Friday, November 13, 2009


In conjunction with the release of Pixar's Up on DVD/Blu-ray I'm showing some of the work that I did ( graphic design and illustration for the production). I also thought that it might be interesting to show not only the pieces as they made it into the finished production, but also some of the process and development along the way. By no means is this all of the graphics work that was done for Up, by myself or others, nor am I showing all of the steps or versions, but these are certainly some of the highlights along the road.


There are important plot and story spoilers in this post, so if you haven't seen UP yet, you should really wait and look at this until AFTER you've watched the movie.


Ellie as a girl, has "procured" some pages (including this illustration of Paradise Falls) from various library & text books and pasted them into her own Adventure book. Later, Carl carries it with him on his own adventure in South America.

My first concept sketch, also showing that Ellie was going to attach her own drawing of her dream house on top of the Tepui illustration.

Style exploration and test.

Sculpt of the Tepui by Jerome Ranft, (Left and Top corner/Side) view. The bottom right image, shows the above digital shot that I altered for a faux geographic style magazine article that Ellie thumb-tacks up on their living room shrine.

I began to work with the digital shot as my reference and foundation for the "real" Tepui ...a difficulty with this, was that the actual model for the set had yet to be built, or finalized in it's design. As you'll see in the steps shown, there is some evolution to the silhouette of the location within my illustration.

The final image (in the film it receives the addition of a house drawn by Elie Docter. See the first image of this post.)

The facing page to the Tepui Etching in Ellie's Adventure book.

Initial sketch and screen shot of placement during the layout phase of production (this helped to determine if elements of the illustration needed to be moved for visibility and emphasis);

Early rendering.
Final rendering.

The plane tickets for the trip to Venezuela that Carl and Ellie never take.

Early concept sketches (these were to tie in with the logo and signage for the travel agency/airline location that Carl buys them from).

An early round of design as we determined the overall look and level of detail that the tickets would have.

The final two tickets.
The final two tickets-/ with color adjusted for environment. (Sometimes, as noted with the South America Map, solutions are determined after a design element has been seen in the context of environment, lighting, interaction with character, etc..)

As Carl is a senior citizen, his house was to be filled with a lifetime of items that he and Ellie had collected...along with that, a lot of clutter that Carl had ceased to be able to take care of properly. So, scattered about his house are notes, receipts, pill bottles, coupons, letters etc...

Some letters, a postcard back and a screen shot of the living room shrine, during layout for placement purposes.

Two postcard fronts (subtle reminders throughout the set of the trips that they never took).
Magazine covers.

Album and record label.

Layout screen shots of Carl's front foyer and living room for graphics placement.

Carl's cereal box and milk carton (Another example of design elements moved for visibility during the layout of the film is the empty space on the left of the cereal box front, something that wouldn't happen in the "real world".) I got a kick out of showing that Carl had opened the wrong side of the milk carton.

Shady Oaks is the retirement home that Carl has been court ordered to move into. Here is the logo for the van that comes to get him, the brochure (3D models would later replace the storyboard drawing that I used for placement during design) and the ID badges for the orderlies.  Sculpture of Nancy by Greg Dykstra.

Made during production, the card featured the bird, then named "Gary" with a different body design and coloration than the final version.

Signage for the modern stores that have built up across the street from Carl's house, including models and layout screen shot for placement. The thinking here was to be slick, plastic and generally the antithesis of Carl's aesthetic.

Ronnie Del Carmen became the official source for Ellie's hand writing (I also used him for the "Paradise Falls" label on the side of the glass jug where they saved all of their coins). The two names shown here are several scanned tries by Ronnie using various brushes, which I then combined and cleaned up. The two hand prints were created by having Harley Jessup be our hand model for Carl and Stephanie Hamilton for Ellie. We basically coated the bottoms of their hands with various paints and inks, and then had them make several prints on paper... after scanning those in, I took the best sections of each and composited together an Ellie hand and a Carl hand, matching those proportionally to the actual CG hand models of the characters.

Screen shots from the film of the store fronts and mailbox.

During Carl's flight from the city, he clears a billboard as he flies over the rooftops. We wanted to underline his escape from his urban prison with an image that echoed his flight "up".

One idea was that through the decay that you often see on billboards, we would be able to combine an underlying image with a tattered front to convey the up and out movement.

Later the thinking was to tie in the billboard with the travel agency/airline where Carl had previously bought his and Ellie's tickets.

Until finally we ended with a much more simplified version of the airline logo, in a subtle blue (shown with layout screenshot).

Russell is a member of an organization much like the boy scouts or webelos, called the Wilderness Explorers. We knew that we wanted to communicate all that goes along with those institutions (exploration, the outdoors, camping, etc..) and subtly point in the "up" direction as well.

Early sketch ideas.

First round of design.

Final design, with a render of Russell's backpack for design application.

Russell wears a sash that is covered with several (47) Wilderness Explorer merit badges, with one open space for the "assisting the elderly" badge that he is attempting to complete by helping Carl.
The ideas for the badges were hatched in a jam session with several of the story team artists, so as you will see in the following four images, we had 185 initial badges to choose from for Russell in the first review.
Keeping in mind that Russell has grown up in an urban setting, one of the ideas was to have badges reflect those type of skills and adventures rather than completely reflect the outdoors counterparts that are more commonly known. Believe it or not there is a name and meaning behind every one of these....

Once narrowed down to the final badges, placement and color coordination began.

The final 47 badges.

