Today’s Beat Sheet was contributed by Master Cat! Jose Silerio:
There’s no other studio that consistently releases movies that are both critical and box office successes like Pixar Animation. From Toy Story to Finding Nemo to The Incredibles, and their latest release, Up, their stories are the finest examples of four-quadrant movies. Pixar’s films are more than feature cartoons; they entertain us, young and old — and they deliver stories that resonate to our very bones.
With Up, screenwriters Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, and Thomas McCarthy have crafted a tale of lost love, great adventure, and new-found friendship — complete with talking dogs, an evil villian, and a bird named Kevin — delighting critics and audiences worldwide.
Let’s beat it out!
Opening Image: We first meet 8 year-old Carl Friedrickson, dressed as a mini-explorer, inside a movie theater as he watches a newsreel of his silver-screen idol, Charles Muntz, the greatest explorer on Earth. Even though the newsreel reveals that Muntz was dishonored by his peers and accused of fabricating the skeletal remains of a rare giant bird, Carl is unwavering in his faith in his hero, who is off to prove the existence of the Monster of Paradise Falls.
Theme Stated: As Carl “flies” over the sidewalks of his neighborhood, he is stopped in his tracks when he hears the voice of a girl from within a dilapidated house. She echoes the Muntz mantra: “Adventure is out there!”
Set-Up: Carl is immediately enamored with Ellie, a precocious 8 year-old bubbling with daring energy. Just like Carl, she is off to “see” the world — like her idol Charles Muntz — and plans to live one day in Paradise Falls. For Carl, you couldn’t find another girl more perfect than Ellie. She shares with him her most prized possession, a recycled photo album, her “Adventure Book.” The book contains photographs of Muntz and Paradise Falls… but after one page titled “Stuff I’m Going To Do,” all the pages are blank — reserved for the adventures that are yet to come.
Flash forward. We see Carl and Ellie grow up, get married, buy a home, fix it up, get a job, pay the bills, put off their trip to Paradise Falls, lose a child, grow old, and lose a lifelong companion. (It would have made for simpler writing to jump to the “Several Years Later” title card; however, our the writers wisely chose to structure a time passage in order to give the audience this “back story” to truly drive in the emotional motives and stakes that make up the heart of this tale.)
Carl, now an elderly widower, lives alone in his home that was once filled with life. Carl’s home isn’t the only thing that’s changed — the whole neighborhood has. What once was an ideal residential community is now a testament to modernization. Carl’s house is a sore thumb in an urban community of high-rise buildings. This is Carl’s Stasis=Death moment: stuck in the past but nowhere to go.
As Carl sits on his porch and watches the sea of heavy machinery and construction workers surrounding his home, one of the construction foremen tries to persuade him to sell his house to the Real Estate Developer. Carl flatly refuses any offer to buy his home.
One day… a knock on the door. Carl opens the door to reveal Russell, a Junior Wilderness Explorer. Russell just needs one more badge to become a Senior Wilderness Explorer: the Assisting the Elderly badge. Desperate to rid himself of this annoyance, Carl sends Russell on a wild goose chase after an imaginary bird, a Snipe, which has been eating his flowers every night.
Catalyst: Carl watches in horror as one construction truck backs up on his mailbox — the mailbox that Ellie made. In a fit of rage, Carl knocks the construction worker to the ground with his cane. The Real Estate Developer sees it all.
Debate: Carl finds himself in court as a public menace and is ordered to move to the Shady Oaks Retirement Home. Truly lost, he returns home, perhaps for the last time, and looks through his life with Ellie — her Adventure Book, their Adventure Shrine, and her painting on the wall of their fantasy home atop Paradise Falls.
Break into Two: As the nurses from the Shady Oaks Retirement Home arrive to pick up Carl, he asks them for a moment to say goodbye to the house. Instead, Carl releases thousands of balloons in the air, all tied to his home. The home is lifted up from its foundation and into the air. The nurses can only watch dumbfounded as Carl floats away, steering his home higher and higher — ”Up.”
B Story: Carl celebrates his escape, only to be interrupted by a quite unexpected knock on the door. He discovers a frightened Russell clinging to the wall of his house. Russell was trapped there as he was searching for the Snipe. Begrudgingly, Carl lets Russell in.
Fun & Games: Soon, the house floats into a storm. Chaos ensues! Carl barely saves Ellie’s treasures from being thrown out of the house. In the frenzy, Carl blacks out. When he comes to, he discovers that Russell has driven the house out of the storm and over South America — with the help of his Wilderness Explorer GPS, a gift from his dad. In Russell’s excitement to show Carl his treasure, Russell accidentally flings the GPS out the window. Uh-oh. They’re lost.
Suddenly, the house crashes against a mountainside, and Carl and Russell are ejected. In the nick of time, they prevent the house from floating away. Carl is ecstatic! They’ve landed on Paradise Falls mountain — even if it is the wrong end of it. Carl and Russell walk towards Paradise Falls.
Along the way, Russell finds a giant bird — a Snipe — and pleads with Carl to keep him. Despite Carl’s objections, Russell coaxes it along with some chocolate bars. He names it “Kevin.” As they continue on, the group runs into Dug, a mutt of a dog that’s able to talk through a high-tech collar. Dug is searching for Kevin to take back to his master. Carl couldn’t care less. All he wants is to make it to Paradise Falls.
Unknown to Carl, the rest of Dug’s pack, led by a ferocious Doberman named Alpha, is also searching for Kevin. Dug makes contact with Alpha. He tells them that he has Kevin and will soon take Kevin back as prisoner — so the pack will finally accept him.
