My opinion right after watching film
My opinion right after watching the film is that it is very good. I have only watched this film once before, and I was astounded by it, but rewatching, I did not feel the same magic. I like a lot of aspects about the movie, and I feel like the characters were strong, but there were some stuff that were a bit too loopy and unexplained for my liking. No tone of my favourite Pixar films.
Development of the film started in 2004, when Pete Docter wrote the concept, which was based on escaping life’s problems by flying away with balloons. An old man was decided to be the protagonist because they writers felt like it would result in a lot of humor, not worrying about children not being able to identify because they would see Carl as their grandparent. An initial concept involved two brothers fighting over a throne, and when the ballooned castle fell on Earth, they met a bird who helped them understand one another.
Docter decided to use this film to dedicate his friendships with the deceased Disney veterans Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, while also dedicating it to Joe Granft, who told him to set an emotional bedrock (the first few minutes) because of the wild adventure was to come. In a way, this film was seen as a way for Pixar to handle their grievances for the loss that Disney and their own studio has suffered over the past few years, since one of the main plot points of the film involve grief.
After receiving a video of the Tepui mountains, the main setting was officially to take place in Venezuela. The crew spent three days in various mountains in 2004, drawing various images of the tepui mountains, which was out of their world. They also visited Sacramento zoo. Character designs for Carl and Russell were going to be overtly characterized, though they wanted it to seem somewhat realistic, so they would not look like the humans in the Toy Story franchise.
The film starts in 1940, where a 9 years old Carl Fredricksen (Jeremy Leart and Ed Asner) is in the movie theaters, watching a documentary of some sorts about the explorer named Charles Mintz (Christopher Plummer). Everyone doubts the explorer about fabricating about a bird he found in Paradise Falls, and he promises to come back with the bird. Carl leaves the movie theaters, and meets a little girl named Ellie (Elizabeth Docter), as they bond abut exploring, an Charles Mintz. We get a montage about their friendship soon blossoming to a marriage, and ho they saved up to go to Paradise Falls, but life gets in the way. They focus on the dream to visit Paradise Falls after she suffers a miscarriage, and is told that she cannot have children. As they become older, they have to slow down, but right as they are about to go on the trip, Ellie gets sick, and dies. We all know it is sad, and I did almost cry when I saw it. Nothing more to say, and I like how it captures the essence of present life, and the trials of a marriage and aging.
It is clear that some years have passed, and he is more miserable than ever, because the government is building a nice condo complex right by where his house is, and they want him to move to a retirement house, so they can blow the house down. Of course, he does not want to go into a retirement home, or leave his house. A construction worker ends up breaking his mailbox, which causes him to swing his cane at the worker’s head, giving him an injury. This is taken to court, where he loses and is told that it is a court order for him to move into the retirement home. A little kid named Russell (Jordan Nagai) rings the doorbell to get his last boy’s scout bade, which is to help out and assist the elderly. Carl sends him off, but he ends up being stuck with him.
It was Ellie’s dream to take the house to Paradise Falls, so he took the opportunity to finally make their dream come true, but is angered when he is stuck with Russell. The balloons are used as a way to navigate through the wind circuitry, as he cuts some of them to steer it in a certain direction. How the HELL is Russell able to breathe if they are in the sky? This does not make any sense. They are about to enter a thunderstorm, but he does not hear it since Carl turned off his hearing aid after listening to Russell blab. Of course they end up escaping it, but it forces them to land in a more than abrupt manner.
The two decide to walk the house to the other side of Paradise Falls, since they landed on the wrong side. A bird ends up running and dodging the countless traps meant to capture him, and the dogs that are chasing him down. While Russell goes to the washroom, he sees the footprints, and decides to follow it. The bird is attracted to the chocolate in his hand, so Russell uses it to get the bird to follow him to Carl, so is less than thrilled, and wants the bird gone. They meet a dog named Dug (Bob Peterson), who is looking for a bird for his master, and Carl wants the both of them to leave. We learn that the dogs speaks through a collar, that allows them to speak English, making it easy for the master to understand them. We learn that Russell’s father is extremely annoyed with him, and is always out at work, while Russell calls his mother Phyllis because it is his stepmother instead. It is a nice moment between the two of them, and why Russell is so clingy to Carl.
They run for their lives, and Dug joins them, since the other dogs see him as a traitor. When they manage to get the bird, Charles lights the house, and Carl goes to dim out the fire, letting the bird get trapped. Of course this causes tension between Carl and Russell, since the child is mad that he broke his promise (though he made it clear that he never wanted Kevin anyways). Russell decides to be a dumbass, and get the bird back himself, while Carl finally is able to look at the adventure book, which Ellie put pictures of their marriage as her adventure, and telling him to find a new one. We get to the climax, and it’s fun to see the old men struggle as they go through the old man pains while they fight with one another. Long story short, the house and Charles end up falling to their deaths.
Once they make it to the floor, Kevin the bird reunites with her children as they say their goodbyes. Dug joins Carl and Russell to America (as well as most of the other dogs), and we meet Russell’s stepmother when he is promoted to a Senior Wilderness Expert. His father is still not there, and we learn that his father is not crap, which is honestly very saddening. The film ends with the three of them eating at the ice cream shop (which is where the house was), and the house ended up landing at the other side of Paradise Falls, which is what he wanted.
I actually quite like the characters, and it is refreshing that there is not too many. Pixar suffers at times for introducing way too many characters in their films, so it was nice to see this smaller cast, making it easier to focus.
The humans were a lot more cartoony than they were in The Incredibles even, and while I do not like the overly cartoony styles for humans, it seems to have worked for the film. I was more impressed with the background designs, and the textures of the animal characters. Color was very prominent in the film, since there were a lot of varied settings, and more color would appear when there was an optimistic opportunity arising, which I found very neat.
The music was composed by Michael Giacchino, and he was told to put a lot of emphasis in the emotion of the music, which works out really well. A lot of the characters have their own theme music, which is slowly altered as the film goes on. It is a very neat twist, and while I could not name a specific theme of the score, the music was still very strong. Apparently this is the first score to ever win an award by the Oscars.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on May 29th, 2009, it made $293,004,164 domestically, and $442,094,918 in other territories, with a worldwide total of $735,099,082. It is the 18th highest-grossing animated film, 6th highest-grossing Pixar film, and the 6th highest-grossing film of 2009.
It was yet again another Pixar film that was critically acclaimed, with people liking the wit and depth in the film, ranging from a variety of tones that were in the film. Most people talked about the first 10 minutes of course, and many found it to be the funniest Pixar film. A lot of Asian-American networks praised the portrayal of Russell, and many people liked the choice to make an elder the main protagonist.
Pixar had another good year in the accolades, with Up pretty much stealing all of the awards, yet again. The film received such critical praise that it was the second film to be nominated for Best Picture after almost two decades (the first being Beauty and the Beast), though some believe that it was included because the nominee slot was increased from that year onwards. I believe it won all the Best Animated Film awards through the season as well.
It’s reception today has not really changed. I believe there is still a strong enough presence in the theme parks, though it is one of the films that will most likely not get a sequel, so its reputation might suffer a bit just for not being one of the films to have a franchise. It is held in very high regards today, and is debatably seen as the best Pixar film.
= 31.5/40 = 79%