USA 2009, 102 mins
Director: Pete Docter

Pete Docter, director of Pixar’s new hit Up, describes his creative process in watery terms: ‘It’s as though we’re in a pool splashing around, looking for things. It’s being in it, just feeling – and then stopping and analysing.’

This process led to some striking visual conceits in Up, which opens in cinemas in both 2D and 3D formats. It’s the story of Carl, a curmudgeonly widower who attaches his house to thousands of balloons and flies away. At one point, he’s shown grimly pulling the floating house on a rope through the dreamlike landscape of the table-top mountains of South America – an image reminiscent of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo.

Carl’s wife Ellie, who dies at the start of the film, is evoked through empty spaces such as a vacant armchair. ‘Ellie is really the drive through the whole film,’ says Docter. ‘Without the audience feeling something about Carl and Ellie’s relationship, and Carl’s need to fill it, I think you’d lose interest.’

Producer Jonas Rivera concurs, describing Up’s tear-jerking opening as the launch pad for the fantastical adventures that follow. ‘We need to set the stakes of the film, so you’ll go with us. We’re asking the audience to take a pretty big leap in terms of Carl’s house, the dogs [which talk] and the planes [piloted by the talking dogs]. We felt that showing Carl and Ellie’s married life was important in allowing all that to happen.’

Both Up and [the same year’s] Coraline use 3D much as 1939’s The Wizard of Oz used Technicolor: to contrast a flat, mundane world with wide-open, fantastic vistas. Yet Up ultimately comes to the same conclusion as Oz: that happiness resides in the real world, not in flights of fancy.

Some reviewers have objected to the grown-up content in Pixar’s films, saying that it would baffle younger viewers – how do children respond to the ‘married life’ sequence, for example? ‘For most, it seems to go over their heads a little bit,’ says Rivera. ‘None of them seem too crushed. We get more responses about the dogs, or a giant bird hurting its leg… things that frighten a kid.’

Docter and Rivera point out that Up’s very first scenes show Carl and Ellie as children, engaging the sympathies of youngsters that way. (Another child, a chubby boy scout, turns up to accompany Carl in the main story.) The young Ellie was voiced by Docter’s daughter Elie, who also made the drawings in Ellie’s handmade ‘Adventure Book’, which plays a crucial role in the film.

Pixar’s films have been criticised for featuring few female characters. Did Docter ever consider making Ellie the protagonist instead of Carl? ‘We did consider it,’ he says. ‘But we developed this grouchy character. Maybe I’m sexist, but it didn’t appeal as an old woman who would slam the door in people’s faces.’ But they have worked on writing more female characters, he points out; and Pixar’s first film by a woman director, Brenda Chapman’s Bear and the Bow, is scheduled for 2011.

Pixar’s recent experiments WALL-E and Up have been critical and commercial hits, with Up’s US box office second only to Finding Nemo’s for an animated film. But while Pixar continues the tradition of Disney-derived cartoon caricature (Up’s vision of South America has a painterly, graphic design, inspired by the Disney artist Mary Blair), James Cameron’s Avatar and Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn are about to usher in a new generation of motion-captured animation technology. Will Pixar have to adapt?

‘It’s exciting when there’s something you can do now that you couldn’t do before,’ says Rivera. ‘If we could see a Tintin that looks like something we’ve never seen before, and still has the appeal of Tintin, then I’ll pay and go. As an audience, I can’t wait… But I still love traditional animation so much that I want to keep the pendulum aiming that way.’
Andrew Osmond, Sight and Sound, November 2009

Up opens with a sepia-hued, flickering Movietone newsreel trumpeting the exploits of fictional 1930s aeronautical explorer Charles Muntz. The image pans back over the cinema audience and, completing its self-conscious wink at the viewer, spins to alight on the face of awestruck eight-year-old Carl – whose pilot goggles will remind you of your 3D glasses if you’re playing the game right. With the unspoken, lyrical articulation that characterises much of Pixar’s best work, these opening seconds capture the film’s peculiar charm and poignancy, which rest on a bittersweet seesaw between past and present, the ideal and the real.

