There is no greater compliment that I can pay modern animated fare than to say that the best of them are now most properly viewed as films, not as animated films. 25 years ago we talked about “feature-length animation” but in the last few years we’ve seen such landmark achievements as Wall-E and Spirited Away, films that let us stop looking at how they’ve achieved the visuals, stop thinking about how much work it was, stop contemplating texture mapping, and just enjoy good storytelling.
The story of Up is told in two parts. The first part is a sweet, romantic backstory where two children meet and create an adventurers club based around the exploits of their hero, the larger-than-life Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer). The children are young Carl (who barely says a word) and young Ellie (voiced by Elie Docter) and they fall in love, get married, share their dream of having an adventure to exotic Paradise Falls, South America (like their hero Muntz) then share the disappointment of finding that they cannot have children. They grow old together and Ellie passes away, leaving an old, tired Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner). This first part is some of the nicest, sweetest backstory I’ve ever seen in a movie, animated or otherwise. It’s very touching.