The film centers on an elderly widower named Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Edward Asner) and an earnest young Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai). By tying thousands of balloons to his home, 78-year-old Carl sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America and to complete a promise made to his childhood sweetheart and beloved wife, Ellie. The film was co-directed by Bob Peterson, with music composed by Michael Giacchino. It was the second film, after Finding Nemo, to be released in May.
Docter began working on the story in 2004, which was based on fantasies of escaping from life when it becomes too irritating. He and eleven other Pixar artists spent three days in Venezuela gathering research and inspiration. The designs of the characters were caricatured and stylized considerably, and animators were challenged with creating realistic cloth. The floating house is attached by a varying number between 10-20,000 balloons in the film's sequences. Up was Pixar's first film to be presented in Disney Digital 3-D.
Up was released in May 2009 and opened the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first animated and 3D film to do so. The film became a great financial success, accumulating over $731,342,744 in its theatrical release. This made it at the time of its release the 33rd highest-grossing film of all time and the sixth highest-grossing animated film of all time (behind Shrek 2, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Finding Nemo, Shrek the Third and The Lion King). Up received critical acclaim, with most reviewers commending the humor and heart of the film. Edward Asner was praised for his portrayal of Carl, and a montage of Carl and his wife Ellie aging together was widely lauded. The film received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, making it the second animated film in history to receive such a nomination, following Beauty and the Beast.
At eight years old, Carl Fredricksen was a fan of Charles F. Muntz, who piloted his own self-made dirigible, "Spirit of Adventure". One day, while running down a sidewalk, pretending to pilot his balloon (a regular blue balloon with the words "Spirit of Adventure" written on the side), Carl hears a voice coming from a dilapidated house.
Curious, Carl enters the house and meets Ellie, a young girl and fellow fan of Muntz, and they become close friends almost instantly. Ellie's startling introduction causes Carl to release his balloon, which gets stuck in the attic.
With Ellie's encouragement, he tries to get it back by crossing a single wooden plank across the second floor of the house. However, the wooden plank breaks and Carl ends up breaking his arm. Ellie visits him at his bedroom later that night (returning his balloon to him) and shows Carl her secret Adventure Book. She also tells Carl of her plans to go to Paradise Falls, the same place Muntz had visited on his recent expedition to capture an exotic creature.
Years later, Carl marries Ellie and they begin rebuilding the old house, making it their home. Ellie becomes a tour guide for a zoo and Carl becomes a balloon salesman, working side-by-side. They go through many stages of their life together and after Ellie suffers a miscarriage and they are told they can't have a child, the couple remembers their childhood dream of visiting Paradise Falls, So they decided to save up some money, but unforeseen events (a tire blows out, Carl breaks his leg, a tree crashes into the house and breaks the roof during a storm) force them to use the money they had been saving.
Carl and Ellie grow old together, working at the zoo selling balloons and giving tours respectively. While cleaning the house, Carl notices the picture of their house perched at the top of Paradise Falls, after tucking the savings jar away and leaving the trip out of mind. Carl then goes to buy tickets to Paradise Falls (presumably with retirement money). He then takes Ellie on a picnic, bringing the tickets as a surprise for her.
While climbing up the hill where they had spent so much time before, Ellie's old age begins to catch up to her, and she stumbles over. Before long, she dies of old age in the hospital. Heartbroken and alone, Carl returns to his house after attending Ellie's funeral.
In the present, Carl is old and grumpy. He still lives in his same old house, which he feels is the thing that's keeping Ellie close to him, but surrounding it is a huge city landscape; new buildings are coming up all around Carl's property. A corporation is trying to move him, which would break what he had promised. He then ends up in a tussle with a construction worker over his broken mailbox and is forced by a court order to move into a retirement home. He then realizes this would be his last chance to fulfill that promise.
The next morning, two nurses, A.J. and George, from the Shady Oaks Retirement Village come to pick up Carl. He comes out, but tells the workers that before he leaves, he wants to "say one last goodbye to the old place". They oblige and walk back towards the van. Suddenly, thousands and thousands of balloons appear from behind the house. The house is ripped from its foundation and carried into the sky. The People in the city look in surprise to see the flying house. Carl proceeds to extend shower curtains and blankets from the side of the house, as rudders.
Just when he lies down in his chair after setting his course for South America, he hears a knock at his door; it's Russell, a young Wilderness Explorer who had pestered Carl the day before in an attempt to earn his final merit badge for "assisting the elderly" and become a Senior Wilderness Explorer. He was looking for a creature named a "snipe" that Carl had made up to get him to leave when he accidentally got caught onto the house as it floated away.
Carl lets him come inside, and he starts obnoxiously looking around the house. Carl decides to abort his mission and cut balloons from his fireplace to land the house. However, they enter a fierce thunderstorm, tossing the house through the clouds. Carl gathered all his belongings, tied them down, and eventually passed out from exhaustion.
Russell wakes Carl up to tell him that he steered the house and that they were in South America, using a GPS. Soon after, Russell accidentally tosses said GPS out the window. Carl decides to land the house and try to send Russell home. They go out to the front porch; Carl expects the house to take several hours to reach the ground, but soon finds that they are much closer to the ground than he thought. The house suddenly hits the ground, tossing Carl and Russell from the porch.
