Welcome to the Pixar Rewind! Over the next couple weeks, we at Rotoscopers will analyze every Pixar film ever, and what makes each one so great. At the end of the series, and after the release of ‘Inside Out,’ we will have a fan vote to determine which film is the best of them all!
“Adventure is out there!”
A fitting mantra for the adventurer in us all, and also the slogan of the 2009 animated film, Up. It’s arguably one of Pixar’s finest efforts, with a heartwarming story, a beautiful musical score, and outstanding animated visuals. Up follows the story of Carl Fredricksen and his quest to make his late wife, Ellie’s, dream come true. As the world progresses and grows around the house he and Ellie built together, Carl inches closer to losing his home in the name of progress. Rather than let that happen, he inflates thousands of balloons to lift his house and sets it on course for Paradise Falls. Along the way, Carl meets a Junior Wilderness Explorer named Russell, a talking golden retriever named Dug, a “snipe” named Kevin, and several watchdogs belonging to Carl and Ellie’s childhood hero, Charles Muntz.
The introduction to the film (also known as the eight minutes that is a better love story than Twilight ever was in four books) introduces us to Carl’s wife, Ellie, who tragically leaves him before the film really even gets started. We learn of their passion for adventure and their dream of visiting Paradise Falls in South America (it’s like America, but south!). This portion of the film struck a chord with me, as I lost my grandmother a little over a year ago. My grandmother and grandfather were similar to Carl and Ellie: they loved doing new things and going on new adventures together. But what really makes these first few minutes special is how much emotion the filmmakers are able to convey without dialogue. The whimsical music eventually becomes heartbreaking and, along with what appears on screen, we learn everything we need to know about Carl and Ellie’s relationship. This scene alone is, in my opinion, one of the best movie moments of all time.
The musical score is brilliant, composed by Michael Giacchino, known for other Pixar works like The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Cars 2, and, soon, Inside Out! The main theme is a simple and light piano melody, which can sound bright and cheery, somber, and even heroic. Throughout the film the score sounds adventurous and mysterious, and very distinctly Giacchino. You know it’s good when you can hear the first four notes of the piano melody and instantly start to tear up (seriously, don’t play this song around me if you don’t want to see my cry). It’s the way the music is infused and bonded with the characters; the way it’s connected to their hardships, and their hopes and dreams. That simple melody is almost undisputedly synonymous with Carl and Ellie’s relationship. The theme gently plays while Carl flips through his Adventure Book and sees all his and Ellie’s memories together. Then, just moments later, the theme comes back in a heroic and profound manner. And then, as the film ends, the piano sneaks its way back in, leaving our last impression of Up with that distinctly beautiful melody.
So, what does Up tell us about life? Well, a lot. It really makes one contemplate and wonder what the meaning of life is. At least, that’s what it does to me upon each viewing. The theme of the movie is clear: your dreams can come true, but not without a bit of time and effort. And… there will be a lot standing between you and your goals. Like most dreams, it takes determination to make something happen, and you will encounter a lot of obstacles that try to stop you from getting there. In Up, Carl certainly has his share of obstacles that make it seemingly impossible to get his house (and Ellie) to Paradise Falls. Before Carl even dreams of ascending into the sky, he and Ellie have several incidents that take away from their Paradise Falls fund. When Carl finally does manage to buy tickets to the Falls, Ellie sadly passes away. And, when Carl takes matters into his own hands to get to Paradise Falls, he lands directly across from it. It figures, right? Eventually Carl meets his and Ellie’s childhood hero, Charles Muntz. It turns out he’s not such a nice guy, either. And it doesn’t end there. That’s just a taste of the emotional meat grinder that Up forces its viewers through… It’s a fun meat grinder, though.
Despite all the obstacles encountered during his journey, Carl soon realizes there are more to adventures than the ultimate goal. What happens after you’ve completed what you wanted to accomplish? As Ellie wrote in the Adventure Book, “Thanks for the adventure- now go have a new one!” And, as Carl finally reaches Paradise Falls, he realizes that there are other things at stake, like saving the lives of the friends that this journey led him to. This is Carl’s new adventure. After an intense battle with the antagonist, Muntz, Carl ends up rescuing Dug, Kevin, and Russell (the small mailman!) but ends up losing his house as a result. In a touching twist of fate, Carl and Ellie’s house ends up landing right where they imagined it would be, right next to Paradise Falls. There’s no better place to leave his house than on the spot Carl and Ellie dreamed they would someday visit together.
In the end, Up, like most Pixar films, is much more than just a fun, animated romp. Sure, you can view it like that if you want, but there’s so much more underneath that can apply to anyone. Up tells us that it’s normal, and encouraged, to want to chase your dreams, and that you can only make those dreams come true if you are proactive and take the initiative to do something about your dreams. But, despite this, it also tells us that there’s more to life than just one goal that you may have; there may be more essential things that need to come first before setting off to fulfill your goals. And, once you accomplish goals, you have to ask yourself: Where do I go next? I love Up for this reason. You can watch it with littler ones who love animated movies, or you can sit down alone and cry your eyes out and do some deep thinking. Ultimately, Up reminds us that life is full of adventures, so why settle for just one?
What do YOU think of Up? Is it your favorite Pixar film?
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Edited by: Hannah Wilkes