Today’s Pixar Heroines installment is a special 10th anniversary tribute to Ellie Fredricksen! Both Simoa and Joanna have plenty to say about this adventure-loving superstar.
Ellie is full of spirit, confidence, and love
I loved Ellie almost immediately. It was when she took off her pilot helmet and all that unruly hair leapt out before getting flattened again. Then she smiled that goofy, toothy smile of hers. I just knew from those few seconds that I would love her. And in that short bit of time, we know that she’s a rambunctious extrovert, but she’s not totally wild. See the way she gently takes Carl’s hand and leads him to his balloon – foreshadowing!
Ellie’s introduction is one of the best I’ve ever seen. From the way she pilots the house when Carl first sees her, to the way she ripped a page right out of a library book. It’s rule breaking that’s so specific to little kids; daring and innocent at the same time. Ellie’s daring, her unclouded belief that she can one day follow in her hero’s footsteps, are qualities I wish I had. She, like little kids all over, believe in the impossible and don’t fool themselves into being realistic. When Ellie demands that Carl take them both to Paradise Falls, I believe that she’ll get them there. More foreshadowing! And even as Ellie grows up, she never loses that spirit; not when life doesn’t go the way she planned and not even when tragedy strikes.
Our time with Ellie is so brief, but the magic of Up’s “Married Life” montage is that we believe she spent an entire lifetime with Carl. Not only that, but Ellie’s limited screen appearance still made audiences fall in love with her. I fell too, if you couldn’t already tell! She is my favorite Pixar character, even if she only has a few lines and dies so early on. But it’s her spirit that permeates Up. The film does get criticized for its wacky and absurd second act, which a lot of people think doesn’t live up to its first ten minutes. Talking dogs, a chocolate loving bird, flying a balloon powered house to Paradise Falls, who would’ve loved that? Young Ellie, who pretended the dilapidated house she was playing in was a plane, and who used a steering wheel that would later inspire Carl’s own steering apparatus when he got his house off the ground (foreshadowing). And also Older Ellie, the woman who became a zookeeper! And her spirit resides in Russell too. There are little moments that clue us and Carl into his wife’s presence. What would Up be without her? She’s always there even when we can’t see her anymore.
“While Ellie is alive, our color palette is heavily saturated. She brings color into Carl’s life. When she’s gone, the palette is desaturated to shades of gray. When Carl blows up the balloons to begin his journey, we bring back the memory of Ellie through those saturated, beautiful colors. Generally, we show Carl in the dark while Russell is in the light. Russell brings all of Ellie’s color back into Carl’s world.” – Ricky Nierva, production designer (The Art of Up).
Don’t we all want to be like Ellie? And if we can’t be her, have her in our lives? I honestly do get bummed out that I can’t actually hug Ellie because she feels that real to me. And it’s easy to imagine more of her story past Up’s first ten minutes.
I love that Ellie sees life as one big adventure with the people we love and care about. I love that she makes me believe that adventure is not only out there, but all around, right here.
I would be remiss to not include more Ellie artwork! Two of my favorites are by Ronnie del Carmen. Imagine her as an aviator?! Swoon. Becoming a pilot is an ambition of mine, so let’s just say that Aviator/Pilot Ellie means a lot to me.
Ellie is an adventurer, and an adventure!
The audience may only see Ellie for the first 10 minutes of Up, but she still manages to be unforgettable. She is one of, if not the, most important character in the film. And while the audience only physically sees her for that painfully brief time, her presence is unmistakeable throughout the entire movie.
Ellie drives the story of Up, with Carl always looking to her for reassurance and comfort, both during their marriage, and after her death. Pixar even devoted the colour magenta to her, so that each time you see it fade in or out on the screen you’re reminded of her significance. The magenta slowly disappears at Ellie’s funeral, and we’re quickly met with a very faded, desaturated sequence of Carl’s life as a widower. And when Carl bravely sets forth on his journey to Paradise Falls, the balloons are lit up with magenta hues that cast magenta shadows and lights over the buildings and fields below. Carl’s journey is powered by Ellie’s spirit: the spirit of adventure!
The fact that Ellie is so memorable and inspiring is not only a testament to the strength of Pixar’s storytelling, but also to the strength of her character. Ellie is fearless, creative, loving, and confident. She’s an adventurer, and she’s an adventure. She is everything a young wilderness explorer should aspire to be.
“For performing above and beyond the call of duty, I would like to award you the highest honor I can bestow: The Ellie Badge.”
- Pete Docter’s daughter, Elie Docter, voiced young Ellie and even drew the childhood art in Ellie’s adventure book!
- According to Elie, Ellie nursed wounded pigeons after they were hit by boys’ slingshots, which is “really something only a kid would do.” (Take note that Carl and Russell would never hit birds with slingshots!)
- Ellie, like Charles Muntz, was shaped like an exclamation point when she was young because she wanted to be an adventurer. “…sort of light on her feet and lifting up into the air.” – Albert Lozano, designer
- The Ellie Badge is one of the Easter eggs in Toy Story 4!