UP is a lovely, sweet, very funny movie. It made me throw my head back and laugh with my mouth wide open like a little kid, and plop big tears all over my shirt. Man, Pixar. Total genius. I cannot think of another company that makes such consistently well-constructed things. And it’s beautifully designed and animated. Well worth seeing it in a cinema- don’t wait to rent it on DVD- the swooping size of the big screen makes it a worthwhile cinema trip.
Avoid reading trailers & spoilers, if you can- there are lots of nice reveals in the movie that are much better experienced naively. I think it might actually be too scary for little kids, which surprised me; there’s some dark stuff. Really, the story turns on the central relationship between the little boy and the old man, which I think means it’s really a movie for people who think about aging, disguised as a kids’ movie.
Things to like: (no spoilers)
Character designs are awesome.
Voice performances are fanatastic, especially 9-year old newcomer Jordan Nagai as chubby boyscout Russell
Asian lead character!
No fart jokes. Pixar never needs to stoop that low. Compare and contrast to G-Force, the awful-looking Disney trailer that precedes UP, which has a fart joke AND a poo joke in a 2-minute trailer. If they couldn’t find two minutes of footage without a cheap joke, all I imagine is a movie that’s basically gonna be someone’s sweaty uncle with a keychain farting machine and some rubber turds.
Some nice reversals with characters turning out to be different than you expected.
Perfect set-up and payoff for pretty much every single plot point and joke.
Classically well-constructed movie. They should teach this in screenwriting classes, actually.
Funny, and sweet, and sad, and then funny again. So good.
Watch a little of this clip first (if you are not a crazy cat lady, you don’t need to watch the whole thing)
Then watch this clip:
Usually in animation, the voices are recorded early on and the animators match the picture to the voice performance. But when speaking for animals, the actors have to match the voice performance to the animal behaviour, since the animals’ timing is so difficult to control.
I do a couple voices on a really cute kids series where all the characters are rodents: the lead is a hamster, and there are mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs (I know rabbits and guinea pigs aren’t technically rodents but let’s just relax with the taxonomy for a sec) and a chinchilla (what did i say about your taxonomic rigidity).
Anyway, the scripts are written ahead of time, the sets are built to animal scale (using a lot of dollhouse props), and then they pop the animals into the set and film them running around interacting with things. Lots of seeds, bits of broccoli, and peanut butter are strategically placed to get the animals to hit their marks and interact with props.
The director shoots the animals like they were human actors, taking wide shots and closeups of them, and because you can’t really tell a chinchilla what to do, the crew ends up rolling until the animals finally approximate the behaviour that he needs, more or less by chance.
With human actors, this director usually shoots about 3-to-1 or maybe 5-to-1, which means 3 or 5 takes in order to get the 1 take you need. With furball actors, he shoots 20-1: it might take 20 takes before he gets the hamster to walk down the stairs and pause to eat the broccoli.
One thing I love about this particular director is that he goes out of his way to choose takes where the animals’ behaviour is extra-cute: for instance, perhaps all that he needs at a given moment is a closeup of the rabbit that lasts 3 seconds.
But if on one take, the rabbit were to sneeze, you can pretty much guarantee that’s the take he’d use in the episode, which means the voice actor now has to sneeze midway through his line to match the rabbit’s behaviour. It adds richness and humour to the series.
Later, in the voice record sessions, the director plays us the footage, along with a “scratch track” of himself reading the lines at approximately the right pace, with many of the little extra details included.
He gives the actors tons of freedom and lets us create lines that reference what the animals are actually doing. I’ve gotten to improvise lines where Burfy, my shy salesmouse character, is talking, and out of nowhere she shakes herself (“Brrr! Is it cold in here or is it just me?” or where she’s speaking and the hamster randomly starts licking her face (“Sir, please! Too close! Too close!”).
You can see some examples in this clip- in the beginning a rabbit cleans his face while he’s talking, and later the hamster has one of my favourite lines from the whole series: “What the–? How the–? Blublle blubble bluuble blubble-the–?”
This series was double Gemini-nominated last year, which I thought was well deserved.
Anyway, all this to say that’s why I love the talking cats video so much. Having to match performance to an animal’s behaviour can lead to some really awesome little moments, and the cat video has lots of these. When he muffles his mouth for the cats as they hunch down and whisper while licking each other? Man. Canadian YouTube user Klaatu42, the dude who did those cat voices, totally rocked it. I wonder if he does animation?
Or maybe he just wanders around with small animals sitting on his shoulders and interprets their innermost thoughts for them, like he’s totally insane, yet oddly saintly.
I like Obama and I like Beyonce. Ergo, I like this.
It’s also the best impression of BHO’s voice I’ve heard. The actor perfectly captured his harsh American R’s, got the right mix of nasal and throaty, and totally nailed the quick, floaty way Obama ends key words (“President”, “ability”, etc). It’s a pretty sharp performance, voice-wise, says I.
Plus, badass man-pony dancing. Can’t go wrong.
Heck, while we’re at it, here’s the original video, which is weirdly compelling, considering how repetitive it is.
Update: A YouTube user named Cubby has created his own take on Miss Bee. You might think I’m posting this because I’m making fun of him, but actually I’m jealous- he’s a much better dancer than I am and I’m really not being modest when I say that.
This is interesting. One performer reads the same political ad copy 8 different ways. She’s really good. Click here to watch.
I’ve often thought that media training and production should be a part of the school curriculum. After seeing how sincerity is manufactured (no offence on Klvana, either- all performers and public speakers do the exact same thing), you start to appreciate the craft- and therefore the deliberate manipulation- inherent in all ads. An understanding of media production should lead to a populace that’s better able to evaluate information and make smarter, more critical decisions, rather than simple gut decisions based on criteria like “She’s just like me! I would invite her to a dinner party! Hence I will vote for the political party she endorses, and buy the eye cream, too!”
This video combines several things I like: voice acting, Japanese talk shows, and cuteness.
We’ve all seen Feist’s lovely Sesame Street appearance, right? (If not, go check it out, it’s great). And also great is this: Norah Jones and Elmo’s heartwrenching rendition of “Don’t Know Y”.
Speaking of Elmo? Okay, so picture for a moment… what you think the actor who does the voice of Elmo, might look like. Ready to be surprised? Here.