An unexpected love story combined with a gentle reminder to care
... care about each other and about the planet ... combine in another
delightfully family-friendly computer-animated feature from Pixar
Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. Alan Silverman has this look at the
story of a robot named Wall-E.
The sparkling optimism of the
1969 movie musical Hello Dolly! makes a stark contrast to the Earth
of 700 years in the future on which it echoes. People are long gone.
All that's left are overgrown, decaying buildings and garbage. Lots and
lots and lots of garbage, which is what the one remaining functioning
robot is programmed to collect, compress and pile up in stacks that
reach the sky.
WALL-E, an acronym for "Waste Allocation Load
Lifter, Earth Class," is a yellow dumpster on Caterpillar treads with
expressive video eyes on a stalk rising from his boxy body. After
centuries of stacking the remains of civilization, he ... or it ... has
also developed a curiosity and selects unique items for a special
collection: a Rubik's cube, an egg-beater, a digital music player
... and, perhaps his most prized possession, a videotape of Hello
Watching the couple on screen touches something deep in
Wall-E's cyber-heart as he tries to match their hand-holding with his
utilitarian claws that were designed for trash collecting, not
Then one remarkable day, with a thunderous roar, a
rocket drops down from the sky and out pops a sleek, shiny flying robot
named "Eve" - for "Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator" - programmed
to find out if life has returned to the wasted Earth. It is love at
first sight for "Wall-E" who now must do whatever he can to keep from
being alone anymore.
"My specific premise was 'irrational love
defeats life's programming,' " says Andrew Stanton, who created the
Pixar hit Finding Nemo. He is co-writer and director of Wall-E.
had two programmed characters fighting to figure out what life and the
point of it is ... which is love ... and discovering what that meant,"
Stanton explains. "It took irrational acts of love to do that. We all
have our habits, our routines, and our programmed things that we fall
into to distract ourselves from really living. They are not necessarily
bad or evil in and of themselves. It's just that we can use that as
crutch to fill up our day and avoid the act of having relationships and
contacting one another. We see it every day. We can all be in the same
room and all be in our own little world; and it's easier and easier to
There are more words in that comment than Stanton put in
the entire first half of "Wall-E," but he maintains the film is full of
"To me it has dialog from frame one. It's just not the
way you and I speak, but every little buzz and whirr and hum was
planned and executed exactly to be a way so that it would convey a
certain intention whenever Wall-E or Eve 'spoke,' " he says. "When I
wrote the script for the movie, before we drew or executed anything, I
had all the dialog written for each of the characters and I would
bracket it so I knew exactly what their intentions were; so in my mind,
it's full of dialog."
"A lot of the expressions for Wall-E and
Eve are part of their sound effects," says Ben Burtt, who creates the
"voice" of Wall-E; the Oscar-winning sound designer has previously
given personality to, among other mechanical objects, "Star Wars" robot
"The trick in creating these illusions that machines are
talking is always somehow finding the balance between the human aspect
of it - that there's a person or some kind of character with a soul
behind it - with the machine aspect," he says, "because you want to
convince the audience that these are talking machines. There's a human
input to it. You can start out by recording a word ... 'Wall-E' or
'ohhhh' ... and get as much performance into it as you can; but then
that sound is taken into the computer and dissected.
change the pitch, freeze or stretch vowels or consonants within a word
and actually add another level of performance to it. So it's a balance
between human performance and electronic processing," he explains.
"Wall-E" discovers becomes the key to humans returning home to restore
the devastated planet; however, writer-director Stanton insists he was
not making an animated "Inconvenient Truth."
"I did not have an
ecological message. I knew I was dealing with elements that basically
match it, but that was never what I was pushing. The last thing I want
is to be preached to when I watch a movie," he says. "I didn't mind
that I was touching similar elements because it is not necessarily a
bad thing to be associated with; but it was all basically to say
'everything else is going to benefit if you pay attention to
Elissa Knight is the voice of Eve; and the
"Wall-E" voice cast also features Jeff Garlin, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney
Weaver and Pixar stalwart John Ratzenberger. In a 'first' for a Pixar
film, comic actor Fred Willard actually appears in the film as a human
character, albeit on ancient videos. The musical score is by Thomas