Carl manages to grab onto a dangling hose to stop the house from floating away, and Russell grabs onto Carl's leg, further weighing the house down. Coated in fog, they are dragged to the edge of a seemingly endless cliff. Russell pulls Carl and the house back to safety soon after. The fog clears and Carl begins to look around at the extraordinary landscape.
He soon notices the astonishing view of Paradise Falls; they made it. Carl orders Russell to climb up the hose to the house, and hoist him up. However, Russell barely makes it up the hose at all, and the option of getting up to the house is thrown out. Carl becomes outraged, but Russell comes up with the bright idea to "walk" the house to the falls.
Once they're in the jungle, Russell needs a bathroom break. He finds what he thinks are snipe tracks and encounters a giant, chocolate-loving bird. He brings it back to Carl who is absolutely terrified. Though friendly with Russell, the bird is obnoxious towards Carl. Russell becomes attached and names it Kevin, but Carl just wants to move on. Russell leaves a trail of chocolate for Kevin to follow.
Soon, Carl and Russell find themselves in a strange rocky area. Soon, they come across a lone dog with a strange collar. Carl calls for its owner, but Russell just plays with it. Soon, it begins to speak to them. The dog introduces himself as Dug. He says that the collar (which allows him to speak) was made by his "good and smart" master. Soon, Kevin comes along and pounces on Dug, who urges Carl and Russell to allow him to take Kevin as his "prisoner". Carl, thinking it's just a "weird trick", urges Russell to come with him and move on.
Meanwhile, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma (named after Greek letters) are dogs with collars like Dug are searching for a bird as well; Alpha has a problem with his collar which makes his voice high-pitched (like a chipmunk). It turns out that these dogs sent Dug on a "special mission" to find the bird, just so they could get rid of him. Realizing they could get in trouble with their master for losing Dug, they start a video transmission with him through their collars. They are shocked to find that Dug has found the bird and has taken it as his prisoner. Dug abruptly cuts off the transmission when Russell comes on the screen. Confused, they use the trackers on their collars to find Dug.
As Carl and Russell continue their way through the jungle, Carl ditches Dug and Kevin with a tennis ball and a piece of chocolate respectively. Dug and Kevin eventually return with Dug holding the same tennis ball that Carl threw.
Night falls, and it begins to rain. Dug and Kevin fall asleep while Russell struggles to build a tent, but is unable to do it. Russell explains to Carl that he's never been camping before, but his divorced father promised Russell that he would come to his ceremony for when he becomes a senior wilderness explorer. Carl feels bad for treating him so badly, realizing that even though he was part of Ellie's "adventure club", he had never had an adventure. Russell makes Carl cross his heart that Kevin can come with them on their adventure. The rain stops and the clear night sky came into view. He sends Russell to sleep, thinking about all he had been through today.
Carl wakes up in the morning to find Kevin gone. Russell and Dug are in panic, but soon they see the bird on the roof of his house with a pile of food. Dug explains that Kevin is collecting food for her babies, which leads Russell to realize that Kevin was a girl the whole time. Kevin called for her babies, and a faint peeping could be heard. Kevin runs to her babies and leaves. Carl forces Dug and Russell along, leaving the latter depressed. As they're walking, they encounter Alpha, Gamma, and Beta. Dug leaks out that he lost the bird, and the rest of the dogs force Carl and Russell to come along with Dug to their master.
The dogs bring Carl and Russell to a giant cave. Inside are dozens of dogs, all with the special collars. Out from the shadows comes an elderly, but fit man. The man apologizes for getting Carl into this situation and gives them a goodbye. After a moment, though, Carl calls to the man again. He discovers that the man, the dogs' master, is actually Charles Muntz.
Glad to see a fan of his, Muntz invites Carl and Russell inside the cave, where Muntz's dirigible, the Spirit of Adventure, is stationed. Carl and Russell park the house beside the cave and enter the dirigible as Dug gets the "Cone of Shame", a giant funnel, put on his head for his wrongdoings.
In the dirigible's trophy room, Carl is in awe at all of the treasures that Muntz had collected.
Just then, Alpha calls Muntz for dinner; Muntz hears Alpha's voice and fixes the problem with his collar. Carl and Russell are invited to dinner. Before long, they see hundreds of photos, drawings, and information on Kevin around the room. Carl realizes what is happening; Muntz is searching for Kevin; the beast of Paradise Falls. Russell calls out that they saw the bird, but Carl quickly adds in that it ran away. Carl looks out the window to see Kevin in the cave. He rushes Russell out of the dirigible, but the dogs quickly chase after, understanding why they had suddenly left as Muntz see Kevin on top of Carl's house.
Carl and Russell grab the house and run for their lives. Dug quickly points out a side cave for Carl and Russell to take. Just when the dogs are about to catch them, Kevin leaps from the roof of the house and scoops up Carl and Russell, helping them run. The balloons on the roof of the house pop as they drag against the stalactites. The house hits a giant rock and knocks Russell off of Kevin, still hanging onto the harness that was connected to the house. An avalanche of rocks falls as they make it outside, stopping the dogs.
