Things only adults notice in Up

The 2009 Disney's Up is a delightful and whimsical film about the power of dreams… or is it? While the movie definitely holds up to the magic it had when it was released in the 2000s, any adult will be able to tell that it's not really a movie for children. Sure, one of the protagonists is a child and the film takes place in a world where animals can talk and houses can fly (with the help of balloons) but it also has some pretty dark themes.

Adults watching Up will likely still enjoy the feel-good film, but they'll also notice some decidedly adult subject matter that paints a darker image of the movie. Fortunately, this is the kind of stuff that's bound to go over kids' heads, so they'll be able to enjoy the movie as a lighthearted romp. If you're an adult watching Up, though, be warned. Here's some of what you're in for. 

Did Ellie have a miscarriage at the beginning of Disney's Up?

That sad montage towards the beginning of Disney's Up is likely to draw some tears from audiences of all ages, but younger people might not notice some of the subtle details that take place. It's a heartwarming moment when Ellie and Carl decide to have a baby and start decorating a nursery, but their happiness comes to a screeching halt when we see the couple crying at the doctor's office. It's heavily implied that Ellie suffered a miscarriage, and the fact that we never see the couple with kids seems to indicate that she isn't able to carry a baby to term.

Even though there's no audible dialogue, that scene packs a punch. It's also pretty notable for an animated film. Even in the 21st century, miscarriage is a topic that's often considered taboo to talk about, so to see it addressed in an animated film is a powerful and groundbreaking moment that helps normalize miscarriage and infertility.

It's refreshing to see an Asian-American lead in a Disney animated film

Another notable aspect of Up is Russell. Russell is your typical all-American boy. He's a member of the Wilderness Explorers, which seems to be a fictionalized version of the Boy Scouts of America. He also happens to be Asian-American. This might not seem like a super big deal at first glance, but Asian representation is notoriously lacking in Hollywood so having an Asian main character in a Disney/Pixar film was a turning point not just for the studio but for animation as a whole.

Russell was voiced by Japanese-American actor Jordan Nagai, and the film was praised for both its cultural and size diversity. "Because Russell is just about the only young character in the entire movie, children will identify with him and see the film through his eyes," Guy Aoki, the founding president of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans said on the organization's website. "The fact that he's Asian American will help bring acceptance not only to Asian American boys, but overweight ones at that."

Up is a sad commentary on how the elderly are treated in society

We're used to Disney/Pixar films being upbeat, but they often weave in some serious moments. Disney's Up deals with some pretty heavy content. In Up, we're given a glimpse into what it's like to be an older person in society. Carl, who doesn't seem to have any living family members, or at least not any close ones, is considered an "elder orphan," a category of people who are at a high risk of being abused.

Carl is often dismissed because of his age. We can see how patronizing people are towards him and how the workers on the construction site near his home treat him as a grumpy but harmless old man. He's eventually declared a public menace by the court and ordered to a retirement home. He's clearly still capable of taking care of himself, but, because of his age, he is treated differently and often with a distinct lack of respect.

How did Carl inflate all these balloons overnight in Disney and Pixar's Up?

Like all Disney/Pixar films, Up requires us to suspend our disbelief, but that doesn't mean we don't have some serious questions! We can maybe wrap our minds around Carl tying enough balloons to his house that it floats away, but how does he manage to inflate them all overnight?

When the movie was released in 2009, Wired crunched some numbers and revealed it would take more than 100,000 balloons to lift Carl's house. Inflating all of those balloons, not to mention tying them to the house, definitely seems like way more than one man can accomplish in a single evening. There's also the logistics of it all. How exactly would Carl have fit that many balloons in his tiny backyard? When the men arrive to bring him to the retirement home, the balloons aren't visible from the front of the house, but it definitely doesn't seem like there was nearly enough room for so many inflated balloons to be on Carl's property.

What exactly is Carl's plan when he leaves in Up?

In retrospect, we've got to wonder what Carl's plan is in Disney's Up. First of all, does he have money? It doesn't seem like he had time to stop at the bank, but hey, maybe he withdrew his life savings earlier and has it stashed in his pockets. But even assuming he does have money to survive flying across the globe and moving to South America, we've got to wonder what happens next. Does he even have a passport? What happens when people realize he's an undocumented immigrant? And what's his plan for survival once he gets to Paradise Falls? Is he just planning on setting his house down and claiming some land that doesn't belong to him? 

