Pixar’s Up (2009) is one of the most beloved animated movies of all time. Its beautiful and sweeping animation only added to the emotional vibrancy of the touching and adventurous storyline. Fans recently got an update on Carl Fredricksen in a short Pixar film that ran before the new film Elemental, currently in theaters. But it’s come to light that Elemental and Up have one other big thing in common.
It’s no secret that Pixar Animation Studios loves to draw from real life, sometimes modeling characters after the people working around them every day. Apparently, the designs for Wilderness Explorer Russell were based on the director of Elemental, Peter Sohn! Peter Sohn also directed Disney/Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur. He has worked on films like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and WALL-E.
Sohn also voiced Emile in Ratatouille, Squishy in Monsters University, and Sox in Lightyear. The fact that little boy Russell is based on Sohn’s appearance was little known but has gained circulation due to his success and visibility on Elemental. Here’s his explanation of how Russell’s look came to be.
Sohn wrote on Quora in 2016,
Russell came from many different places, but I think the look of him started when some of the artists were caricaturing each other in a meeting and then some one drew me as a giant thumb with a hat. I have come to grips that I do look like a thumb.
Here’s what he told BuzzFeed News recently, expanding on his likeness on the big screen.
There were many inspirations to Russell. But visually, I’m a chubby Asian guy. And in one of the caricature Pixar meetings, where you’re just drawing each other, the production designer Ricky had caricatured me as a giant thumb with a hat and really squinty eyes.
Now Peter Sohn can be considered a director, animator, voice actor, storyboard artist, AND MODEL for Pixar. Peter Sohn really is dominating over there at Pixar!