Friday, February 21, 2014

The Laws of Physics in an Animation Universe

Up-normal Helium, Wind, and Masses
            Pixar lifted its company’s standards drastically with Up, which came out in 2009.  Up is a beautiful film with a wonderful story, and filled with unusual friendships.  However, it was also filled with oddities such as unusual helium, wind, and masses.  Originally, my disbelief was suspended enough, like the house lifted up by a thousand balloons in the movie, but when I re-examined Up, I saw how the physics were exaggerated.  I noticed a few physical artistic liberties, including how the balloons are powerful enough to bear a house’s weight, how there is hardly any wind at high altitudes, and how objects in general are lighter in Up’s world.
            The balloons in Up are incredibly affective at bearing weight.  Up’s world seems to have powerful helium, which would also imply that the air in Up is heavier.  In Up, about a thousand balloons are able to uproot the main character, Carl, a Boy Scout, Russell, and an entire house out of a neighborhood.  The balloons then float the aforementioned through a storm and to a cliff in Paradise Falls.  This means that the balloons must have had enough upward force to not only uproot a furniture-filled house and tear its piping, but also to have raised the house to at least the cliff’s altitude, and maintained this altitude.  This certainly could not actually occur, especially through a storm.  On a smaller scale, there is a scene approximately ten minutes in to Up, where Carl is at a balloon stand.  The balloons here start lifting up the balloon cart, which does not ever really happen.  It would also be impractical for there to be a balloon cart that, if it were ever untethered by its owner, would float away.  Just walking the cart outside for business would involve having one’s hands overhead with the floating cart.  Another instance of the amazing balloons is about halfway through Up, when the large fictional bird named Kevin is capable of guiding a house via a thin string around Paradise Falls.  Granted, Kevin’s bird species does not really exist, so her strength is debatable, but Kevin is not at all hindered in her speed by the large house.  The house is tugging upwards, and Kevin is tugging to the side.  There should at least be more evidence of centrifugal force on Kevin, or, if Kevin is that strong, on the house.  The most realism the balloons have in Up is when Carl has to empty the house to make it light again for flight.  This implies that the balloons do lose helium after a while, like in reality.   The balloons in Up must have an amount they can lift in Up’s world.  This amount is not realistic, but it is constant for Up. 
            A second inaccuracy with Up’s physics is that there is no wind at high altitudes.  When Carl and Russell are calmly heading to Paradise Falls before the storm at the first third of Up, the windows are all open and there is no evidence of any wind, even though the house is flying.  Planes do not have windows that open to the sky, for pressure reasons, et cetera, and yet Carl and Russell can discuss GPS machines with every window open.  Even when Carl is standing atop a zeppelin, his hair and clothes do not react much.  When cruising towards the aforementioned zeppelin and standing in the open window of Carl’s house, Russell’s fabrics hardly rustle as much as one would think.  Yet, in this same scene, there are enough air currents to speed the house along to the zeppelin.  Russell even manages to keep his baseball hat on for the entire movie, except for the scene in which he drops from the house around the end.  However, even this does not match up with how, in the beautifully done montage of Carl and Ellie’s life, Carl’s hat falls when he runs to Ellie down about ten feet of a hill.
            Lastly, objects in general are lighter in Up’s world.  When Carl’s future wife, Ellie, lands outside his window, she does so very lightly.  There is barely any sound of her alighting.  In Up’s midpoint, Carl can even tug his levitated house around with a harness made out of a hose.  Around the end of Up, Russell is tied up to a metal chair, and while there, slides down the ramp of a zeppelin very high up.  Russell does not tip over as one should expect, and Carl even catches Russell one-handed when he falls off the end of the ramp.  Not only does Carl do that, but he then lifts Russell and puts him into his house.  A retirement-aged man who needs a cane and who throws out his back with lifting said cane should not be capable of this.  Another example of how light objects in Up are, is when Carl, Russell, Kevin, and Dug, a golden retriever, file into Carl’s house from the airborne zeppelin.  Their added masses do not affect the house’s elevation at all.  They should have, seeing how much weight was affecting the house’s second take off, for which Carl had to empty his house earlier.  A final example of how light objects in Up are is when, while atop a high altitude zeppelin, Carl stops his house from falling off of the zeppelin just with his own strength and tugging on a typical watering hose.  As aforementioned, Carl requires a cane.  Yet, even after this feat, Carl attends a Boy Scout ceremony with ease.  Somehow, though, this movie was still incredible.

            Up was an awesome movie, but just as 2-dimensional cartoons of yore, the physics within this animation were not accurate.  First, the balloons in Up are capable of lifting much more than they should; second, there is basically no wind at high altitudes on moving zeppelins and floating houses; third, the objects in general are lighter in Up’s world.  These errors are strange from the standpoint of someone living in a real world, but the animators’ physics are only exaggerated, and, with the exception of the amount of wind, their formulas are consistent.  It is not as if the animators of Up left the physics completely “up in the air”.

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