DISNEY RAISES WORLD'S BIGGEST TRIAL BALLOON(S)

Disney/Pixar went all out at Cannes Wednesday to produce an elaborate PR stunt that would gain attention from the hundreds of journalists and photographers of all media stripes attending the festival. On a pier across from the elegant Carlton Hotel, studio workers tethered an enormous cluster of balloons, almost identical to the one created digitally for their new movie, Up. (It was impossible to tell whether thousands of small balloons had been bundled together or whether an outsized helium balloon was being concealed by hundreds of smaller ones.) The balloons were fastened to a miniature house resembling the one in the movie and brilliantly lighted. According to Up director Pete Docter, the original plan had been to release the balloons, which would carry the house over the Riviera, but strong winds caused them to keep the balloons tethered to the pier. Up director Pete Docter later explained to USA Today that the studio didn't want the headline around the world to read, "Oh, no! It's crashing into the boat."

MOVIE REVIEWS: UP

Film critics attending the Cannes Film Festival, who ordinarily hone their scathes on the opening-night film (in 2006 The Da Vinci Code, the last U.S. film to open the festival, was loudly booed at the press screening during the closing credits) lofted Disney/Pixar's Up to heights of praise usually reserved exclusively for Cannes's arty-est competitors. Indeed Stephen Applebaum acknowledges in his review in The Scotsman: "It left critics on the Croisette feeling buoyant yesterday, which makes a change from opening movies in recent years." Few disagree. "Winsome, touching and arguably the funniest Pixar effort ever" is the way Michael Rechtshaffen in the Hollywood Reporter describes it. "It really is a lovely film," writes Peter Bradshaw in Britain's Guardian newspaper, "funny, high-spirited and sweet-natured, reviving memories of classic adventures from the pens of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne, and movies like Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life and Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon." Indeed, the Lamorisse classic is mentioned in numerous reviews, but only a single balloon figured in that small film; the new one features thousands, and the delights, the critics suggest, are a thousand fold. "This is a wonderful film," Roger Ebert writes in his "unofficial" review in the Chicago Sun-Times. (He's saving his "official" one for the U.S. opening on May 29. Ebert reserves most of this review for a lengthy criticism of 3D, which, he insists, degrade the vibrant color of animated film. His advice: "Find a theater showing [Up in 2D], save yourself some money, and have a terrific visual experience." Recalling Walt Disney's admonition to his animators that "for every laugh there should be a tear," Peter Howell in the Toronto Star writes that Up is "one of the most emotional movies Pixar has ever made." To be sure, a few critics appear about as steadfastly grumpy as the central character in the movie, a 78-year-old voiced by Edward Asner (who often sounds eerily like Lionel Barrymore's definitive Scrooge). Kaleem Aftab writes in the London Independent, "Once the adventure moves into its obligatory action denouement, it enters a world of stereotypes that disappoints" with "blockbuster moments [that are] surprisingly uninventive." And Joe Morgenstern writes in the Wall Street Journal that he was left "with an unshakable sense of Up being rushed and sketchy, a collection of lovely storyboards that coalesced incompletely or not at all."

20TH CENTURY FOX IN PROMOTIONAL DEAL WITH MCDONALD'S

McDonald's, whose Kids Meal packs and in-store promotions are usually associated with animated movies and Saturday-morning TV fare, has announced a promotional deal with 20th Century Fox that will begin this month with Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. "Given today's challenging economic environment, consumers are looking for fun, quality and value, and we're providing just that," Mary Dillon, McDonald's global chief marketing officer, said in a statement. Added 20th's marketing chief Jeffrey Godsick, "Aligning our brand with the world's most recognized restaurant gives us the potential to extend the popularity of these ground-breaking experiences to millions of people worldwide."

UNIVERSAL CONFIRMS: SCORSESE WILL DIRECT SINATRA BIOPIC

Martin Scorsese, whose films about musicians have previously been limited to documentaries (Shine a Light, No Direction Home, The Last Waltz), has agreed to direct an as-yet untitled drama about the life of Frank Sinatra for Universal, the studio confirmed Wednesday. It is being executive produced by Sinatra's daughter Tina, which raises questions about the freedom screenwriters will have to deal with such issues as the legendary singer's relationship with Mafia figures, his turbulent associations with Las Vegas casino executives, and his support of left-wing causes in the 1940s, which transitioned to support of right-wing causes (including the Vietnam War) in the '60s and '70s. It has been over a year since Tina Sinatra originally announced that Scorsese would direct a film about her father, and she has presumably been looking for a studio to produce it ever since. Scorsese reportedly is insisting that Leonardo DiCaprio star in the title role. But the director had reportedly once remarked that John Travolta would be ideal to play Sinatra (presumably when Travolta was a lot thinner).