AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: Pete Docter (Dir)
Release Date:   29 May 2009
Duration (in mins):  96
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Cast: Ed Asner  (Carl Fredricksen)
  Christopher Plummer  (Charles [F.] Muntz)
  Jordan Nagai  (Russell)
 

Summary: In the 1930s, a newsreel featuring the exploits of world explorer Charles F. Muntz and his discoveries of exotic animals deeply impress young, would-be explorer Carl Fredricksen. The news report highlights Muntz’s latest discovery, the skeleton of an unknown giant bird, brought back from the wilds of South America’s Paradise Falls. However, when scientists declare the skeleton inauthentic and label him a fraud, Muntz vows to validate his discovery and redeem his reputation. Along with his pack of companion dogs, Muntz flies away in his dirigible, The Spirit of Adventure , to return to Paradise Falls. As he walks home, Carl imagines his own adventures, only to be distracted by enthusiastic cries from a dilapidated, boarded-up house. Upon investigating, Carl finds another young adventurer who has turned an upstairs room into the bridge of a dirigible and covered the crumbling walls with newspaper accounts of Muntz’s exploits. Amazed to discover that the energetic fan is a girl named Ellie, Carl agrees to join her adventurer club and she presents him with a grape soda cap membership button. After Ellie encourages Carl to walk across a decayed plank and he falls and breaks his arm, she secretly visits him at home, climbing up to his second story bedroom from the outside. Proudly showing Carl her Adventure Scrapbook, Ellie reveals several drawings and pictures of Paradise Falls and a page that says “Stuff I’m Going to Do,” followed by many blank pages waiting for future adventures. Years later, Carl and Ellie marry, and move in and repair the old house where they met. Carl becomes a balloon salesman and despite his and Ellie’s continued yearning for adventure, they find genuine pleasure in the simplicity of their daily lives together. After Ellie loses their baby and learns she can never have others, Carl, hoping to restore her zest for life, starts an adventure fund. Over the years he and Ellie collect money for the fund in a big jar set in the middle of their living room in front of a large painting of Paradise Falls with a drawing of their house atop the cliff over the falls. As time passes, however, Carl and Ellie use the adventure fund for unexpected household and personal expenses, and find themselves no closer to their dream of visiting Paradise Falls. One day, well into his retirement, Carl boldly purchases airline tickets to South America, but Ellie, in failing health, is hospitalized soon after. Before dying, Ellie presents Carl with her Adventure Scrapbook. Alone, Carl, now using a cane and hearing aids, remains housebound, only going outside to confront the urban planners and construction workers who are building sprawling edifices through the once placid neighborhood. One afternoon, a young Wilderness Explorer Scout, Russell, comes to Carl’s door and explains that he needs to earn one more merit badge, for helping the elderly, in order to become a Senior Explorer. Annoyed, Carl sends the enthusiastic Russell in search of a non-existent sniper bird. Just after Russell departs, a large construction truck pulls up and bumps the mailbox that Carl and Ellie put up years earlier. Outraged, Carl refuses the driver’s sincere apology, lashing out with his cane and knocking the man down. Soon after, Carl is summoned to court where he is declared a public menace and ordered to surrender his home. A few days later, attendants from the Shady Oaks retirement home arrive and, resigned, Carl packs a few clothes and Ellie’s scrapbook. Carl then asks the men for a moment to bid the house farewell, but moments later they hear a loud “whooshing” noise as a huge tarp falls away from behind the house, revealing hundreds of balloons filled with helium, which are anchored through the chimney and pull the house from its foundation. As Carl cheers wildly from a window, the house rises into the air. Releasing drapes sewn together to form giant sails, Carl, who has also crafted a steering mechanism to the drapes, maneuvers the house higher and higher, and with the aid of a compass, heads south toward Paradise Falls. Only a little ways into his flight, Carl is startled to hear a knock on the front door and opens it. There he finds a terrified Russell clinging to a corner of the porch, underneath which he had been searching for the sniper prior to Carl’s lift-off. Once safely inside, Russell prattles unceasingly, forcing Carl to turn off his hearing aids. When the house sails into a storm, Carl exhausts himself tying down all of his and Ellie’s