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Fans are watching more Pixar movies than ever thanks to Disney+. The new streaming service from Disney has the entire Pixar catalog available, in addition to all the Disney classics. That means Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Inside Out are all on deck for fans to watch over and over again.

That also means fans have more opportunity to puzzle over the meanings behind Pixar’s story choices. It’s leading fans to revisit one fan theory about Up!, Pixar’s balloon filled adventure story. 

‘Up!’ has one of the saddest opening sequences ever

Although Up! is actually an uplifting film in the end, it has one of the saddest opening sequences in the history of film. It never fails to make fans cry, even after they’ve watched it over and over.

The movie’s main character is Carl Fredricksen. He’s old, and he’s lived quite a life. The opening sequence details that life.

In the beginning, Carl is a young boy. He meets a young, adventurous girl named Ellie.

Ellie is everything Carl isn’t: She’s outgoing, fun-loving, and wants to see the world. Specifically, she wants to go to Paradise Falls, an amazing waterfall in Brazil. 

Carl and Ellie grow up, and get married. They agree that they’ll visit Paradise Falls, when the time is right. They save and save.

They try to start a family, but it doesn’t work out. The two make peace with being a childless couple and focus on their dream of travel. But every time they get close to having enough cash, something happens. They have unexpected expenses that always get in the way of their dream.

In the end, it’s too late. Ellie passes, and Carl is alone. 

Is Carl Fredricksen really dead the whole time?

After Ellie passes, Carl continues to live in their home. When developers knock over a mailbox with extreme sentimental value, he hits one of them with his cane. That leads to a court order forcing him to move, and live in a nursing home.

Carl goes home and ties hundreds of balloons to his house. It floats away like a ship, with Carl at the helm. He’s headed towards Paradise Falls at last when he realizes there’s a stowaway in his midst.

Russell, a young scout, who wants to earn a badge for helping the elderly. Together, Russell and Carl go on the adventure of a lifetime, and Carl realizes that Ellie wasn’t as disappointed with her life as he thought she was. 

The movie has a nice message at the end, but the opening sequence is tragic. What’s more tragic is a fan theory about Carl.

Some people think Carl actually died in his sleep after the court ordered him to move. The rest of the movie is actually the afterlife. Fans think Carl is in a kind of purgatory. He’s not ready to move on yet, and Russell is a kind of guide helping him come to terms with his life on earth. 

Some fans have done the math on the balloons in ‘Up!’


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Although the fan theory about Up! is sad, fans do have evidence to back it up. Some think that Carl’s home represents his attachment to the physical world.

When the house detaches from the foundation, it symbolizes Carl leaving his earthly life. Paradise Falls represents heaven. That would make sense, except Carl returns from Paradise Falls at the end of the movie.

He continues his relationship with Russell and lives out the end of his life happily. But there are other fans who think the physics of Up! is so impossible that it can’t be real. 

Fans on Reddit did the math on Carl’s balloons. They say that since there were too many balloons for Carl to inflate in one night, the ‘Carl is dead’ theory must be true. However, logic doesn’t need to come in to play in fantastical children’s movies. Fans who aren’t in love with this theory can just let it go. Up! doesn’t need to be sadder than it already is.