Commentary 28 May 2009 07:58 am

Up and Up

- I’ve read three different reviews for Up, all very positive.
. Tom McCarthy in Variety reviews the film we all expect to see: another feel-good, light and airy cartoon done by those wizards at Pixar. All positive.
. Michael Rechtshaffen in The Hollywood Reporter writes a less specific but much more buoyant review. “Despite the innate sentimentality, director Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.”) and co- director-writer Bob Peterson keep the laughs coming at an agreeably ticklish pace.”
. Robert Wilonsky in the Village Voice reviews a film that slyly works more as a film for adults than for children. “Pixar movies have been moving in this direction for years—adult animation sprinkled with just enough shenanigans to entertain the kids while we get our weep on.” All positive.

The best written review was the Village Voice, and it’s also the one that makes me most curious to see it. Two of the reviews suggest that 3D is probably a hindrance more than a help:

Variety: In fact, the film’s overall loveliness presents a conceivable argument in favor of seeing it in 2-D: Even with the strongest possible projector bulbs, the 3-D glasses reduce the image’s brightness by 20%. At the very least, the incentive for seeing “Up” in 3-D would seem less powerful than it is for other films.

Voice: Do not see Up in 3-D. It’s inessential to the tale and altogether distracting.

The Hollywood Reporter spends much of its review promoting the 3D experience: “… those attending theaters equipped with the Disney Digital 3-D technology will have the added bonus of experiencing a three-dimensional process that is less concerned with the usual “comin’ at ya” razzle-dazzle than it is with creating exquisitely detailed textures and appropriately expansive depths of field.”

The film opens tomorrow, and I’ll look forward to some of the other more mainstream reviews. I’ll see the film at an Academy screening on Saturday. It’ll be shown in 2D at the screening, so I won’t have the option of seeing it in 3D. (Perhaps the Academy should update?) Regardless, I’d like not to see it wearing polarized glasses that dim the design’s colors to offer an unnecessary effect. You pay $5 more for 20% less, in my estimation.

I’m not sold on the character design in the trailers and stills I’ve seen, and the character animation I’ve seen has not won me over. But that all becomes moot if the story is solidly engaging as both of these reviews suggest. I can hope as well as anyone.


Meanwhile in another story about Up, The NY Post offers a Q&A with Ed Asner, as well as a-not-very-positive article about Pixar’s attempt to do more daring kinds of movies: a “… rodent-driven “Ratatouille” and continuing with last year’s “WALL-E” — an amazing, mostly wordless film about a robot tidying up after an environmental apocalypse.”

And now a film about a 78 year old man.:

“The movie’s premise is so unusual that Thinkway Toys, Pixar’s partner since 1995, has decided to sit this one out.

‘That really tells you something,’ says David A. Price, author of ‘The Pixar Touch.’ ‘Everybody likes their grandpa, but the consumer product folks don’t think that grandpa is gonna sell as a doll.’

Docter says he and the other creative staff at Pixar don’t think in terms of marketing and merchandising.”

I wonder if Bob Iger would say the same.

But then this has been the story on many of the entertanment blogs (eg: this one) over the past few months. Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to judge a film on its marketablity quotient, but then I’m not sure that a film that costs upward of $150 million shouldn’t concern itself with that factor.

Originally, Toy Story premiered without any dolls on the market. Disney seemed to have been showing their lack of support for that first big Pixar effort. The success of the film caught them unaware, and they weren’t able to truly capitalize on the dolls until after the success. (Making Toy Story 2 all the more important.)

Perhaps children will be craving for rubberized Carls and they’ll have to make Up 2 to encourage them. Of course, that’d have to wait until Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 hit theaters.

29 Responses to “Up and Up”

  1. on 28 May 2009 at 8:58 am 1.Tim Rauch said …

    This movie sounds/looks like fun to me. I would have to guess you could sell dolls of the characters, but I’m no marketing agent… if it’s a good movie and the characters are strong, won’t the kids want ‘em?

