Minorities in comics and animation: Russell (“Up”)

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Last updated on December 10th, 2021

Thought I’d make this week’s entry a Pixar-related one, in light of the passing of Steve Jobs. Besides Apple, Jobs also headed Pixar during its 90s rise to fame; thanks to “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” and a spate of other films, Pixar has become a powerhouse in animation, not to mention spawning many imitators.

On the down side, theatrical animation in the US, thanks to other studios trying badly to ape Pixar’s success, is now near-exclusively CGI-based. TV animation, when not using poorly-done Flash animation, has lately been relying heavily on CGI animation as well. CGI TV shows have been produced about everyone, from Casper the Friendly Ghost to Babar the Elephant.

Anyway, this week’s entry is Russell, one of the stars of Pixar’s 2009 movie “Up.”


Russell is a young member of a Boy Scout-like organization (called the “Wilderness Explorers”). As such, Russell’s trying to earn a merit badge for assisting the elderly. This brings Russell to the door of the movie’s other lead character, Carl (voiced by Ed Asner). Carl’s trying to honor his late wife’s wishes by flying their house (via balloons tied to the roof) to a waterfall in South America. Unplanned by Carl, he winds up bringing Russell along for the trip.

Russell’s initially shown as quite eager at his scouting role. He tries very hard to earn his badge, to go with the multitude of ones he’s already earned. Of course, we soon learn reasons why Russell’s thrown himself into his scouting duties so much. Eventually, Russell and Carl form a bond.

As seen in the photo above, Russell’s also an example of youthful enthusiasm and openness to new ideas (or technology, in the photo’s case), traits which Carl’s wife also embodied. This stands in contrast to Carl, who after the death of his wife, has become set in his ways and somewhat cantankerous.

Voice actor

Russell was voiced by Jordan Nagai, a Japanese American voice actor, as well as child actor. “Up” marks the second Pixar film with a non-Caucasian main human character (after Frozone in “The Incredibles”).

(Updated 11/14/16)

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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