Referencing old scout manuals, alongside my own memories of being a cub scout, webelo and boy scout, I wanted to distill all of those types of ideas into the design of Russell's WE manual cover.
I also thought it might be cool to somehow incorporate an eagle and bear motif to go along with the hand signal and "call" that Russell makes throughout the film, as well as the Explorer motto that he recites.

Cover sketches.

Early round of design.


Final cover design.

At one point in the story, Russell was going to explain the jet stream to Carl using a spread from his Manual.

Interface/display (Don't blink or you'll miss it):

I believe that this was my last assignment on Up. At the beginning of the film young Ellie, has fashioned several pins or medals out of soda bottle caps and initiates Carl into her club of two by pinning him with the Grape Soda cap.

Round one.


Final cap and with Carl in the film.

And Finally, at the end of the film, Carl pins it onto Russell, naming it... the Ellie badge.



Unknown said...

Fabulous!!! I just watched it again tonight and was admiring the graphic design. It's been on my brain lately because I have a similar assignment for work right now too.

Good, good work my friend!

Ronan McDermott said...

That was a great post. Very interesting to see the development.


Paul- You have just created on of my top 10 posts of all time (seriously). Thank you so much, I love seeing the process work and the subtle references to my boyscout childhood.

Do you have a bottle cap collection now?

Any chance you'll be at CTN-X?

Breadwig said...

Holy Smokes, this is so fun to look at! Love your descriptions of the process too. This would make a great book...

joscha said...

Thanks for this post. I saw the movie in the cinema nly a couple of weeks ago, it has only just been released here in the Netherlands. I loved it so much!

Your work in it is great! (I actually noticed most of these great designs during the film.) Thanks for sharing!

IndySpS said...

Incredible work...and a great movie! A fun, yet compelling story combined with outstanding and imaginative graphics made for a movie in which I became engrossed!

Miles D said...

All of this is fantastic (I especially like seeing all the various merit badge designs), thank you for sharing it here.

mike said...

wow paul! awesome work and awesome post! really, really cool to see some of the process. thanks for sharing!

Greg Pope said...

Fantastic post and amazing work dude.

Paul Conrad said...

Jake- Hey man, glad you liked it...and I can't wait to see what it is that you are working on!

Ronan- Thanks, I'm always interested in seeing the development from other folks too.

dwilson- You are most welcome.. and I loved referencing all of those old scouting books.
I do not have a bottle cap collection, but I did look at quite a few and there are some really great ones out there.
I'm not sure what CTNX is, you'll have to tell me more.

bread- Thanks. There already is a great "Art of Up" should give it a look.

de aap- Thank you, and glad you got to see it in the theater.

IndySpS- You've hit the nail on the head, the compelling story is what made the artwork so "imaginative".
It was very inspiring.

Miles D- No problem...some of them are a real hoot.

Mike- thanks mike and my pleasure!

Greg- Thanks man!

Gerald de Dios said...

Those were all awesome designs for the film! I was at Pixar over the weekend and saw a handful of concept art...I wish I saw your grape soda concepts!!! Thanks for sharing :)

Unknown said...

Amazing stuff. I couldn't help but notice that there are at least 2 nuclear themed Wilderness Explorer badges. What are these two intended to be for?

Paul Conrad said...

Hey Gerald, I'm guessing you got to see the Art of Up exhibit...there are some beautiful pieces displayed there by some amazing artists.

Justin- Let me see if I've got the ones you are referring too:

The second panel on the left is for Radioactivity awareness and safety.

And the last panel, bottom left is "The Day After" Survival badge.

Hey, those story guys sure are a wacky bunch! :)

Dan McDaid said...

Up was one of my favourite films of the year (and the only film I went to see more than once), so I'm a bit thrilled that someone I know contributed so much awesome stuff to this superb movie.

Beautiful work, Paul!


Leighton Hubbell said...

Very cool post.

Some really great illustration and design for your contribution to the UP project. I really dig the poster design and merit badges especially. You are quite inspiring.

This really shows how much the design details helped tell the overall story in the film.

Thanks so much for sharing.

kadath said...

adorable work in progress, i love it! i like so much all fake brands and grapichs of the posters... standing ovation ;)

Chris Battle said...

Simply cannot get ENOUGH of this movie. Thanks for opening up the treasure trove and sharing.

j. said...

Love seeing all the design work that went into this. Absolutely beautiful stuff. Thanks for sharing!

Alberto Hernandez Jr said...

Soooo awesome! I love the Tv guide's and the cereal and milk box textures. Great great work!

Mark Hodgson said...

Awesome work! The movie is an instant favourite. We laughed out loud when we first saw Paradise Falls because of The Lost World 'reference'.

Mr. Negative said...

Thanks for the detailed posts. This is awesome! I noticed in the extra features, that everyone was using a really cool travel watercolor set with a large pen-like object filled with water. Any chance you know what those cool little things are and who makes em?

Sagacious Penguin said...

Paul -- I just stumbled over here from your post on my LOST blog and -- WOW! Your work is amazing!

My roommates and I have been admiring all these Up badges/graphics/posters since the movie's release, and to just bump into someone whose work you've admired is super cool Your design work really solidifies/unifies the world of the film and you can be truly proud of your contribution to a masterpiece!

Rock on!

Kristi said...

Lovely, lovely! I wondered when we saw Up who it was that had the fun of doing all those badges and tickets. Met you in Nashville a couple of years ago when you stopped by the firm where I was working. Thanks for the goodies here. You do such great work.

mattx said...

I can only dream of doing this one day, very cool thanx for the inside development process !±!

Malgorzata Arska said...

incredible work ... :)
I love this film
it's so great story