I saw the new Pixar film ‘UP’ a couple of days ago.
To fulfill a life long dream, and to escape impending removal to an old people’s home, Carl ties thousands of helium balloons to his house, and it floats up into the sky (with an unwitting stowaway, a young ‘wilderness explorer’ Russell).
The thing that really interested me was that a huge storm cloud is used as a device to transport them from North America to ‘Paradise Falls’ an unexplored area of South America. A big, dark, turbulent storm cloud that they are inside, surrounded by and thrown around by. When the storm subsides Russell takes out the GPS that his dad has bought him, and says “with my wilderness explorer GPS we’ll never be lost”, and then accidentally throws it out of the window in a triumphant flourish.
This juxtaposition of the cloud taking them away, and the GPS being used to find them is a classic trope of GPS & encapsulates the popular image of what GPS promises – never being lost – but becomes useless when its accidentally thrown out of the window. This is the flip side of the promise, that if you rely on the GPS you’ll be lost when it fails, the batteries die, you loose it, it doesn’t work etc.
Later in the film there are dogs with GPS locaters on their collars, with a small visualisation of where each other are. They are used as a plot short cut to explain why the runaway dog ‘Doug’ and his new friends are found so quickly by the rest of the pack, but the idea of GPS is so familiar it doesn’t need much explanation of what the technology is doing.
I think the first use of GPS in a kids animation that I remember was sat nav in the Incredibles (?), at least the first use of it as an ordinary item, not a specialised sci-fi effect – this reference in UP is very run of the mill & for an non-specialist, non-sci-fi audience.
This also reminds me of another ordinary use of GPS, rather than sci-fi, in a recent episode of the BBC drama ‘Waking the Dead’ in which the detective Boyd is being tracked using GPS in his phone, which is then thrown out of the car window, and the track gets lost.
Does anyone has a list of fiction (film/tv/books) that uses GPS?