Directed by Pete Docter
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 96 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1, 2.0 English; Dolby Digital EX 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 45.99
Release Date: November 10, 2009
Review Date: October 30, 2009
Pixar’s Up is the studio’s latest marvel of humor, hope, and heart. Combining an exciting adventure tale with a more humanistic story of love lost and life reaffirmed, Up once again brings the celebrated animation studio another triumphant entry in their unbroken string of innovative computer animated adventures. Appealing characters of all ages and kinds and an engrossing tale set in a fantastic other worldly region of the Earth give Up its unique hold on one’s imagination. Despite some obvious fantasy elements, there will be moments during the film where you’re likely to forget you’re even watching animation. The characters and their situations become real, and the story becomes so enthralling that its form fades in your memory. It’s the hallmark of magnificent filmmaking to say that this is a great movie, not just a great animated movie.
Newly widowed Carl Fredericksen (Ed Asner) is deemed a public menace after attacking a building contractor who’s trying to get him to sell his property for big city building projects, and he’s sentenced to be sent to an old age retirement home. On the morning he’s to be taken away, the former balloon shop owner takes off in his house lifted by thousands of balloons and heads toward a remote section of Venezuela called Paradise Falls, a spot he and his late wife Ellie had always planned to visit but never got a chance to. Carl is surprised to find young scout Russell (Jordan Nagai) tagging along hoping to earn his last merit badge by helping the elderly. Once they arrive at their destination, they’re shocked to find themselves in the midst of once famous and now disgraced explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) and his trained dog pack hunting a rare bird whose capture will allow Muntz a chance to redeem his reputation. Carl and Russell, however, have made friends with the mother bird they’ve named Kevin and will do everything in their power to return the mother to her chicks. Aiding them is one of Muntz’s mistreated dogs Dug (Bob Peterson) who loves the care and attention lavished on him by the sweet-natured Russell.
The screenplay by director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson (based on a story by those two and Tom McCarthy) touches on the theme of dreams unfulfilled and dreams realized in many different characters in the story. Part of the poignancy inherent in the story derives from each viewer having his own hopes for his life sometimes realized and sometimes put on hold for the indefinite future, and seeing these fantasies sometimes become a reality gives the film such an uplifting feeling of purpose and achievement that one can’t help establishing a strong rooting interest with the tale’s protagonists. The master Pixar animators have now gotten so adept at storytelling that they can condense mountains of exposition into brief sequences that not only give us the background but accomplish it in such beautifully artistic ways. Two great examples are the newsreel which opens the film telling us about the fame and infamy of adventurer Charles Muntz and the unforgettably lovely and moving condensation of Carl and Ellie’s married life done in a five-minute pantomime sequence that’s as terrific as anything you’re likely to see at the movies in 2009. The animators also do little things just right, too: a graceful segue from Carl at Ellie’s funeral getting up, turning around, and entering the front door of his own house is accomplished with such unpretentious style and beauty that it’s breathtaking. So are numerous Road Runner-like sequences with Kevin escaping all of Muntz’s traps and, naturally, the climactic showdown between the good guys and bad which plays completely fair with each side’s strengths and weaknesses and delights all the more because it’s been set up so expertly all throughout the movie.
As with all Pixar films, the voice casting is sublimely superb. Ed Asner simply is Carl, grumpy and bitter at the beginning and slowly coming around to see that life is not over because his marriage is. Jordan Nagai’s hyperactive Russell is perfection, the embodiment of every restless kid who talks too fast and can’t sit still for a minute since he finds everything around him so thrilling. Co-director Bob Peterson does such an ingratiating job with the faithful Dug that he’ll soon become everyone’s favorite pooch. Christopher Plummer takes his time establishing Muntz’s sinister qualities but once there relishes in his insidiousness.
