Image from 'Up'
The unexpectedly big box-office and critical success of the animated film Up tells a lot about how Hollywood works–and doesn’t work.

The Pixar computer-animated family film Up had a spectacular first weekend at U.S. movie theaters, finishing number one for the period, bringing in $68.2 million, well over ten million dollars more than industry experts had expected.

The film has also received almost universally positive reviews, an astonishing accomplishment.

In short, it’s a hit, and a big hit, with both audiences and critics.

One reason behind the success with audiences may well be a strong concurrence of the filmmakers’ values with those predominating among the American public. To wit, Christianity, and the idea that movies should entertain as well as enlighten.

Megan Basham documents the ideas and approach of filmmaker Pete Docter in an excellent article in World magazine:

Part of the studio’s formula for success, according to Upwriter and director Pete Docter, a professing Christian, is that he and his colleagues don’t concern themselves with thoughts of marketing or box office appeal during the creative process: “It’s not that we don’t think about the audience, it’s just that we think we are the audience, too—we love going to movies. And we think people want to see good movies and be entertained the way we are when we go to the movies, so that’s what we focus on.” 

To really entertain, Docter believes that movies—even kids’ movies—have to begin froma place of truth: “In order to have a film affect you it has to have real emotion and resonate in some way with your own life. So even though the stars of the film may be monsters or bugs, you identify with those characters on the screen. You have to have that foundation of truth to have an emotional attachment to the characters.”

That, of course, is a decided contrast with much of Hollywood’s passion for socialist shibboleths, arrogant politicization, and didactic moralizing about political issues. As such, it goes a long way toward explaining the success of both Up and Pixar.

It also suggests that Hollywood may be slowly changing for the better.

–S. T. Karnick