By Michelle Carpenter
Dec 19, 2016

Useful Scout and Leader Lessons from Disney’s Up

It’d been some years since I’d sat down and watched Pixar’s Up. But, after I started working for the Boy Scouts, I came across an Up clip on Youtube. In it, Wilderness Survival Explorer Russell begs elderly man Carl to let him provide assistance, so he can earn a new badge.

Instantly, I began to reflect on the movie from a new Scouting perspective. For the first time, I wondered what we could learn from the characters about the Boy Scout program.

Up tells the story of a man named Carl who, with his wife, dreams of seeking adventures his whole life. They grow old together, but they never travel to their dream home in Paradise Falls. After his wife dies, and he is told that his home may be demolished, he decides it’s time to go. Unfortunately, young boy Russell picks a poor time to knock on Carl’s door. He winds up journeying with Carl after Carl’s home, tethered by balloons, lifts up into the sky and floats away (yes, his home flies). They end up at Paradise Falls together and have an experience neither would have imagined.

There is a lot to learn about Scouting from Russell and Carl’s relationship. Though Russell isn’t technically a Boy or Cub Scout and Carl isn’t really a Scout leader or parent, there’s plenty to consider from the movie about how to be effective in the Scouting program:

On Aiding Scouts

1. You’re not too old to volunteer.

Carl may be over seventy, but he sure is capable of helping Russell. He heads out to the wilderness and gets around just fine, even with a walker. When Russell can’t put up a tent, Carl knows how. He goes to the rescue and saves Russell in a time of need.

Of course, everyone has limitations, but it’s true that anyone can help a Scout. Some people have the ability to go camping with young boys in South America (as Carl did). Others may be able to teach Scouts a precious lesson or donate financially. Whatever it is, you shouldn’t think you are too old or too young to be of use in the Scouting program.

2. Being there for a Scout is personally rewarding.

Before Russell comes into the picture, Carl is sitting in front of a television watching infomercials. Russell brings meaning to his life. He has someone to fight for and take care of, and he eventually grows fond of Russell. Having someone to help is a joyous thing.

As you serve a Scout, you’ll find that it’s rewarding for you also. You may teach them skills that will benefit their lives. You may be someone they can look up to and strive to be like. This will give you a sense of purpose and joy as well.

3. Be patient–Scouts are still learning.

Carl literally drags Russell through the wild while using his walker as Russell complains about having to walk.

“I don’t want to walk anymore!”

“My knee hurts.”

“My elbow hurts.”

Sometimes, helping boys will require a lot of patience. There will be moments like this in the real world. A Scout may be obnoxious or wild or difficult to handle. Be patient. There’s a lot he can learn, but he’s still young and learning takes time. But, your relationship can be great if you allow it to be.

On Being A Scout

1. Be persistent.

When Russell knocks on Carl’s door, Carl refuses service. But, Russell doesn’t give up. He keeps coming up with various ideas to help.

If there seems to be an obstacle as you’re learning new skills, keep trying. If Russell had quit, he’d have missed out on an exciting experience. Don’t let yourself miss out on something because you gave up too easily.

2. A merit badge is a memory token not a goal.

In the beginning, Russell tries to get a badge. That’s his goal. By the end though, the badge reflects one crazy memory. Don’t earn a badge for the sake of earning a badge. Learn the skill. Then, get the badge to remember a great time or lesson learned.

3. Adventure is out there!

I just couldn’t resist mentioning this famous movie line. Russell goes to the wilderness and experiences a great adventure.  Don’t just sit inside playing video games or watching TV.  Get outdoors because adventure is out there. Enjoy all the benefits of camping–tents, aluminum foil meals, hiking, swimming, or whatever it may be.

Up teaches some great lessons about what it means to be a Scout and what it means to help Scouts. What other Scout lessons can you think of from Up or other Disney movies? Let us know!



Author: Michelle Carpenter | Marketing Associate, Utah National Parks Council.

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