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The Epic Hero’s Cycle and Up Essay

The 2009 Disney film Up is about Mr. Frederickson’s long anticipated journey for adventure. As a young boy, Carl Frederickson idolizes the famous explorer, Charles Muntz. He enjoys spending most of his time watching documentaries and researching Muntz’s latest expeditions. On his way home from watching the latest documentary, Carl meets a buoyant young girl named Ellie, who is ardent about the same explorer as well. They both immediately share a connection upon their first encounter; their thirst for adventure keeps them together for a long time. As the two grow older, Carl and Ellie marry each other and build their own house together. They keep one special promise: to save up enough money to go to Paradise Falls in South America one day, together. Old age inevitably looms into their lives and tragedy strikes when Ellie becomes ill. Unfortunately, she passes away, leaving Mr. Frederickson a lonely, depressed, old man. After analyzing the events that occur from this point of the movie to the ending credits, one realizes the movie may be applied to Joseph Campbell’s Epic Hero Cycle.

Carl Frederickson now lives an organized, prosaic life in the same house he built with Ellie. His constant mundane routine has never been interrupted until the government enforced industrialization in his neighborhood. Construction workers collaborating on an edifice next door had accidentally wrecked Carl’s mailbox he and Ellie made when they had just finished constructing their new house. Mr. Frederickson impulsively hits the construction worker on the head with his cane, which he later goes to court for being accused of a “public menace” (Up).

The court acceded to evict Carl from his home, giving him a few days to pack his bags because he was to be sent to Shady Oaks Nursing Home. The eviction is the event in the film which acts as the summons to bring Carl from his boring ordinary world into a new and exciting one. Carl contrives an escape plan; he ties an abundant amount of balloons to his house in hopes that they will let the house act as a blimp. His plan succeeds as he embarks on his journey to Paradise Falls.

Just as Mr. Frederickson had begun to get accustomed to the flying house, he hears a knock on his door. When Carl opens the doors, Russell, the Wilderness Explorer who he had met before, is holding onto the house for dear life. Russell is an innocent eight year old boy who has done comprehensive studies on the wilderness; he has read every manual and book there is that teaches about the wilderness. Though, he has never actually experienced the wilderness before in his life. Instead of the typical elderly and wise mentor in the Hero’s Cycle, Up introduces a character who is essentially the opposite. Russell still exhibits the role as a mentor who aids Carl; he incessantly reminds Carl that he must obtain his “helping the elderly badge” in order to become a Senior Wilderness Explorer (Up).

Since Russell benefits from assisting Carl, he is more enthusiastic and persistent in aiding him. Also, Russell is constantly getting them out of dangerous situations and he always has to share some piece of knowledge about the wilderness. “I know that cloud, it’s a cumulus nimbus. Did you know that in a cumulus nimbus, the cold air and the warm air collide with each other…and that’s how we get lightening” is a quote Russell says right before he saves both of their lives from a deadly thunderstorm (Up). The thunderstorm nearly killed Carl and Russell; it spun the house around continuously, as several pieces of furniture were being destroyed. At the same time, the thunderstorm acts as a catalyst for Mr. Frederickson to arrive at the beginning of his adventure in Paradise Falls, thus crossing the threshold.

Once he steps onto the South American ground and sees the Falls for the first time, Mr. Frederickson is now in a whole new different world. After failing at attempting to re-enter the floating house, Carl and Russell conclude that walking would be the best method to arrive there. On the sandy grounds, deep within the forest, Russell recognizes bird tracks and decides to follow them. The tracks lead up to a tall, rainbow-colored bird. Russell feeds her chocolate, instantly bonding with the creature, he names her Kevin. As Kevin, Russell, and Carl walk toward the Falls, they hear “Hey are you okay over there?” from the other side of the cliffs. The voice traced back to a talking dog named Dug. Dug differs from the dogs living at the Falls; he is an honest and amiable dog.

These two new characters later become the helpers when Carl is faced a grand obstacle he must overcome in his journey. As a group, Carl, Kevin, Russell, and Dug migrate steadily towards the Falls. Once they are so near as to being under the Falls, they encounter a group of vicious dogs hidden at the bottom of a cave. Hundreds of hungry dogs close in on them, snarling and ready to eat them alive, when suddenly a gentleman walks out from inside of the cave. Carl has to look twice for him to realize it is Charles Muntz, the famous explorer he had dreamt of meeting as a child. For many years, Muntz had lived at Paradise Falls with incentive to capture a rare bird.

