Up (Blu-ray)

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Rating: PG

Starring:
Ed Asner as Carl Fredricksen (voice)
Christopher Plummer as Charles Muntz (voice)
Jordan Nagai as Russell (voice)
Bob Peterson as Dug, Alpha (voice)
Delroy Lindo as Beta (voice)
Jerome Ranft as Gamma (voice)
John Ratzenberger as Construction Foreman Tom (voice)
David Kaye as Newsreel Announcer (voice)
Elie Docter as Young Ellie (voice)
Jeremy Leary as Young Carl (voice)
Mickie McGowan as Police Officer Edith (voice)
Danny Mann as Construction Worker Steve (voice)
Donald Fullilove as Nurse George (voice)
Jess Harnell as Nurse AJ (voice)
Josh Cooley as Omega (voice)

Special Features:
Global Guardian Badge Game: Players try to locate countries and states around the globe in a multi-layered BD-exclusive and geography game enhanced by BD-Live.

Cine-Explore: The making of by director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson

Dug’s Special Mission: An all new film original short that follows the hilarious misadventures of Dug as he attempts to complete his “special mission”.

The Many Endings of Muntz: Many ideas were hatched about how to dispose of the film’s arch villain, Muntz and now viewers can see the many alternate endings proposed during story development.

Partly Cloudy: The hilarious short film that preceded screenings of Up. In it, a fanciful world where cherubic clouds jovially create the earth’s cuddly animal newborns, one depressed cloud must find the silver lining in his assignment: fashioning the less-loved critters like crocodiles and porcupines.

Adventure is Out There: This documentary tells the story of the filmmakers’ visit to the Tepuis Mountains of South America to research the design and story of the film.

Geriatric Hero: A character study of Carl and Muntz, from research to realization including art and design, rigging, animation and story. It focuses on the issues of aging, “simplexity”, shape-language and compelling character arcs.

Canine Companions: For anyone who ever wondered where CG puppies come from, an introduction to the design, behavior and language of dogs.

Russell: Wilderness Explorer: A character study of Russell from inspiration and design to finding the character arc and authentic voice for this wilderness ranger.

Our Giant Flightless Friend, Kevin: Find out how Avian Research & Development at Pixar helped bring a mythical, 11-foot tall iridescent bird to life.

Homemakers of Pixar: Carl and Ellie’s house is an important “character” in the film. Fans follow the development of the house from story to art to its ultimate realization in the computer.

Balloons and Flight: Carl’s house and Muntz’s dirigible presented the filmmakers with two different problems, how could they make a physical impossibility possible? And, in the case of the dirigible, how would they unearth a fallen giant and let it soar?

Composing for Characters: The collaboration between the Pixar filmmakers and Up composer Michael Giacchino.

Married Life: An alternate scene and expanded character backstory

Up promo montage

Theatrical trailers

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.78:1)
5.1 DTS-HD
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 96 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

“From the revolutionary minds of Pixar Animation Studios and the acclaimed director of ‘Monsters, Inc.’ comes a hilariously uplifting adventure where the sky is no longer the limit. Carl Fredricksen, a retired balloon salesman, is part rascal, part dreamer who is ready for his last chance at high-flying excitement. Tying thousands of balloons to his house, Carl sets off to the lost world of his childhood dreams. Unbeknownst to Carl, Russell, an overeager 8-year-odl Wilderness Explorer who has never ventured beyond his backyard, is in the wrong place at the wrong time – Carl’s front porch! The world’s most unlikely duo reach new heights and meet fantastic friends like Dug, a dog with a special collar that allows him to speak, and Kevin, the rare 13-foot tall flightless bird. Stuck together in the wilds of the jungle, Carl realizes that sometimes life’s biggest adventures aren’t the ones you set out looking for.”

“Up” is rated PG for some peril and action.

The Movie:
I would have loved to see the pitch meeting for this film. It’s certainly not an easy story to describe, and even when you describe it, it doesn’t sound as compelling as “toys come to life!” or “robots in space!”. I saw Disney’s presentation for this at the San Diego Comic-Con last year and wasn’t all that impressed. I thought Pixar might have their first flop. Boy was I wrong! I ended up liking “Up” better than “WALL•E.”

What’s fun about “Up” is that all the characters are familiar. Everyone knows a grumpy old man that lives alone in a house and has a cane with tennis balls on the end. Everyone knows a kid that is a Boy Scout. Everyone knows a quirky dog. But when you take all those familiar, everyday characters and dump them into an extraordinary situation, their familiar characteristics can generate a lot of laughs. For example, an old man walking down the street is not funny. An old man walking through the jungle with a floating house tied to him IS funny. A dog getting distracted is not particularly funny. A dog with a talking collar that gets distracted and yells, “Squirrel!” is very funny. You get the idea. It’s a story formula that works quite well for “Up.” Because you can identify with them, you get pulled into their adventure all the more.

“Up” is also very funny. Dug and his fellow talking dogs are hilarious. Now, we’ve seen talking dogs before, but what makes these dogs fun is that they still act like dogs despite talking. They are not always bright. They are easily distracted in the pursuit of squirrels. They punish each other with the “Cone of Shame.” They’ll steal your food when you aren’t looking. Pet owners are going to get a real kick out of these characters. Russell is also quite funny because he still behaves like a kid, not like an adult in a kid’s body. Russell whines when he’s tired. He’s innocent and unwaveringly loyal. He accepts the extraordinary and gets his feelings hurt. And he’s a klutz. Then there’s Kevin, the bizarre, colorful, large bird. Kevin is a walking lesson in animation. The bird’s motions are quite birdlike, but still fantastic for physical comedy. The bird clucks in a funny way, steals chocolate, and just acts really bizarre. You quickly fall in love with it like you do Dug.

