Goin’ ‘UP’, South American Way

By: Christina E. Rodriguez

After exploring outer space and the joys of french cuisine in “Wall*E” and “Ratatouille”, Disney and Pixar take off to the great blue yonder in glorious 3-D with their new film, “Up”.

While sitting at the Four Seasons hotel in Chicago, director Pete Docter gave Café a little insight into the meaning and emotions behind this feel-good, adventure-driven animation film.

Carl is a grouchy 78-year-old man who only desires to be left alone in the house he fixed up and decorated with his recently deceased wife, Ellie. That is, until Russell, an 8-year-old Wilderness Adventure Scout, comes knocking on Carl’s door to obtain his last of many achievement patches, which happens to be granted for assisting the elderly.

It isn’t until Carl decides to literally fly away by tying thousands of hellium balloons to his house to fulfill his lifelong promise to Ellie to travel to South America, that he finds himself stuck with Russell. Two new companions join Carl and Russell once they land in Venezuela: a talking dog and a 12-foot-tall flightless bird.

The decision to feature an older man as a protagonist was the result of a brainstorming session. “There’s been a lot of examples of Walter Matthau, Spencer Tracy, you know grouchy characters in film that have been really entertaining,” said Docter, “Aa well as cartoons…[co-director/writer] Bob Peterson and I were attracted to the humor of it, initially, and as we got into it we thought, there’s a lot of pathos and emotions as well and [it’s] not something that we’ve done before. It seemed like an interesting subject to tackle.”

In order to write about and depict South America, Docter said that a research trip was planned for three days at a location where Venezuela meets Guyana and Brazil, where a large percentage of the location has gone untouched by humans. “We sketched a lot, did paintings, took tons of pictures and then just experienced what it was like just sitting and listening, which is really kind of spooky because there’s almost no sound,” said Docter. “Taking all that back influenced the design for sure. A lot of the rock shapes and plants that look like we just made them up are from South America.”

Besides the adventurous aspect, there was still that desire for the emotional outpour and growth of Carl’s character, giving the animated movie added layers to emotionally touch the parents and grandparents that go along with their kids to watch the movie.

“The message is that Carl worries that he failed his wife by never bringing her to this exotic place,” explained Docter. “They promised each other that they were going to go on this amazing adventure. The real adventure of life is the relationship that we have with our family and our friends and that’s what Carl learns in the course of the film.”

And that’s something Docter hopes the audience takes home with them.

Originally published by Cafe Media, LLC.

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