The film’s unlikely protagonists – crotchety septuagenarian widower Carl and barrel-shaped eight-year-old Russell (voiced with breathy, gap-toothed gusto by non-professional Jordan Nagai) – fit the well-worn odd-couple mould, yet also encapsulate all that feels so nattily contemporary about Up. Where WALL-E ’s futuristic space odyssey was too photo-realistically pristine for some, Up sweeps Pixar gloriously and cartoonishly back into earth’s orbit.

Fittingly for Pixar’s first feature film to be conceived in 3D (though under its Disney umbrella Bolt was officially first past the post), Up makes novel use of the format. In particular, the final airborne zeppelin showdown between Carl and Muntz, his childhood hero-turned-villain (part Howard Hughes, part Charles Lindbergh), is used to transmit a sense of vertiginous, as opposed to just inanely eye-popping, depth. Yet for all its sense of carefully captured zeitgeist, Up’s actual narrative feels as though it might have been feverishly conceived on the back of a beer mat. It more than gets away with it, magpieing from balloon-fuelled Phileas Fogg adventure, doffing its cap to Miyazaki along the way, to a lost world populated by a hierarchical race of ‘talking’ dogs.

What prevents Up from feeling merely ragtag is, on one level, the consistent laugh-out-loud humour; more unexpectedly, it’s the lyrically rendered themes of grief, childlessness and nostalgia that course through the film. These are established in the opening minutes with a remarkable wordless montage, which plays out Carl’s marriage to his sweetheart Ellie, the subsequent discovery of her infertility, and the daily travails that prevent the couple reaching Paradise Falls – their South American Shangri-la – until creeping old age and infirmity mean it’s too late. Building from here, Michael Giacchino’s outstanding thematic score, surpassing his earlier work on The Incredibles and Ratatouille, provides Up’s heartbeat. Shifting from heady waltz to wistful piano solo, a simple recurring melody encapsulates the persistent pull of ever deferred childhood dreams, at once nostalgic and fantastical.

These are themes as deeply imbued in Up’s aesthetic as they are in its characterisation and narrative. The opening newsreel sequence, for example, was run through 16mm optical film to effect the requisite ‘authentic’ wobbliness our senses expect. Electronic musicians have long sought to emulate analogue sound, and a similar trick is at work here. Like Henry Selick’s Coraline, which opens with a stunning sequence of minutely observed needlework, Up paradoxically expresses its technical sophistication through such exquisite fetishising of the hand-crafted, the palpably manmade and perishable, whether it’s crackly archive footage, Ellie’s dog-eared scrapbook or the cherished, rusty soda-bottle lid – ‘the Ellie badge’ – that Carl wears on his lapel. It’s more than a sentimental sweetener to forestall criticism of CGI’s ‘flawlessness’, though. In Up’s case, such styling enhances a delightful tale that manages to celebrate its rich storytelling heritage while simultaneously ushering in the new. Another first for Pixar: reducing audiences of critics to weeping into their 3D glasses.
Sophie Ivan, Sight and Sound, October 2009

