Study Guide

Up Introduction

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Up Introduction

Release Year: 2009

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family

Director: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson

Writer: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

Stars: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer

How would you describe the adventure of a lifetime? 

Skydiving over the Sahara? Cruising around the globe on a Jay-Z’s yacht? Eating Taco Bell?

For Up’s cantankerous Carl Fredricksen (voiced to crusty perfection by Ed Asner) the most mind-blowing journey is just venturing off his front porch. After a construction company threatens to snatch up his home, Carl rigs it up with a buh-zillion balloons and sets sail for South America. Aided by an enthusiastic stowaway scout named Russell, Carl battles talking dogs and a crazy old explorer, but his greatest discovery while trekking through the jungle is the power of his dusty old heart.

Cue: awww.

Released on May 29, 2009, Up is the tenth feature film from Pixar, the animation studio that brought you Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Inside Out. These guys and gals know a thing or two about mixing hilarity and heartbreak into a fun and frothy cartoon cocktail. Produced for 175 million bucks, Up soared away with a cool $731.5 million worldwide—and a basket full of shiny awards, including the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Score, and the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.

The adventure comedy was also a hit with critics. "Rarely has any film, let alone an animated one powered by the logic of dream and fantasy, been able to move so successfully—and so effortlessly—through so many different kinds of cinematic territory," writes Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan in his review of the film (source). Co-directors and co-writers Pete Docter and Bob Peterson strike just the right chord with Up: it packs enough laughs to keep your little sister rolling in the aisle, enough emotion to tickle the heartstrings of your curmudgeonly Uncle Ralph, and enough visual innovation drop your jaw right into your Jujubes.

Just don't forget the tissues.

What is Up About and Why Should I Care?

Quick: how many animated movies can you name that star a senior citizen?

What’s that? You got nothing? Bupkis? Zero? Zilch? Zip? Don’t worry. It was kind of a trick question. Plus, we wanted to show off all of the rad synonyms that we know for “nothing.”

Here’s the deal: Up is a unique entry in the pantheon of cartoon flicks—not just because it features a grumpy old man who wields his cane like a samurai sword, but also because it’s a buddy comedy that pairs its grizzly protagonist, Carl, with a plucky young wilderness scout named Russell who’s nearly seventy years his junior. The old man mentor and fresh-faced kid combo has been done to death in live-action films. But in animation? Not so much.

Carl and Russell’s unlikely friendship is just part of Up’s generation-spanning appeal. It’s a comedy, for sure, but there’s also a healthy dose of tragedy mixed into its recipe for laughter. “Up is as psychologically realist as any adult drama starring flesh-and-bone actors,” explains Slate’s Dana Stevens (source). “The question of whether, and how, this motley cohort will reach their destination has as much dramatic value as the question of who will get on the plane at the end of Casablanca.”

In other words, Up keeps it real. Like real real.

Up isn’t your typical animated movie. It opened the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, for crying out loud—a spot generally reserved for very grown-up, very French flicks. Up’s narrative sees the conventions of the animation and adventure-comedy genres and says, “That’s cool, but we think we’re going to go a different way, ‘mkay?” Then its sophisticated story attaches a million balloons to your heartstrings and tugs your ticker up, up, and away.


Based on the size of his house, it would take 12,658,392 balloons to hoist Carl’s house off the ground. That’s a whole lotta helium. (Source)

Jordan Nagai, who voices Russell, had stiff competition for the role: namely, his older brother, Hunter. We hope all of the noogies and wet willies were worth it. (We’re pretty sure they were.) (Source)

Ever wonder how Muntz is still alive and kicking in the movie’s third act? Up originally contained a subplot where Kevin’s eggs could reverse the aging process. Ultimately, it was scrapped because director Pete Docter thought it was too crazypants, even for a movie about a flying house. (Source)

There was a real life Up house in Seattle. For years, Edith Macefield refused to sell her tiny farmhouse as skyscrapers shot up like weeds all around it. When she passed away in 2008, she left her house to one of the building’s developers. In 2015, it was announced that the house will be moved, but not torn down. Might we suggest Paradise Falls? (Source)

Up Resources


The Official Up Website
Snag a copy of the movie and try your hand at Balloon Blow-Up’s survival mode. Our best score is 84,000. We really worked that Dug multiplier.
Bone up on Pixar’s history, check out all its films—both short and long, and bookmark it so you can come back and apply for a job just like Pete Docter.

Disney-Pixar’s Twitter
It’ll be a lot easier to RT all the latest haps at Pixar—and all of their super-cute GIFs—if you follow this feed.

One-Stop Shopping
IMDb has the lowdown on Up.

Love is All Around
The critics loved the film. Here’s a roundup of their reviews.

Book or TV Adaptations

The Art of Up
A rad collection of over 250 storyboards, character studies, and sketches from the movie’s production.

Articles and Interviews

New York Comic Con Interview with Pete Docter (February 8, 2009)
Cinema Blend’s Katey Rich gets all the deets on Up from the movie’s director, as well as producer Jonas Rivera.

Roger Ebert’s Up Review (May 11, 2009)
Couldn’t make it to France for Up’s groundbreaking premiere at the Cannes Film Festival? Don’t worry; Ebert has you covered.

Q&A: Pete Docter (May 12, 2009)
Up’s director opens, well, up to The Hollywood Reporter about the movie’s road to the multiplex, and how screenwriter and Meet the Parents co-star Tom McCarthy left a big mark on the script.

A Talk with Pixar’s Pete Docter and Bob Peterson (November 10, 2009)
PopMatters’ Bill Gibron goes straight to the source, sitting down with Up’s dynamic writing and directing duo.


Adventure is out there!
Carl and Ellie have a classic movie meet-cute—you know, aside from the fact that it takes place in a decaying abandoned house.

Carl and Ellie’s Marriage Montage
One commenter claims that Up tells a greater love story in four minutes than Twilight does in four books. But what do you think?

Meet Russell
Russell’s willing to help Carl cross just about anything in order to earn his Assisting the Elderly badge.

The Dog Pack Picks Up the Scent
They may be excellent trackers, but their grasp of English syntax leaves a tad to be desired, don’t you think?

Old Man Fight
Carl and Muntz duke it out onboard Muntz’s airship, and nobody breaks a hip.

The Official Up Trailer
See what got film fans stoked for their next great adventure way back in 2009.

Disney UK Interview with Pete Docter
In which Docter wears a Wilderness Explorer sash. We’d expect nothing less.

Film School Rejects Interview: Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
Docter and Rivera dish on the idea behind Up and how they got a house to fly. Spoiler alert: they asked NASA for an assist.


The Up Soundtrack
Michael Giacchino’s score is awesome music to do your Calculus homework by.


Concept Art for Carl
We don’t know about you, but we’re relieved they scrapped the idea for word balloons.

Concept Art for Russell
Every detail’s explained, from the top of his cap to the soles of his shoes. Literally.

Kevin’s Color Palette
Print this on a T-shirt, and we’d wear it right now.

“He Likes You, Sir”
A watercolor concept sketch of Kevin, Carl, and Russell in which Russell sounds like Marcy from The Peanuts, sir.

Up Movie Poster
The real deal from Disney-Pixar, suitable for framing.

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