Sunday, 11 July 2010

Take the balloon house to Paradise Falls

At the heart of Up, like with many Pixar films, is a sense of nostalgia and loss. An old man is left alone in his house after his wife dies, having never been on the adventure she dreamed about. So he attaches balloons to his house and flies off to 'Paradise Falls'. By itself this would be a fairly good story, but its set up with real care. The first part of the film shows Mr Fredricksen go from eight to eighty, growing up with his wife and going grey. There aren't many films that would do such a montage. It's brave, especially in a children's film, to start with so much death and sadness. Of course you probably already know this, because you've probably already seen it, but it also has a place in the wider scheme of things. For instance, the entire Toy Story series is set at points where the characters believe that their good times are behind them and that their usefulness will soon run out. In the first film Buzz Lightyear arrives, putting an end to Woody's position as the top toy. Then there's the general sense that it's all finite, that it'll all come to an end very soon. It hangs over the films. And Up is set in a similar place, except the toy is an old man.

And it's very funny. It's confident and almost effortless. In other hands a character like Kevin the bird would have been voiced by Ben Stiller or George Clooney. Here it just squawks. That's all it needs to do. It works on the strength of the animation and nothing else. And Dug the dog is done by the co-director Bob Peterson, just because that was the best way to do it. Why pay Hollywood-types to come in and be boring when all you need is the creativity to do it yourself? Like I said before, there's a purity to what Pixar do. It's like they lock themselves away and don't come out until the film is ready. They think of the perfect person to play a part and they get them. They think of the best story to tell and they tell it. And what other company would show  an unrelated short before the film starts, just because they wanted to make one? If I gave out stars, which I don't, Up would have five. Out of five. Full stars.

1 comment:

  1. Curiously enough I was listening to Brad Bird's commentary on The Incredibles this afternoon. The use of "unknowns" in the voice roles often comes about because they use Pixar staff for the original tests - and then decide they are exactly what they want.

    I agree about Up, it's wonderful.