valuables while an enthusiastic Russell steers the buffeting house. The next morning upon waking, Carl is incredulous when Russell insists that he has brought the house to Paradise Falls using a hand-held Global Positioning System device. Disbelieving, Carl cuts a few balloons loose to lower the house, assuring Russell that he can catch a bus home. Descending through a heavy fog, the house just misses several strange formations before crashing hard onto the ground, sending Carl and Russell tumbling out the front door. As the balloons begin to drag the house toward a cliff, Carl lunges after the trailing hose and, with Russell holding onto him, manages to prevent the house from plunging over. A strong wind blows the remaining fog away and Carl recognizes the wild, lush lands of Paradise Falls. Tethering themselves to the house to act as anchors, Carl and Russell set off towards the famous falls Carl has dreamt of all his life. Nearby, unknown to the pair, a pack of dogs chase a speeding object across the jungle floor and are only driven away from their goal when Carl’s hearing aids emit a high, piercing whistle. When they stop to rest, Russell wanders into the woods. As he begins eating a chocolate bar, a large bird abruptly pokes through the foliage to nibble on the candy. Believing the huge, colorful bird is the sniper Carl had told him about earlier, Russell lures the bird out to Carl, who is irritated when it begins to follow them as they resume pulling the house toward the falls. Russell names their new companion Kevin, but the bird bolts moments later when the group is hailed by a male voice. To Carl and Russell’s amazement, they discover that the voice belongs to a golden retriever dog who introduces himself as Dug, then explains that his master created the special collar that allows him to communicate. Dug adds that, as a good tracker, he has been sent to search for a rare bird. Kevin returns at that moment, delighting both Russell and Dug, but Carl grumpily returns to pulling the house in an attempt to ignore the distressing distractions. Meanwhile in the distance, the dogs' pack leader, Alpha, a doberman, consults with his subordinates, Beta, a rottweiler, and Gamma, a bulldog, who laugh at Alpha, whose collar has been damaged and is causing his usually deep voice to be high pitched. Although Beta and Gamma wonder why Alpha sent the scatterbrained Dug in search of their quarry, Alpha, using a miniature communications device on Gamma’s collar, contacts Dug, who then reports that he has captured the bird. Tracking Dug via the GPS on his collar, Alpha and his cohorts follow. Although Carl hopes to get rid of Dug by throwing one of the stabilizing tennis balls attached to the bottom of his cane, Dug retrieves and returns the ball. Soon after, as night falls, Carl and Russell are forced to stop when the house bumps into the cliff wall, shattering a window. When it begins to rain, Russell struggles unsuccessfully to put up a tent and admits that since his father never spent much time with him, he has never learned how to camp properly. When Russell asks Carl to promise to protect Kevin, Carl hesitates until the boy uses the same “cross-your-heart” vow frequently used by Ellie long ago. The next morning, when Kevin answers faint cries from the jungle, Dug explains they are Kevin’s babies and Russell is dismayed that his new friend is a girl. After having gathered food for her offspring, Kevin bids them farewell, only to bolt at top speed upon hearing a noise. Alpha, Beta and Gamma confront Carl and Russell, but when Dug cannot explain Kevin’s absence, the dogs forcibly escort them, along with the sagging house, to their master. At a large crevice in the side of the cliff, the group is met by a snarling pack of dogs called off by a man who Carl is stunned to recognize as his former idol, Charles Muntz. Pleased to be recognized, Muntz invites Carl and Russell inside his cave dwelling, where the two gape at the Spirit of Adventure dirigible which is still fully functional. Muntz then gives Carl a tour of his displayed collection of skeletons of rare creatures he has captured over his many years in Paradise Falls. To Carl and Russell’s amazement, the dogs set about preparing a lavish dinner for them, led by chef dog Epsilom. Meanwhile, Muntz repairs Alpha’s collar, returning his low, threatening voice. As punishment for allowing Kevin to escape, Alpha places Dug in an e-collar, called the “cone of shame” by the pack. Muntz then confides to Carl that he initially suspected his visitors had come to capture Kevin, whose species he has hunted these many years to clear his name of the accusation of fraud. Carl grows uneasy when Muntz mentions other unsuccessful explorers who have come in the past and points out numerous moldy