Up – Production Notes
“We came up with this image of a floating house held aloft by balloons, and it just seemed to capture what we were after in terms of escaping the world. We quickly realized that the world is really about relationships, and that’s what Carl comes to discover.” Pete Docter, Director/Writer
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios take moviegoers up, up and away on one of the funniest adventures of all time with their latest comedy-fantasy “Up,” from Academy Award®-nominated director Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.”). Presented in Disney Digital 3DTM, “Up” follows the uplifting tale of 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. Their journey to a lost world, where they encounter some strange, exotic and surprising characters, is filled with hilarity, emotion and wildly imaginative adventure.
“I am so proud that ‘Up’ is Pixar’s 10th film,” says John Lasseter, executive producer and chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. “I think it’s the funniest film that we’ve ever made, and also one of the most beautiful. We have a main character that is an amazing hero. Carl Fredricksen is 78 years old and he travels the world in a flying machine of his own design and still has dinner at 3:30 in the afternoon. He’s the most unlikely hero you can imagine in an action picture. He is a character who learns that the big adventures in life are all the small things that happen in everyday life. Russell is one of the most appealing and charming characters that we’ve ever created. Together with Carl, these two characters light up the screen.”
The film is directed by Pixar veteran Pete Docter, who joined the studio in 1990-just the third animator to be brought on board. Along with Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, Docter developed the story and characters for “Toy Story,” Pixar’s first fulllength feature film, for which he also served as supervising animator. He was a storyboard artist on “A Bug’s Life” and wrote the initial story treatment for “Toy Story 2.” Docter made his debut as a director on “Monsters, Inc.,” which received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Animated Feature Film. As one of Pixar Animation Studios’ key creative contributors, Docter garnered another Academy Award nomination for his original story credit on Disney•Pixar’s OscarÒ -winning “WALL•E.” “For me personally, what makes a film worth watching is when you go home and you’re still thinking about it,” says Docter. “You leave the theater and you’re still thinking about it not only the next day, but the next year. In order to have a film affect you that way, it has to have real true emotion and resonate in some way with your own life. So even though the stars of the film may be monsters or bugs, you identify with those characters on the screen and you understand what they’re going through. It’s important to have that foundation of real truth and an emotional attachment to the characters.” “Along with the humor, you have to have heart,” says Lasseter. “Walt Disney always said, ‘For every laugh, there should be a tear.’ I believe in that.” Filmmakers found a lot of heart in their latest adventure, exploring the love that Carl and his late wife shared and the friendship that develops between Carl and Russell. In fact, Carl discovers that life’s true adventure can be found not in travel or great accomplishments, but in the everyday relationships that we have with friends and family.”
“Up” is executive produced by Academy Award®-winning filmmakers and Pixar pioneers Lasseter (director of “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2,” and “Cars”) and Stanton (director of “Finding Nemo,” “WALL•E”). Pixar veteran Jonas Rivera served as the film’s producer. The co-director is Bob Peterson, and the screenplay is by Peterson and Pete Docter from a story by Docter, Peterson, and Tom McCarthy (“The Station Agent,” “The Visitor”). Oscar®-nominated composer Michael Giacchino (“Ratatouille,” “The Incredibles”) lends his musical talents to creating the evocative score that accentuates the emotions, humor and spirit of adventure. The voice cast for “Up” features legendary actor Ed Asner, a multiple Emmy Award® winner, as balloon salesman-turnedadventurer Carl Fredricksen. Nine-year-old Jordan Nagai makes his acting debut as the voice of the determined and eager-toassist Junior Wilderness Explorer, Russell. Acclaimed Emmy Award-winning actor Christopher Plummer gives a rich and textured vocal performance as the voice of Charles Muntz, a faded hero with an obsession to restore his good name. John Ratzenberger, Pixar’s “lucky charm”-the only actor to lend his voice to all of the Studio’s feature films, provides the voice of a construction foreman named Tom, who tries to encourage Carl to sell his home. Muntz’s dog pack includes vocal performances by Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo and Jerome Ranft. “Up” is the 10th film from Disney•Pixar, which has gone nine for nine with an unprecedented streak of hugely successful films, including “WALL•E,” “Ratatouille,” “Cars,” “The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Toy Story 2,” “A Bug’s Life” and “Toy Story.” Pixar now has nine of the 25 top-grossing animated films of all time domestically, and all nine have been #1 at the box office on their opening weekends of wide release. “WALL•E,” “Ratatouille,” “The Incredibles” and “Finding Nemo” all earned Academy Awards® for Best Animated Feature, an award that was introduced in 2001.
