When you go to the Disney/Pixar website for the movie Up!, you will not find a character listing for the most important character in the story, Ellie.

While some of my readers can very easily accept that I would adore a redheaded girl named Ellie from a hillbilly family, my reasons go a lot deeper, into the actual dynamics of the plot.

UP characters Carl and Ellie at wedding

There would be no movie if it wasn’t for Ellie. She nurtured Carl’s imagination into a life goal, she saw him through the day-to-day, she completed his life by providing the wild, adventurous spirit that involved itself in everything from trying to have a baby to simply putting up a mailbox. Every day, Carl wore the “Ellie Badge” that she had given to him. After her death, he treasured the manifestations of their adventures: the house, the mailbox, her picture, the badge.

When adventure appeared on his doorstep and Carl was thrust headlong into a series of events that lead to an amazing journey, he did it in the house that was put together by him and Ellie. His goal was to recreate the image she had put together in her childhood. Their house by the falls.

At the climax of the story, Carl figures out that it’s not the physical manifestations of past adventures that keep Ellie alive in his heart but the thrill of new adventures. He learns this by flipping through Ellie’s scrapbook. Once believing that no pages were filled after she ended her childhood chapter and created the title page for the adventures she would have thereafter, he was surprised to see that she had filled all of those pages with photographs and memorabilia from their life together. To Ellie, every day was an adventure. She died with no regrets and no sadness over never seeing her home by the falls with her own eyes. She had lived an adventure greater than any other, spending every day with the love of her life. At the end of the scrapbook, she has written a note for Carl:

Thanks for the adventure – now go have a new one! Love, Ellie

Naturally, Carl gets his act together and saves the day. The movie closes with him moving on in life with new adventures and new people with whom he can share laughter and joy. Not surprisingly, one of these people is a child, reminding us of the tragic loss shared between Ellie and Carl and also beckoning back to the moment when Ellie met Carl and he received his Ellie Badge.

Ellie is an unique character. She manifests in the first fifteen minutes of the film but is still present in every single scene thereafter. Everything Carl feels and does, every motivation he has, every innocent act of Russell and every fun-loving moment with Dug (Pixar’s spot on version of a golden retriever) heralds to Ellie. Even after death, she inspires him to seize the day.

Ellie is the movie.

Think of the person who unleashed your adventurous spirit. Who gave you your Ellie Badge? Are they still with you? Do you enjoy every day, live for the adventure, and try to see each new day with new eyes?

UP characters Ellie and Carl at their mailbox


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