helmets and clothes piled in a corner. As Russell blurts out that Kevin can be lured by chocolate, Carl spots the bird perched on the house outside just as she calls to her brood, attracting the pack and Muntz’s attention. Realizing they are all in danger, Carl and Russell flee with Dug. While Kevin swoops down to retrieve Russell, Carl struggles to pull the house away and Dug intercepts Alpha and the others. Carl and Russell manage to leap to another cliff top while still clinging to the hose and the house, but Kevin injures her leg while assisting them. Freed from the cone after his confrontation with Alpha, Dug rejoins Russell, Carl and the bandaged Kevin, who is placed safely on the porch. Alpha and the others report back to Muntz, who realizes that he can track Kevin through Dug’s collar sensor. That night as an agitated Kevin calls to her babies, Muntz attacks the group from his dirigible, trapping Kevin in a net and setting fire to the house. When Carl turns his attention to saving the house, allowing Muntz to fly away with the captured bird, Russell accuses the older man of giving up Kevin and flings down his merit badge sash in disgust. Angry, Carl retreats to the house where he comforts himself by looking through Ellie’s scrapbook. Always believing that the pages after the “Stuff I’m Going to Do” page have remained blank, Carl is amazed to find they are, instead, full of pictures of his and Ellie’s life together. On the last page under a picture of the beaming old couple, Ellie has written: “Thanks for the adventure—now go have a new one.” Deeply moved, Carl retrieves Russell’s sash only to find the youngster has flown away, using several balloons and a leaf blower as a steering device, to rescue Kevin. Unable to get the house airborne, Carl begins throwing out his and Ellie’s belongings until the house, nearly empty, lifts off. Joined by the loyal Dug, Carl steers the house after Russell, who has crashed into Muntz’s dirigible and has been captured and tied up by the dogs. Ecstatic to have finally captured Kevin, Muntz callously orders Russell thrown overboard when he sees Carl chasing them. Carl succeeds in reaching the dirigible in time to catch Russell, then assures the boy that he will rescue Kevin. After tethering the house to the dirigible with the hose, Carl sneaks aboard with Dug’s help and distracts the pack by hurling the tennis balls from his cane, which he then tosses aside. Meanwhile, Muntz orders a fleet of bi-planes, piloted by dogs, to cut the dead weight house away, but the pilots are distracted when Russell yells “Squirrel!” Having reached Kevin, Carl uses a disruption provided by Dug and Alpha on the bridge to crawl out the window with the bird and climb a ladder to the dirigible’s broad top. When Dug forces Alpha into an object similar to the cone of shame, the pack transfers their loyalty to him. Muntz confronts Carl and Kevin on the top of the dirigible, but in his mad attempt to recapture Kevin, he gets entangled in the balloon strings and falls to his death, as Carl, Russell, Kevin and Dug safely remain atop the Spirit of Adventure . Realizing the activity has cast the sinking house adrift, Carl watches sadly as it disappears down through the mist. After landing the dirigible safely on the jungle floor, Carl and Russell are delighted to meet Kevin’s babies. Happily reunited with her family, she bids farewell to her friends and Carl, Russell and Dug fly the dirigible home. Soon after, Carl attends Russell’s Wilderness Scout presentation and, after the boy is made a Senior Explorer, presents him with the grape soda cap button of his and Ellie’s adventure club. While the old man, boy and dog sit outside Fenton’s Ice Cream store watching cars go by, back in Paradise Falls, Carl and Ellie’s home settles onto the cliff just above the falls.  

Distribution Company: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Pete Docter (Dir)
  Bob Peterson (Co-dir)
Producer: Jonas Rivera (Prod)
  John Lasseter (Exec prod)
  Andrew Stanton (Exec prod)
  Denise Ream (Assoc prod)
Writer: Pete Docter (Story)
  Bob Peterson (Story)
  Tom McCarthy (Story)
  Bob Peterson (Scr)
  Pete Docter (Scr)
  Ronnie del Carmen (Addl scr material)

Subject Major: Aged persons
  Children
  Dogs
  Explorers
  Friendship
  Houses
  Marriage
 
Subject Minor: Airplanes
  Birds
  Chases
  Cliffs
  Construction foremen
  Electronic voice boxes
  Escapes
  Falls from heights
  Fraud
  GPS receivers
  Helium
  Ice cream parlors
  Insanity
  Judges
  Jungles
  Motion picture theaters
  Museums
  Newsreels
  Rainstorms
  Rescues
  Retirement homes
  Scrapbooking
  Waterfalls
  Widowers
  Wounds and injuries
  Zeppelins

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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