• Year
  • Timeframe
    10 weeks
  • Team
    ~60 CMU undergraduates
  • Goal
    Transport guests of all ages into the world of Pixar's 'Up'

Journey to Paradise Falls

The 'Up' House was a massive undertaking built by a team of 60 volunteer undergraduate students, as a side project for no reason other than an annual university tradition called Spring Carnival. I hope the following images make clear the level of passion of our entire amazing team, but for me especially, this project first awakened my desire to pursue themed entertainment as a full-time job.

I was the Project Lead for one of the attractions in the 'Up' House: Journey to Paradise Falls, a video game installation where players had to safely navigate the house through its iconic flight to Paradise Falls, in this case by steering with a real coffee grinder!

Our final project video for Journey to Paradise Falls

A young girl tries her hand at the steering console

We tried to replicate the experience from the film as authentically as possible


Our team won First Place in our division and the Alumni Award for "Best in Show", and two project team members would go on to work in themed entertainment professionally.

Design Considerations


Our chief objective with this design was to deliver a fully immersive experience which was true to the film. Architecturally, this required us to take dozens of screenshots of the film, and then design our physical space to match as closely as possible within our limited budgets of funding and square feet. From a hardware perspective, we took care to ensure that no circuitry would be visible to our guests, and that the game could run on a loop for 16 hours per day continuously without requiring operator support.


Over the four days of Spring Carnival 2013, our house hosted about 8,000 total visitors in its 18'x18' plot. We were expecting a crowd, and were thankfully able to mitigate overly long wait times by designing a space large enough to hold about 8 spectators in addition to the player during each run of Journey to Paradise Falls.

Critically, the game also always ran for a fixed duration regardless of user input, and always ends with the player reaching Paradise Falls, which removed any possibility of a player getting "stuck" and causing a delay. Our average wait time was about 25 minutes for the 2-minute experience.

Documenting the Madness

I was particularly enamored with my experience on the 2013 'Up' House team, so during the process of building and teardown, I filmed a few hours of B-roll and interviews. In the weeks following Spring Carnival, my roommates and I cut and released a 36-minute documentary of the experience titled SigUp, which I've embedded below for anyone curious to learn more.

My 36-minute SigUp documentary based on the experience of building the 'Up' House