Docter says he’s learned a lot over the course of Pixar’s 10 films. “It never gets easier,” he says. “There are always new ways that the story conspires to trick us, to fool us into thinking we have the right solution. It’s only with a lot of reworking-and reworking and reworking-that you get good stuff. “We still don’t know everything,” he continues. “But we allow ourselves to make mistakes. As Ed Catmull says, ‘if you don’t make mistakes, you’re not taking enough risks.’ I hope we never think of ourselves as experts-we learn something new on every film.”
“UP” AND RUNNING – How “Up” Got Off the Ground
Following his directorial debut on the 2001 blockbuster film “Monsters, Inc.,” Pete Docter began searching for his next project. The notion for his first feature derived from his childhood curiosities and fears about the monsters under his bed. After spending some time developing the story for “WALL•E” and a few other projects, Docter once again turned to lessons from his own life to craft the idea for “Up.” With co-director/writer Bob Peterson on board, the duo began playing with some fantastic new ideas. “Bob and I started having some fun thinking about an ‘old man’ character like the ones we love from the George Booth cartoons and all those great Spencer Tracy and Walter Matthau type of guys who are grouchy but you still like them.” ~ Pete Docter, Director/Writer
“Sometimes, at the end of a tough day at work when you’re just so overwhelmed with people and the chaos of the world, I would have this fantasy of being shipwrecked on a desert island in the Pacific,” says Docter. “Bob and I began playing with that idea and started having some fun thinking about an ‘old man’ character like the ones we love from the George Booth cartoons in The New Yorker, and all those great Spencer Tracy and Walter Matthau type of guys who are grouchy but you still like them. We came up with this image of a floating house held aloft by balloons, and it just seemed to capture what we were after in terms of escaping the world. We quickly realized that the world is really about relationships, and that’s what Carl comes to discover.” Peterson explains, “Pete was the first one to put down on paper the idea of a grouchy old man holding a bunch of happy, fun, colorful balloons. We started brainstorming because we both liked the idea of having an older character. It’s something you don’t see very often, and we think that old people have great stories to tell.” Docter credits much of his creative influences to some real-life “old men”-animators who worked on the Disney classics. Though not one of the legendary “nine old men,” Joe Grant was part of the 1937 team that created “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and has served as a source of inspiration to Docter, who names Grant in the film’s dedication to the “real life Carl and Ellie Fredricksens who inspired us to create our own Adventure Books.” “I got to know Joe when he was in his 90s. He was a friend of mine-this great old wise guy,” says Docter. “Every time I would show him something we were working on he’d say, ‘What are you giving the audience to take home?’ That was his way of telling me it’s the emotion-the character-based emotions that people are going to remember.”
Docter says he finds some of that emotion in personal experiences, such as the family trips he takes annually with his wife and two children. “Every year, we take a road trip,” he says. “For about two weeks, we set out on the road and head off to National Parks and other interesting places to see this amazing country that we live in. It’s great to see the world, but spending time together as a family is equally if not more important. “A few years ago I went to Europe with my wife and kids,” Docter continues. “We stayed in fancy hotels, ate amazing food, visited castles and had this big adventure. One night we were having hot chocolate at a small department-store cafe in Paris, nothing special, and I was laughing and joking with my kids. It was an amazing trip to a fantastic place, and what I remember most is the small stuff.”
WHO’S WHO IN “UP” – The Cast of Characters
CARL FREDRICKSEN (voice of Ed Asner) is not your average hero. He’s a bit of a grouch, but in the great tradition of Walter Matthau and Spencer Tracy: a grouch you can love. He’s a retired balloon salesman who is forced to leave the house he and his late wife, Ellie, built together. But instead of moving into the old folks home, Carl takes action. He may be a senior citizen,but he’s not ready to give up; he’s going to live the rest of his life on his terms. He ties thousands of balloons to the roof, lifts the house into the air, and sets off toward South America, fulfilling the promise he made to his wife so many years before.
