It's nice to know I wasn't the only person underwhelmed by Up. In addition to some commenters here, Michael Sporn and Michael Barrier both were fairly critical of the film's faults. Both gentlemen have a long history of accomplishment, as well as critical thought and analysis of animation. Each have strong opinions, as well. Some say that puts them into the crumudgeon category. I wouldn't agree with that label. They are definitely fans and want animation to be great- but they have their standards and they don't waver from those. I certainly don't always agree with their views. I'd be afraid of the person that I always agreed with. Yet I find their blogs to be required reading, especially if you wouldn't normally share their opinions. Always seek out different points of view- it makes you a more well rounded person and keeps you from becoming intellectually inbred. It also makes you less likely to be used as a tool.
I'm thankful for the chance to have a different perspective. I'm finding that my own views on animation -- especially the big studio feature film variety -- have evolved a lot more now that I'm not in the belly of the animation studio biz like I used to be. That culture can be claustrophobically limited and tends to be very self re-inforcing (a dangerous hallmark of any brand of fanatacism, by the way). You always end up working with the same people, or people who know people, again and again. Everybody is one level removed from everybody else. So there is a strong, unspoken pressure to not rock the boat, to be as vanilla as possible. Keep potentially caustic opinions to yourself because you never know what thin skinned person (or friend of said person) you might offend by expressing an original critical thought. Plus there is a tendency to elevate the profession of character animation to levels of importance and significance that are, frankly, just silly. One artifact of this is to navel gaze about the smallest of details, which is tiresome to me and misses the point. There is a noble benefit to self improvement and refinement of one's craft, but do we really need to study video reference of the tongue in slow motion in order to convincingly animate an "L" sound? Really? So often CG film animation misses the forest for the veins in the leaves on the twigs of the branches of the trees.
At this point I don't feel a need to work in the big animated film biz. Been there, done that, got the receipts to prove it. I'm just in a different place. Our family loves where we live and I thoroughly enjoy teaching and tinkering with my own experiments in animation. I don't worry as much about somebody getting their tighty-whiteys in a twist because of something I have to say. I think the very fact that Barrier and Sporn have no stated desire to work in the big studio animation film biz is significant. It's good to have informed outsiders chiming in. Perhaps there are benefits to having informed former insiders who are now almost outsiders chiming in, too.