UP: A Film review through a geographers lens

‘Up’ is a refreshing children’s animation film that not only addresses issues aimed at a young persons perspective, it looks at the bigger picture of how change occurs around everyone as they age though life on planet Earth.

Beginning with a young, shy, Carl Frederickson, growing up in a typical leafy suburban street in North America, the film follows his lifelong dreams of adventure and respect for the renowned explorer Charles F. Muntz, who is accused by the media of fabricating a new species of giant bird in ‘Paradise Falls’, an invented land in South America. As the camera fast forwards through Carl’s life , it is clear that he and his wife repeatedly pool their savings for a trip there, but end up spending it on more pressing needs to maintain their standard of living. His wife if the first to die, and Carl is left old and alone.

Now in modern day setting, surrounding 78 year old Carl’s home, urban development has completely recreated the view to the street outside. The houses that once surrounded his home and now modern tall blocks of flats, sky scraping offices and busy shop. Urban sprawl has crept outwards over Carl’s lifetime. He is now being pressured to sell him home so that the developers can bulldoze it down to build moneymaking high-rise buildings. In a final bid to save his house, Carl transforms his home into a self-steering aircraft, tying a mass of coloured balloons to his house, causing it to break free from its foundations and begin the long journey to Paradise falls. Right after lifting off, however, he learns he isn’t alone on his journey, since Russell, a wilderness explorer 70 years his junior, has inadvertently become a stowaway on the trip. Once there, all sorts of adventures are prescribed for the unlikely duo who take on brave near-death challenges to save precious species as well as each other. The film captures through the setting of a fictional trip tropical location so many current and past pressing issues involving social, environmental and financial matters that civilization take on throughout each and every lifetime.

Although Paradise falls is a fictitious land somewhere in South America, the atmosphere that was created through the visual and audio effects in the film was very convincing as to what someone might suppose the location to look and sound like. With sunshine beating down on rolling rainforests, unusual caves, huge rock plateaus and all sorts of peculiar plants and wildlife, it appeared to be a somewhat comparable blend of the Amazon rainforest and Madagascar, an island an that has evolved many species unique to its own land. This setting fits in with the ‘mysterious far away land’ image that captivates children’s imaginations so well. The plot cleverly addresses animal conservation issues by using the example of the giant bird (that Russell names Kevin), as being hunted down for fame and social recognition by the not so noble explorer Muntz. Muntz’s role is the typical bad guy, who by the aid of modern technology is the leader of a giant army of dogs who are trained to hunt down and kill Kevin, imitating social issues that can be equivalent on so many scales in historical and modern day life.

The film so beautifully draws upon issues that geographers undertake on a daily basis, combining environmental, social and financial changes that every person will experience in their lifetime. It is a pleasure to watch and appreciate the effort that has gone into making a film of such contemporary themes that are guaranteed to entertain any parent watching with their child.

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2 Responses to UP: A Film review through a geographers lens

  1. Alan (GeoBlogs) says:

    Nice post.
    I used ‘UP’ as a context for a conference session when the film first came out: http://livinggeography.blogspot.com/2009/10/tepui.html on the theme of ‘Amazing Places’ based on the upland tepui landscapes.
    I also use Pixar quotes a lot with respect to the use of technology in education, and the creative thought that goes into telling their stories, including the endless research that is needed first in order for the audience to be utterly convinced by what they are seeing.
    Follow @DisneyPixar for lots of ideas, such as this recent quote:
    “Learn the rules so you can break them intelligently”

  2. Thanks for the comment Alan and the tip about Pixar quotes!

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