NYCC: Early Reaction to First 45 Minutes of Pixar's Up
by Alex Billington
February 7, 2009
Tonight at the New York Comic Con, I caught a special presentation of roughly 45 minutes of Pixar's latest film, Up. This footage was first shown at AICN's Butt-Numb-a-Thon, but hasn't otherwise been publicly screened anywhere else until today. We've seen trailers and early footage from the San Diego Comic-Con last year, so we know what, and who, the story is all about. But let me just tell you, there is so much more in Up that we don't know about. Pixar has done a fantastic job of keeping things secret. And I'm going to reveal some of what I saw, because I think it's worth it, so you've been warned about spoilers below!
I've though long and hard whether or not to talk about some of the currently unrevealed parts of Up. But what convinced me was when I thought back to the reaction that my Pixar-loving friend had after the SDCC last year. I showed him the photos of Carl and Russell and told him about the story of Carl and how he always wanted to travel to South America with his wife Ellie. But the problem is that Carl just isn't as lovable as Wall-E at first glance. And there wasn't a hook with the story that Wall-E had. I was officially worried when I heard him say this and have been frantically searching for something to convince him otherwise.
Up kicks off with Carl as a kid. He's watching the video of an adventurer who traveled to Paradise Falls in South America and returned claiming to have discovered a new species. Scientist thought it was a hoax and he was discredited, but Carl was hooked - he wanted to be an adventurer, too. He eventually meets Ellie, who has the same adventuresome spirit, and we see a montage of their life together until Ellie has passed away. Here's where we pick up again - Carl is now 78 years old and grumpy. We all know what happens next, considering we've seen the trailer. We meet the annoying Russell, then away he goes in his house.
So what happens after that? Well after hitting a storm and being spun out of control, the two wake up not knowing where they are. After eventually working their way to the ground and tethering the house behind them with to drag it along in the air, they discover that they're already at Paradise Falls. But in their walk through the jungle, they first encounter a giant, colorful bird with a long red beak that Russell nicknames Kevin. The bird doesn't speak, but it's really goofy. It befriends Russell but doesn't like Carl too much. It's a huge bird and is quite acrobatic, throwing Russell around and provoking lots of laughs.
But it gets better. A few minutes later we hear another voice. At first Carl thinks its another person, but we soon see it's a talking dog named Dug. That's him seen to the right on the newest poster, and the bird is hidden in there too - his head is sticking out of the right side of the house. Let me explain - Dug has a collar around his neck that his master made for him that allows us to hear his thoughts. It's not as crazy as it sounds and believe me, it works, and it works very well. It's exactly like if you were to give a voice to a domesticated dog, meaning he even stops every so often and exclaims "squirrel!" out of nowhere. He's probably the funniest part of the movie I've seen so far. Soon afterward we're introduced to three more dogs, two of which are bulldogs, one of which is a doberman pinscher.
That's as much as we saw and I'm not going to really go into the importance of the characters for the sake of not spoiling any more of the story. But from that intro alone, you should know that Carl and Russell encounter some pretty crazy characters once they've landed in South America. I've got an idea where the story is going, but like Wall-E, I could be completely wrong and it could go in an entirely different direction. As always, Pixar does a fantastic job of keeping the second half of their stories completely secret until we see the full movie. I'm sure that won't change with Up and I'm sure this was only a small glimpse.
So do I feel that this will convince my Pixar-loving friend? Unquestionably! Well, he needs to see the same footage I saw, but when he does, he'll be convinced. This footage has that same magical feeling that Monsters Inc does (and every Pixar movie does), and that's of course thanks to director Pete Docter. I just know that when we eventually get to see Carl overcome his grumpiness and love life again, it'll be such an emotional moment. And while I was annoyed by the character of Russell at first, I'm delighted to say that Dug and Kevin even out the dynamic and deliver some one-of-a-kind Pixar entertainment.