Carl’s grand plan is challenged with the discovery of an unexpected stowaway, the optimistic, overly eager Russell. Carl’s journey tests more than his patience when the duo must survive the extreme weather, treacherous terrain and strange inhabitants of a lost world-as well as each other. RUSSELL (voice of Jordan Nagai) is an enthusiastic and persistent 8-year-old Junior Wilderness Explorer from Tribe 54, Sweat Lodge 12. Armed with a backpack laden with official Wilderness Explorer camping gear, Russell is ready for the wilderness! There’s just one catch: he’s never actually left the city. All his knowledge of the outdoors comes from books, and his sole camping experience was in his living room. Russell proudly shows off his many Wilderness Explorer badges, including First Aid, Second Aid, Zoology and Master of Disguise. He’s just one Assisting-the-Elderly badge shy of achieving the goal of his lifetime: the coveted rank of Senior Wilderness Explorer. When he targets Carl Fredricksen as the elder he will assist, Russell ends up as an unwitting stowaway on Carl’s porch when the house takes flight, and finds himself on the true outdoor adventure he’s been dreaming about.
DUG (voice of Bob Peterson) is a lovable golden mutt living in the wilds of Paradise Falls as part of the dog pack searching for a rare, flightless bird. Like the rest of his pack, Dug is outfitted with a remarkable high-tech collar that translates his thoughts into speech. But Dug is mocked as the nerd of the pack. Sent into the jungle on a “special” mission, Dug accidentally succeeds when he discovers the bird following Carl and Russell. As they’re pursued through the jungle by his own pack, the sweet but simple-minded Dug must decide in which pack he actually belongs. KEVIN is an extremely rare, 13-foot-tall flightless bird that is hidden from the world in its remote Paradise Falls habitat. With brilliant iridescent-colored feathers and a long, flexible neck, Kevin is exceptionally fast and nimble. In fact, the massive bird often gets into some very curious and seemingly impossible positions. Very few know that this scientifically invaluable creature exists, but Carl and Russell stumble upon the bird, which Russell names Kevin after he discovers they share a sweet tooth. Kevin and Russell bond instantly, and despite the bird’s propensity to swallow Carl’s walker, Kevin joins the jungle’s latest and most unlikely pack, along with Carl, Russell and Dug. THE PACK refers to Muntz’s compelling pack of dogs, who are sent on a mission to capture the rare bird their master is obsessed with finding. Fun and multifaceted, they are dogs in the truest sense, but just like their rejected comrade Dug, they have high-tech collars that give them unusual abilities specially designed for sinister hunting expeditions, including GPS tracking and translating their thoughts into speech.
Alpha (voice of Bob Peterson), the leader of the pack, is a menacinglooking, black-as-night Doberman Pinscher with authority entrusted to him by their master that no one dares question. Beta (voice of Delroy Lindo), a tough Rottweiler, is Alpha’s lieutenant, and Alpha’s hench-dog, Gamma (voice of Jerome Ranft), is a rough-and-tumble Bulldog. Nothing will distract the pack from their mission… except maybe a squirrel.
Years ago, clever and handsome CHARLES F. MUNTZ (voice of Christopher Plummer) was a beacon of hope for a down-andout American public. He inspired his biggest fans, youngsters Carl and Ellie, to parrot his famous mantra, “Adventure is out there!” Traveling the globe many times over in his massive self-designed airship, he discovers the world’s treasure: priceless historic relics, amazing scientific discoveries and exotic flora and fauna never before seen. But when Muntz brings home the skeleton of a fantastic 13-foot-tall creature from a remote mountain in South America, he is discredited by scientists. Vowing to prove them wrong, Muntz returns to South America, swearing to bring back a live specimen. And he won’t come back until he does! ELLIE (voice of Elie Docter) is Carl’s childhood playmate and soulmate, who later becomes his wife. Her childhood dream of traveling to Paradise Falls, and Carl’s promise to take her there, are the motivation for Carl’s magnificent journey. CONSTRUCTION FOREMAN TOM (voice of John Ratzenberger) tries to persuade Carl to sell his home to Tom’s boss, a major contractor. Ratzenberger is the only actor to voice a character in all 10 Disney Pixar films.
ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE – The “Up” Creative Team Discovers the Lost World of the Tepuis
In order to prepare for their assignment on “Up,” and the film’s premise of a journey to one of the most beautiful and mysterious places on earth, Docter and select members of his creative team embarked on their own adventure of a lifetime. At the suggestion of Ralph Eggleston, a veteran Pixar production designer with credits on “Finding Nemo” and “WALL•E,” the team headed to the jungles of South America (the intersection of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana) to discover their own “Lost World.” “Ralph gave us a documentary about the tepui mountains (mesas) in South America, and as soon as I popped in the DVD, my hair stood on end because I knew this was where we should set the movie,” recalls Docter. “This was a fantastic weird world that I had never heard of. It was where Conan Doyle set his 1912 novel about prehistoric animals, ‘The Lost World.’
One of the biggest challenges on this film was to design a place that looked otherworldly and yet was still believable enough that audiences would feel like the characters are actually there. We knew we had to go there because there’s something fundamentally different about experiencing a place versus just seeing pictures or film.” “We make cartoons for a living…the only thing we were used to traversing was one end of our building to the other. There was no way to prepare us for this adventure.” ~ Ronnie Del Carmen, Story Supervisor
Reaching their destination took three days, and required rides in airplanes, jeeps and helicopters. And then the fun began… The first tepui that the group explored was Mount Roraima in Guyana, the highest and most famous of the 115 table-top mesas. “This is the only tepui that you can actually climb,” says story supervisor Ronnie Del Carmen. “There’s a natural outcropping on the side of it that you can traverse. The climb is one mile pretty much straight up. The rocks are loose, the vegetation is not stable and they can pull off very easily if you grab them. We make cartoons for a living, so the only thing we were used to traversing was one end of our building to the other. There was no way to prepare us for this adventure.” “It was like your worst nightmare,” says Peterson. “It was about a six- or seven-hour climb to the top and I had on way too much gear. When we got to the top, we had to hike across uneven terrain for another hour and a half. It was already dark when we got to our camp. And suddenly, from out of the darkness, we saw this cave lit by candles and there was warm soup waiting for us. When we saw our tents, most of us just sat down and started crying. We were so happy to be there. And then in the morning, when we awoke, literally 50 feet from where we were camping was a drop one mile straight down. I was a little reticent in the beginning, but I’m so glad I took the trip because we went to another world. There’s no place on the planet that has such sculptural rock forms.”
The group found no pack of dogs or prehistoric birds-both featured in the film-but did live to tell about close encounters with killer ants (a nasty variety whose bite can be deadly in 24 hours), menacing mosquitoes, stinging scorpions, miniature frogs and poisonous snakes. From Roraima, the intrepid explorers took a helicopter to Kukenan (also known as Matawi Tepui), which is considered the “place of the dead” by the local Pemon Indians. “Kukenan had a completely different feel to it than Roraima,” says Ricky Nierva, the film’s production designer. “It was so pure, and had more aggressive-shaped rocks. I asked our guide, Adrian Warren (documentary filmmaker, “The Living Edens: The Lost World-Venezuela’s Ancient Tepuis”), ‘How many people have been up here? Hundreds?’ And he replied, ‘More like tens.’ It felt very eerie. You expected to turn a corner and see a dinosaur roaming around.” Angel Falls in Venezuela, the highest waterfall in the world, dropping 3,212 feet from the summit of Auyantepui, proved to be the real-life inspiration for the film’s mythical Paradise Falls (which is three times taller than its real-life counterpart or about 9,700 feet high). The group climbed to the base of Angel Falls, where they endured slippery-wet rocks and a constant spray of water. The “Up” filmmakers took thousands of photographs, home movies, and copiously sketched their awe-inspiring surroundings. The images and vegetation they observed had a tremendous influence on the look of the film. Bonnetia trees, Stegolepis plants, and black rocks with beautiful pink flowers popping out in the middle, were all used in the film.