Dug tries to command the dogs to stop chasing them, but Dug is knocked away by Alpha, removing the Cone of Shame. Soon, Kevin arrives at the edge of a cliff. The house is moving forward, dragging them off the cliff. Everybody grabs on as they are taken midair. The dogs jump to catch them but fall into a rushing river. Carl, Russell, and Kevin land on the other side of the canyon but Alpha is able to bite Kevin, injuring her. Russell begs to stop and help Kevin; Carl looks up to see that the balloons are getting weaker and weaker. Carl reluctantly agrees to stop, remembering his promise to Russell as well.
The soaked dogs return to Muntz, who reacts angrily. When the dogs explain that Dug is on Kevin's side, he comes up with the idea to use Dug's tracking device. Meanwhile, Carl and the group think that they're safe. They decide to continue moving with Kevin on the porch of the house. Russell tells Carl that the wilderness is a lot "wilder" than he thought it would be. He said his dad made it sound easy, going on to say that after their meetings for the Wilderness Explorers, he would bring him to Fenton's Creamery, where they would sit on the curb and count the number of blue and red cars that go by. He then goes on to say that it was the simple things he remembers the most.
Kevin hears her babies cry for help and darts towards them, into the cave. Suddenly, a spotlight falls on Kevin--Muntz's dirigible had followed her. Kevin tries to run, but a net shoots out of the dirigible and catches her. Carl takes Russell's knife and saws at the net. The dogs are getting closer, and they are dragging Carl's house behind them. Muntz yells at them to get away from his bird and scowls evilly and throws a lantern at the house and sets it afire, the heat destroying some of the balloons.
Carl runs to save the house and stops sawing. Immediately, the dogs swarm Kevin; they take her into the dirigible and leave. Russell is upset that Carl practically gave Kevin to Muntz. Carl claims it was none of his concern, never asked for any of the trials and tribulations he was put through, blames Dug for their troubles after Dug tries to cheer him up (Carl even claiming that if it wasn't for him, none of this would have happened), sends him away, and continues straight on to the falls, an upset Russell behind him.
Soon, Carl finally arrives at the falls. He has finally achieved his goal and kept his promise to Ellie, but doesn't feel happy. Russell throws his sash on the ground in anger, saying that he doesn't want it anymore. Carl picks up the sash and looks towards the house (at this point, it's barely above the ground). The balloons had weakened severely over the past day or two. Carl goes inside and quietly began to tidy up. The house is a mess; everything is all over the floor. Carl takes a seat in his chair for a moment.
He picks up Ellie's adventure book beside his feet. He flips through the pages, up until the page marked "Stuff I'm Going to Do". Thinking that the pages will simply be blank, Carl goes to shut it but is surprised when he notices a bit of picture on the next page: the pages are not empty. They are filled with pictures of Carl and Ellie's life together. The final photo is of them, elderly and in their chairs. Below, in the corner, Ellie has written a simple heartfelt message:
- “Thanks for the adventure - now go have a new one!”
- ―Love Ellie
Carl learns that Ellie saw their simple life as her adventure. Carl looks at Russell's sash and crosses his heart.
Back outside, Russell grabs a large bunch of balloons and a leaf blower. He declares that he'll find and free Kevin even if Carl won't help him, and flies off. Carl attempts to follow suit, but the balloons' depletion prevents the house from flying any higher. Carl throws a chair off the front porch in frustration. Carl then comes up with an idea. He begins to take all of the items in his house and throws them out, which causes the house become lighter. After getting rid of the last item in the house, the house goes airborne again, much to Carl's pride. Dug (who had hidden under the porch) also comes with Carl, who both agree that Carl is Dug's master.
Russell tries to save Kevin, but he is quickly captured by Muntz. He interrogates Russell, who won't reveal anything. Muntz looks out the window to see Carl and the house. He demands the dogs to get rid of Carl if they see him. The floor below Russell starts to lower, sending him down a ramp to nowhere. Carl catches sight of this and puts on Russell's sash. He steers the house towards the dirigible and jumps to Russell, saving him from death.
Russell says to Carl that they should work together to help Kevin, but Carl just wants Russell safe and demands that he stays in the house. Carl and Dug enter the dirigible through an air duct. They discover Kevin, who is locked in a giant cage guarded by fierce dogs. Carl grabs a tennis ball on the edge of his cane and throws it out the door of the room, leading all the dogs to give chase. Carl locks the door and begins to free Kevin.
Meanwhile, Russell leaves the house but falls off the porch. He grabs the garden hose and is dangling for his life. The wind pushes the house towards Muntz's dirigible and knocks Russell against the window of the cockpit. Muntz sees Russell and demands that the dogs take down the house; they get into airplanes and shoot at Russell and the balloons.
Carl, Dug, and Kevin sneak through the corridors of the airship, looking for a way out. Suddenly, Muntz emerges from the shadows and pulls out a sword. Muntz kicks Dug out of the door and locks it. In front of Dug now are Alpha and the remainder of the pack. Muntz slashes at Carl as he tries to defend himself with his cane. Carl gets knocked to the ground. Carl has an idea; he spits out his false teeth at Muntz, knocking him back. Carl grabs his teeth and gets back up.
