Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read
Word of warning: if you tag me in a tweet promoting a fan theory you “wrote,” then expect the Snarcasm treatment in the most lighthearted way possible .
So here’s the background. Two years ago, SuperCarlinBros did a fan theory video about Pixar’s Up that proposed Carl Fredricksen is “insane” for reasons that sound anything but. It’s an amusing video from a couple of good friends of mine, which is why it’s strange to see the theory popping up again…from someone else.
Jonathan Sim, a different writer, tagged me in his own write-up for a theory he didn’t write, but instead rewrote with credit to the SuperCarlinBros. Now that this is in written form and it’s coming out while this column is a thing, we get to dive into why the “Insane Carl Theory” is…well, to say it’s insane is giving it at least a little credit.
What if I told you that Carl Fredericksen was actually insane and this movie was a figment of his imagination?
I’d tell you that it’s spelled “Fredricksen.” Then I’d tell you that at least 20 million “fan theorists” have been speculating that any given piece of fiction is “in someone’s head” since Descarte.
So, we start off this theory with that scene in Up where Carl assaults a man with his cane.
It’s a walker with tennis balls, but alright.
This is assault and battery as the man is later seen with blood on his forehead. And we later see Carl in a courtroom. And they sentence him to…a nursing home?
We’re not about to have a discussion about legal precedent are we—
Doesn’t it seem strange that this old man has committed what can be considered third degree assault and battery and his sentence is a nursing home?
Well, no, if we use our thinking caps. As you state, this is third degree battery, which is a misdemeanor. As in, not a felony. Most states will either put you in jail for 30 days and/or make you pay a $500 fine. Depends on the judge, though.
Now, let’s look at the situation Carl is in. This is, by all reasonable accounts, his first offense ever. In addition, a huge corporation has a clear stake in getting him out of his house. So we can surmise from the wordless court scene that BnL’s lawyers have arranged to make a deal that forces Carl to stay at a retirement home so that they can bulldoze his house. We even hear from the police officer in the next scene say that Carl doesn’t seem like a “public menace,” likely referencing the arguments made to kick him out.
You could also consider that Carl doesn’t have the money to pay the fine (he’s a balloon salesman, after all), but the state would rather put him in a retirement home than jail because of his age and the fact that he lives alone. This seems like a pretty logical ruling from a judge who has to sentence an old man without a criminal record.
I mean, he should honestly just receive a jail sentence or something like that. But a nursing home is not legitimate.
Let’s not pretend nursing homes don’t exist as punishments.
So, Carl actually was sentenced to a prison.
Wait, what? No he wasn’t?
And when this happened, he had lost everything. He lost his wife, his freedom, and now, he loses his mental health.
Um…no? The police officer told him that the retirement folks would pick him up in the morning. Where exactly does his mental health collapse for you? And why are you convinced he’s gone insane in the first place, just because he’s sad? Is that your only criteria?
What Carl then does next is absolutely impossible: he lifts up his house with balloons.
At this point, that seems way more plausible than what you’re suggesting.
Well, first off, that would mean he was a really bad balloon salesman.
Oh, I get it. Jonathan is just joking with us. Right?
Second, according to production notes from the film,
No, no, no, hold up and don’t you dare switch the topic. Carl is a bad balloon salesman? How does that…what? Because…he has a bunch of balloons? That means he’s bad…at selling them..but he’s retired…
WHO ARE YOU?
So, in one night, we’re expected to believe Carl had the stamina and physical ability to fill that many balloons with helium?
No, we’re expected to believe he already had those balloons ready to inflate and finish tying up, secretly. Remember, he and Ellie were planning on taking the house to Paradise Falls, hence the drawing of the house…on Paradise Falls. But they never did because she got sick, and the point of this next scene is to show that Carl’s willing to embark on the adventure they always dreamed of, but he’s not really alone because Ellie is the house and—
Oh sorry, you were saying?
He can’t even walk down the stairs without his machine.
Right. That means all the other times he’s running around and attacking construction workers were all a hoax. Which part of the movie is “in his head” again?
And not only that, but lifting a house with 10,297 balloons is not possible.
Neither is having a head shaped like a perfect rectangle, but you don’t question that for some reason.
Up co-director Pete Docter recently told Ballooning magazine
Recently? You mean in 2009?
that technician Pixar estimated
Who is technician Pixar?
it would take 23.5 million party balloons to lift a 1,800-square-foot house like Carl’s.
The funny thing is that in this same article, they point out that if the house did have enough balloons to lift the house, it would shoot off like a rocket rather than leisurely float away. So Pete Docter’s idea here never would have worked in the real world, but they went with it anyway because they like to dream big. Which doesn’t mean Carl’s dreaming big, an argument that Jonathan (both of them) haven’t even gotten to defending yet.
And then, when he is on his way there, he finds a child on his doorstep.
Thank goodness for babiesovernight.com.
He and Ellie never got to have children in their lives, and this crazy dream sequence (or you can call it heaven if you want) is giving him everything that he didn’t have before.