The characters are perfectly voiced. Ed Asner may be typecast as Carl Fredricksen, but it works. He’s equally convincing as a grump or an action hero. The opening sequence showing his life together with the adventurous Ellie was perfectly done and went a long way towards showing he’s something more than a grumpy old man. Jordan Nagai is also great as Russell, one of Disney’s few Asian characters. Bob Peterson continues the tradition of a movie crew member coming in and voicing a character that steals the show. He voices Dug as well as the villainous dog Alpha. The supporting cast includes Christopher Plummer as Charles Muntz, Delroy Lindo as Beta, and Pixar good luck charm John Ratzenberger as Construction Foreman Tom.

The animation is wonderful. The balloons look amazing. The animation of the clouds caught my eye, too. I also felt that the animation of the birds and dogs was particularly well done. They really captured the quirks of their behavior. I loved a moment in the film where Russell is tired, he slumps down, and then is dragged through the sand face down while whining. It’s a perfect example of great character animation.

On the down side, I’ve heard John Lasseter say that for every laugh in a film, there should be a tear. “Up” does have a few tearful moments. We see Ellie find out she can’t have children. We eventually see her death. We see Carl all alone. It’s very sad. That’s not a bad thing, but it does make you say, “I hope this lightens up soon or I’m going to cry in my popcorn.” We also eventually learn Russell’s parents are divorced and his Dad is with another woman. It felt like heavy material considering the characters are walking around with a giant bird and a talking dog. But if a child from a broken home can identify with it and it helps them feel better, it’s a good thing. I just hope it doesn’t make my kids think I’m going to leave them. (Absolutely not going to happen.) They see enough of that in the world.

Overall, Pixar has somehow managed to go 10 for 10. I’m amazed and hope they can continue that perfect record. I believe next up is “Toy Story 3″ in 3-D!

The Extras:
The Blu-ray set has a lot going for it. Not only do you get a disc with a digital copy of the film and a disc with the DVD version, but you get all the following extras:

Dug’s Special Mission – This is easily the highlight of the bonus features and it’s a new short film featuring Dug. It also happens to tie directly in to the film and shows what happened to Dug right before he met Carl and Russell. Alpha gives Dug a ‘special mission’ in order to get him out of the way while they search for Kevin. No matter how harmless or trivial the task seems to be, disaster on an epic scale seems to follow. This one was pretty funny and had me laughing out loud with the kids.

Global Guardian Badge Game – This is a fun geography quiz that the whole family can take part in. I was doing it for this review, but all my family quickly joined me in trying to spot all 50 states. It then progresses to global geography. Check it out!

Cine-Explore – This is a “making of” video that you can watch while the movie plays. It is hosted by director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson. I’m not a big fan of these because I usually like to either watch the movie or the bonus features, not both at the same time. Anyway, this has some unique behind the scenes looks that you won’t find elsewhere on the Blu-ray.

The Many Endings of Muntz – The creators had a hard time figuring out how to dispatch Muntz, and this featurette shows the various ways they tried to tackle the problem. We see him ultimately getting lost in the rock maze, drifting away in the balloon house, turning good, etc. It’s an interesting look at the creative process.

Partly Cloudy – This is the short film that preceded “Up” in theaters. It’s about storks delivering baby animals to Earth after they’ve been created by fluffy clouds. The story follows one hapless stork that must deliver the less cute baby animals to Earth. He must start with a rather dangerous baby alligator and it goes downhill from there. It’s absolutely hilarious and a great way to kick off “Up.” You could also tell they really perfected the fluffy cloud look in this short.

Adventure is Out There – This featurette shows the creator’s visit to the Tepuis Mountains of Venezuela to do research for the film. It’s amazing to see the surreal rock formations, plants, and scenery. It’s actually a very interesting documentary and you may find yourself wanting to visit them after seeing this. It’s also interesting to see how much of their research material ended up in the movie (turtle shaped rock formations, etc.).

Geriatric Hero – This shows the development of Carl, but oddly enough we don’t get to see Ed Asner voicing the character.

Canine Companions – This featurette focuses on the dogs in the movie. The highlight is seeing the creator’s class on dog behavior. You really notice the canine quirks in the animation after seeing this.

Russell: Wilderness Explorer – The highlight of this featurette is seeing one of the crew artists appear on the screen and you instantly say, “This guy looks like Russell!” Sure enough, the character is based on the artist when he was a child. It’s very funny to see. We also get to see the director attempting to record dialogue with Jordan Nagai who plays Russell.

Our Giant Flightless Friend, Kevin – In this video we see the creators studying ostriches in order to perfect the animation for Kevin. We also see the many, many designs for the character as well as a peek at what made the sounds for the bird. Turns out hyenas were used for some of the bird calls.

Homemakers of Pixar – Here we see how the house was designed as well as all the detail inside.

Balloons and Flight – As you might expect, this highlights the design of the zeppelin and the balloon house.

Composing for Characters – We see composer Michael Giacchino creating the music for the film.

Married Life – There was an alternate version of the opening scene showing Elle and Carl growing up together. In this version, we see them hitting each other as kids. It starts when Carl tries to trap a bird and Elle punches him for it. We see various clips of them hitting each other until they end up falling for each other and marrying. As Ellie lays in the hospital, she gives Carl one last punch.

UP promo montage – This actually feels like a batch of deleted scenes. We see a bunch of footage of the characters doing random, silly things on the screen, mostly without dialogue.

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