  2. on 28 May 2009 at 10:31 am 2.Larry Levine said …

    “Up” looks awesome, doll or no doll.

  3. on 28 May 2009 at 1:59 pm 3.Mihai Luchian said …

    Today i stumbled upon one of your past past past posts… – this one. There you write about a scene in Spirited Away where the girl is going down the stairs.
    Maybe in 3 years you found out who animated it, but just in case – it was animated by Shinya Ohira, my favorite japanese animator.
    If you would like to find out more about this visit – a unique blog in western culture about japanese animation.

  4. on 28 May 2009 at 2:21 pm 4.keith lango said …

    For a less than glowing review, check out

    The writer seems overly angry for some reason, but does raise some valid critiques of Pixar’s overall storytelling trend lately.

  5. on 28 May 2009 at 3:48 pm 5.Michael said …

    I’d read this review in the NY Press, where Armond White has been writing for years. It’s good to see his material goes elsewhere. Thanks for the link, Keith.

    I don’t frequently agree with his reviews, but I respect much of his thinking. I’m prepared to dislike this film (especially in as much as I hate the character designs I’ve seen), however I am trying to give the film every opportunity to be wonderful. I’ll know on Saturday.

    The first 20 minutes of Wall-E wasa exceptional. Hopefully this film will offer more than 20 minutes.

  6. on 29 May 2009 at 12:40 am 6.Mac said …

    I actually like Carl’s design, it is much more interesting to me than the hundreds of humans in Wall-e. I’m also excited that it takes place over many varied locations, at least it looks that way in the trailer. It definitely has potential.

  7. on 29 May 2009 at 2:20 am 7.MiloG said …

    “You pay $5 more for 20% less, in my estimation”

    No, it’s 25% percent less. That’s what both the projection and goggles of 3D do to the image. I’m glad the reviews (a lot of them) mention the 3D is OK, but it’s better in 2D.

    Armond White doesn’t make a cogent argument for his disdain of Up. If you’re going to be a critic, spell it out. CRITIQUE. His “writing” is shallow, and he comes across as not much more than an angry racist. A little secondary education might have helped.

    As far as the toys for Up issue, there’s a little thing called the “bush economic meltdown going on.” NO one is spending money–consumers OR toy makers! Movie toys haven’t sold well since Cars ($5 billion and counting), and even that was a fluke. The new Star Wars toys were mostly returned–but Lucas got paid upfront. Even Harry Potter toys do not sell well enough. Manufacturers and distributers get burned on these very limited issue products. Toy companies are instead re-evaluating their in-house product, which is why, in the next few years, you’ll be seeing movies based on some of these toys (G.I. Joe, Candyland, Monopoly…yes, they’re all coming).

    Saw UP last night. Aside from Toy Story, it’s Pixar’s best film, the best film so far this year by far, and one of the most emotional films I’ve ever seen. The characterzations are spot on, the animation the very definition of CHARACTER ANIMATION, and the design elegant, simple, and clear. Supporting all of this is the superb technical achievements which never overtake the film. I cannot wait to see it again. In 2D.

  8. on 29 May 2009 at 7:22 am 8.Michael said …

    Mac, I’m glad you like Carl’s design, but comparing it to the humans in Wall-E is a no-brainer plus for Carl. I look forward to seeing the film, for myself, and hope I end up agreeing with you.

    Thanks, MiloG, for your comments. I agree with you on Armond White’s piece (without having seen the film). He often searches for heavy intellectualism on the surface of the film and pans movies that don’t offer it. Any balloon in a movie, obviously is a reference to “The Red Balloon.”

    Of course, I still haven’t seen it but will tomorrow.

  9. on 29 May 2009 at 12:50 pm 9.Tommy said …

    I saw UP at midnight last night and was simply amazed.

  10. on 29 May 2009 at 3:28 pm 10.KC Sanders said …

    Some very fun new UP art at the below link.–fdsh–Pixar%27s-UP/Categories?category_name=Disney+%2F+Pixar%27s+UP

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