Or are things more morbid than that? Carl's decision to just up and fly his whole house to Paradise Falls seems like a last ditch move, the kind of thing that you do when you have nothing left to lose. Is he planning on fulfilling his lifelong dream only to… end his life?

How are Russell and Carl breathing in Disney's Up?

Another thing we've got to wonder about Up is how Russell and Carl are staying alive at such a high altitude. They're obviously high enough that there are clouds storming around the house, which means that they're high enough for the air to be growing pretty thin. So how exactly are these two getting enough oxygen? 

It's harder to breathe at high altitudes, even for people in peak physical condition. This is why scaling peaks like Mt. Everest can be lethal if you don't bring oxygen with you. "Even if you're on oxygen at extreme altitude, you can't get nearly enough oxygen to feel good or be completely safe," Peter Hackett, founder of the Institute for Altitude Medicine told The Independent. "Without oxygen, your body is slowly dying."

This only reinforces the theory that Carl's journey to Paradise Falls wasn't meant to last.

Up bad guy Charles aged REALLY well

Alright, can we just say this? Charles F. Muntz looks good. He's already an adult when the movie opens in the 1930s and, if Up takes place around the time it was released (2009) like it seems it does, then Charles has to be at least around 90. He's got to be a decade or more older than Carl yet, while Carl definitely looks like an old man and has the stairlift to prove it, Charles seems to have stumbled upon some sort of anti-aging serum. Sure, he's got white hair and uses a cane, but he's still pretty limber for a man pushing 100 and his skin looks great.

Charles looks so good, in fact, that you almost expect him to reveal he's somehow halted the aging process. Unfortunately, beauty is only skin deep, and Charles turns out to be a psychopathic killer. Charles is just made up of good genes and a bad, bad personality, proving once again that you can't judge a book by its cover.

Wouldn't it have been easier to just take a video of Kevin?

Charles has clearly been warped by his desire to prove that he's not a fraud and that giant birds do, in fact, exist. He's so desperate to capture a living specimen that he has literally killed people to keep them from getting to one first. But… wouldn't it have been easier to just try to capture some live footage of a bird? This would, at least, prove that there is, in fact, a monstrously large species of bird living in the wild. A video might also be enough to gain the interest of the scientific community, prove that he didn't fake finding the bird, and prompt an actual expedition with a research team to hunt down one of these birds.

There's absolutely no reason that, in an age when smartphones exist, Charles couldn't have just taken a video of one of these massive winged creatures instead of attempting to continue his murder spree. It almost seems like Charles is looking for a reason to kill people. 

How is Charles' airship still functioning in Disney's Up?

Unless Charles' airship, the Spirit of Adventure, has the same mysterious anti-aging properties as its owner, we've got to wonder how it is still air-worthy. This airship has been flying since the 1930s! Sure, Charles is an inventor who has no doubt been able to make repairs to the ship over the decades, but it still seems incredible that it's flying after almost a century. It's reasonable to question just how safe it is to fly such an old aircraft. There's also the fact that Charles isn't just flying the Spirit of Adventure on special occasions — he's actually living on the ship full time. 

According to Flexport, an aircraft is air-worthy for around 30 years. Even if the Spirit of Adventure is a top-of-the-line airship that has been well-maintained, we can't imagine that it can remain safe for decades longer than modern airplanes

Did the dogs in Disney's Up escape from some military base?

Just when we thought we had wrapped our heads around Carl's flying house in Disney's Up, we are introduced to a team of talking dogs. Okay, they don't exactly talk (they're wearing special collars that translate their thoughts into English), but they do know how to perform some pretty unnatural (not to mention impossible) tricks like cook and fly planes.

Wait, what? Even in a world where technology that lets you have conversations with dogs exists, we have to wonder exactly how Charles trained these dogs so well. Are they some sort of ultra-smart breed designed by the military? And just why were these dogs trained to fly planes? Is Charles trying to build up some sort of dog army? And if so, for what? Is Charles' quest for a giant bird just a cover for his ultimate dream of world domination?

