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Movie Fact or Fiction: Pixar's Up

No, this is not a review. A couple days ago, I watched Pixar's Up, the Academy Award winning movie about an old man who tries to fly his house with balloons to South America and accidentally finds a rare bird with an 8-year old Boy Scout.

Up was truly great. It was inspiring and emotional, and really made you believe in adventure. However, I am not here to rave about Up. I'm here to talk about how realistic it is. I will mainly be focusing on the balloon house.

This did require some research, so let's dive in to whether Pixar's Up is fact...or fiction.

Travel Times and Places

Carl Fredericksen, the movie's main protagonist, is a 78-year old balloon salesman who is about to be taken into a retirement home. The day that he is about to be picked up, Carl ties a ton of balloons to his house and flies away to South America to achieve his lifelong dream of living in Paradise Falls.

There is no official location for Carl's hometown. However, my educated guess is that this takes place somewhere close to Hollywood, California. We never see snowfall, and the opening takes place in a movie theater in the 1930s. There were a lot of theaters in Hollywood in the 30s, so that's where we are going to place Carl's hometown.

From there, we need to locate Paradise Falls. Paradise Falls is based on the real-life Iguazú Falls, which is in Venezuela. If you were to take a plane from Hollywood to Iguazú Falls, that would take about 21 hours and 50 minutes, just about a day long. Iguazú is 5,876 miles away from Hollywood. However, this is not a plane that Carl Fredericksen takes to Paradise Falls.

The Balloon House and the Math

The average, normal balloon can lift just about 30 grams. There are 453.5 grams in a pound. This means that 15 balloons are required to lift a pound. An average American house weighs between 8,000 and 16,000 pounds, so we will just take the average of that, which is 12,000 pounds. So, if you do the math, it takes approximately 181,437 balloons to lift up Carl Fredericksen's house. It is nearly impossible to count how many balloons are animated in the film, so I looked it up. It said that there were varying amounts of balloons on the house, but they counted about 10,000 balloons. Sorry, Pixar. You are way off.

Let's just assume that they did animated it right and there were more than 10,000 balloons connected to Carl's house. We can revisit that number from the previous section, which told us that it takes 21 hours and 50 minutes to travel by plane. A balloon, however, rises at 1,000 feet per minute. There is a shot during the flight sequence where we see the house above the clouds. Clouds are between 10,000 and 60,000 feet in the air, so we'll say that the house is cleanly above all the clouds at about 60,000 feet. That would mean that it took the house 60 minutes for the balloon house to get above the clouds. From there, the house is clearly moving faster than the clouds. Clouds move at nearly 100 miles per hour, so that means that the house is moving near 200 miles per hour, we'll say.

Let's review the numbers: the balloons took an hour to rise. That means that the clock has already been moving for an hour by the time that the house is fully in the air. The house begins traveling at 200 miles per hour after it has risen, and Iguazú Falls is 5,876 miles per hour. That means that it would take the balloon house about 29.38 hours to get to Paradise Falls.

Balloon and Human Survival

Unfortunately, neither the balloons or Carl and Russell would make it through the trip. The life expectancy of a flying balloon is about 18-24 hours, meaning that the house would fall before it reached Paradise Falls. If Carl continued to tie balloons onto the house between, that would get them to their destination.

Either way, even if the house was able to land in Paradise Falls, it'd be carrying the corpses of Carl and Russell in it. The altitude is too high for any human to be able to breathe. Oxygen runs out at 15,000 feet, meaning that Carl and Russell would be dead within the first hour of flight.

Another problem that presents itself is the height before the balloon pops. Balloons can fly pretty high, but they ultimately do pop eventually. They can reach up to 60,000 to 150,000 feet before they are crushed by the air pressure. Some of Carl's balloons would make it the duration of the trip, but not enough to keep the house going.

Final Verdict

While a smaller Up trip may be possible, Carl and Russell would run into too many problems to be able to make it to Paradise Falls relying entirely on the house of balloons.

Verdict: Fiction

While Up may not be realistic, it is still a very enjoyable movie and everyone should see it. If you read through this entire Fact or Fiction article, this will be a new norm on the website. Reviews are taking a backseat until new movies are released, so you'll be getting much more theories and fact or fictions.


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