They trek through the jungle, over rivers and rock beds, through rain and the cold of night. Carl learns that Russell’s dad has “another family” and rarely sees Russell. In a moment of guilt, Carl promises to take Kevin with them. He will not let Kevin become a prisoner of Dug.
When they awake the next morning, another surprise. Kevin hears HER babies crying out for her. She runs off to find them. As she does, the balloons carrying the house begin to lose their lift-off power.
Midpoint: Alpha and his cohorts surround Carl, Russell, and Dug. They discover that Kevin is not there — unknown to all of them, she is hiding atop the house — so they take Carl and Russell prisoner instead. They lead them away from Paradise Falls and into a massive cave, where they meet the dogs’ master… Charles Muntz!
Bad Guys Close In: Carl is giddy with excitement! Finally, he meets his hero! Carl confesses that Muntz is the reason that Carl and Ellie wanted to live in Paradise Falls. Flattered, Muntz offers them dinner and gives them a tour of his dirigible and the museum within it, filled with biological and anthropological finds. Dug, meantime, is punished with the Cone of Shame for losing Kevin.
Carl soon learns that Muntz is obsessed with finding Kevin and taking him back stateside to redeem his name. He tells them that Kevin lives in a labyrinth that’s impossible to get through. After seeing Muntz’s extensive collection of Kevin samples and artifacts, Russell innocently tells Muntz that he found Kevin and managed to train him with chocolate, despite Carl’s efforts to shut him up.
Muntz immediately grows suspicious of Carl and tells him of others who have come in the past in hopes of tricking him and taking credit for finding this rare giant bird — only to learn that the mountains can be a very dangerous place.
Carl sees Kevin sitting atop his house and tries to excuse himself and Russell from Muntz’s dinner. But it’s too late, Kevin cries out and Muntz sees him too.
A chase ensues. Carl and Russell run off, dragging the house and Kevin along. The balloons pop as they are pierced by the cave’s sharp ceiling rocks. The house is losing lift — just as Muntz’s dogs are gaining ground. With Kevin and Dug’s help, our heroes manage to stay ahead of the angry pack of dogs. But Kevin is terribly wounded when Alpha bites her on the leg. Still, they escape.
Carl finds himself in a dilemma — get the sinking house to Paradise Falls, or help the wounded Kevin return to her babies. Carl makes the heroic choice: they head for the babies. Unfortunately, they do not realize that Muntz is tracking them with Dug’s electronic collar.
As they make their way, Russell confesses that the wild isn’t all that he expected it to be. He tells Carl about the fun stuff he used to do with his dad; yet what he really remembers most is the boring stuff they used to do together. Carl quietly agrees.
They finally make it to Kevin’s labyrinth home. The babies cry out and Kevin, despite her injury, rushes towards them…
All Is Lost: …but before Kevin can make it inside the labyrinth, Muntz’s dirigible appears, and he captures Kevin. Carl tries to free Kevin — Muntz starts a fire under Carl’s house. Carl chooses to save the house, and Kevin is taken away by Muntz. Russell is livid. He accuses Carl of giving Kevin away. Carl retorts. He tells Russell that he never asked for Russell’s presence. He didn’t ask for any of this to happen. He just wanted to go to Paradise Falls, and that’s what he’s going to do.
Dark Night of the Soul: They make it to Paradise Falls, but there is no sense of victory. Carl lands the house just as the balloons give out. Carl enters his house for the first time in days. He’s made it …but without Ellie. He holds her Adventure Book, and sees pictures of the two of them where there were blank pages. He sees their life together in a slideshow, the ups and the downs. Tucked into the last pages, he discovers a note from Ellie, thanking him for their adventure together — and urging him to start a new one.
Break into Three: Carl finds Russell floating away, with the help of some balloons, determined to rescue Kevin. Carl tries to get the house to lift, but it won’t budge. In his frustration, he heaves a chair out of the house. The house moves very slightly. Carl knows what he has to do. He starts throwing everything out of the house — including all of Ellie’s belongings.
Finale: The house lifts from the ground and is airborne once again. In a repeat from when Carl first took to the air, there’s a knock on the door. Thinking it’s Russell, Carl rushes to the door to find Dug, who was hiding under the house all this time. They hug as Carl accepts becoming Dug’s master.
Carl catches up with Muntz’s flying dirigible and saves Russell from being thrown from it. Hooking his house to the dirigible, Carl and Dug climb aboard in search of Kevin. They rescue her, only to discover that Muntz will not give Kevin up easily — even if it means killing her. As the group escapes, Dug is separated from them. He is trapped and outnumbered by Alpha and the other dogs… then, Dug tricks Alpha into wearing the Cone of Shame. The other dogs turn to Dug as the new “alpha” dog.
Meanwhile, Carl and Kevin make it back to the house. Muntz fires at the balloons… the house sinks slowly towards the ground. Carl cannot stop it, and Russell, Dug, and Kevin are trapped inside — by Muntz. In one last desperate effort, Carl dangles a chocolate bar, attracting Kevin’s attention. As Kevin leaps out of the house with Russell and Dug, the house breaks free. Muntz tries to grab them but he is tangled in balloon strings and falls to the ground thousands of feet below. Carl watches as his house does the same, but what matters is that everyone is safe.
Final Image: Kevin is reunited with her babies as Carl, Russell, and Dug bid her goodbye. Russell gets his final badge as he graduates to Senior Wilderness Explorer. However, his father does not appear to pin the badge on him; instead, it is Carl who walks up to the stage and presents Russell with his badge, proudly.
In a perfect postscript, we see that Carl and Ellie’s house did fall back to the ground safely — right next to Paradise Falls.