First Look: Pete Docter Reveals More on Pixar's Up
Although we already wrote about the panel at Comic-Con for Pixar's Up, most people still don't seem to know what it's really about. Thankfully two exciting updates have arrived that will hopefully help clear up some of the confusion or at least capture the internet a few more people. First, a rogue attendee at the panel took some photos of the presentation and uploaded them to their Flickr. Second, the guys at Animation World Magazine caught up with Pete Docter, the writer and director of Up, and asked him some basic questions about the film and the story. We've combined these two updates to give you a more comprehensive look at what we can expect from Pixar's 2009 feature film and the story within.
As we mentioned in the previous article, Up is about a 78-year-old grumpy old man named Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner), a short and square little man who walks with a cane. He is joined by an 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell who needs one last merit badge - assisting the elderly. When Carl was young, he met a girl named Ellie and eventually married her; it was her dream to visit Paradise Falls in Venezuela, but that dream never came true before she passed away. Now Carl is a widower and former balloon salesman and he decides to leave his home using balloons to travel to Venezuela to live out that dream. To be honest, no one really knows what takes place once Carl and Russell land in Venezuela, as they'll encounter various creatures and other fascinating things, but this is the best introduction so far.
During the panel, Docter explained that his inspiration for the story in Up came from his correspondence with Disney legends Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston as a young animator, as well as the fascinating life stories the elderly often tell when you take the opportunity to spend some time with them. He decided to set most of the film in the isolated region of the Tepui Mountains in Venezuela (as seen below). Docter told AWM that the challenge with this film has been figuring out "where reality stops and fantasy starts." He continues on about the setting, saying that "a large part of this film takes place in this jungle of South America, these amazing Tepui tabletop mountains. And these really exist, but most people haven't heard of them. We still want the sense that this takes place in the real world..."
All that we were shown at Comic-Con was a video outlining the development of this project that included some concept art (including the scene at the very top), some aerial shots of the Tepui region, and some early animation of Carl and Russell. Additionally, we were shown a scene where retirement home "agents" come to take Carl away and he sneaks inside and finally releases the balloons and floats up into the sky. As he's floating away, he goes to take an afternoon nap and we hear a knock on his front door - at 10,000 feet in the air. It turns out to be the aforementioned Russell, but the scene ended before we got to see his introduction. As Docter explains, "[Carl is] stuck in his ways - this is the way I like things. He has the same breakfast for the last 50 years, he has the same schedule. And so everything that happens disrupts him."
While the scenes that we were shown didn't truly have that magical Pixar feel yet, I think once we get further into the story and see more, we'll get to that point. Whenever I think of Up, I can't help but remind myself that the guy who is doing this also brought us Monsters Inc, which I often refer to as my own favorite Pixar movie. And if you imagine a beautiful score from Michael Giacchino (who also did Ratatouille) overlaid on top of a heartwarming story about a grumpy old man who is finally living out his life's dream in memory of his wife by venturing into the beautiful mountains of Venezuela, then you might start to see some of that Pixar magic coming to life. Until we see more, enjoy this brief intro to Pixar's Up.