What do you get when you put together a cranky old man named Carl, an overeager 8-year old Wilderness Explorer named Russell, a talking dog named Dug, and a 13-foot-tall flightless bird named Kevin? Well of course, silly… you get the latest Disney * Pixar animated film, called UP. From the same animation masterminds that brought us Monster's, Inc. comes a hilariously uplifting adventure where the sky is no longer the limit.
The Story of UP
Although the movie gets off to a slow start, the early scenes are crucial to the setup of the story. At first, we're introduced to Carl and Ellie who meet as kids, grow up to be sweethearts, and eventually get married. They both have a flair for adventure, but life always seems to get in the way. After Ellie passes away and Carl becomes an old man, the adventurous part of the story begins.
Carl is now one of those old folks who has lived in his house for what seems like forever, while a city gets built-up all around him. The building contractor wants to buy him out but Carl refuses. Then there is an altercation and Carl is loses everything in a lawsuit. To solve the problem, Carl comes up with a crazy idea… he ties thousands of helium-filled balloons to his house and launches it into the sky. Along for the ride is 8-year old Wilderness Explorer Russell, who desperately wants to do something to help Carl so that he can earn a new badge for his uniform.
They end up in some South American jungle near Paradise Falls, which is the same place that Carl and Ellie always wanted to travel to and eventually live. Carl's mission is to move the house to the very spot shown on a drawing that Ellie once did. Circumstances, however, change when they meet a talking dog named Dug, a flightless bird named Kevin, and the long-lost adventurer Charles Muntz (who now turns out to be a villain because he wants to capture Kevin and bring him back to civilization and reclaim his fame). The story provides non-stop action and laughs as Carl, Russell, Dug, and Kevin go against Muntz and his doggy minions, but you'll have to watch the movie to see what happens.
UP on Blu-ray Hi-Def
As with all Pixar pictures, the video and animation in UP is unbelievable and beautiful. The rich and vibrant colors fill the screen in full 1080p high-definition glory. Pixar has really honed their animation techniques to provide a picture that is filled with movement and life. As a matter of fact, a portion of the beginning of the film is totally without dialog so you have to figure out part of the story just from the visuals and character expressions.
The 5.1 DTS-HD surround sound is also excellent – from the loud and wild noises of the storm they get caught in while up in the air, to the small squeaks of the balloons rubbing against each other during the calm moments of the flight. The musical score was beautifully done and provided just enough support for the story without overwhelming any of the scenes.
The Many Bonus Features of UP
Disney and Pixar have a reputation of providing titles that are filled to the brim with bonus features and UP does not disappoint. Partly Cloudy and Dug's Special Mission are a couple of great new animated shorts from the Pixar team. Adventure is Out There! is a great 22-minute documentary about how the film's directors and some of the other crew did research for the film by going on an expedition to the South American jungles. Very interesting! The Many Endings of Muntz show how the film's developers were really unsure of how to end the Muntz character and lets you see all of the different scenarios they went through to find the right one to fit the story.
A large section of the supplements contains a number of different documentaries (listed under that title) for a total of about 45 minutes worth of content. Geriatric Hero talks about how some of the animators studied the facial expressions of older people to get all right details for the film character faces. Canine Companions shows the research the crew did to come up with the dog characters in the film. They even went as far as to talk with dog behaviorist Ian Dunbar. Russell: Wilderness Explorer talks about how they came up with the Russell character. Our Flightless Friend Kevin talks about how they came up with the Kevin character and even shows how they studied live ostriches for the animations. Homemakers of Pixar shows a cool model-building featurette about how they made an exact replica of Carl's house to study for the animation. Balloons and Flight talks about how they made the balloon flight plausible from a technical standpoint. Composing for Characters provides a nice overview of how the composer Michael Giacchino created the music for the film.
Some additional extras include… Alternate Scene: Married Life, which talks about the opening scene in the film and how it could have been done differently. UP Promo Montage is a cool promotional montage of some of the great moments in the film. Worldwide Trailers provides two different theatrical trailers for the film. There are also a couple of Blu-ray exclusive features… Cine-Explore with Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, which is a great commentary track for the movie. Global Guardian Badge Game, which is a BD-Live feature that involves a multilayered geography game that kids might enjoy.
UP Easter Egg!
Guess what? UP has a hidden feature – commonly known as an "easter egg." You can find this feature while you are at the main menu of Disc 1. Just press the "left" button on your remote control and you'll get to see a short documentary (called The Egg) about a scene that was cut from the film.
UP on the Top Shelf
When I first saw the promotional trailers for the film, I wasn't sure what to make of it. The story looked different and funny, and since it was Disney * Pixar I just had to see it – I'm glad I did. UP is one of the best films of 2009 and is sure to be considered one of Pixar's best animated efforts. There's a great story that is both emotional as well as packed with action and adventure, plus it has some of the funniest moments you'll find in an animated film. Add to that the excellent selection of bonus features and the great value you get in this 4-disc set, and you get a film title that you will definitely want to put on the top shelf of your movie collection.
For more information: Disney Pixar UP on Blu-ray and DVD