Up – Hope Is Lighter Than Air

Since the conception of Pixar in 1986, founded by Steve Jobs after purchasing the Graphics Group animation studios from George Lucas, the company has a history of making exemplary films and Up is no exception. Up is in many ways, a magical film, combining elements of Comedy, Tragedy, Conflict and Redemption with an unremitting technical brilliance throughout, cementing its place in animation history.

The Up Balloon House

The film starts with a montage centering around the life of Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner), it shows how he idolizes famed explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer)  and meets his soul-mate Ellie while playing in a derelict house. The pair instantly bond over their love of exploring and Carl promises Ellie that he will take her to Paradise falls. The montage then flashes through their life together as a married couple. The couple grow old together in the same house they where they first met, refurbishing it together. Carl plans on surprising Ellie with a plane ticket to fulfill their dream of visiting Paradise falls, the land lost in time explored by their childhood idol Charles Muntz.

Up Ellie and Carl Lying on the grass

The montage quickly turns tragic, with Ellie collapsing in the park and later dying. Carl is devastated by her death and his life has lost meaning or purpose, his days monotonous and repetitive. This montage is easily the greatest achievement of the entire film, leaving the audience completely emotionally invested in the characters after  just a few short minutes. The surrounding neighborhood now a building site, Carl is harassed to sell the house so construction can continue. After an accident involving one of the builders he is landed in court with a forced-retirement order, attaching helium balloons to his house he decides to fulfill his childhood promise and escape to paradise falls. Along the way he meets a Boy named Russell (Jordan Nagai), a talking dog named dug (Bob Peterson), a talking bird and his childhood hero Charles Muntz making for an exciting, fast-paced adventure.

Carl visits Ellie on her deathbed

The film garnered overwhelmingly positive critical-reception scoring 98% on rotten tomatoes (although this is nothing new for Pixar with both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 scoring a perfect 100%). Film critic Robert Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave it four out of four stars calling it ‘a wonderful film’.

Up is unique in its genre for the portrayal of love and loss, Carl personifies his house as the immortal soul of Ellie and believes that somehow Ellie is still with him as long as he lives there. It is as much a tragedy as it is a comedy with complex emotional elements. The interaction between the characters is comedic and heartwarming, the relationship between Carl and Russell inspired and believable. The action sequences are relentlessly exciting with impeccable choreography keeping you on the edge of your seat with your eyes glued to the screen. The film succeeds in conveying an almost Shakespearean love-story, the depth akin to the play Romeo and Juliet. The environment and character design is awe-inspiring, every object painstakingly detailed, an exposition in cutting-edge animation technology.


  • Animation: 5/5
  • Direction: 5/5
  • Entertainment: 5/5
  • Second Viewing Value: 4/5
  • Overall: 5/5


  • A code title used during production was “Helium”.
  • All characters are based upon circles and rectangles, except for the villains who are triangles.
  • In June 2009, 10-year-old Colby Curtin from Huntington Beach, California, was suffering from the final stages of terminal vascular cancer. Her dying wish was to live long enough to see Up. Unfortunately, Colby was too sick to leave home and her family feared she would die without seeing the film. A family friend contacted Pixar, and a private screening was arranged for Colby. The company flew an employee with a DVD copy of “Up”, along with some tie-in merchandise from the film. Colby couldn’t see the screen because the pain kept her eyes closed, so her mother gave her a play-by-play of the film. Seven hours after viewing the film, Colby passed away.
  • The font used for the numbers on Carl’s alarm clock is the “Chicago” font, one of the first fonts designed for the Macintosh. Steve Jobs, former Pixar CEO, also spearheaded the original Macintosh project at Apple.
  • If Carl’s house was approximately 1600 square feet, and the average house weighs between 60-100 pounds per square foot, it weighs 120,000 pounds. If the average helium balloon can carry .009 pounds (or 4.63 grams), it would take 12,658,392 balloons to lift his house off the ground. (20,622 balloons appear on the house when it first lifts off.)

3 responses to “Up – Hope Is Lighter Than Air

  1. Pingback: Up (2009) | Cine·

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