The habitual manipulators of our emotions at Pixar are readying the release of this weekend’s Inside Out, showcasing psychologically innovative internal storytelling. In the run up to that debut, though, one of the new film’s co-directors has dished on one of the company’s most critically devastating moments in 2009’s Up, revealing that the famous scene was almost cut from the movie!
In an interview with Yahoo!, Pete Docter, who co-directed Inside Out, discusses a fateful cutting room decision that almost affected the course of your cinematic emotional state of mind during his last feature, Up. Apparently, one part from the famous Carl and Ellie "Married Life" montage in which Ellie is despondent upon learning that she will not be able to have children was the source of several "notes" from the studio, thinking that it may have been pushing things too far. Heeding the criticism, the scene was temporarily cut. However, something was clearly lost. According to Docter:
You didn’t feel as deeply [without the scene] — not only just [with] that sequence, but through the whole film. Most of the emotional stuff is not just to push on people and make them cry, but it’s for some greater reason to really make you care about the story.
The film’s famous opening is nothing less than a heart-wrenching rollercoaster of emotions about the life lived together between main character, Carl and his lifelong love, Ellie. Yet, despite the bonanza of bittersweetness emanating from the sequence, Ellie’s sad revelation seemed an especially emotional low-blow from the creative minds, given that we would soon witness the couple grow old together, eventually leaving a sadly stoic Carl widowed. Yet, in a sense, that is also the point that emphasizes the tragic nature of their relationship. The best kind of tragedy is one in which the characters are seen as sympathetic, due to their helplessness against the often-cruel, vindictive power of fate.
If Carl and Ellie were portrayed as having children, then clearly, we’d be wondering later on why the movie isn’t about Carl passing on his legacy to them. Likewise, if the film simply proceeded as normal with Carl widowed, while not acknowledging why the couple didn’t have children, there might be a hint of that being the result of their own conscious decision. Besides this idea possibly rubbing some of the more family-minded viewers the wrong way, from a structural dramatic standpoint, cutting this crucial portion of the sequence also lessens the emotional impact of the long, beautiful life that they were shown to have shared and lost together. The implied (or even perceived) idea that they took an empowered agency in their own fate, mitigates the idea of them simply being tragic victims of it. In fact, if anything, it would show that they lived their lives fully on their own terms all the way to the end. That might be "sad" in a certain sense, but it is by no means "tragic." Catch the actual scene in the video below for a happiness-killing refresher.
Clearly, Pete Docter and his co-director Bob Peterson must have come to that realization, since the scene showing Ellie’s sad news obviously became an iconic example of movie melancholy magnificently Trojan-horsed into a kid’s movie. Sure, some might equate it to excessive, George R.R. Matin-esque anti-protagonist sadism, but it was clearly a necessary emotional punctuation that would have seriously softened the scene’s impact with its absence. The tragedy of old Carl Fredricksen is what makes his later joy and adventure in the film so powerfully poignant.
It will be interesting to see what kind of emotional baggage Inside Out can manage to saddle onto movie-going audiences. The film, showcasing some witty subconscious banter of a troubled young girl, hits theaters this Friday.