The Carl Theory That Changes Everything About Up

Whether you’re a parent or not, you’ve probably at least heard of the animated film “Up,” which follows 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Edward Asner), a recent widow who misses his adventure-loving wife so much that he converts their home into a vessel powered by hundreds of helium-filled balloons and sets off to find Paradise Falls, unaware a hyperactive Boy Scout is tagging along for the ride. If you happen to be a parent or Pixar fanatic, you’ve probably seen the movie at least 50 times, but what if we told you the sad and sweet story you think you know and love had a different and darker meaning entirely? 

A fan theory that first emerged on Reddit in 2012 has some viewers rethinking their take on the beloved movie. The theory is so thought-provoking and well-argued, some outlets such as Digital Spy have taken it and run with it, adding to and giving it more credibility. 

So what is the speculation about?

Is Carl actually dead?

As fans of the 2009 Pixar movie “Up” know, its opening montage follows Carl from his childhood to old age, revealing his happy life and marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Ellie, who always wanted to travel and explore the world. In tear-jerking scenes, Ellie passes away as an older woman, leaving Carl alone and childless as a 78-year-old man. 

The fan theory argues that Carl dies in his sleep not long after Ellie, or more specifically, after he learns he could lose his home and might be forced into a retirement community. The Boy Scout Russell — similar to the exuberant Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life” — is Carl’s guardian angel trying to earn his wings as he helps Carl pass into heaven, also known as Paradise Falls. Russell and Dug, the lovable pooch the two encounter along the way, are spirit guides meant to remind Carl of his love for Ellie, life, and adventure so he can transition peacefully. 

While some fan theories have been debunked by writers from Pixar, which is known for putting deep meaning into their stories, none have publicly debunked the “Up” theory yet. As far as fan theories go, this one really makes you think, doesn’t it? 

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