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February 9, 2010
Up Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
3/9/200911/1/2010Walt DisneyPete Docter
Bob Peterson
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1PGVoice Cast

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Carl, Dug and Russell having a chat.

There is no denying that Pixar are masters of their craft - that craft being CG movie. Up is their latest release, certainly their most impressive visually, and perhaps their riskiest in terms of storyline. Still the movie was a smash hit at the box office generating a staggering $US723 million worldwide. So what's it about?

Up is a comedy adventure about 78 year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, who finally fulfils his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell.

To be honest I'm still not sure where I rank Up among Pixar's nearly flawless collection of movies. Certainly on a technical level this pushes new boundaries on so many levels, and I only hope that this comes out in 3D on Blu-Ray when that format is available later this year. Visually it's a knockout, but then I return to the storyline which is enchanting and Carl is an absolute crack up as a grumpy old man (voiced by Ed Asner) but seems to, I don't know, not quite hit the right note with me. Perhaps it's the entire premise of dragging a house through the lush jungles of South America. Perhaps it's the talking dogs (then again talking fish never concerned me in Finding Nemo). I don't know, perhaps it will continue to grow on me as it has with repeat viewings now.

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Scenes with Carl and Ellie are superb.
One thing that had me absolutely gob-smacked with delight was they way in which the filmmakers show Carl and the love of his life Ellie living their lives, going through the ups and downs, and finally leaving Carl on his own as an old man. It's tragic, beautiful and perfect.

As always for a Pixar movie one of the most impressive aspects is the voice acting which again manages to impress in Up. In fact, impress isn't quite the word as you simply can not imagine how the movie could be improved with Pixar, again, not loading the film with A-list Hollywood actors in order to sell tickets, but rather great voice actors who bring the characters to life.

So I'm still a bit undecided about this movie, but even at its worst it's still better then almost every other CG movie from other companies. It has some entertaining moments and characters, great locations and some fun set pieces which keeps the movie going. I just don't quite think it's Pixar's best work to date.

Interestingly the video on this release has been formatted to fill your HDTV with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and uses the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Being transferred directly from a digital source the image is perfect without a single film artifact or blemish while the actual transfer is also nigh on perfect with a bitrate that often sits close to, or above, 30Mbps giving the video plenty of room to breathe.

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Christopher Plummer voices Charles Muntz in Up.
Colours are vibrant, especially on the giant bird Kevin and the balloons holding up the house while animation is equal to the task. The jungles are lush with rich foliage while the movie includes plenty of twists and turns with new, jaw-dropping, locations at every turn. This is a reference quality disc all the way and one which we will continue to use to show off the Blu-Ray format and high definition to those still needing "proof" of the improvements.

Up comes to Blu-Ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 track (24-bit/48Khz) and it really is a cracker and, no, that isn't a typo - this release does include 6.1 audio (or DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 ES as described in the Menus). We've already spoken about the superb voice work and the lossless audio track on this disc but this audio track also demonstrates the brilliant use of audio to bring together the atmosphere, from the early film footage with Charles Muntz at the movies opening, to the jungle noises, and the dramatic battle in the air. When Carl and Russell fly into the massive storm the entire room will shake with the thunder, while the items rattling and rolling around will come at you from all directions - it's superb. The music from composer Michael Giacchino (who has worked on other Pixar movies including Ratatouille and The Incredibles) is simply delightful with plenty of inspiration from earlier 20th Century music to suit the time period of the movie.

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The filmmakers went to South America to research Up.
There are several other audio tracks on this disc including Russian, Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Arabic and Estonian Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps, and each seemed to be more then acceptable from our sampling. Subtitles are provided in all these languages as well as English and English for the Hearing Impaired which, from samples, certainly seemed accurate to the dialogue on-screen.

As with so many top-tiered Walt Disney Blu-Ray releases this 2-disc set is choc full of extras across both discs.

Cine-Explore: The biggest extra on this set is the Cine-Explore mode which is available when you start the movie. With a commentary by the two directors, Pete Docter and Bob Peterson this mode also display plenty of photos, artwork and video footage in various locations on-screen while the feature picture is running. The commentary is non-stop and there's a tonne of information about the storyline, artistic decisions, the jokes and all manner of other information relevant to the movie.

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That's one very colourful bird!
Partly Cloudy (5:49/HD): We all know babies come from a stalk right? Well what happens though when you have to deliver the "nasty" ones. This, entertaining, animated short shows you what happens...

Dug's Special Mission (4:42/HD): This animated short ties into the movie by showing you what Dug got up to prior to meeting Carl and Russell in the movie. It's pretty entertaining with video quality on-par with the movie.

Adventure Is Out There (22:18/HD): This is the most traditional "Making Of" documentary on this set which is actually very interesting and shows many of the filmmakers on a trip to Venezuela to look at some of the mountains that provided the inspiration for the table top styled mountains in the movie. This is a very well produced documentary and well worth a look.

Alternate Scene: The Many Endings Of Muntz (4:56/HD): This featurette looks at a couple of different scenes with comments from filmmakers which adds detail to the storyboarded scenes.

We now move onto the second disc in the set which contains the bulk, but admittedly not a massive number of extras. It would be nice if the people making the Blu-Ray got the runtimes of the features correct - they're only out by a few seconds, but still.

Geriatric Hero (6:24/HD): This featurette looks at the creation of Carl and Muntz including the lengths Pixar went to to make them look like an aged human being, even if Carl does have a 'box' shaped head.

Canine Companions (8:26/HD): There are a lot of dogs in this movie and this featurette look at Charles Muntz's many dogs with their voice collars. The featurette also looks at real dog behaviours and how they were incorporated into the film.

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Ed Asner voices Carl Fredricksen in Up.
Russell: Wilderness Explorer (9:00/HD): This featurette looks at creating Russell, the child that joins Carl on his journey and how it took Pixar several years to come up with his final look.

Our Giant Flightless Friend, Kevin (5:04/HD): Certainly the cutest, most colourful character in Up is this large flightless bird and this featurette looks at his design and then development for the movie.

Homemakers of Pixar (4:35/HD): Moving away from character creation this featurette looks at the design of Carl's house including the need to make it look like it could fly.

Balloons and Flight (6:27/HD): This featurette looks at determining how many balloons would be required, and animated, to make the house fly in a natural, realistic manner. Airships are also covered given that Muntz has one which he uses in the film too.

Composing For Characters (7:41/HD): This is a nice look at the music used throughout the film. It's too brief for the magnificent score in the movie, but a nice inclusion.

Alternate Scene - Married Life (9:13/HD): After a brief introduction this looks at an alternate scene to the married life one in the film in which Carl and Ellie literally punch each other to love. For me, the finished scene was one of the best, and most emotional, parts of this movie but this alternate take was also interesting.

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Jungle locations in Up look wonderful.
Up Promo Montage (5:52/HD): This is a series of promotional clips wiht the stars of the movie. Pretty amusing.

Global Guardian Badge Game (HD): One for the kids this is a Java based game which seemed solid enough from our short playtime and includes various difficulty levels.

Worldwide Trailers (4:12/HD): Theatrical Trailer #2 and #3 are presented here.

While I'm still a little undecided about how much I love this movie (although even if it is one of Pixar's worst it still ranks well above almost every other CG movie) there is no denying the perfect transfer to Blu-Ray and the swag of extras on offer. This is, besides being a reference quality disc, an essential purchase...

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Walt Disney. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.