Docter resorted to some pretty fun means to ensure that he could get a genuine laugh from Nagai. In the film, Russell is lifted off the ground by the aforementioned jungle bird, and he giggles when the bird’s beak tickles him. According to Docter, a genuine laugh is difficult to fake, so he simply reenacted what Russell was going through by physically hoisting Nagai into the air. Evidently, that worked. The director explained:
“And then of course we did have to work a little bit to get some of the acting. He covers a lot – a big range of emotions, and having never done it before, you know, we basically did a lot of tricks where, you know, we tried to get him to laugh, and it was just not really working. So I picked him by the ankle, held him upside down and tickled him as he said the line. So as he’s being tickled by the bird that’s what that is. “
“Up” would go on to be nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, only the second film ever to have done so (the first was “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991). It would win Best Animated Feature, as well as Best Original Score for Michael Giacchino, and it’s still listed near the top of Best-of-Pixar rankings. No doubt, Nagai’s authenticity contributed to that.
Let’s just hope that Hunter doesn’t resent Jordan for his success.