The world of Up began with the thought of escape. From the claustrophobic shapes of an encroaching cityscape to the uncharted wilds of South America, from Muntz's half-mile long dirigible to Carl's uniquely mobile home, the Pixar team employed its newly invented concept of "simplexity" to push the visual envelope while keeping the world believable.
“Adventure is out there!” is the familiar motto from Up that inspired many. And the directors and artists proved it to themselves when they sought firsthand reference to design the pinnacle world where Carl’s journey would end. Together, they climbed mountains, trampled through jungle, and even got caught in a storm atop a tepui mountain in South America. “The research trip to Venezuela was one of the highlights of my career,” said Production Designer Ricky Nierva, “but I’m also glad we made it back alive to make the movie!”
Unlike most stories about leaving home, Up needed a house that would go along for the journey. The Pixar team treated Carl’s house like a film character, touring vintage Oakland and Berkeley neighborhoods to cast for the right mix of comfort and familiarity, with just a touch of melancholy. “We were trying to make Carl’s house look like your grandparents’ house smelled,” explained Producer Jonas Rivera.
Carl’s epic adventure required a destination both fantastic and plausible. When Director Pete Docter happened on a television documentary about the mysterious tepuis of South America, he discovered the perfect world to explore. The massive mile-high plateaus in Venezuela are among the most uncharted places on Earth. Pixar sent a team of artists for a look, and the film's bizarre rock formations, exotic flora, towering waterfall, and fog-shrouded labyrinth can be traced to tepui landscapes. So fantastic were the images, Docter wondered if the very real Tepuis might look too incredible.
With Charles Muntz, the most fabled adventurer of his day, the filmmakers gave him the 1930s’ most state-of-the-art airship. Encouraged to indulge in size and detail, the artists created a half-mile-long art deco masterpiece filled with the spoils of a hero turned villain. Still, there were issues of how far to take the airship. “We had a trophy room with an Easter Island head in there,” recalled Production Artist Noah Klocek. “At one point John Lasseter said 'no, that would sink
A colorscript is a sequence of small pastel drawings or paintings used to emphasize color in each scene and establish a
film's visual language.
“While Ellie is alive, our color palette is heavily saturated. She brings color into Carl’s life. When she’s gone, the palette is de-saturated to shades of gray. When Carl blows up the balloons to begin his journey, we bring back the memory of Ellie through those saturated, beautiful colors. Any time we have life or movement forward, we use color saturation. But when there is impending doom, we almost go to black and white.”
- Ricky Nierva, Production Designer