Wall·E: Pixar's Most Thoughtful Film to Date
- Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Pixar films are becoming a summer ritual. The famous San Francisco area studio that practically invented the field of computer animated films is back with this year’s addition to their incredible lineup of original characters and stories.
This summer’s entry asks us a simple question, “What if mankind had to leave earth and somebody forgot to turn off the last robot?” Thus we are introduced to Wall·E, the last robot on earth and our protagonist in Pixar’s first foray into science fiction. The story begins on earth 800 years into the future and is set up with a quick series of leftover video clips. The planet filled up with too much trash and humans left on gigantic cruise-ship-like, space-going vessels to wait out the clean up. The only problem is, for some reason they forgot to go back. Alone on the planet, the last little trash collecting robot Wall·E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) is left sorting through the junk that humanity has left behind.
“Everybody has left and this machine doesn’t know it can stop, and it’s just doing its thing forever,” says the film’s director Andrew Stanton, a self acknowledged “sci-fi geek.” “It’s the loneliest scenario ever.” And over the years he has picked up not only a pet cockroach (it’s not as gross as it sounds), but a personality. Inadvertently, little Wall·E stumbles upon the key to the planet’s future—something that EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), a sleek search robot that one day shows up in Wall·E’s world, believes the off-world humans are eagerly awaiting.
Of course, when EVE shows up quirky little Wall·E develops quite an attachment to her. Having learned about love from a leftover VCR tape of the film Hello Dolly! our little junk collector decides to win the “heart” of newcomer EVE. In addition to providing a crucial element to the story, the music of Hello Dolly! features prominently on the Wall·E soundtrack. Stanton acknowledges that it was an odd choice to use Broadway show tunes in a science fiction movie, but that the music fit so well with the story and it’s quirky nature, he couldn’t say “no.”
“When I had that weird idea of using that song [from Hello Dolly!] … I said to my wife 'this is the weirdest idea I’ve ever had and I’ll be asked why I did this for the rest of my life,'” says Stanton. “One thing I decided I wanted early on… I knew I wanted old fashioned music against space, I knew I wanted future and past juxtaposed.”
At a recent Los Angeles press junket, Stanton spent much of his time answering questions about Wall·E’s seemingly ecological connotations. Stanton maintains that in portraying a junked-up and abandoned earth, he was not trying to force a politically green message onto young viewers.
“I don’t have a political bent here. I don’t have an ecological message to push. … Everything I wanted to show here was based on the love story,” Stanton told the assembled journalists. “[As a plot device I decided] I have to get everybody off the planet. I have to do it in a way that you get it without any dialogue. You have to be able to get it visually in less than a minute. So the trash did that. You look at it, you get it. And you have to move it; even a little kid understands that. It allows Wall·E to sift through everything we left behind on the planet to show that he’s interested in us. So I had to look at everything from the point of view of how you understand it visually without dialogue to describe it.”
Of course, as is Pixar’s custom, the level of detail in those skyscraper-sized piles of junk cubes Wall·E has spent centuries stacking is staggering. Animators create two distinct worlds for the film: the dreary deserted earth with its piles of junk and the sleek futuristic spaceship Axiom that now houses the migratory human race. Both settings show an unprecedented amount of detail.
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