Friday, 2 April 2010


I know it shouldn't by now, but one thing that repeatedly startles me is the power of story to move the hearer and evoke an affective response. This film is an animation and whilst children enjoy watching it, it operates on different levels to great effect. I was left with tears rolling down my face on a number of occasions. Perhaps a fitting condition to be in on Good Friday?

The plot is simple enough. Carl and Ellie are kids who are fascinated with exploration and the explorer Charles Muntz who returns to Paradise Falls in Venezuela to catpure zoological specimens to prove the veracity of his reports of his previous visit to the region. Ellie is outgoing and gregarious and Carl is quiet - he doesn't talk much. They act out their exploration fantasies in a derelict house. Their friendship turns into love and they marry. They move into the derelict house and renovate it.

Both work in the zoo - Carl is a balloon seller. As it was in childhood, so it is in adulthood - they plan and plot their adventures of exploration. Themes of promise and commitment - of covenant - run throughout this film. An echo of Abraham and the Old Testament. As they grow old together there is always a tinge of sadness in that they were not able to have children. (Another Abrahamic echo?) In old age, they finally manage to save enough to allow Carl to fulfil his promise and buy tickets for them to travel to Venezuela to visit Paradise Falls but Ellie becomes ill and dies. Carl become even more reclusive and more sour. Skyscrapers now tower over the house which once stood in a quiet residential street. The developers put pressure on Carl to sell up so that they can develop the land his house stands on. He remains resolute.

A dispute with one of the developers following the accidental demolition of his mail box provokes Carl into a spur-of-the-moment physical assault. The resulting summons and court determination sees him consigned to a retirement community. As the men from the community come to pick him up he tells them to wait in the van while he says his final good-byes. It is then that Carl enacts his plan to honour his promise to Ellie and with thousands of brightly coloured helium-filled balloons tethered to the house it breaks free from its foundations and floats away. Russell, a Wilderness Explorer who needs to earn his final merit badge for "Assisting the Elderly", has stowed away on the porch after being sent on a 'snipe hunt' by Carl the day before.

Needless to say that Carl and Russell navigate their way to Paradise Falls where they have many adventures as Carl resolutely drags the levitating house step-by-step toward the Falls to position it next to them. On their adventures they discover forgotten creatures akin to Conan-Doyle's Lost World. They also discover Muntz who is so focussed on capturing Russell's new friend, a large rainbow-coloured bird called Kevin, as the exhibit that will clinch the clearing of his name, that this brings him into conflict with Carl.

I won't spoil the ending for you. This is a story so full of moral fibre that it oozes engagement that demands the viewer carry out an inventory of their relationships, priorities and outstanding. commitments. Again, very fitting for Good Friday.

The animation is excellent. They have obviously now perfected the technique of rendering woven fabric in a way that displays the pattern and texture of the weave - as every object that could conceivably be shown in this way, was!

I'll give this a 7.5/10. Go watch it.

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