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Narrative: Narrative Structure & Hollywood Formula, UP (2009) 14/10/2016

Figure 1: 'Up' (2008) Poster

This film review will focus on the film 'Up' (2008), a story that follows an old man called Mr. Carl Fredricson, who's lifelong dream has been to go on an adventure to Paradise Falls, located in Venezuela, South America. With his wife passing away and legal authorities threatening to put him in a home, Carl Frederickson attaches thousands of helium-filled balloons to him home to make a makeshift aircraft, accidentally abducting the small scout Russell and stumbling across a talking dog. Together they must work together to save the exotic bird and evade the mad explorer Charles Muntz.

The film was released in 2008, was directed by Peter Docter and produced by Jonas Rivera. The story for Up was created by Bob Peterson & Tom McCarthy, and the soundtrack was created by Micheal Giacchino.

The topic for this film will 'Narrative Structure' and the 'Hollywood Formula'. This is usually how films can be/should be paced, and certain methods of this can be much more easy to spot than others. There are different methods of this such as a '1-2-1 Structure', which is a film split into three segments, two-quarters and one-half (Start 25+ Middle 50+ End 25 = 1 hour & 40 minutes). The idea of this is that the introduction to the film is short and sweet, but not too short as to confuse the audience, then the middle section is the meat of the film, and the last quarter can wrap up the film nicely into an ending.

Expect very little 'Reviewing' of this for this film because the method that will be shown will be the main topic of this review.


Now acts in films are arbitrary breaks in a film in order to pace the film, there isn't a limit to how many acts you can use however acts can make or break a film. Acts usually only take place when a certain event can either escalate/de-escalate a situation in a film, these can be minor or major events.


Arcs in a film are how a film escalates/de-escalates and what the end result of the story will be, these can vary from being extremely harsh line into gradual soft slopes. There are three main arc plots in this, the three being an Arc Plot, Anti Plot, and a Mini Plot.

An Arc plot is the most commonly used out of the three, allowing the story to gradually progress until a conclusion is made, the story usually has some sort of time limit attached to it which affects the Arc & vice versa. An example of an arc plot would be 'War of the Worlds' (2005).

An Anti Plot basically exists to be an opposite of a normal arc plot, usually, the anti-plot is deliberately changing its arc making it very inconsistent and randomly spread out. An example of this is 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' (1975).

The Mini Plot is a plot set within a small story, usually told through multiple characters this plot can be very different because if the plot is told through more characters then the story can be understood much more easily by its audience, an example of this would be 'Rope' (1948).


Exposition is usually at the start of a film in order to get the viewer immersed in the experience, it can kill a film if it is either too obvious, too long or introduced at the wrong time or in a pattern, the film can then be dissected easily and un-immense the viewer.


Endings in films are either ultimate climaxes, disorientated cliffhangers or neat little bows to tie a story together. There are known as open, closed and partial endings. Open endings are made to create sequels, Closed endings are for creating a conclusion and partial endings can be a mixture of the two but still leave the potential for sequels. So in a nutshell Open ending are made to make you want more, Closed ending are made to satisfy and partial endings are meant to be a middle ground for the two.

Now it's time to use these methods,
To Break, 
The Beginning-Act 1

The beginning is comprised of the montage of Ellie and Carl, giving you a little idea of what the current state of affairs are, without using any dialog either. The exposition in depth here is that Carl and Ellie meet, get married, have a series of unfortunate events, Ellie dies and Carl is left to live on his own with his dream.

Now the main thing with this is that it's the first act, showing the main events and ultimate goals, the ultimate goal being that carl gets his exotic adventure with his wife. Other assets which are set up in the first act is the introduction of Russel, the set up for the exotic bird known as the Snipe, or 'Kevin' and how Carl goes about moving his house, e.g. the balloons.


Act 2 is comprised of Carl using hundreds of helium balloons to carry his house to paradise falls and escape being put into shady oaks retirement home. Not realizing he has also abducted Russel he lets Russel in and allows us to bond with the characters. When the house gets hit by the storm they both end up getting lost and somehow make their way to paradise falls. They are then introduced to Doug and Kevin and they continue to wander until they come across Charles Muntz.

The storm is the supernatural force driving the plot forward in the hero's journey, act 2 is mainly about showcasing the characters. Once all of the characters are introduced to the audience the film's real plot begins to open up.


Act 3 reveals that Charles is really evil and will do anything to get his hands on Kevin, Carls main challenge is presented to him in which he has to let go of the past in order to move forward, however, this is not expanded upon until Russel decides to go rescue, Kevin.

This acts purpose is to show the dilemmas which have been in the film from the very beginning but have been concealed and built up very specifically for a much more dramatic climax.


Carl achieves his goal of getting his house on paradise falls, but it's only when he realizes how much he is being held back. Carl needs to let go of the past in order to progress, and this is shown through the house. Carl then dukes it out with Charles in order to save everyone and return Kevin to its family.

Now a clever bit of symbolism in this animation is when Carl has finally reached paradise falls but still doesn't feel content with his final outcome, it is only when he open his memory book he is literally told by Ellie to move on and have another adventure.

The way in which you can see him moving on is him trying to get the house to fly, and the only way he can do that is by getting rid of all his possessions to make the house light enough so it can float. This is a very cleverly done scene, the fact that the symbolism and the film's message can be picked out so easily is quite the achievement. This is the point in the film where everything the main narrative related is closed off.


The film ends, showing that Carl, Doug, and Russel have stuck together in order to go on adventures together.

So the film is most likely a partial ending, the reason being is that one of the last moments in the film is Russel and Carl flying off in the house to go have some other adventure,  potentially hinting that we could see more of Carl and Russel's antics. However this film could also be a closed ending because of all the plots in the film have been resolved, all goals have been completed, and they lived 'Happily ever after'.

Figure 2: Carl Fredrickson, Russel, Doug & Kevin

Plot Points

As stated before a film can have as many acts as it needs, what is contained within those areas are certain plot points, build-ups, and exposition. An example of this would be in UP when there are multiple stories going on at once. Russel saving Kevin and Carl reaching paradise falls. Each plot point can lead to ultimate goals or ends of certain acts. As stated earlier Carl leaves paradise falls to go help Russell, this is an example which is relatively easy to spot, Carl achieves his objective and then through storytelling is put back onto the path to finish Act 4.

The whole film in plot points would be:
  1. Carl and Ellie meet.
  2. Carl and Ellie sequence.
  3. Carl's life alone.
  4. Legal authorities trying to take his home.
  5. Introduction to mRussel.
  6. Carl Attacks construction worker.
  7. Carl flies his house.
  8. Russel accidently goes with carl.
  9. The house gets lost in the storm and they end up at paradise falls.
  10. They encounter Kevin.
  11. They encounter Doug.
  12. Doug's Plot is revealed.
  13. Russel's story is revealed.
  14. We are introduced to Charles.
  15. Charles true intentions are revealed.
  16. Carl, Russel, Doug & Kevin escape Charles.
  17. Carl is faced with a loss of friendship.
  18. Carl achieves his ultimate goal.
  19. Carl Obtains a new goal, to rescue Kevin and Russel.
  20. The plots main climax begins to build, Carl must save Kevin.
  21. Carl dukes it out with Charles.
  22. Charles is defeated and Kevin is safe.
  23. Russel, Doug, and Carl return home and become a family.
Image Bibliography

Figure 1: 'Up' (2008) Poster,

Figure 2: Carl Fredrickson, Russel, Doug & Kevin,