September 9, 2018
In Disney Pixar’s 2009 animated film, Up, we watch as Carl Fredricksen the main protagonist transforms from a grumpy, lifeless old man into a hero. He does so by going on a journey of a lifetime through the beautiful, precarious jungle called “Paradise Falls” in South America. He travels throughout the story accompanied by friends that were met along the way Russel, Doug and Kevin. We watch at the start of the adventure as Carl is withered away emotionally and physically by life with no compassion, love or kindness, but then finds new meaning and has many life changing moments and experiences which changes him into his once young, hopeful self through the help of his new friends and love for adventure.
The story begins with two children named Carl and Ellie who meet and discover they share the same dream of someday being explorers. Then in the news they see the clips of an adventurer named Charles Muntz who uses his gigantic airship to explore a lost world on a plateau in Venezuela also known as Paradise Falls and would bring back the bones of creatures previously undiscovered by mankind. When his discoveries are accused of being faked, he flies off to South America vowing to bring back living creatures to prove his claims. Nothing is heard from him for years. Ellie and Carl grow up, marry, buy a fixer upper house and turn it into their dream house. Slowly saving every penny they can to make it to Paradise Falls, but failing to do so because of reality getting in the way. They end up growing old together and never being able to fulfill this dream to Paradise Falls because of Ellies death.
After the loss of his wife, Carl lives his life isolated from society. He sits in his chair where his wife and him used to sit all day surrounded by memories of her, grieving about his wife’s passing as a city grows around him. Instead of moving into a retirement home or giving up his house, Carl decides to let thousands of balloons go that lift the house away into the sky. By leaving this place Carl escapes the change of the outside world but still brings with him the change from his previous life and his connection to his wife. He still brings with him his personal Carl & Ellie museum inside his home with antiques and artifacts that still make memories seem real like she isn’t gone. So though Carl has left the this place he still brings this emotional baggage with him still connecting him to his past.
Carl embarks on the start of his real journey when, floating high in the sky, a boy named Russell knocks on his door and asks to come inside to safety. Grumpy Carl refuses to let Russell come in but then allows Russell in. Carl’s demeanor then changes after getting to know Russell more and sees the blissful look of pure adventure in Russell’s eyes just like he and his wife had when they were kids. Russell reminds Carl so much of himself and Ellie that Russell turns out to be like the kid Carl and Ellie never had. Russell gets in return someone who does show up for his merit badge ceremony, who does sit on the curb outside his favorite ice cream place counting red and blue cars with him, just like his actual father used to do.
Russell now by Carl’s side then encounters a long dirt path through the wilderness to get on top of the waterfall. They then get split up and, while separated Russell becomes friends with a bird named Kevin, who is trying to find her children whilst an evil explorer is trying to capture the bird. Then, Carl abandons the bird and disregards Russell’s opinion to not abandon Kevin and returns to worry about his house. Following the next scene is a pivotal moment for Carl as a character. He transforms from the old, grouchy man with nothing to live for into someone with a purpose and something to do. He starts this transformation by having to take all his belongs in his house and throw them out to lift the house back into the air to save Russell and Kevin. This sacrifice of his whole life (the house) for others is a turning point in Carl’s life and establishes him in the story as a hero.
After Carl and Russell save Kevin, they return home on a flight, Carl fills in as Russell’s father figure at his boy scout ceremony and gives Russell a very special gift that once belonged to his wife. This ceremony is the official moment Russell becomes a senior scout and it is also the point when Carl has come full circle transforming from a pessimistic, negative old man to a friend, and father figure.