Back in the cockpit, Dug is being knocked against the controls, turning the ship. Muntz stumbles in the other room, giving Carl and Kevin an escape chance. They jump out the window and began to climb the airship, with Muntz right behind. Back in the cockpit, the dog pack traps Dug, who is hiding under the dashboard. As Alpha sticks his head through the steering wheel to reach him, Dug sticks a lampshade over his head, breaking his collar, returning his high-pitched voice, and trapping his head in the steering wheel.
Believing Alpha is now wearing the Cone of Shame, the pack take Dug as their leader and listen to his every command. Outside, Russell sees Carl and Kevin in trouble. Encouraged, he manages to climb to the porch of the house. Planes continue to attack, but he manages to stop the planes by calling out that he sees a squirrel; this distracts the dogs and makes them collide all of the planes.
Meanwhile, Carl and Kevin make it to the top of the dirigible, where Dug joins them. Russell steers to the top of the dirigible; everybody grabs on and steps on the porch. Muntz reaches the top of the dirigible, now holding a hunting rifle. With one shot, a bullet rips through the balloon strings, sending a good amount of them floating away. The house hits the top of the airship, sending Carl tumbling out and the house sliding off the top. Carl grabs onto a hose to try to stop the house from falling.
He yells to Russell, Dug, and Kevin to escape the house. Muntz fires at the porch, forcing them to run inside the house. Muntz jumps onto the front porch and bangs on the front door of the house with his rifle. Carl warns Russell and Dug to hang onto Kevin just as Muntz crashes through the front door. Just before Muntz can shoot the bird, Carl pulls out a chocolate bar, enticing Kevin, who knocks off Muntz's rifle. She jumps through the front window, and Russell's hat falls off of his head, but when Muntz lunges after Kevin, his foot becomes entangled in some balloon lines, and when they break off, Muntz falls to his death thousands of feet below.
Carl manages to save everybody else, but his house drifts through the clouds. Carl assures Russell that it's just a house. Sometime later, Carl, Russell, and Dug are with Kevin and her babies. Kevin is now safe. They say their goodbyes and enter Muntz's dirigible. Together, Carl and Russell take off for home. The dogs are now happy, not ferocious, as Carl is now their master. Back in the city, the Senior Wilderness Explorer ceremony has finally begun. Russell steps up to the front of the audience. The Campmaster asks for someone to come up for Russell, and Carl has arrived just in time. He awards Russell with the grape soda badge that Ellie had given him. The dogs howl with approval.
Carl and Russell sit on a curb in front of Fenton's Creamery, licking ice cream cones as the dirigible floats overhead. They count the red and blue cars that pass by. Soon, they begin to point at things that aren't cars, such as the fire hydrant and a balloon. But nobody minds, as it was just a simple game, something Russell cares for, and something Carl will remember for the rest of his life. The film ends with a shot of Paradise Falls, where it's revealed that Carl's house has landed in the spot overlooking the falls exactly where Ellie pictured it.
Over the credits, Carl has started a new adventure book detailing his life as he settles into retirement while spending lots of time with Russell. Carl moves into Shady Oaks, where the dogs are shown to bring happiness to the residents while Carl lives happily with Russell and Dug by his side. Kevin is in South America with her kids.
- Edward Asner as Carl Fredricksen (Jeremy Leary voiced Carl as a young child). Docter and Rivera noted Asner's television alter ego, Lou Grant had been helpful in writing for Carl, because it guided them in balancing likable and unlikable aspects of the curmudgeonly character. When they met Asner and presented him with a model of his character, he joked, "I don't look anything like that." (The appearance of Carl is meant to resemble Spencer Tracy as he appeared in his final film, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?) They tailored his dialogue for him, with short sentences and more consonants, which "cemented the notion that Carl, post-Ellie, is a disgruntled bear that's been poked awake during hibernation". In Colombia, unexpected publicity for the film was generated due to the uncanny similarity of Carl with Colombian ex-president Julio César Turbay Ayala.
- Christopher Plummer as Charles F. Muntz. Muntz is an old explorer looking for the beast of Paradise Falls; he vowed not to return to North America until he had captured the creature. He uses a group of dogs to aid him in his hunt. The name of his airship, Spirit of Adventure, may have been inspired by Charles Lindbergh's airplane, Spirit of St. Louis. His name is somewhat of a parody to Charles B. Mintz, the man that was responsible for stealing the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. In various interviews, Pete Docter has mentioned Howard Hughes and real life adventurers Charles Lindbergh and Percy Fawcett as inspirations for Muntz. He is the main antagonist of the film.
- Jordan Nagai as Russell. On their journey, Russell makes several comments to Carl that suggest that Russell's father and mother are no longer together. Russell's design was based on Pixar animator Peter Sohn. Docter auditioned 400 boys in a nationwide casting call for the part. Nagai, who is Japanese-American, showed up to an audition with his brother, who was actually the one auditioning. Docter realized Nagai behaved and spoke non-stop like Russell and chose him for the part. Nagai was 8 years old when cast. Docter encouraged Nagai to act physically as well as vocally when recording the role, lifting him upside down and tickling him for the scene where Russell encounters Kevin. Asian Americans have positively noted Pixar's first casting of an Asian lead character, in contrast to the common practice of casting non-Asians in Asian parts.