Directed by: Pete Docter
Co-directed by: Bob Peterson
©: Disney Enterprises, Inc., Pixar
a Pixar Animation Studios film
Presented by: Walt Disney Pictures
Created by: Pixar Talking Pictures
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Executive Producers: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton
Produced by: Jonas Rivera
Associate Producer: Denise Ream
Pre-production Producer: Kori Rae
Pixar Senior Creative Teams: Brad Bird, Brenda Chapman, John Lasseter, Gary Rydstrom, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
Production Manager: Mark Nielsen
Post-production Supervisor: Paul Cichocki
Director of Editorial/Post-production: Bill Kinder
Post-production Supervisor, Video: Cynthia Slavens
Post-production Manager: Eric Pearson
Script Supervisor: Lorien McKenna
Casting by: Kevin Reher, Natalie Lyon
Screenplay by: Bob Peterson, Pete Docter
Additional Screenplay Material: Ronnie Del Carmen
Story by: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy
Story Supervisor: Ronnie Del Carmen
Story Manager: Shannon Ryan
Story Artists: James S. Baker, Ken Bruce, Enrico Casarosa, Josh Cooley, Rob Gibbs, Justin Hunt, Bill Presing, Tony Rosenast, Bobby Alcid Rubio, Peter Sohn, Nick Sung
Creative Development: Mary Coleman, Kiel Murray, Karen Paik
Story Co-ordinators: Veronica Watson, Brian Wrightv Director of Photography - Camera: Patrick Lin
Director of Photography - Lighting: Jean-Claude Kalache
Stereoscopic 3-D:
Dir Stereoscopic Prod: Joshua Hollander
Stereoscopic Supervisor: Bob Whitehill
Technical Lead: Sandra Karpman
Technical Consultant: Darwyn Peachey
Manager: Paul McAfee
Co-ordinator: Courtney Casper
Supervising Technical Director: Steve May
Supervising Animator: Scott Clark
Animation Manager: A.J. Riebli III
Directing Animators: Shawn Krause, Dave Mullins, Michael Venturini
Fix Animation Lead: Andrew Beall
Crowds Animation Lead: Arik Ehle
Animation Co-ordinators: Kate Ranson-Walsh, Jaclyn Simon, Russell J. Stough
Effects Supervisor: Gary Bruins
Effects Manager: Mary Van Escobar
Lighting Managers: Pamela Darrow, Becky Neiman
Technical Lighting Lead: Mitch Kopelman
Sequence Lighting Leads: Lloyd Bernberg, Chris Fowler, Andrew Pienaar, Jonathan Pytko, Sudeep Rangaswamy, Michael Sparber
Character Supervisor: Thomas Jordan
Character Manager: Deirdre Warin
Character Modelling/Articulation Lead: Tom Sanocki
Character Shading/Groom Lead: Robert Moyer
Layout Manager: Dana Murray
Layout Co-ordinator: Stephen Krug
Sets Supervisor: John Halstead
Sets Manager: Kevin Gordon
Sets Modelling/Dressing Lead: Sophie Vincelette
Sets Shading Lead: Colin Hayes Thompson
Sets Materials Lead: Eric Andraos
Matte Paint Lead: Alex Harvill
Sets Technical Leads: Maxwell Planck, Fareed Behmaram-Mosavat
Editor: Kevin Nolting
Editorial Managers: Laura Leganza Reynolds, Shannon Ryan
Editor: Katherine Ringgold
Associate Editor: Gregory Amundson
Editorial Co-ordinator: Dallis Anderson
Production Designer: Ricky Nierva
Shading Art Direction: Bryn Imagire
Art Manager: Jennifer Birmingham
Character Art Direction: Daniel López-Muñoz, Albert Lozano
Environment Art Direction: Nat McLaughlin, Don Shank
Lighting Direction: Ralph Eggleston, Harley Jessup, Lou Romano
Creative Film Services Title Design: Susan Bradley
Creative Film Services Graphics: Laura Meyer
Manager Image Mastering: Mariko Nobori
Lead Engineers: Dominic Glynn, Rod Bogart
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Conducted by: Tim Simonec
Orchestrated by: Tim Simonec
Music Supervisor: Tom MacDougall
Score Co-ordinator: Andrea Datzman
Executive Music Producer: Chris Montan
Production Music Editing: David Slusser
Music Editor: Stephen M. Davis
Recorded/Mixed by: Dan Wallin
Sound Designer: Tom Myers
Original Dialogue Mixers: Vince Caro, Doc Kane
Re-recording Mixers: Michael Semanick, Tom Myers

