This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Up, UP, and AWAY!

Early Friday, I threaded Pixar's new movie, UP, for a midnight screening. As the film spun, twisted, and turned, I thought:

"A midnight screening of a kid's movie? Are they crazy?"

Well, don't listen to me. It sold out... and we added another midnight show. And show after show after show, things got crazier... and messier. But for every popcorn kernel, smushed milk dud, and trail of M&Ms, there was a smile, a laugh, and a whisper of adventure and imagination in the hearts and minds of kids, adults, and even the most hard-nosed critic.

Multi-colored balloons are happy things. If a kid is crying at glass-breaking decibels in a restaurant, what do they give them? Why, a brightly colored balloon. Balloons are like a brand new box of 64 crayons or a bag of colorful M&Ms, but they float and as they go Up, Up, And Away... they encounter a whole new world and curious adventures that humans rarely see. And in that, lies potential for a cinematic journey.

In 1956, French filmmaker, Albert Lamorisse, made a classic 34-minute short called Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon,) a simple little story about a balloon and a little boy. It won many awards, including an Oscar for best original screenplay and the Palm d'Or [for short film] at Cannes. Years later, another ballloon idea saw its beginnings. A few years ago, Director Pete Docter and co-director/writer Bob Peterson were talking and started hashing out a kernel of an idea: What if you tied a bunch of balloons together and were whisked far, far away? You'd instantly be on a deserted island in the sky and a guest on an adventure of your own making.

Needless to say, that kernel of an idea expanded with helium and blew up-- but unlike many blockbusters, this blow-up didn't come from a series of CGI explosions. It came from imagination, lots of balloons, well-drawn characters, and a good, solid adventure.

The weekend was an UPward fury of kids and parents and adults all stampeding to see the latest from Disney/Pixar. You'd think it was Christmas--which it was for movie theaters across the country. Over the weekend, UP raked in $68, 108, 790 blasting Night At The Museum and even the Terminator.

Can you imagine the initial pitch?

I want to make a movie about a craggy old guy who ties a zillion balloons to his house until it floats away to South America. Then, I'll give him a roly-poly Boy Scout as an uninvited companion.

Somewhere along the line, that pitch was made and luckily, it fell to Pixar to bring it to fruition. As simple as the storyline is, preparation and research took time...lots and lots of time. Just how many balloons would it take to lift a house? According to production notes, technical dire
ctors for the film calculated that Carl Fredricksen would have to tie twenty to thirty million balloons to even have hopes of lifting off. Now, THAT's a lot of hot air-- or helium, I guess I should say.

Steve May, the film's supervising technical director noted:

"We ended up using 10, 297 for most of the floating scenes, and 20,622 when it actually lifts off. The number varies from shot to shot depending on the angle, distance, and fine-tuning the size so that it feels interesting, believable and visually simple. " [UP official website]

When I was younger, I used to daydream about flight: flapping my arms, lifting off and flying around the world like a bird. I know it's not a dream unique to me, as much as I'd like it to be.
But take that dream, throw in interesting characters, an adventurous setting right out of Indiana Jones, and lots of lots of colorful balloons and people will come.

UP presented many complications for the filmmakers, animators, and technical teams. But now that the hard parts are over, the celebration can begin. The film's not only in the can, it's on the screen [ many, many screens] and certifiably another slam dunk for Pixar-- its 10th film overall, AND it's 1st available in Digital 3-D [at select theaters.]

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

UP Synopsis: From Disney•Pixar comes Up, a comedy adventure about 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. [ Disney/Pixar]

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