- Bob Peterson as Dug, a Golden Retriever who can talk. He is the misfit of a pack of talking dogs owned by Muntz. Peterson knew he would voice Dug when he wrote his line "I have just met you, and I love you," which was based on what a child told him when he was a camp counselor in the 1980s. The DVD release of the film features a short called Dug's Special Mission, which follows Dug just prior to his first meeting with Carl and Russell. Dug previously appeared in Ratatouille as a shadow on a wall that barks at Remy.
- Peterson also voices Alpha, a talking Doberman Pinscher and the leader of Muntz's pack of dogs. Pete Docter has stated that Alpha "thinks of himself as Clint Eastwood". Despite his menacing appearance, a frequent malfunction in Alpha's translating collar causes his voice to sound comically high-pitched and squeaky as if he had been breathing helium. The normal voice for his translator is a resonant, intimidating bass. With both voices, Alpha has a roundabout speech pattern that causes his sentences to be longer than necessary. He is the secondary antagonist of the film.
- Pete Docter as Kevin, a large colorful prehistoric bird. Other than voicing Kevin, Docter also voices Campmaster Strauch, Russell's camp master, seen at the end of the film.
- Elizabeth Docter as Ellie Fredricksen as a younger child. The voice actor is the director's daughter, who also provided some of the drawings shown by Ellie.
- Delroy Lindo as Beta, a Rottweiler and one of Muntz's dogs.
- Jerome Ranft as Gamma, a Bulldog and one of Muntz's dogs.
- John Ratzenberger as Tom, a construction worker who asks if Carl is ready to sell his house.
- David Kaye as the newsreel announcer.
Writing for Up first began in 2004 by director Pete Docter. The fantasy of a flying house was developed on the idea of escaping from life when it becomes too irritating, which stemmed from his difficulty with social situations growing up. Actor and writer Thomas McCarthy aided Docter and Bob Peterson in shaping the story for about three months. Docter selected an old man for the main character after drawing a picture of a grumpy old man with smiling balloons. The two men thought an old man was a good idea for a protagonist because they felt their experiences and the way they affect their view of the world was a rich source of humor. Docter was not concerned with an elderly protagonist, stating children would relate to Carl in the way they relate to their grandparents.
Docter noted the film reflects his friendships with Disney veterans Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and Joe Grant (who all died before the film's release and thus the film was dedicated to them). Grant gave the script his approval as well as some advice before his death in 2005. Docter recalled Grant would remind him the audience needed an "emotional bedrock" because of how wacky the adventure would become; in this case, it is Carl mourning for his wife. Docter felt Grant's personality influenced Carl's deceased wife Ellie more than the grouchy main character, and Carl was primarily based on Spencer Tracy, Walter Matthau, James Whitmore, and their own grandparents, because there was "something sweet about these grumpy old guys". Docter and Jonas Rivera noted Carl's charming nature in spite of his grumpiness derives from the elderly "hav[ing] this charm and almost this 'old man license' to say things that other people couldn't get away with [...] It's like how we would go to eat with Joe Grant and he would call the waitresses 'honey'. I wish I could call a waitress 'honey'."
Docter revealed that the filmmakers' first story outline had Carl "just want[ing] to join his wife up in the sky. It was almost a kind of strange suicide mission or something. And obviously, that's [a problem]. Once he gets airborne, then what? So we had to have some goal for him to achieve that he had not yet gotten." As a result, they added the plot of going to South America. The location was chosen due to both Docter's love of tropical locations, but also in wanting a location that Carl could be stuck with a kid due to the inability to leave him with an authority such as a police officer or social worker. They implemented a child character as a way to help Carl stop being "stuck in his ways".
Docter created Dug as he felt it would be refreshing to show what a dog thinks, rather than what people assume it thinks. Knowledge of canine communication, body language and pack behaviors for the artists and animators to portray such thoughts came from consultant Dr. Ian Dunbar, veterinarian, dog behaviorist and trainer. The idea for Alpha's voice derived from thinking about what would happen if someone broke a record player and it always played at a high pitch. Russell was added to the story at a later date than Dug and Kevin; his presence, as well as the construction workers, helped to make the story feel less "episodic".
Carl's relationship with Russell reflects how "he's not really ready for the whirlwind that a kid is, as few of us are". Docter added he saw Up as a "coming of age" tale and an "unfinished love story", with Carl still dealing with the loss of his wife. He cited inspiration from Casablanca and A Christmas Carol, which are both "resurrection" stories about men who lose something and regain purpose during their journey. Docter and Rivera cited inspiration from the Muppets, Hayao Miyazaki, Dumbo, and Peter Pan. They also saw parallels to The Wizard of Oz and tried to make Up not feel too similar. There is a scene where Carl and Russell haul the floating house through the jungle. A Pixar employee compared the scene to Fitzcarraldo, and Docter watched that film and The Mission for further inspiration. The character Charles Muntz comes from Howard Hughes and Errol Flynn.