Let’s break this down. First, Jonathan just sneaks in yet another fan theory about Up that suggests Carl is dead the whole time. Which has been debunked by almost everybody because it’s such an overused fan theory that no one cares anymore.
Second, why would Carl be dreaming of a kid he’s already met? And that he hates? And if the kid represents what he wants in life, why does he try to get rid of the kid throughout the entire movie?
Carl and Ellie grew up loving adventurers and exploring and this kid shows up at the door, who loves adventuring and exploring and would be an ideal, perfect child for Carl and Ellie.
But that’s not the main reason why I don’t buy this.
Don’t buy what? You don’t believe what you just said?
See, Russell said that he saw a snipe (a type of bird) and chased it under his porch. However, that was when Carl lifted up his house and he remained on the house.
You don’t see Russell either, but you know he’s still there. Also, you know, birds fly.
I don’t see how it would be possible to get under that porch, and when he noticed the house lifting up, why would his immediate response be to grab on? It doesn’t make sense, and therefore, Carl’s mind is simply creating this vision for him.
Russell didn’t “grab on,” he clearly was hiding in fright. We don’t see him because the filmmakers wanted to keep his presence a surprise. We would have been distracted if Russell had been shown. This is a plot hole in the movie, not a definitive piece of evidence that Carl is imagining the whole movie.
The only kid that gets into Carl’s house is the kid that somehow knows how to get from the United States to South America, navigating with a house he’s not familiar with steering.
He uses his GPS to navigate. And he’s steering a floating house, not a B52. Movie logic aside, the nonsensical premise of Up is deliberate. To suggest that it’s all a fabrication is pointless, because the movie is already a fabrication.
There is a scene in which Carl tries to drop Russell into the street by suspending him with a rope while about six stories off the ground. Carl then drops Russell into the street by accident, but in the next scene, he shows up in Carl’s house again, completely unharmed without a single scratch.
Jonathan…did you watch the movie? Because…Jonathan, if you watched the movie you’d know that this happened IN AN ACTUAL DREAM SEQUENCE CARL WAS HAVING.
See, Carl was considering dropping off Russell, but he DREAMED the scenario and realized it would harm Russell.
And we also have the character of Kevin.
Oh, don’t you even dare bring Kevin into this.
when we first meet Ellie as a child, we can’t really tell whether or not she is a male or female.
Yes you can? True, she’s a tomboy and it might not be immediately clear to everyone, but it doesn’t take long.
Russell names the bird Kevin (a male name), but we find out at the end of the movie that she is a female, as she gives birth.
You’re not about to say Ellie is the bird, are you? She’s already the house, mate.
To add on, Kevin can have kids, but Ellie had a miscarriage.
(Voice of Buzz Lightyear) Themes! Themes everywhere!
And right when Carl lands in Paradise Falls, he meets his childhood hero: Charles Muntz.
…who is the inspiration for why Carl wants to go to Paradise Falls in the first place.
Muntz is 92 years old during the main events of the film and though there are people who live up to 92 years old, he cannot be this impressive.
Why not? We see him struggle in his fight with Carl later on, so it’s not like he’s the pinnacle of health. Wouldn’t a life of living off the land make him hardier?
Anyway, it doesn’t matter because a dropped plot point of the movie is that Muntz’s age was slowed down by Kevin’s eggs, explaining how he’s still alive at such an old age.
He is living in the jungle with no healthcare, no way to treat any possible diseases, and not a lot of food.
OK, this is actually offensive. You do realize that people in other countries who have no modern medicine are still able to live a long time, right? And he lives on a zeppelin with tons of food shown onscreen, because his dogs take care of him.
And there is also the fact that when Carl points out a skeleton of a giant Somalian leopard tortoise, Muntz says, “I found it on safari with Roosevelt.
Here we go.
There are two likely Roosevelts that he was talking about: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt.
To even suggest it was FDR is laughable, but go on.
Now, Theodore Roosevelt wouldn’t really make sense because Muntz was born in 1911 and Roosevelt died in 1919. That would mean that the oldest he could have been while hanging out with Roosevelt is eight years old and apparently, Roosevelt was going on safari and cheating at gin rummy games with eight year old kids.
Technically, Charles could have been a child on safari exaggerating his role. And kids are certainly capable of playing card games. But the more likely explanation is that Charles went on safari with Roosevelt’s son, Kermit Roosevelt, who was also an adventurer who actually went on African safaris.
OK, now hopefully Jonathan will reveal all of the evidence pertaining to Carl’s mental health by—
This means Carl was either insane, or, as other theories have said, he could have died and this may simply be his ascend to heaven. Russell, Kevin, and Dug are all just in his imagination.
That’s it? That’s the whole thing? This entire fan theory is just one argument over and over again: the movie is a bit silly, so that means it’s a dream.
This isn’t a fan theory, it’s a fan guess. And not a good one at that. There’s nothing about how Carl does actually have some clear psychological problems with thinking his wife is a house and how his attachments clearly blind him to reality over the course of the film. But rather than address anything like that, Jonathan just tells us it’s all a dream because movies aren’t real. Or something.
So in a way, doesn’t this mean we’re all insane for believing them?