Flickering Myth’s writing team countdown to the UK release of Monsters University by picking their favourite Pixar Movies; next up is Ryan O’Neill with Up….
Up was released in 2009, sandwiched between the equally ambitious and creative Wall-E and Toy Story 3. At this time, it seemed almost everything Pixar Animation Studios touched turned to gold and on paper Up reads like a deliberate attempt to raise the challenges of creativity to a level that even Pixar themselves couldn’t reach – a kid’s film about a broken, bitter 78 year old who ties thousands of balloons to his house in order to travel to South America to fulfil the last wishes of his deceased wife. The result? A box office smash, critical acclaim by the bucket load and only the second animated film to ever be nominated for a best picture Oscar.
Edward Asner lends his vocal talents to the starring role of Carl Fredricksen, a retired balloon salesman who decides to up sticks to South America (using his house and thousands of balloons as transportation) to fulfil a dream he shared with his departed wife. The first 10 minutes are amongst the most emotional and beautiful I have ever seen on film, an absolute tour-de-force of storytelling that saves scientists of the future the bother of ever having to invent Blade Runner’s Voight-Kampff machine; even the hardest of souls will weep at this heartbreaking montage .
Jordan Nagai plays Russell, Carl’s young neighbour and something of an annoyance to him as he seeks to assist Carl to earn badges for assisting the elderly from his scouting organisation. When Carl sets off for South America, Russell is accidentally on board and the pair find themselves forced to team up to face off against the bizarre threats, human and otherwise, that greet them when they arrive at Paradise Falls.
One of the many exceptional facets to Up is that, in line with the best works of seminal Japanese film maker Hayao Miyazaki, this film portrays fantasy situations with touches of bittersweet, adult emotion rather than sugar coating every scenario for the supposed benefit of the young target audience. Although by no means a ‘depressing’ film, the primary themes include great loss and disappointment, but these are portrayed as inevitable parts of life that can strengthen people and enrich the bonds between them rather than false inconveniences that can be dismissed with a wave of a magician’s wand. This makes Up, for all its fantastic contrivances and wacky eccentricities, feel more real and more human an experience than the strong majority of films and is a remarkable achievement even by Pixar’s very high standards.
Up is a great film that, like so many of Pixar’s most creative efforts, offers a fantastic (and different) experience for kids and adults alike. Although not as complete a picture as Wall-E or Toy Story (the middle section does sag, although perhaps only in comparison to the remarkable start and ending), Up thoroughly deserves all of the many accolades afforded it; the opening scene wrenches more emotion than 99% of films do in their entirety and should be mandatory viewing in all film schools. There are excellent vocal performances throughout and the film shines with a vibrant colour palette that makes every shot a beauty. An absolute treasure of a movie from a time when Pixar could do no wrong.