Voice Cast
Ed Asner (Carl Fredricksen)
Christopher Plummer (Charles Muntz)
Jordan Nagai (Russell)
Bob Peterson (Dug)
Delroy Lindo (Beta)
Jerome Ranft (Gamma)
Bob Peterson (Alpha)
John Ratzenberger (construction foreman Tom)
David Kaye (newsreel announcer)
Elie Docter (young Ellie)
Jeremy Leary (young Carl)
Mickie T. McGowan (Police Officer Edith)
Danny Mann (construction worker Steve)
Don Fullilove (Nurse George)
Jess Harnell (Nurse AJ)
Josh Cooley (Omega)
Pete Docter (Campmaster Strauch)
Additional voices:
Mark Andrews, Bob Bergen, Brenda Chapman, Emma Coats, John Cygan, Paul Eiding, Teresa Ganzel, Sherry Lynn, Laraine Newman, Teddy Newton, Jeff Pidgeon, Valerie LaPointe, Jan Rabson, Bob Scott
Created/Produced at: Pixar Animation Studios

USA 2009©
102 mins

Wed 2 Aug 14:20; Mon 14 Aug 20:30; Sun 27 Aug 13:15
Turning Red
Wed 2 Aug 20:20; Tue 8 Aug 14:20; Sat 26 Aug 15:30
The Jungle Book
Thu 3 Aug 14:20; Sun 6 Aug 13:00; Wed 16 Aug 20:45; Wed 30 Aug 14:20
Thu 3 Aug 18:00; Sat 19 Aug 17:30
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Fri 4 Aug 18:00; Sun 13 Aug 18:10; Tue 22 Aug 14:20; Wed 23 Aug 20:20
101 Dalmatians
Sat 5 Aug 13:20; Thu 10 Aug 14:20; Sat 19 Aug 15:30; Tue 29 Aug 14:20
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Sat 5 Aug 15:40; Thu 17 Aug 14:20; Sun 27 Aug 18:20
Sister Act
Sat 5 Aug 20:40; Fri 18 Aug 18:20
Zootropolis (aka Zootopia)
Sun 6 Aug 13:10; Fri 25 Aug 18:00
Silent Cinema: Disney’s Silent Shorts + intro
Sun 6 Aug 15:30
Freaky Friday
Sun 6 Aug 18:20; Fri 18 Aug 20:30; Thu 24 Aug 20:50
The Parent Trap
Mon 7 Aug 18:00; Sun 20 Aug 15:10
Wed 9 Aug 14:20; Sat 12 Aug 11:30 (+ extended intro); Mon 14 Aug 14:20; Sun 20 Aug 19:00
Mary Poppins
Wed 9 Aug 17:50; Mon 21 Aug 14:20; Mon 28 Aug 13:00
Wed 9 Aug 20:30; Mon 28 Aug 12:30
The Love Bug
Fri 11 Aug 20:30; Sat 12 Aug 11:50; Sun 20 Aug 13:30
A Disney Day for Young Audiences
Sat 12 Aug 11:30-16:30
Sat 12 Aug 18:00; Sat 26 Aug 12:00
Sat 12 Aug 20:30; Sat 19 Aug 13:00; Thu 24 Aug 14:20
The Lion King
Sun 13 Aug 13:00 (+ Funday Sing-along); Sat 26 Aug 20:30; Thu 31 Aug 14:20
The Fiendishly Difficult Disney Quiz
Sun 13 Aug 15:30 Blue Room
Sun 13 Aug 15:50; Wed 16 Aug 14:20; Sat 26 Aug 12:20; Mon 28 Aug 16:20
Finding Nemo
Sun 13 Aug 18:30; Sun 27 Aug 13:30
The Rescuers
Mon 14 Aug 18:30; Sat 19 Aug 15:50
Sat 19 Aug 12:00; Tue 29 Aug 20:30
Dick Tracy
Fri 25 Aug 20:40; Tue 29 Aug 18:10 (+ intro by Ben Roberts, BFI CEO)
The Little Mermaid
Sun 27 Aug 16:00; Mon 28 Aug 16:40

With thanks to The Walt Disney Company

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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