THE LOOK AND STYLE OF “UP” – Filmmakers Call Upon Disney Classics for Inspiration
Over the course of nine acclaimed feature films, Pixar has experimented with a wide variety of different looks and styles. In the case of “Up,” the filmmakers opted for a simplified or minimalist approach that grew organically from the story itself. “We wanted ‘Up’ to have a distinct look all its own and to be a departure from other Pixar films.” ~ Jonas Rivera, Producer
According to Pete Docter: “In this film, we have a story about a man who floats his house to South America with balloons. We knew we needed a certain amount of whimsy and caricature, which is sort of my general aesthetic anyway. We were trying to reach back and connect to the great Disney films that we grew up with, like ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Cinderella,’ and the great sense of style and caricature that they had. We made a real concerted effort to caricature the characters and their environments. In most films, the characters would be about six or seven heads tall. Our hero, Carl, is only three heads tall! “We knew that the latest advances in computer technology could give us all the detail we wanted, but instead we asked it to do a simplification that doesn’t exist in real life,” he adds.
“We wanted ‘Up’ to have a distinct look all its own and to be a departure from other Pixar films,” adds producer Jonas Rivera. “It was inspired by artists like Mary Blair, George Booth and the storybook illustrations of Martin Provensen. Pete wanted the entire film to have a caricatured look. For example, we didn’t study real people or clothing for reference. We looked at Hank Ketcham drawings of ‘Dennis the Menace,’ and the simple way he could show a fold in the mother’s apron with just two lines. Our production designer Ricky Nierva coined a new term to describe the film’s unique approach.” “‘Simplexity’ was a term that I came up with to explain the essence of something,” says Nierva. “We wanted to pull away some of the detail without making it look cheap. The CG medium gives you the ability to put in all this amazing detail that adds to believability. We weren’t trying to make a realistic movie but something that is tangible. We wanted to caricature the humans in the film, but not so much that the audience couldn’t relate to them.”
The character design for the film’s two main characters-Carl and Russell-came down to a basic circle and square motif. “It’s part of simplexity,” says Nierva. “It involves boiling things down to their purest essences. A square symbolizes the past; the circle represents the future. Squares are static like a brick wall. They’re immovable, and Carl is somebody that is stuck in his ways after Ellie dies. In the case of Carl’s design, we’ve never had a character go from being a child to an old man before. He’s more circular and round as a kid with more curves. Ellie has a circular motif, too. As Carl grows older, he becomes more rigid. Russell is egg-shaped and all curves with all the dynamic symbolism that comes with that.” Color became another important design element for the filmmakers. Says Nierva: “The film starts off with a black-and-white newsreel, which started us thinking about using color to help tell our story. When Ellie is alive and Carl is full of life, the color palate is saturated. When she’s gone, it’s desaturated, almost black-and-white again. We also came up with a color to symbolize Ellie-magenta. Throughout the whole film, there are magenta flowers and skies to remind us of her. When Carl shuts himself off from the world, the colors desaturate and we don’t really see color again until Russell arrives and interrupts his life. That brings color back into his life. Every time we see a new character that adds to his life, like Dug, we introduce more color.”
ANIMATION AND ACTING – Stylized Character Animation and Inspired Voice Talent Bring “Up’s” Characters to Life
With their highly caricatured design, the characters in “Up” posed lots of challenges to Pixar’s team of animation experts, designers and technicians. For Carl, they had to learn how to get nuance, emotion and a full range of motion into a character that is three heads high and basically square. Russell, an egg-shaped character with practically no chin and more levels of clothing than had ever been dealt with before, had his own unique difficulties. Scott Clark served as supervising animator on the film and was supported by three directing animators-Dave Mullins, Shawn Krause and Mike Venturini-and a team of nearly 70 animators at the peak of production. On the technical side, Thomas Jordan was the character supervisor who headed up the areas of modeling, rigging, shading, tailoring the clothes and grooming the hair.
“The film has something to say about celebrating life, and the union of two souls is always much sweeter than the isolation of one.” ~ Ed Asner, Voice of Carl CREATING CARL “With Carl, Pete wanted an old man who had literally shrunken in his suit and was swimming in this thing,” says Clark. “The problem was Carl didn’t look like he had any knees or elbows, so we had to really come up with some innovative ways just to show a break in the cloth. We ended up lengthening his arms and legs so that you would see the break. He is probably the most caricatured thing we’ve ever done. It’s a real testament to our animation crew that they could actually get complex emotions other than just cute or happy out of Carl and Russell. There’s some pretty heavy scenes and great acting.” “In terms of humans, Carl is definitely the most complicated character that Pixar has ever created,” says Jordan. “His face is the most sophisticated one we’ve ever done. He was full of technical challenges. With every film, we run into the age-old problem of form versus function. When the designers and art department come up with a character design, they don’t always understand or aren’t fully aware of the limitations the design might impose upon animation. So it’s really important for the animators to get involved early in the process. “Pete and the team wanted the animation to feel fairly simplified like the other aspects of the film,” Jordan adds. “For example, Carl doesn’t have nostrils or any indication of pores on his skin. There are no holes in his ears. The challenge was finding a balance between simplicity and realism. It took quite a bit of experimentation to get things believable but not necessarily realistic.”
