"It’s Been An Adventure, Mr. Fredricksen."
"Adventure Is Out There!"
Someone asked me to post these two companion pieces together so it was easier to reblog them.
I saw this amazing fan art come across my feed several times and always found it amazing and stunning. Still, I was bothered a bit not by the art itself but by a lot of the comments associated with it. Many people expressed sadness and queried why anyone would show this. To me, this is a perfect bookend on a great story (and would have been perfectly shown as the final coda right after the end credits).
Just hear me out, please. Up is—pun intended—an uplifting story about life and death. Those first ten minutes put the viewer through an emotional knuckle grinder of the joys and sorrows that come from meeting people in life. None of us are immortal nor are we rooted to the same space-time locality. We move in and out of our lives but leave plenty of memories to fill an adventure scrapbook. From the beginning, we know that Carl has lost Ellie. He is awaiting death. We meet Russell, who we soon learn has lost his dad (in a way perhaps worse than death). Russell keeps trying to find life, but Carl has given up. By the end, though, Russell has found a new father figure in Carl, who himself has been reinvigorated with the true legacy left by Ellie (keep on adventuring, I’ll see you for a future one) and two spirited friends in Dug and Russell.
And, if we treat Up as a story and just a story, that is where everything ends. Dug, Russell, and Carl eating ice cream and counting cars that go by. Sure, we can leave it there. That static image of unending, unchanging happiness.
Stop there if you want, but I thought Up was a story about life and good memories and moving on while keeping those cherished moments. Carl will pass on someday, and (if we allow a little bit of hope, faith, religion, or simple storytelling playfulness depending on one’s belief system), he and Ellie will be reunited. Dug, despite the typical trope that the dog never dies, will sadly too depart the world as well. This perhaps the hardest part for me to accept especially given the recent passing of my Susie, but Up took on death as a serious topic. Eventually, it would come to pass that the young Russell with his human lifespan (I will not venture into what bizarre breeding effects that Munson may have introduced into his canine army) would be the last one living.
And we could end there with Russell alone, sad, crying, and giving up… completely undoing the whole story. Ellie lived life as an adventure. Carl forgot that but relearned it at the right time. He became the Ellie to Dug and Russell. Of course, Russell will have his moments of mourning, but as the above image shows, he will continue on the great adventure until he meets his former rascally band of friends again.
I just cannot be sad at these pictures. If I feel anything bad, it’s that I’m not taking on the hard parts of life with as much joy and conviction that I could be. Thank you, Up, Pixar, kristalbabitch, Carl, Ellie, Russell, and Dug. Thank you.