Docter made Venezuela the film's setting after Ralph Eggleston gave him a video of the tepui mountains; Venezuela and tepuis were already featured in a previous Disney film, Dinosaur. In 2004, Docter and eleven other Pixar artists spent three days reaching Monte Roraima by airplane, jeep, and helicopter. They spent three nights there painting and sketching and encountering ants, mosquitoes, scorpions, frogs, and snakes. They also flew to Matawi Tepui and climbed to Angel Falls. Docter felt "we couldn't use [the rocks and plants we saw]. Reality is so far out if we put it in the movie you wouldn't believe it." The film's creatures were also challenging to design because they had to fit in the surreal environment of the tepuis, but also be realistic because those mountains exist in real life. The filmmakers visited Sacramento Zoo to observe a Himalayan Monal for Kevin's animation. The animators designed Russell as an Asian-American, and modeled Russell after similar looking Peter Sohn, a Pixar storyboarder who voiced Emile in Ratatouille and directed the short Partly Cloudy, because of his energetic nature.
While Pixar usually designs their characters to be caricatured, Carl was even more so, being only three heads high. He was not given elderly features such as liver spots or hair in his ears to keep him appealing, yet giving him wrinkles, pockmarks on his nose, a hearing aid, and a cane to make him appear elderly. Docter wanted to push a stylized feel, particularly the way Carl's head is proportioned: he has a squarish appearance to symbolize his containment within his house, while Russell is rounded like a balloon. The challenge on Up was making these stylized characters feel natural, although Docter remarked the effect came across better than animating the realistic humans from Toy Story, who suffered from the "uncanny valley". Cartoonists Al Hirschfeld, Hank Ketcham, and George Booth influenced the human designs. Simulating realistic cloth on caricatured humans was harder than creating the 10,000 balloons flying the house. New programs were made to simulate the cloth and for Kevin's iridescent feathers. To animate old people, Pixar animators would study their own parents or grandparents and also watched footage of the Senior Olympics. The directors had various rules for Carl's movements: he could not turn his head more than 15–20 degrees without turning his torso as well, nor could he raise his arms very high. However, they also wanted him to grow more flexible near the end of the film, transforming into an "action hero".
A technical director worked out that in order to make Carl's house fly, he would require 23 million balloons, but Docter realized that number made the balloons look like small dots. Instead, the balloons created were made to be twice Carl's size. There are 10,297 balloons for shots of the house just flying, 20,622 balloons for the lift-off sequence, and a varying number of other scenes.
Up is the third Pixar film to be scored by Michael Giacchino, after The Incredibles and Ratatouille. What Pete Docter wanted more importantly out of the music was the emotion, so Giacchino wrote a character theme-based score that producer Jonas Rivera thought enhanced the story. At the beginning of the movie, when young Carl is in the movie theater watching a newsreel about Muntz, the first piece of music heard is "Muntz's Theme", which starts out as a celebratory theme, and echoes through the film when Muntz reappears 70 years later. "Ellie's Theme" is first heard when she is introduced as a little kid and plays several times during the film in different versions; for instance, during the sequence where Carl lifts his house with the balloons, the theme is changed from a simple piano melody to a full orchestral arrangement. Giacchino has compared the film to opera since each character has a unique theme that changes during a particular moment in the story.
The score was released as a digital download on May 26, 2009, three days before the film opened in theaters. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Score, the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album, the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, and the 2010 BAFTA Award for Best Film Music. It is the first score for a Pixar film to win the Oscar (Randy Newman also won for Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 3, but in the category of Best Original Song).
When the film screened at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California from May 29 to July 23, 2009, it was accompanied by Lighten Up!, a live show featuring Disney characters. Other tie-ins included children's books such as My Name is Dug, illustrated by screenwriter Ronnie del Carmen. Despite Pixar's track record, Target Corporation, and Walmart stocked few Up items, while Pixar's regular collaborator Thinkway Toys did not produce merchandise, claiming its story is unusual and would be hard to promote. Disney acknowledged not every Pixar film would have to become a franchise. Promotional partners include Aflac, NASCAR, and Airship Ventures, while Cluster Balloons promoted the film with a replica of Carl's couch lifted by hot air balloons for journalists to sit in.
In order to promote the film, Disney publicists tied balloons to the home of Edith Macefield in Seattle. Edith's decision to turn down an offer of $1m for her $120,000 home, which sat in the middle of a high-rise development.
Director Pete Docter intended for audiences to take a specific point from the film, saying:
- “Basically, the message of the film is that the real adventure of life is the relationship we have with other people, and it's so easy to lose sight of the things we have and the people that are around us until they are gone. More often than not, I don't really realize how lucky I was to have known someone until they're either moved or passed away. So, if you can kind of wake up a little bit and go, "Wow, I've got some really cool stuff around me every day", then that's what the movie's about.”
Prior to its theatrical release, Disney Pixar created three small animated vignettes called UPisodes to promote its film UP on the internet. These UPisodes chronicled Carl Fredricksen and Russell's journey through the jungle, not seen in the movie. Fans were able to view the vignettes on Apple iTunes movie trailer site and YouTube.
- UPisode One: Animal Calls - in the first episode, Russell demonstrates his ability to mimic animal calls.
- UPisode Two: First Aid - in the second episode, Russell tries to relieve a minor injury that Carl received.
- UPisode Three: Snipe Trap - in the third episode, Russell attempts to capture the elusive snipe.
