A Few Thoughts on Pixar’s “Up”

  by Chris Horst

Just a few minutes into Up and I’m enthralled by the story of an elderly couple who modeled a tender example of a married life well-lived. And that’s just the preamble to the ensuing adventure.

An elderly widower and a portly, ambitious Wilderness Explorer (boy scout) are not exactly who I’d choose for the lead characters of a blockbuster children’s movie, but that’s why I’m not a writer for Pixar.

Hundreds of miles from home due to a resisted eviction notice, a snipe hunt, and a flying house, Carl Fredricksen (the widower) and Russell (the Wilderness Explorer) proceed to discover one of the world’s rarest birds and then stumble across Charles Muntz, a renowned explorer with a very mean streak. Through it all, the camaraderie built between Fredricksen and Russell sustains a wild and captivating tale of friendship and sacrifice.

What We Loved

Is there a more likeable character than Carl Fredricksen? His likeability is perhaps only surpassed by Russell. The characters are some of the best Pixar has ever developed. And, the friendship between the two is striking. Among other impressive traits, Carl and Russell exhibit real courage. Neither has impressive physical strength nor crime-fighting experience. But they both take on the foe standing (or in this case, flying) in front of them.

We also loved the humor in the film. The dogs, in particular, shine in many comedic moments (“squirrel!”, “cone of shame”, “tiny mailman”, etc.).

What Can We Learn

Good and evil are clearly evidenced throughout the film. This clarity is helpful for children, especially. Carl and Russell aren’t perfect. They’re flawed, just like all of us. But, they do not shirk their responsibility to face full-force the evil in front of them. And, the evil they’re up against is of the most sinister variety.

The villain, Charles Muntz, introduces a disturbing reality about evil in our world. He is someone who seems remarkable on the surface. He was an explorer and storied adventurer who initially treats Carl and Russell kindly. It’s only after he’s treated them to dinner that his ugliness surfaces.

Often, it’s not the creeper with lollypops in the cargo van that our children need to be wary of. It’s more often the “tricky person” who our children ought to be suspicious of.

Things to Talk About

Finally, a few questions to discuss with your kids:

  • What part of Carl and Russell’s adventure was the craziest?
  • What did you think about how Russell and Carl responded to Charles?
  • How have you ever been in a situation like Russell and Carl?
  • What did you like about their friendship with each other?
  • How was Charles Muntz a tricky bad guy?
  • If you got to be any person or animal in the movie, which would you choose to be?

At the end of the film, we watch as Carl stands up as a father figure for Russell at his Wilderness Explorer ceremony, his hand on Russell’s shoulder as he receives his “assisting the elderly” badge. Their friendship had developed into something special, a beautiful picture of what the heart of fatherhood is all about.


Here’s a list of our favorite movies and books that we’ve written about thus far.