Up - Opening Sequence

Docter, P. (Director). Rivera, J. (Producer). (2009). Up -Motion picture-. United States: Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios

The opening sequence to Pixar’s Up was incredibly powerful and beautifully mastered. It details the lives of the main character and his wife, from when they meet until she dies. It meanders through the ups and downs of their lives, and ultimately reinforces the film’s key theme – they were trying to go on an adventure.

At the time, there was a big reaction to this sequence, confessions of men crying, women crying and even if people weren’t crying, they admitted the sequence had touched them in some way. It was a truly beautiful thing – and it contained no words. Pixar managed to communicate an intense, poignant emotion without words. Music and visuals. To be able to do this and get the reaction they got was phenomenal. I know of my experience in the cinema, and through my own hysterical tears, I saw the majority in a similar state.

If you watch the scene closely, you also will notice that the color palette shifts to reflect the nature of Carl and Ellie’s relationship. When they are young, the shades are sepia-toned, suggesting something from the 1930s. In the prime of their lives, the colors are richer — vibrant greens and blues. “Hopefully it’s not something the audience is even conscious of,” Docter says.

Horn, J. (2009). A heartfelt film within a film in ‘Up’. Retrieved October 26, 2010 from http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jun/07/entertainment/ca-upmontage7

The attention to detail within the design of the sequence is key. Just like in graphic design, every single thing has to be pushing towards the common goal, and if it’s successful, these details are usually invisible.

Sometimes we don’t need words, John Lewis picked up on this as well. Shortly after Up hit our screens, they released an advertising campaign on television featuring a montage of one woman’s life, to a soundtrack, with no direct advertising words.

John Lewis Montage Ad

The premise is simple – the life cycle of a woman from birth to old-age. But like all classic ads – and this is surely destined to become one – this simplicity is where its strength lies.

The ad shows infancy, a girl’s birthday party, a clumsy kiss in a university corridor, marriage, pregnancy, parenthood and the path into old age.

It is similar to the stunning ‘life-cycle’ sequence in the animated Pixar film Up, which moved many to tears.

Beanland, C. (2010, April 30). The £6m ad that’s got Britain talking – and sobbing. The Daily Mail. Retrieved October 26, 2010 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1269917/John-Lewiss-YouTube-hit-ad-reworks-Billy-Joels-Always-A-Woman.html

According to the Observer, John Lewis’ sales have leapt 39.7% since they launched the campaign.

Wiseman, E. (2010, May 2). John Lewis ‘spend it before you die’ ad puts sales up 40%. The Observer. Retrieved October 26, 2010, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/may/02/john-lewis-ad-sales-boost

Sometimes simplicity works. The reason I think it is important to look at things that communicate without words, in a project about communicating with words, is that we can learn from these things. With the Up sequence, it’s the simplicity that makes it so strong. Removing the words made it more powerful. There was an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where a secondary (but much loved) character died and throughout the whole episode there was no background music. It made it feel empty and helped you connect with the way the characters were feeling.

This idea of removing things to make the message stronger isn’t new, but it will be worth considering in my project.