Round One: WHayes on Disney Pixar's Up

Posted 1/16/2010 by WHayes in Labels: , , , , , ,
Disney Pixar's Up, about a man, a boy, their dreams, and their dog, is probably the capstone film in Pixar's current thematic pattern of telling stories of the nature of being special.

I'll begin this post by warning you guys that I won't be the guy to relentlessly trumpet the studio's triumphs for the umpteenth time (those people sound like Apple fans, anyway, and Apple people are undeniably annoying...I am one...ooh, paradooooxxx), I will give credit where credit is due. And just as my MacBook lets me safely surf for porn in an ocean of spyware, Pixar movies give my brain something rewarding in a sea of Dreamworks "entertainment."

That said, what I appreciate most about Pixar movies is the effort that goes into creating a story that resonates on multiple levels. This is by no means a new concept to the animated feature -- Tex Avery cartoons were rife with violence and innuendo that seemed funny to kids who didn't know any better -- Pixar thankfully continues the tradition in an intelligent fashion, instead of doing "just enough" to get by.

But back to being special. I heard once that the problem with reality tv, aside from the rampant, indignant exploitation, is that these shows are sliding from their potential to showcase the talented unknowns among us (Project Runway, and Dirty Jobs for its dedication to showcasing the people who make modern life possible) into showing people that are truly banal in their actions (Jersey Shore), intentionally elevating that banality into "celebrity." Yet -- and I mean this -- not everyone deserves to be special. Pixar gets this, and their oeuvre supports that claim.* The exceptional rise to the top, while those of the status quo get left behind.

I go through the hoops in suggesting this, because its the only way I can reconcile Up's problematic third act, where it seems like protagonist Carl Fredricksen magically gains the strength to save the day. Yes, its just a cartoon where a man floats his house to Peru courtesy of the thousands of helium balloons he blew overnight, but the best fiction still has to follow its own rules. If I can accept Carl playing Spider-Man on the side of a blimp, then its only because he didn't gain the strength (physical and emotional) in that moment, but had it all along. Extrapolating from this, the addendum to the Pixar thesis is that while not everyone can be special (see The Incredibles), those that are, are so permanently. Dontcha just wish you were important?

* J.K. Rowling got this, even though her fans don't. Kits don't realize that the Hogwarts universe is an elitist fucking place, one where the magical folk dominate their "muggle" counterparts, and even shun their own children, the "squibs," when they fail to showcase magical propensities. Rowling's haves are explicitly better than her have-nots; they're the ones who save the world in the end, and the muggles would be helpless without them. Normal people are doomed to eternal inconsequentiality.

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