Above Then Beyond

In 2005, a group of students at ESRA made a short film called Above Then Beyond. It has just surfaced on the internet and is worth a look. It sorta reminds me of another film… can’t think of the title. Can you?

Read more about the controversy at You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice.

(Thanks, DeK via Milk and Cookies)


  • http://www.jeff-pert.com Jeff P

    Wow. Can’t even begin to describe how disappointing this is. Never thought Pixar capable of stealing someone else’s idea. I adored “Up” because I thought it was so original. Not so much, I guess.

  • George

    Up isn’t about a flying house.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS ripped this off so bad.

  • Trevor

    Wow…I’m kind of speechless. This gives a lot more ground to that rumor of “For the Birds” being a stolen CalArts short too I guess.

  • http://www.pitchbibles.blogspot.com Steve Schnier

    So what? Two movies – similar ideas. “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” as a case in point.

    You can’t copyright ideas because – they’re just ideas. A guy once tried to sue me, saying that I’d stolen his idea for my TV series – even though he’d never written it down or pitched it anywhere. Oh yeah…. And he thought of it two years AFTER my show went on air – but I stole HIS idea.

    “UP” was great. “Above Then Beyond” was meh. Figure the production timeline – they were both in the works at the same time. Nobody stole anything. Get over it.

  • VinceP

    Wow, that is very similar to a certain other film. I’d like to think it’s a coincidence, but it seems a little hard to believe if the studios were affiliated. However, I think it’s important to note that the themes differ significantly. In terms of what is actually being communicated, it seems pretty different.

    Nonetheless, the students deserve their recognition too. They should be congratulated for coming up with such a creative concept!

  • http://kelseighn.blogspot.com Kelseigh

    Even if there is no real connection between the films, it’s probably good for them to get the word out that this was made before Up. Because otherwise, you’d have people accusing them of being rip-offs, and that would do them a huge disservice.

  • Scarabim

    Looks pretty fishy.

  • Klyph

    Where’s the Pixar defense force? Defend the shield!

  • George

    Just in case not everyone is reading the thread of replies on You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice. As far as I’m concerned, this makes it pretty clear that particular story aspects were in place well before this student film was completed, perhaps even conceptualized:

    Here are a few images from “The Art of Up”

    As you can see, Pete Docter was drawing Carl with balloons in 2004, and Ricky Nierva was drawing Carl with balloons in 2004, as well as other characters from the cast.

    Don Shank was conceptualizing the house idea in 2004, his inspiration coming very much from Virginia Lee Burton’s “The Little House”, as well as the subsequent Disney short based on the book.

    This was all easily researched with a book sitting on my shelf, it’s been sitting there for almost a year. Why somebody who decided to post something so incendiary couldn’t have done the same is beyond me.

    http://home.comcast.net/~animatedbat/site/?/photos/&PHPSESSID=fe38eb596834562fbccb94675fc3d670

  • http://www.pitchbibles.blogspot.com Steve Schnier

    Ooh… Ooh… Evil Pixar! You stole my idea! We’ve never met. We’ve never spoken but your crept into my brain and stole my dreams!

    Gimme a break guys.

    Number One: The development pipeline at a major studio (like Pixar) takes so long that UP had to have been in the works long before the student film.

    Number Two: It is far cheaper to option or buy source material than to “steal” it. And if the “Above Then Beyond” teams’ claim had any merit, there would have been a lawsuit by now.

  • http://deadshrimpblues.blogspot.com Brooke Bolander

    I can totally believe that the concept of ‘old man with balloons’ was out there in its very early stages and they were trying to figure out what to do with it and saw this and decided it was an excellent direction to take. It’s not really plagiarism, as the only bits they seem to have grabbed were ‘old person living with memories of their dead spouse is going to be evicted by evil corporates, comes up with a cunning plan to float their house away at the eleventh hour’. Everything else that made Up so great – Ellie, Dug, that amazing Married Life montage, Paradise Falls – are, as far as I know, not taken from this short. Everybody snags story ideas from everybody else. This is just how creative endeavours happen; we don’t live in a vacuum.

    That said, would it have killed them to maybe mention this as one of the influences for their project? Maybe when they were citing Fitzcarraldo, perhaps? There’s nothing wrong with grabbing bits and pieces of ideas from anywhere you can – as long as you acknowledge them when asked. That’s what bothers me about this.

