Up, the movie

Who are the real Carl and Ellie Fredrickson reffered to in „Up”?

Carl is largely inspired by our own grandparents, and a few other folks as well. There have been some people that I have met over my life who have been older, and at first blush it would seem kind of like a non sequitur that my wife and I’d be friends with them. We met this man named Mike Oznowicz who lived in Oakland, California. He was a widower in his 70s, and though he clearly had a huge gap in his life without his wife, he was incredibly full of life. He surrounded himself with young people. He’d always seen every new movie before I did, every show, every museum exhibit, was always looking for new ideas and culture. He was just incredible, and he taught me a lot about really engaging with the world. It’s people like Mike that teach you the way to live. He was like Carl at the end of the movie.

At the beginning of the film, Carl is stuck in a box of his own making. His wife Ellie showed him how amazing life is and how much it has to offer, and after she died he just withdrew and went into that box. We tried to use squares in the designs of Carl and in the house, to symbolize Carl and his approach to life. You see a lot of him in framed, small, flat, confined spaces in the beginning of the film. And as he begins to open up, you get more rounded shapes, more open air — kind of like Ellie is speaking through this other character, Russell.

Russell is the reincarnated spirit of Ellie. He’s that spirit of adventure — getting out there in the world and becoming interested in everything. He’s basically the opposite of Carl, and we designed him to pull Carl out of his shell. Carl is saddled with this kid, and in caring about him ends up re-engaging with the world in a more meaningful way. It’s mostly through Russell that that happens. We designed his basic shape to be like a spinning top, or a balloon. He’s always moving, and he’s relentless in his optimism and enthusiasm.

Dug the dog actually came from another project that Bob [Peterson, co-director / co-writer] and I developed. Those of us who have pets, we often end up making up dialog for them. Our dog will come up to my kids and stare at them, and I voice something like, “Could we go for a walk now, could we, could we, please, please?” And we thought of this unique approach to have these collars that translate what the dog is thinking, rather than have lip synced dialog. Bob wrote the dialogue for Dug and ended up voicing him – he channels dogs really well. Oh – also, Bob tells a story of being a camp counselor in High School, and this kid came up to him, gave him a big hug and said, “You are my counselor and I love you!” Dug is just a simple dog, he just wants to please people.

Muntz is a world traveler extraordinaire. He’s a combination of Howard Hughes and Charles Lindbergh, and a little bit of Walt Disney thrown in — these people who had taken these amazing risks and done things no one else had done. We looked at a lot of real life adventurers like Percy Faucett and Roy Chapman Andrews and combined them into one guy. For Carl and Ellie, Muntz represents what they want to do with their lives: “Someday, I want to be like this guy!”


Carl Fredricksen’s last name came from relatives of director Pete Docter.

The drawing on the wall shows Dug the dog and Kevin the Bird, creature’s Carl meets later in his adventure. This is kinda funny because technically Dug and Kevin even had a presence in the film’s teaser trailer, even if you weren’t aware of it.

zz62c1ee43up gamma

I’m curious about the dog painting on the wall. /Film commenter Vanessa thinks the bulldog it’s one of Dug’s “doggie friends” — Gamma, seen below. But most people point out that the facial coloring is different. The painting on the wall of a Boston Terrier is possibly one of Munitz’s other dogs. There is also a very good chance that this character is in a future Pixar movie.

up badges

Russell has a badge for 2D animation and one featuring the ball from Luxo. Another one of the badges shows a burger with a candle in it, which is a tribute to Merritt Bakery, an old school bakery and restaurant on the south end of Lake Merritt in Oakland. Producer Jonas Rivera explains: “Pete and I, when we work on a film, we go almost every week at night (to Merritt Bakery) to sit at the counter and eat cake and talk about the movie. One of the things we saw over there was the burger cake — it’s shaped like a hamburger. We thought ‘That is so ridiculous,’ so we made it a trend to buy that for our crew meetings. And one of Russell’s badges is a burger cake. There’s some Oakland love in the movie.”

up house pixar

Carl’s house was partly inspired by a Victorian house near Sixth Street in Berkeley, CA.

up house real

Update: The house pictured above was my best guess after virtually driving around Sixth Street on Google Maps for a half hour. But my best guess was wrong. SFGate has discovered a house which is most likely the real house which inspired Carl’s house in the movie.  The house they discovered not only has a lot of architectural similarities, but is also jacked up about ten feet off the ground, and it appears to be in this condition for quite some time.

up fentons

Carl and Russell eat Ice Cream at Fentons Creamery, a famous 114-year-old ice cream parlor and restaurant in Oakland.

Other Bay area references include:

  • The movie theater in the credit sequence displaying a “star wars” marque is the Grand Lake Theater, an Oakland theater on Grand Avenue by Lake Merritt. (thanks to /Film reader Seth S)
  • When Carl’s house first lifts off, a street sign indicates he’s going down San Pablo Ave., the main thoroughfare in Emeryville, where Pixar is located. (thanks to /Film reader Seth S)

knick knack up

The Mermaid girl from the short film Knick Knack appears on a brochure at the bottom right hand corner of the screen when Carl buys plane tickets. I don’t have a screen capture of this scene, and the art shown above doesn’t feature the character, but you get the idea.

up ellie

Pete Docter’s real life daughter Elie (concept art left) is the voice of young Ellie in UP. She also drew some of the pictures in Ellie’s adventure book. The pencil and crayon drawing of Carl’s house ofn the right was done by Ellie Docter.

up beachball mac

Pixar has a history of Apple/Mac references. Steve Jobs, who co-founded Apple with Steve Wozniak, bought The Graphics Group (later renamed Pixar) from Lucasfilm’s computer graphics division in 1986, and served as CEO until Pixar was acquired by Disney in 2006. Apple has been featured in previous Pixar productions like on the hood of one of the race cars in Cars. There are several references to Apple in WALL-E, the most obvious is when WALL-E watches Hello Dolly on an older video iPod, WALL-E making the Mac startup chime and Eve was even designed by Apple’s behind-the-scenes design guru Johnny Ive

The only two Mac references we could find in Up take place during the credits.

  • A merit badge next to the Pixar Senior Staff credit seems to be a reference to the spinning beach ball icon on Mac operating systems. Thanks to Matt T for the photo.
  • During another credit sequence photo, Carl is seen investigating a Mac mouse in the end credits. (thanks to /Film reader Meh)

Other Up Trivia/Easter Eggs:

  • Carl Fredricksen’s last name came from relatives of director Pete Docter.
  • Pete Docter voices some of Kevin’s bird noises.
  • Docter also voiced the ‘troop leader’ who was awarding the badges at the end of the movie, credited as “Campmaster Strauch”. (Xeno)

If you noticed any other inside references in Pixar’s Up, leave them in the comments below!


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