But Carl needed a voice, too. Says Docter, “When we were coming up for the character of Carl we had this list of attributes that we wanted him to be-grouchy, curmudgeonly-but with a soft side that you knew he really cared about people. And funny. We definitely needed funny. And the name that just kept coming up again and again was Ed Asner. It was like he was born to play this role.” “As soon as we had Ed Asner on board to do the voice, we had Carl,” adds Clark. “You heard it and you had the character. It gave us something to hang the animation on.” “Ed Asner is the most likeable curmudgeon that you could possibly ask for,” adds Lasseter. “The goal with all Pixar characters is to make them as appealing as possible and Ed brings that to the role of Carl. We’re so honored to have him on the film. He has given us so much to work with. When you see the animation of Carl Fredricksen, he’s alive, and you don’t ever think that this character is a bunch of computer data. And that’s what Ed helps bring to the process by inspiring our animators. It’s really remarkable.” “I like this character because he dreams beautiful dreams, and he’s willing to fight the dogs of society to maintain them,” says Asner. “I respect that enormously. I think it’s quite a story that this old man is able to transform his adoration for his late wife into a grudging final acceptance of a love for a young boy who needs his love. “Carl is a bit of a curmudgeon, which is why they cast me,” Asner adds. “I’m supposedly recognized as such, but I don’t know how I ever got there. Carl just wants to be left alone, but the boy brings him out of his shell. Circumstances bring him out and he has a rebirth. I think all curmudgeons should have a rebirth. “I love voice work.
The challenge of trying to create the variations and the accents delights me. It’s a part of acting. The interesting thing about the process is that you may have a simple line. You may do a couple of variations if you’re doing a movie or doing it on stage. But working with Pete and the guys, they want to hear a total range of presentations. You give them eight, ten, fifteen sounds on that line which are all recorded and then the absolute funniest is selected. “I’m a sucker for sentimentality,” Asner concludes, “and I want to be affected by it. I would like to be one of the causes for affecting others. The film has something to say about celebrating life, and the union of two souls is always much sweeter than the isolation of one.” RUSSELL’S LAYERS According to Steve May, the film’s supervising technical director, the character of Russell presented a few challenges. “Russell was difficult because he’s just covered in stuff. He’s a Wilderness Explorer, and he’s got a neckerchief, and woggles, the little totems on the front of his badge, and then he’s got this backpack-it’s like he went to REI on a shopping spree, and he’s completely loaded up with all that stuff on his back.” “Russell basically doesn’t have a neck,” adds Jordan. “We had to figure out a way to animate him so that he looked right. We found that subtle changes in placing the eyes, nose and mouth on his face could make him feel too old or too young. One breakthrough came when we learned to strike the balance between simplicity and complexity of detail. We needed to bring out his chin to make him more of a caricatured egg shape. We accentuated the look, feel and behavior of a chin, and all of a sudden, that defined his face as separate from his body.” For the voice of Russell, the filmmakers tested 450 kids all across the country. They found exactly what they were looking for in then 7-year-old newcomer Jordan Nagai. Producer Jonas Rivera says that Nagai’s brother, a talented actor with some commercial experience, actually came in to read for the part. Nagai was just tagging along. “Even though Jordan wasn’t there to audition, we liked the sound of his voice,” says Rivera. “He started talking about his judo class, and Bob Peterson and I just looked at each other and said, ‘There’s Russell.’” “One of the things that attracted us to Jordan,” Docter says, “was when he just talked about nothing-judo or piano lessons or whatever-he would just meander and the way he spoke was so funny. That did influence the character of Russell quite a bit.” “There is something very truthful and appealing about Jordan’s voice,” adds character supervisor Jordan. “There’s a real humanity and a kind of naiveté about him. He hasn’t been taught to act yet, so he’s making all the right mistakes. When kids see the film, they’ll know it’s a real kid.”
