesn’t even have a voice credit, but she’s represented in each scene in color (pink / magenta) and / or music (a melody Giacchino designed especially for her). She is always close by, to protect Carl and to show the way. The inspiration for the bright, colorful jungle of South America was inspired by Pixar artists in the mountainous region around the Tepui Mountains in Venezuela, where Arthur Conan Doyle played his 1912 novella “The Lost World”. The environment breathes adventure and that is also reflected in the animated version (especially the way the vegetation is drawn is breathtaking). Pixar also hits the nail on the head with the voice cast, with Ed Asner as Carl (if Walter Matthau were still alive, he would undoubtedly have been first choice) and the eight-year-old (!), By chance, debutant Jordan Nagai discovered as the enthusiastic Russell, supplemented by veterans like Christopher Plummer, Delroy Lindo and John Ratzenberger.
Walt Disney always said, “For every laugh, there should be a tear,” a motto that Pixar boss John Lasseter (co-producer of “Up”) has always taken to heart. This is also the case with the very successful ‘Up’. The film knows how to entertain with a number of sharp jokes, but ‘Up’ also knows how to move thanks to lifelike characters who experience genuine emotions. Just try to keep it dry when Carl has to say goodbye to his beloved Ellie, the sun in his life, after just five to ten minutes! The strength of Pixar lies mainly in its courage to create genuine emotions, without falling into melodrama. With the adventure that follows, Pixar gets more on the beaten track of the genre and as beautifully crafted as it is made, the film sacrifices a tiny bit of persuasion here. This Indiana Jones related, more superficial scenes ignore the whole idea behind the film, but are still entertaining. They get Carl and also Russell to the point of learning their life lessons. The originality of the starting point is certainly not lost. With ‘Up’, Pixar delivers yet another gem: a heartwarming adventure film that you will not let go of afterwards!