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Though presented in 3-D in certain theatrical engagements, only the 2-D version is offered here, but it’s a showstopper, among the greatest animation encodes you’re ever likely to see. The amount of incredible detail in clothing weaves, hair, leather, stone, leaves, even the gray stubble on Carl’s face gives every indication of being three dimensional. Colors are eye-popping where appropriate and subdued when necessary, but those jungles of South America pop with the many varieties and shades of color available to the animators, and there’s no hint of banding. Even the balloons, transparent when freshly inflated and becoming opaque as they lose buoyancy, are incredible to look at. The film has been divided into 35 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 sound mix is the usual incredible Pixar masterwork with the available channels immersed in all manner of sounds in the city and jungle. The powerful thunderstorms rock the LFE channel, and Michael Giacchino’s lilting music, particularly the waltz tune that underscores many of the Carl-Ellie moments, gets spread to wonderful effect in the fronts and rears. The audio here is a classy, adept sound mix that gives the film a wonderfully antique feel that’s completely unique.
The audio commentary is a part of the exquisite Pixar Cine-explore feature where director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson talk about the film while picture-in-picture windows open showing many of the sketches, storyboards, rough animation, behind-the-scenes recording moments, home movies, and the like to extend their discussion.
All of the bonus features are presented in 1080p on both discs one and two.
“Partly Cloudy” is the animated short which accompanied Up in theaters. Featuring a frazzled stork at the mercy of a cloud god who creates the babies for Earth’s less cuddly creatures, it’s hilarious for 5 ¾ minutes.
“Dug’s Special Mission” is a new short featuring favorite character Dug in a moment in the movie before he had met Carl and Russell and is being given worthless missions by Alpha and the other dogs in the pack. It runs for 4 ¾ minutes.
“Adventure Is Out There” is a fascinating 22 ¼-minute documentary detailing the fact-finding expedition many of the production team took to Venezuela with tour guide Adrian Warren as they explored the mountains of the region for visual ideas for the film.
“The Many Endings of Muntz” finds the directors discussing alternative ideas for the way the evil character of Muntz was going to be dealt with in the movie. This informative featurette done with rough animation runs 5 minutes.
The disc is BD-Live encoded, but the network was not operational during the review period.
The first disc features trailers for Dumbo, Ponyo, Toy Story 3, The Princess and the Frog, and Santa Buddies.
Disc Two contains additional documentaries on the film and a game for the family to play together.
“Geriatric Hero” gives 6 ½-minutes of discussion on the evolution of the character of Carl from conception through final execution.
“Canine Companions” introduces Ian Dunbar, a dog behaviorist who worked with the animators in getting the proper looks and reactions to the pack of dogs which inhabit the movie and who play vital roles in the story. This feature runs 8 ½ minutes.
“Russell: Wilderness Explorer” examines the character of Russell, his inspiration, the development of the character, and the search for the proper child to voice him for the film. This runs 9 minutes.
“Our Giant Flightless Friend, Kevin” is a humorous look at the different treatments for the mythical bird Kevin before the final incarnation was arrived at. This lasts 5 minutes.
“Homemakers of Pixar” is a 4 ½-minute examination of Carl and Ellie’s house which plays such a massive role in the film. It’s seen in drawings and in actually built miniatures before being committed to computer animation.
“Balloons and Flight” discusses the difficulties and challenges of animating both the thousands of balloons used in the movie as well as the dirigible that’s Muntz’s home. This feature runs 6 ½ minutes.
“Composing for Characters” finds composer Michael Giacchino talking about his various themes for the movie and showing the orchestra laying down tracks for the film. This runs 7 ½ minutes.
“Married Life” is the most interesting of these second disc featurettes, a complete discussion of various ideas the production staff had for one of the film’s most priceless scenes and showing us how some ideas were thrown out and the sequence modified to the perfect scene it later became. We’re shown the entire 9 ¼ minute rough animated version of the sequence allowing us to see what was retained and what was jettisoned as being unnecessary or ill-fitting to the mood of the sequence.
The Global Guardian Badge Game allows from one to three players to take part in a geography game involving either national or world geography with differing skill levels being offered.
An Up promo montage features some hilarious blackout sketches featuring many of the main characters from the film. This montage lasts 6 minutes.
There are two international trailers for the movie. The first lasts 1 ¾ minutes while the second lasts 2 ½ minutes.
The third disc in the set is a DVD of the film.
The fourth disc in the set is a digital copy of the film with instructions enclosed for installing on PC and Mac devices.
5/5 (not an average)
Up is sheer perfection, either as a movie or as a Blu-ray release with exquisite picture and sound and a raft of bonus features that touch on every aspect of the filmmakers’ art. Highest recommendation!