According to the novice actor, director Docter had a few tricks up his sleeve to ensure authenticity. “When I had to be excited or angry and loud, Pete would make obstacle courses around the table and I would have to run around. Then I’d go to the mic and say my lines. It would make my energy go up so I could say the line better.” MAKING MUNTZ Muntz was a difficult character to nail down, because according to Docter, “he’s really the glue that binds the whole story together. He’s the inspiration for the journey to begin with, and instills the desire to go down to South America in Ellie and Carl. And then he ends up being the antithesis of Carl. “We were very lucky to get Christopher Plummer to do the part,” adds Docter. “He is an amazing actor, and so instinctive. With most actors, we like to get a good healthy number of different takes and reads. With Christopher, he would give us one or two and we knew we had it. In fact, we had trouble choosing between the two because they would both be great ideas.” Says Plummer, “All my life, I’ve done animated films, it seems, and I love doing them. It’s great fun to play zany characters, and it takes me back to my start in radio. I’m a huge fan of the Pixar stuff and of course that’s one of the main reasons I wanted to do ‘Up.’ Muntz isn’t all bad. He’s got a great personality.” TECHNICALLY KEVIN The character Kevin wasn’t based on one bird species. “Kevin is a mix of real birds,” says Docter, who describes the bird as gorgeous and goofy at the same time. “Even eagles-if you watch them they’re so stately and regal and then they’ll do something completely crazy.” But the bird’s design wasn’t quite as simple. “The design evolved more than any other character in the film because Kevin’s role in the story kept evolving,” says Jordan. “The challenge wasn’t so much with the modeling and rigging but had more to do with the feathers.
We wanted the audience to see this bird and instantly know why Muntz has been chasing it for 50 years. Pete and Ricky wanted Kevin to have beautiful iridescent highlights, unlike anything you’ve ever seen in real life but still believable. We researched lots of birds with similar characteristics, including the Monal pheasant in the Himalayas. We had to come up with new hair technology for the feathers. We’ve done hair on many movies now, but we’ve never done feathers. A feather is like hair growing on a spline, and each spline needs to react like a hair. It’s like hair growing on hair. We had to re-engineer our hair system, pipeline and tools just to create those feathers.” FINDING DUG’S VOICE Filmmakers found the voice of the sweet, simple Dug the dog among one of their own. Co-director/co-writer Bob Peterson says he knew he’d provide the voice of the golden mutt when he wrote the character’s first line. “The very first thing he says is, ‘I have just met you, and I love you.’ That came when I was a camp counselor in the early ’80s in Ohio. The first week of camp, a kid ran up to me and threw his arms around me and said, ‘You’re my camp counselor! I love you!’ That was the key to Dug. Dug is the stream-of-consciousness of what we think a dog would be thinking. He’s emotional and loving and, at times, happily unaware of the reality surrounding him.”
The character’s design reflects that lack of awareness. Says Jordan, “For Dug, the idea was for him to be very soft-looking, appealing and a bit overweight. He’s an overweight dog, but doesn’t realize it. He thinks he’s every bit as healthy as all the other dogs-like Chris Farley when he did the Chippendales skit on Saturday Night Live.” But like the rest of the pack, Dug is a real dog, not a talking dog, says Jordan. “We wanted to make sure that these dogs could truly behave like real dogs,” he says. “It was very important to Pete that these dogs did not act like humans, so they didn’t need to talk. They had these collars that would talk for them.”
MAKING IT HAPPEN – Pixar’s Technical Team Reaches New Heights
Pixar’s team of technical wizards faced numerous challenges in giving the filmmakers the look and wide range of actions that they needed to tell their story in the style and scale that was required. “One of our toughest assignments on this film was creating the balloon canopy that carries Carl’s house to South America,” says Steve May, the film’s supervising technical director. “It was important to the film to have fairly realistic balloon simulations. The balloons behave in a realistic way, although the notion of being able to fly a house with balloons is pretty preposterous. We’re not physicists but one of our technical directors calculated that it would take on the order of 20 to 30 million balloons to actually lift Carl’s house. We ended up using 10,297 for most of the floating scenes, and 20,622 when it actually lifts off. The number varies from shot to shot depending on the angle, the distance, and fine-tuning the size so that it feels interesting, believable and visually simple.
