Up, Up and Away: Another New High for Pixar

Pixar's latest triumph mines buoyancy from the depths of an old man's grief

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Every Pixar production involves some 300 artists, but the actors come first; they have to, because the dialogue is recorded to guide the animators. Asner, 79, who used his slow burn brilliantly on the great Mary Tyler Moore '70s sitcom, had the gruffness and deadpan comic timing to bring Carl to vocal life. As Docter recalls, "When we first met Ed and showed him a small sculpture we'd made of Carl, he said [growling], 'I don't look anything like that.' And we thought, O.K., this is gonna be perfect." Docter and Peterson then tailored the dialogue to the actor's speech patterns. "We looked for words that had more consonants and shortened the sentences," Docter says. That cemented the notion that Carl, post-Ellie, is a disgruntled bear that's been poked awake during hibernation.

Nagai, the nonprofessional kid chosen for Russell, needed a bit of coaching. Since Docter had chosen as his co-star in Monsters, Inc. Mary Gibbs, who was all of 2-1/2 at the time, he's a past master at working with kids. "When Jordan had to be excited," Docter says, "he would get maybe 50%. So I'd tell him, 'Run around the room, run back here and say the line--ready, set, go!' We'd do it one line at a time like that." For a scene in which Russell is cradled and tickled by a giant South American bird, "I actually lifted him upside down and tickled him," Docter says, "which you probably wouldn't do with Ed."

He probably won't have to do it with the movie's viewers either; they'll be tickled and touched without prodding. Extending the patented Pixar mix of humor and heart, Up is the studio's most deeply emotional and affecting work. Docter says he had a ball digging fresh ground, finding "this nice new road that we got to go out and drive on." The story of a septuagenarian grouch who uses his cane, hearing aid and dentures to thwart all evildoers; a buddy movie whose pals are separated by 70 years; a love story that transcends the grave--has there been a movie like this in the history of feature animation? "Well," says the man who made Up, "I hope not!"

The Glee pilot is just a giant basket of happy TELEVISION, PAGE 59

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