- Main article: Up (video)
Up was released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD in North America on November 10, 2009, and in the United Kingdom on February 15, 2010. It features the film plus the theatrical short Partly Cloudy and the new short Dug's Special Mission, as well as an audio commentary by director Pete Docter, the documentary Adventure is Out There on the filmmakers' research journey to South America, The Many Endings of Muntz (an alternate ending of sorts), and a digital copy. The Blu-ray edition has a four-disc pack that adds Cine-Explore with BonusView, Global Guardian Badge and Geography games, eight documentaries, and BD-Live to the Deluxe DVD and digital copy platters. A Limited Edition is also available called the Luxo Jr. Premium Pack that includes a collectible lamp modeled after Pixar's bouncy short star that is designed to hold a complete Pixar Blu-ray collection.
In addition, Pixar also created a short film titled George & A.J., written and directed by Up storyboard artist Josh Cooley, that shows what the two Shady Oaks retirement home workers did after Carl left with his house. It was initially available for purchase at the iTunes Store and then was later posted to Disney·Pixar's Facebook and YouTube pages.
In its first week it sold 3,969,792 units ($66,057,339). It eventually reached 10,811,453 units ($182,591,149), becoming the best-selling DVD among those released in 2009, in terms of units sold. It also became the third in terms of sales revenue behind Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Twilight.
The rental release of the film to Netflix, Blockbuster, and Redbox was controversial since it failed to include closed captioning. Disney faced a consumer backlash over this and quickly released a statement that this removal was an unfortunate error and that it was moving to correct the issue.
Since its release, Up has widely received acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 98% of critics have given the film a "Certified Fresh" positive review, based on 285 reviews, with an 8.7/10 review average. The site's consensus states: "An exciting, funny, and poignant adventure, Up offers an impeccably crafted story told with wit and arranged with depth, as well as yet another visual Pixar treat." The film also holds a score of 88 on the review aggregator website Metacritic as of September 15, 2012. Audiences gave the film an "A+" CinemaScore.
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and called it "a wonderful film". The Hollywood Reporter lauded the film as "Winsome, touching and arguably the funniest Pixar effort ever, this gorgeously rendered, high-flying adventure is a tidy 90-minute distillation of all the signature touches that came before it." Although the San Francisco Chronicle noted that the film "contains many boring stretches of mindless freneticism and bland character interaction," it also declared that there are scenes in Up of "Such beauty, economy and poetic wisdom that they belong in any anthology of great movie moments...to watch Up with any attention is to be moved and astonished by the economy with which specific visuals are invested with emotion throughout [the film]..." Variety enthused that "Up is an exceptionally refined picture; unlike so many animated films, it's not all about sensory bombardment and volume...Unsurprisingly, no one puts a foot wrong here. Vocal performances...exude a warm enthusiasm, and tech specifications could not be better. Michel Giacchino's full-bodied, traditional score is superlative..." The Globe claimed that Up! is "the kind of movie that leaves you asking 'How do people come up [with] this stuff?'" along with an overall positive review on the film, despite it being predictable.
The character of Carl Fredricksen has received mostly positive reception. Bill Capodagli, author of Innovate the Pixar Way, praised Carl for his ability to be a jerk and likable at the same time. Wall Street Journal editor Joe Morgenstern described Carl as gruff, comparing him to Buster Keaton, but adds that this begins to wear thin as the movie progresses. He has been compared with Spencer Tracy, an influence on the character, by The Washington Post editor Ann Hornaday and Empire Online editor Ian Freer, who describes him as similar to a "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner-era" Tracy. Entertainment Weekly editor Lisa Schwarzbaum described his appearance as a cross between Tracy and an eccentric out of a George Booth cartoon.TIME editor Richard Corliss also makes the comparison, calling him a "trash compacted version" of Tracy. He has also been compared to Walter Matthau, another inspiration for the character's design, by LA Weekly editor Scott Foundas, suggesting that actor Ed Asner was channeling him while performing the role of Carl. Variety editor Todd McCarthy described Carl as a combination of both Tracy and Matthau.
The relationship between Carl and his wife Ellie has been praised in several media outlets. In his book Disney, Pixar, and the Hidden Message of Children's Films, author M. Keith Booker described the love between Carl and Ellie as touching. While also describing the scene of the two of them aging as a "masterpiece of its own kind", he was not sure how much children would appreciate the scene, commenting that his son was squirming in his seat during the scene. Reelviews editor James Berardinelli praised their relationship, stating that it brought a tear to his eye in a way no animated film has done, including anything by famed anime director Hayao Miyazaki. Ann Hornaday praised the prolog, describing it as "worthy of Chaplin in its heartbreaking poignancy". Chicago Tribune editor Michael Phillips praised the scene, describing it as an emotional and cinematic powerhouse, and that he also was nearly moved to tears. However, Salon.com editor Stephanie Zacharek criticized the love between Carl and Ellie, describing their marriage as resembling a dental adhesive commercial more than a real relationship.
Edward Asner was praised in several media outlets for his portrayal of Carl. San Francisco Chronicle editor Mick LaSelle praised Asner as a great choice due to having a grumpiness to his voice that is not truly grumpy, but rather coming from a protective stance. Entertainment Weekly editor Lisa Schwarzbaum praised Asner's acting, stating that he has a "Lou Grant authority" to his voice. Time editor Richard Corliss stated that Asner had the "gruffness and deadpan comic timing to bring Carl to life". The Boston Globe editor Ty Burr concurred with this, stating that his Lou Grant-like voice had not diminished with time. USA Today editor Claudia Puig praised Asner's delivery, describing it as superb.