Russell is actually poisoning Kevin in Disney's Up

Russell is pretty proud of the fact that he's able to "train" Kevin the bird by giving her chocolate. It turns out, though, that this isn't actually a good thing. Birds aren't supposed to eat chocolate, and giving it to them can have some pretty nasty side effects. Birds are susceptible to chocolate poisoning, which affects the digestive system. 

Of course, Up's Kevin is a particularly large bird, so it would take quite a bit of chocolate to kill her. Had she been smaller, though, that chocolate Russell feeds her could lead to vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and eventually death. Russell is just a kid and clearly doesn't know better so we can't blame him, although you'd think that Carl, an adult, would question whether or not giving a wild animal chocolate is the best idea. Thankfully, nothing bad happened to Kevin in the movie or else Russell would have ended up pretty traumatized.

Disney's Up does not shy away from shattering dreams

On the surface, Disney's Up is a whimsical fantasy adventure. It's bright and colorful and has a fabulous score. But there are so many sinister themes that, as an adult, it's kind of hard not to get a little depressed watching it. The first few minutes are already loaded with tragedy. Ellie and Carl lose their baby and, it seems, can't have any more kids. From there, Ellie dies, we find out that a businessman is trying to buy Carl's house so he can build on the property, and Carl is ordered to leave his beloved home and enter a nursing home. Oof.

Things seem like they'll get better from there as Carl takes to the sky and heads to Paradise Falls. The house magically floats across the world and, by a stroke of seemingly good fortune, Carl runs into his childhood hero… only to find out that the man's actually a murderer. Disney has long been in the practice of selling dreams, but Up seems more concerned with destroying them.

The Wilderness Explorers seem pretty patriarchal in Disney's Up

We get that the Wilderness Explorers in Disney's Up are modeled after the Boy Scouts, but they still seem pretty patriarchal. First of all, while there's no assumption of gender in the organization's name, all the members appear to be male. They are accompanied by men (presumably family members) on stage as they receive their badges. Russell's mom is in the audience, which leads us to assume that she simply isn't allowed to be on stage with him. Russell looks like he's about to cry since he's all alone. Thankfully, Carl saves the day by showing up to help out with the badge ceremony.

This male-only organization seems pretty bizarrely sexist, especially in the 21st century. Not everyone has a male figure in their life, and this implied males-only policy seems incredibly unfair to the kids in the organization. Fortunately, the real-life Boy Scouts are far more progressive, and, as of 2019, the organization is now open to girls as well.

How did Carl not get in trouble for basically kidnapping a child in Disney's Up?

At the end of Disney's Up, Carl shows up to Russell's Wilderness Explorers ceremony to award him with his badge for helping the elderly. No one comments on the fact that Russell has been gone from home for several days or that the elderly man he'd been assisting to get his badge had gone missing at the same time. Are Russell's parents really that neglectful? 

Or maybe they did report Russell missing. Maybe Carl is actually a fugitive. Not only did he technically kidnap a child, but he also didn't enter the retirement home as was mandated by the court. Is he actually on the lam, running from the law, by the end of the film? If so, it makes the ending somehow both sadder and more uplifting. It would mean that Carl went from being a curmudgeon who didn't want anyone else's company to risking everything so that he could be at Russell's Wilderness Explorers ceremony. It would also mean, however, that he's going to have to spend the rest of his life on the run.

What's going to happen when Up's Carl can no longer take care of himself?

While it seems like everyone gets a happy ending, do they really? Carl is still lonely and misses his wife. Russell's dad is still not giving him the attention he clearly needs. There's also the fact that Carl is getting older and still doesn't seem to have anyone to take care of him.

It's clear that he's definitely decided against entering the retirement home. This is a completely valid and understandable decision, but what's going to happen to him when he can no longer fly the airship he took over after Charles died? And what's going to happen to all of the dogs, also formerly owned by Charles, that Carl has taken under his wing? How many years of his new carefree globe-trotting life does he really have ahead of him?

Kids will only see the happy final scene, but adults are bound to realize that this happily-ever-after in Disney's Up isn't sustainable.