South America, Present Day
From its rocky cliffs and waterfalls to Kevin and her brightly-colored brood, Up’s South American setting oozes adventure. It isn’t just out there, as Muntz might say, it’s everywhere.
The Thrilling ‘30s
While most of Up’s action takes place in the present day, the film starts out in the 1930s, when young Carl is a wide-eyed Muntz worshipper. But as Empire’s Ian Freer notes, “This ’30s milieu looms large: the entire film is fuelled by that decade’s spirit of derring-do, the thrill of hero worship and the sense of the world as a huge playground waiting to be explored.”
Carl may have discovered his thirst for adventure in the ‘30s, but, just like the grape soda bottle cap he got from Ellie, he carries it with him into the modern day—even if, when Up starts, he’s got it stashed away in his house under a thick layer of dust and disgruntlement.
Like America, But South
Up’s exotic South American locale creates an atmosphere of exploration. It’s a place where anything can happen, and your next mind-blowing discovery waits just around the corner. That’s why Carl and Ellie save their hard-earned cash to visit. That’s why Muntz went there in the first place, and then parks his airship there for decades. That’s why it’s primo territory for Carl to break out of his funk and rediscover the power of his heart.
This all-encompassing spirit of adventure is conveyed through South America’s vibrant color palette, striking terrain, and fantastical creatures. The continent, as portrayed in Up, is straight-up whimsical. Dug and the rest of his talking dog pals don’t seem out of place there. Neither does chocolate-loving Kevin. Within the setting’s sense of fantasy, even an old man in a floating house doesn’t seem that strange.
Planning Your Next Vacation
Up’s setting may be fanciful, but get this: Paradise Falls and its exotic surroundings are based on an actual place. No, really. According to PopMatters’ Bill Gibron, Up’s crew took their own journey to South America and camped out amidst the tepui Venezuela for inspiration.
“That was a blast,” co-director Pete Docter told The Hollywood Reporter. “We needed somewhere where this guy could get stuck…We initially set it on a tropical island, but that felt like you'd seen it so much. We then found these tabletop mountains that I'd never heard of before, in South America. We tried to find photographs and did as much research as we could. But it just seemed we needed to go there.”
And that’s exactly what they did. Docter, co-director Bob Peterson, and the rest of the crew experienced South America in all of its colorful splendor just like Carl and Russell did—you know, except with sketchbooks and digital cameras instead of a floating house and talking dogs.