A fan theory about Pixar’s Up completely changes the outlook of the film but just what happened to Carl in the movie Up according to the theory?

Pixar has always had a knack for hitting fans right in the feels and even grown adults are prone to tearing up at the likes of Inside Out, Coco and the ending of Toy Story 3.

Arguably one of the most tear-jerking films that Pixar has released, however, is 2009’s Up which starts with one of the most heartbreaking scenes ever put to film.

The opening montage of Carl and Ellie meeting, marrying and growing old together always ensures that there isn’t a dry eye in the house.

However, a fan theory about Carl, that Pixar fans have speculated about for a number of years, makes the events of Up even more heart-wrenching.

But just what happened to Carl in the movie Up and what does the fan theory suggest?

The story of Up

Up tells the story of Carl Fredricksen, a 78-year-old widow whose adventure-loving wife Ellie tragically passes away in the opening montage of the film.

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The couple always dreamed of their own adventures and travelling to Paradise Falls in South America and we join Carl as he turns those dreams into reality by converting his house into an incredible balloon-driven airship and sets off to Paradise Falls.

Carl is joined on his adventure by nine-year-old wilderness explorer, Russell, who is accidentally brought along on the adventure which sees the pair navigate the mysterious land of Paradise Falls and face-off against the villainous explorer, who Carl once idolised, Charles F. Muntz.

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Fan theory: What happened to Carl in Up?

  • The fan theory suggests that Carl dies in the early moments of Up and that his journey with Russell is his journey into the afterlife.

The story of Carl in Up and how he turned his house into the incredible balloon-driven flying machine has always seemed a little on the fantastical side and one Pixar fan theory attempts to interpret why that might be.

The fan theory, which first emerged on Reddit in 2012, suggests that Carl Fredricksen actually dies in his sleep in the early moments of the film after he’s been told to move out of his house and into a retirement home.

The fan theory, which is also explored by Digital Spy, suggests that wilderness explorer Russel is actually Carl’s guardian angel of sorts and helps him to find the spirit of adventure he shared with Ellie and crossover into the afterlife.

Of course, Ellie and Carl weren’t able to have children themselves and the theory suggests that Russell, who is hoping to ‘earn his wings’ by helping Carl, represents Carl and Ellie’s childless marriage.

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Our view on the Carl theory

Pixar often adds extra layers into its films and the theory itself does seem credible.

Carl’s house being carried by hundreds of helium-filled balloons has always seemed too good to be true and for Russell to be a guardian angel hoping to earn his wings by getting Carl to Paradise Falls (heaven is often depicted as a paradise) all fits in.

And let’s not forget the attempts of Charles F. Muntz, the evil devil-like explorer who is the master of a pack of hounds (of hell), to stop Carl from making it to Paradise Falls.

Of course, it’s always worth remembering that Up is a kids’ film and so there is always going to be some embellishments to keep the young ones entertained but it’s fascinating to see how well the fan theory fits in with the film.

You can re-watch Up on the Disney+ streaming service and make your own mind up on whether this theory about Carl holds up.

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