Up earned $293,004,164 in the United States and Canada and $438,338,580 in other territories for a worldwide total of $731,342,744.
In the United States and Canada, Up is the forty-seventh highest-grossing film, the tenth highest-grossing Disney film, the seventh highest-grossing 3–D film, the sixth highest-grossing animated film, and the third highest-grossing Pixar film. On its opening weekend, it performed stronger than analysts had been expecting, ranking number one with $68,108,790. This is the fourth highest-grossing opening for Pixar and the third-largest post-Memorial Day opening. It set a record for opening-weekend grosses originating from 3–D showings with $35.4 million (first surpassed by Avatar).The opening-weekend audience was 53% female and 47% under 17 years old. The film experienced small drop-offs on subsequent weekends, but lost first place to The Hangover.
Outside the US and Canada, it is the fifty-first highest-grossing film, the tenth highest-grossing animated film, the fifth highest-grossing 2009 film and the third highest-grossing Pixar film. It was on top of the overseas box office for three consecutive weekends and four in total. Its highest-grossing opening weekends were recorded in France and the Maghreb region ($8.88 million), the UK, Ireland, and Malta, ($8.44 million) and Japan ($7.24 million). These three were also its highest-grossing countries in total earnings. Among major countries, it was the highest-grossing animated film of 2009 only in Spain ($37.1 million) and Australia ($25.3 million).
The film was the winner of Best Animated Feature at the 2010 Golden Globes, the 37th Annie Awards, and the 82nd Academy Awards. Up also became the second animated film (as well as the first CGI film) to be nominated for the prestigious Best Picture Oscar, but lost to Iraq war thriller The Hurt Locker. Other notable nominees included James Cameron's Avatar, which had overtaken Cameron's own Titanic to become the highest grossing film of all time, Inglourious Basterds, the latest from Pulp Fiction helmer Quentin Tarantino, District 9, a sci-fi alien film that made points about immigration, Up in the Air, the latest assemble romcom from Juno helmer Jason Reitman, and The Blind Side, a triumph over adversity movie with parallels to Forrest Gump. In addition, Michael Giacchino took home the Oscar for Best Original Score beating out James Horner's score for Avatar and Hans Zimmer's score for Sherlock Holmes.
Up won two awards at the 82nd Academy Awards, for "Best Animated Feature" and "Academy Award for Best Original Score". It is the second of three animated features to have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story 3 were also nominated for Best Picture in their respective years. 'Up' also won "Best Original Score", and "Best Animated Feature Film" at the 67th Golden Globe Awards. It was nominated for nine Annie Awards in eight categories, winning two awards for "Best Animated Feature" and "Best Directing in a Feature Production". Up also received the "Golden Tomato" from Rotten Tomatoes for highest rating feature in 2009, and best reviewed animated film. with an approval of 98percent from film critics, based on 259 reviews. At the 2010 Kids' Choice Awards the film won "Favorite Animated Movie". Dug, the talking canine, was awarded the Palm Dog Award by the British film critics as the best canine performance at Cannes Film Festival, winning over the fox from Antichrist.
- A video game, Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure, was released on March 20, 2012, for Xbox 360. It features characters from five of Pixar's films: Up, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, and Toy Story.
- There is also an "Up" game that was released in May 2009.
- In Disney Infinity, Carl's house and cane are usable items.
Theme park attraction
- For a short time you could meet Carl, Russell, and Dug, three characters from the film at Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort. Their meeting location was in the Magic of Disney Animation Character Spot. Their former location currently houses Winnie the Pooh's Meet and Greet area. Since then, Russell and Dug have been moved to Animal Kingdom in Discovery Island. The stars of Up also star in the new Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
- Russell and Dug are also part of the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail where guest take part in a fun-filled challenge to earn a Wilderness Explorer Badge and to take part in the Senior Wilderness Explorer Ceremony at Grizzly Peak in Disney's California Adventure theme park.
- A scene from Up featuring Carl and Russell and a voice over commentary by Dug is shown as part of DCA's World of Color nighttime spectacular.
- Up is featured in the Magic Kingdom nighttime spectacular Celebrate the Magic.
Real life Up house
In 2011, Bangerter Homes re-created the house (reportedly with permission from Disney on the condition that the plans be turned over once completed, and that it is the only house from the film to be built) at 13218 Herriman Rose Blvd. in Herriman, Utah, as part of the Salt Lake area Parade of Homes.
- As Carl's House is lifted into the air, a little girl is shown in her room looking at the balloons. Under her bed, Lotso alongside Pixar Ball be seen.
- The Pizza Planet truck can be seen three times.
- 1. As the house is being lifted.
- 2. Driving into a parking lot in Carl's idea to return Russell home.
- 3. It is seen in the parking lot next to the ice cream shop at the end of the movie.
- A113 appears while Carl is sitting outside of the courtroom above him.
- During the end credits, a photo of Carl and Russell going to the movies is seen. The title of the movie reads: Star Wars.
- When the dogs fall off the cliff during the chase scene, one of them emits the Wilhelm scream.