The army of dogs were trained to find the bird all these years, but there was no luck so far. Muntz says “Back home, they all think I’m insane…but I must show them that it exists, I know it does.” They are all eating dinner in his blimp, conversing over the wilderness and the bird. Muntz progressively appears more and more bizarre, but is interrupted when Russell says “Hey that picture looks like Kevin”. Kevin is the bird that Charles Muntz had been searching for all these years. Russell then proceeds to explain how Kevin had followed them their whole trip, not forgetting to mention how Kevin loves chocolate. Muntz, clearly offended, starts telling how explorers always try to “steal what belongs to him” and he cynically insists that they stay a while longer. The hero and his friends then are forced to flee the premises when Muntz commands his dogs to attack Carl and Russell. Carl and Russell run as fast as they can, still carrying the floating house.

Their loyal friends save them; Kevin picks them both up and places them on his back just in time to rescue them from the savage animals. He uses every ounce of his energy to out runt he dogs. Dug also helps by pushing and letting large boulders fall in the way of the dogs. At this point in the film, the hero is confronted with an obstacle he must overcome. Carl surpasses this test through the use of teamwork and believes that they have gotten rid of the insane Muntz and his dogs. In actuality, Muntz has a tracking collar on Dug and finds their hiding spot moments before Kevin is about to be reunited with her babies. Muntz captures Kevin with a net, and sets Carl’s house on fire as well. Mr. Frederickson manages to save his house on time, which leaves Russell heartbroken because he believes that Mr. Fredrickson did almost nothing to save Kevin. Russell says “You gave away Kevin…you just gave her away”.

Russell determines to find Kevin by himself by tying balloons on his back and floating his way to Muntz’s blimp. Enraged and agitated, Carl scorns Dug for his own ignorance, yelling “bad dog, bad dog!” Dug shows remorse by hanging his head down low as he slowly paces away from Mr. Fredrickson, and into the darkness of the night. Carl took some time to reflect back into himself, and found that he was able to figure out what went wrong. Inside his house, he had taken out Ellie’s “My Adventure Book” and discovered some photos there that he hadn’t recognized before. Attached to the back cover, there were many photos of their lives together. When Carl reached the final picture, he read “Thanks for the adventure—now go have your own one!” The note Ellie left him had changed his mood around completely.

He made a promise to himself to help save Kevin. Thus, Carl uses his house to float over to the blimp and meet up with Russell and Dug again. While Russell patiently waits for them inside the house, Carl and Dug sneak into the venting system of the blimp, and manage to find the room with Kevin. They unlock his cage, and are about to finally escape when Dug turns around and sees Charles Muntz holding a knife in one hand. Dug bites him on the leg, which sends him down, saving Carl’s life. Meanwhile, Russell is in danger. He fell from Carl’s floating house but rescued himself by grabbing onto the gardening hose. As he dangles with his body wrapped around the hose, he becomes a target for a couple of dogs in helicopters who were ordered by Muntz to kill Russell.

After many tries, Russell finally builds up enough motivation in himself to climb to the top of the house. He also manages to confuse the barbaric dogs by yelling out “squirrel!” exciting them and then sending them swirling down to the ground. Inside the blimp, Carl and Muntz battle each other to the best of their abilities, which turns out to be quite pathetic because they are both elderly and frail. Still, Muntz carries a knife with him, and misses on each stab he aims at Carl. Once Muntz is down on the floor, Carl and Kevin run to the top of the blimp and reunite with Dug and Russell once again. Everyone is back together, giving the impression that the battle has come to an end. Suddenly Charles Muntz comes from a secret passageway in the blimp, making an effort to kill the gang once and for all.

He does not succeed, and accidentally falls off the edge, along with the floating house he had destroyed. With Charles Muntz gone and the gang back together, Carl can now let Kevin go back to her rightfully belonging place. After leaving her with her family of birds, Carl takes over the blimp and uses it to go back home. This would be the flight period in the Hero’s Cycle, because Carl flees the scene of the battle. To prove they go back home, the movie then shows a scene where Russell is at a ceremony being honored the title of Senior Wilderness Explorer.

Carl is standing right next to him, when he says: “For assisting the elderly, and for performing above and beyond the call of duty, I would like to award you the highest honor I can bestoy—The Ellie Badge”. At the end of the adventure, the boon/elixir Carl brings home with him is a new friendship. It can be assumed that Russell did not have many, if any, friends before he met Carl. The same could be said about Carl. Carl was left a lonely, friendless man after Ellie passed away. This unlikely adventure had brought the two characters together, and established a beautiful new friendship between the two of them.


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