“The number of balloons was just the beginning,” May adds. “These thousands of balloons all react to physical forces like buoyancy and wind. One of the key things for balloons is that they all have to react to one another. One balloon has to be able to respond to 10,000 other balloons. Additionally, each balloon is tethered to the house by a string, and the strings have to collide against one another and all the other balloons. This is a very complicated simulation problem with all of these things bumping into each other. This is probably the most complex interaction simulation we’ve ever had to deal with at Pixar, and our effects team had their work cut out for them.” Adding to the complication of animating a house held aloft by a canopy of balloons was the fact that, for a period of time, the house was attached to the characters. “This was probably the most mind-blowing thing that struck me when I watched the reels for the first time,” says May. “Here you have two characters with more complex clothes than any we’ve ever done before. Each character is very complicated to begin with, and then they’re connected by these ropes to a house that is suspended by the balloons that all interact. It’s all one system that has to work together. You move one thing, and it has an impact on everything else.” May and his technical team also had to come up with ways to create crowd scenes (packs of dogs), cloth simulation and a waterfall that is three times taller than the tallest waterfall on earth (Angel Falls in South America).
Unique to Pixar and the world of computer animation, the role of director of photography is divided up into two distinct jobs. Patrick Lin served as director of photography: camera, which involved overseeing the camera movements and layout. JeanClaude Kalache, a 13-year Pixar veteran, was the director of photography for lighting. Working closely with the directors and other members of the creative team, these two cinematographers helped to give “Up” its tremendous sense of scope, scale and adventure. “Pete had a unique vision for this film, and he wanted a very theatrical and controllable approach to the lighting,” says Kalache. “This meant highlighting the action, focusing on where the characters are, and pushing things fairly dark where we didn’t want the audience to look. When you’re making a movie where the camera is moving all around, this is a big challenge because each shot had to be viewed as if the audience is seeing it from that angle.”
Patrick Lin and his team had to contend with such composition-related issues as characters with large heads, scenes that included an extremely tall bird and much smaller dogs, and epic scenes involving airships and dogs in biplanes. A fan of classic Japanese cinema, Lin also drew inspiration from such legendary filmmakers as Kurosawa (and his film “Ikuru,” in particular) and Ozu, who often used a minimalist approach and shot with a single 50mm lens. “Our goal was to make sure our camera followed the character’s emotions,” says Lin. “In the beginning of the film, everything leads up to the moment when Carl isolates himself from the rest of the world. We use the cinematography to subliminally isolate him. Since his life is really standing still, we shot those scenes with one 50mm lens. Even when Russell first appears, there is a visible division on screen, like the doorjamb, to try and separate him from other characters. At the moment when the balloon shadows appear and the house lifts off, that’s when the camera really starts to move; we try to complement the emotion of the action.” Lin and his team particularly enjoyed working on the climactic blimp fight near the conclusion of the film. “I think it’s the best old-man fight in movie history. Blimp versus house. Carl has his cane and Muntz has a big sword. There’s a lot of handheld camera work and we have some very dynamic movement.”
3D-A FIRST FOR PIXAR – Taking Computer Animation to a Whole New Dimension
“Up” adds a whole new dimension to experiencing a Pixar film by being the first feature from the studio to be released in Disney Digital 3DTM. It ushers in a new era of exciting possibilities for the animation studio that brought moviegoers the first computer-animated feature 14 years ago and is recognized throughout the industry for its great storytelling, technical virtuosity and attention to detail.
“We look at 3D as another crayon in our crayon box.” ~ Pete Docter, Director/Writer According to director Pete Docter, it was John Lasseter who suggested they make “Up” in 3D. “So we set up a whole separate division,” says Docter. “This new department took a lot of the same storytelling elements that we were using and tried to use depth as another way of telling that story. “For example, at the beginning of the film, Carl is stuck in his ways and he’s living in this little house,” continues Docter. “We wanted it to feel claustrophobic so we flattened everything-we made it purposely less deep. Contrast that later when he