'There's something of the divine in the way we respond to stories and how we're created as people – that we're so driven by relationship that even when we know we're just looking at a bunch of drawings, we still connect emotionally. In making these worlds I feel closer to God through working out the details of my creation as He must have worked out the details of His creation.' (Pete Docter, writer and director of Up)
Unlike the average British child, who reportedly watches 2.7 hours of television every day (and spends a further 1.5 hours on the Internet and 1.3 hours playing game consoles), my children rarely watch more than half an hour TV a day – more often than not a nature documentary, although my son is currently into Star Wars when we don't have anything else recorded for them on video – not a current problem, with the BBC now airing both AutumnWatch and David Attenborough's new series, Life. To go to the cinema (or the movie theatre, as it last was, when we were in the States at Christmas) is therefore a special treat. I have been looking forward, then, to taking them to see Pixar's tenth feature film, Up, released last Friday in the UK, since I heard about it from American friends earlier in the year.
Starring a 78-year-old balloon salesman named Carl and an 8-year-old boy named Russell, the 'often uproariously funny' animated film explores the pain children experience as a result of divorce and the isolation the elderly can go through after losing a spouse. The Christian director, Pete Docter has said that, like all Pixar's films, the story tries to reflect for the audience a little bit of their own life.
'We came up with the character of Carl so we could tell a story about going through a great loss and learning to reconnect with the world. And in that same breath, we wanted the character of Russell to have a hole in his life that Carl could help fill so that the audience would experience them going from broken people who become more whole through their relationship with one another. So the divorce thing came about because of that, but it's also something you see a lot of in the world today. Whether they're divorced or just busy, a lot of parents have a lack of connection with their kids, and it's something that's become common in the world, and it felt truthful.'
One review, in WORLD Magazine, has commented, 'One of the boldest aspects of Up, besides featuring a 78-year-old main character, is the lovely portrayal it offers of marriage. Countless animated films include a bride being caught up by a handsome prince, but few portray an ongoing commitment and love that deepens over years.'
Ten years ago, in our Cambridge Paper Engaging with Cinema we observed that 'At their best, films are works of art that provoke ethical reflection and provide a vital point of contact between believers and unbelievers,' concluding, 'If we are to act as salt and light in contemporary society, we cannot afford to bypass the darkened theatre and the silver screen.'
When an offering comes along that is edifying as well as entertaining, we might be foolish to miss out – on the chance to connect both with our children and with the world around us.