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Observations on Up

Had the pleasure of seeing Pixar’s latest masterpiece last Thursday — and yeah, it’s a masterpiece. They’ve done it again. An original modern day fable – a pure blend of intelligent, artful filmmaking and commercial pop-entertainment. The sentimental first fifteen minutes will touch your heart, and the rest of the film is a fast, funny visual delight. Enjoyable on every level.

Pixar leads. I’m not quite sure if others are following, but one thing is for sure: Pixar leads. One reason they stand far and away from their competition is that they take risks. Their point of view in developing story material is aimed in a different direction from the other studios. I also love how Pixar tells their stories – treating the audience, including the kids, as intelligent human beings.

That said, Up is still at its heart, a cartoon. The characters are caricatures, the situations impossible and yet – as with all great cartoons – we can relate to the characters and their motivations.

You can read the plot details and learn behind the scenes information on other sites. Here are a few odd footnotes and observations of my own… no spoilers, I hope.

• Anyone notice the similarity of between Carl Frederickson and actor Spencer Tracy (circa 1963-1967)? See photo above for comparision.

•The floating house is a lot more than a gimmick. Carl is tethered to it throughout the film (it represents his late wife). In fact, this is surely the best flying house movie since Winsor McCay’s The Flying House (1921). I didn’t once think about Zathura (2005), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), or Danny Deckchair (2003)… until I left the theatre.

•The villian of the piece is named Charles Muntz. I wonder what inspired his name? In real life, Charles Mintz was the animation producer who “stole” Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, forcing Walt Disney to create Mickey Mouse. In Up, Muntz is trying to capture an elusive “cartoon-like” bird, and created a way to make animals “talk”. Is their any connection here? Is the animation histotian in me reading too much into all this?

•”Kevin”, the film’s gooney bird (below right), is a hybrid of a Dr. Suess creation and a Fleischer cross-eyed character (below left, from 1932’s Sing A Song,). Loved it.

I loved all of UP. It worked for me. Get out and see UP in 3D on May 29th (or that weekend) — and enjoy this current golden age as long as it lasts.