    (Then AGAIN, I’ve had story ideas that seemed utterly original, only to find out they had already been done in bestselling books. So that sort of thing DOES happen, randomly and inexplicably. I don’t think it happened here – some of the shots are too similar – but you never know.)

  • Rodrigo

    It’s funny when commentators are so quick to explain the inner workings of a major studio (or the industry for that matter) when even people on the inside don’t know how things really go down. And it’s even more silly when they make large generalizations based on the assumption that the studio’s morality is as “flawless” as its films.

    Yeah, this whole situation looks fishy to me.

  • Jim

    Neither Pixar nor the ESRA students originated the idea of a lone solitary house surrounded by taller, more advanced buildings. The general theme behind this idea is old and has been around ever since technology began progressing at a rapid clip. One need look no further than the old children’s book, “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel” (published in 1977) for a similarly themed example.

    Likewise, the idea of anonymous corporate overlords forcing people out of small businesses and homes is not something that came about in 2005. I would even add that blunt, negative portrayals of industrialization are fairly common in student films.

    I’m not out to defend Pixar here, but my point is as follows: when we simplify a story down to its essential points, it necessarily sounds like a lot of other stories. To look at two films and see similarities in the broad strokes does not indicate plagiarism. Why? Because the big ideas are easy; everything else is hard. Making a film like Up requires thousands upon thousands of decisions — story points, character development, not to mention all the decisions regarding the actual production (animation, lighting, etc.) — and those choices are what make the film, for better or worse.

    To think anything else is to warp the very idea of creativity. It is not a light bulb moment, not one idea that can be expressed in a few words, but many ideas and decisions working in concert.

  • Daniel M.

    No one would ever want to believe their beloved Pixar would ever do such a thing, being that there’s only 12 comments on this post at the moment.

    Can anyone find a short that dreamworks copied Dragons or Madagascar from? Anyone….anyone? Beuller? DW might not make your hearts weep like the tear factory that is Pixar, but they sure as hell still entertain your kids don’t they…

    (besides the fact that dragons was originally a book, which may negate a little bit of my argument, but regardless..)

    Point is, not to turn this into a studio vs. studio debate by any means, but if a different company were to be in question all the Pixar cronies would be out in full force bashing the crap out of DW without even picking up their ‘art of’ book and checking the dates of the drawings

  • charles

    I think I like the ending to this short more than pixar’s.

  • ShouldBeWorkin

    As pointed out be Steve Schnier, that’s why ideas can’t be copyrighted. I feel it is a coincidence. It does happen. Who hasn’t let go of a balloon and wondered where it would go? It’s a pretty universal thought.
    Even if influenced or inspired it does not make it plagarism IMO. The house with the balloons is only a catalyst for the story. The stories and themes are different. Geez people, first the bird on the wire short, Avatar and now this. Similar does not mean same.

    Oh, I had the idea to market ketchup with the lid on the bottom.

  • Rick R.

    Going back to the 50s, there was a Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs defends his house/hole in the ground from being demolished. Pretty sure it was a Chuck Jones one.

    Don’t remember the name, but I do remember Bugs using an umbrella as the Big Burly Guy tried to pour cement down the hole and Bugs used it to make a tower. and ultimately the building had a curve on the side around Bugs’ home.

  • FlushFido

    More bad news. In 1921, Winsor McCay made an animated short called “The Flying House.” It’s also starring a man who made his house fly to get away from creditors. It can be seen here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2654035368430959073#

    Granted, development for features like Up can take a while, so I’ll give Pixar the benefit of the doubt and just assume that they were working on it in the early 1920s . . .

    In related news, I heard Shakespeare took concepts from other works. Let’s string him up next!

    In all seriousness, why don’t we look at Up for what it is — a beautiful story, beautifully told. Yes, flying houses have been done before, whether or not Pixar knew about it — but the movie isn’t about the flying house. It’s about an old man’s journey to regain his connection with humanity after everything that means something to him is taken away. In my mind, Up is a 100% original movie and a wonderfully made one at that.

  • High-Minded Civilian

    Wrong. Both films are rip-offs of The Flying House by Winsor McCay.

  • Dalton Wizney

    I seriously doubt this was ripped off by Pixar. I know it’s a student film and all, but I’d like to point out that this is sub-crap level in every way. I don’t think you could force Pete Docter or anyone else at Pixar to sit through this long enough to steal it anyway.

    Armageddon/Deep Impact, and I’m being generous here to even entertain the notion anyone saw this little film. Sorry to be rude, but there it is.

  • NC

    Honestly IF Pixar did “steal” this at least they made it into a much better film. Seriously, that short was ugly and I’ve seen much better work from individual students working on their own.

    But seriously the idea is NOT that original to begin with. Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain and other great short story writers wrote very similar works. Did you ever read the Bradbury story about the farmer who builds a rocket ship in his backyard? Seriously this has been thought of before. It’s a reaction to want escape mundane cycles in our lives.

    And if anyone has seen Goonies than you know that big evil corporate execs are always trying to destroy small communities to feed their wallets.

  • Wow

    Pixar has had other films that were very similar or even seemed based on student shorts, whether by amazing chance or a real influence on the directors when they saw them. Either way Pixar has the cash so they can make something the world sees and audiences will never know that there may have been something done like it before.

  • trn

    whuuu…….HUH??? *brain explodes*

  • http://JohnsForbiddenPlanet John Field

    Saying that Pixar stole this idea is like saying that Disney stole The Lion King idea from Kimba The White Lion t.v. series………ummm, wait a minute.
    Kidding.

  • http://www.pitchbibles.blogspot.com Steve Schnier

    RE: ShouldBeWorkin

    BASTARD! You ripped off my ketchup-with-the-lid-on-the-bottom idea! No, I never told anyone – but I thought of it in 1953, six years before I was even born. If that’s not proof, I don’t know what is!

    What’s this world coming to, when complete internet strangers are swiping your ideas? HA! In the old days it was giant companies. Now every Tom, Dick and Harry with a computer is brain-snatchin’…

  • Lenny Jarvis

    Next bloggers will accuse Disney of ripping off “The Thief and the Cobbler” for “Aladdin” or something.

  • Bill Turner

    http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/l/lawnchairlarry.htm

    A lot of ideas are floating around (forgive the pun). Given the timeline, Pixar clearly did not “steal” this idea.

  • http://okgrillo.blogspot.com Oscar Grillo

    Uncle Tom’s Cabaña?

  • NC

    @Lenny Jarvis Saddly that’s already happened. Read the Rotten Tomatoes review for Thief and the Cobbler or at least the opposite.

  • Royce Banuelos

    I think it goes a little deeper than just an idea. A lot of the shots are very simular to UP. I don’t even know why it would be that big of an deal to borrow from a film like this. It’s a very neat idea. No one can say that there’s no way this didn’t influence UP, but it’s hard to say where any influence comes from. Creatively it’s not really stealing. UP is very far removed from this film so it would be silly to credit this film in any context. This is small potatoes, Avatar is a real shame.

  • Brokenshell44

    I honestly doubt Pixar used this as inspiration, seeing as:
    A) As someone else stated, Up started production in 2004
    B) The giant amounts of suck in that short did little to inspire me to do anything but roll my eyes. Even IF Pixar stole their idea, atleast they made it into something worth a crap.

  • Clement

    There was a children’s book writter that accused Pixar of stealing his ideas in Finding Nemo, Franck Le Calvez who wrote “Pierrot le poisson-clown” but Pixar’s won in a french court. It was about a young clownfish that lived with his parents in an anemone fish and got attacked and got lost and became friends with a surgeonfish and a cleaning lobster.

  • Mike Fontanelli

    Rick R., the Chuck Jones cartoon you’re thinking of is
    HOMELESS HARE (1950)

  • http://www.directorama.net Peet Gelderblom

    A typical case of morphic resonance, if you ask me. Here’s an article I wrote a few years ago, centered on the mysterious wave of sinister-looking bunny suits in indie films at the time, that facetiously suggests the Hypothesis of Collective Inspiration:

    http://www.directorama.net/2006/10/12/so-whats-with-all-the-evil-bunny-suits/

  • http://mrseanlane.com Sean

    Wait, I thought Aladdin and it’s animators had a lot to do with putting the nail in the coffin for Thief and the Cobbler. Those films are too similar for comfort, and we all know what came first.

    Anyways, in reference the Winsor McCay’s Flying House. I suppose it’s not a big deal if anyone steals from him (or credits him for “original story”) since all of his stuff is public domain now.