WALL-E

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This article is about the 2008 film. For the video game based on it, see WALL-E (video game). For the film's soundtrack, see WALL-E (soundtrack).
WALL-E
WALL-Eposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Produced by Jim Morris
Screenplay by Andrew Stanton
Jim Reardon
Story by Andrew Stanton
Pete Docter
Starring Ben Burtt
Elissa Knight
Jeff Garlin
Fred Willard
John Ratzenberger
Kathy Najimy
Sigourney Weaver
MacInTalk
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Jeremy Lasky
Danielle Feinberg
Edited by Stephen Schaffer
Production
company
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • June 23, 2008 (2008-06-23) (Los Angeles premiere)
  • June 27, 2008 (2008-06-27) (United States)
Running time 98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $180 million[1]
Box office $521,311,860[2]

WALL-E (stylized with an interpunct as WALL·E) is a 2008 American computer animated science fiction romantic comedy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and directed by Andrew Stanton. The story follows a robot named WALL-E, who is designed to clean up an abandoned, waste-covered Earth far in the future. He falls in love with another robot named EVE, who also has a programmed task, and follows her into outer space on an adventure that changes the destiny of both his kind and humanity. Both robots exhibit an appearance of free will and emotions similar to humans, which develop further as the film progresses.

After directing Finding Nemo, Stanton felt Pixar had created believable simulations of underwater physics and was willing to direct a film set largely in space. WALL-E has minimal dialogue in its early sequences; many of the characters do not have voices, but instead communicate with body language and robotic sounds, which were designed by Ben Burtt. It is also Pixar's first animated feature with segments featuring live-action characters.

Walt Disney Pictures released WALL-E in the United States and Canada on June 27, 2008. It grossed $23.2 million on its opening day, and $63.1 million during its opening weekend in 3,992 theaters, ranking number one at the box office. This ranks as the fifth highest-grossing opening weekend for a Pixar film. Following Pixar tradition, WALL-E was paired with a short film, Presto, for its theatrical release.

WALL-E was met with critical acclaim, scoring an approval rating of 96% on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. It grossed $521.3 million worldwide, won the 2008 Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film, the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form,[3] the final Nebula Award for Best Script,[4] the Saturn Award for Best Animated Film, and the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature as well as being nominated for five other Academy Awards at the 81st Academy Awards. WALL-E ranks first in TIME '​s "Best Movies of the Decade".[5]

The film is seen as a critique on larger societal issues. It addresses consumerism, nostalgia, environmental problems, waste management, the immense impact humans have on the Earth, and risks to human civilization and its home planet Earth.[6]

Plot[edit]

In 2805, Earth is covered in garbage due to decades of mass consumerism facilitated by the megacorporation Buy 'n' Large (BnL for short). In 2105, BnL evacuated Earth's population in fully automated starliners, leaving behind WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth-Class) trash compactor robots to clean the planet. Eventually BnL abandons its plan and shuts down the WALL-E robots, except for one which develops sentience after 700 years of life-experience. He manages to remain active by repairing himself using parts from other units. Apart from his regular duties, he inquisitively collects artifacts of human civilization and keeps them in his home, a storage truck.

One day, WALL-E discovers a growing seedling. Later, a spaceship lands and deploys EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), an advanced robot probe sent from the BnL starliner Axiom to search for vegetation on Earth. WALL-E falls in love with the initially cold and hostile EVE, who gradually softens and befriends him. When WALL-E brings EVE to his home and shows her his collection, she sees the plant, automatically stores it inside herself, and goes into standby mode waiting for her ship to retrieve her. WALL-E, not understanding why EVE seems to have shut down, tries numerous methods to reactivate her, to no avail. When EVE's automated ship returns and collects EVE, WALL-E clings to its hull and thus travels through space to the Axiom, which is hidden behind a nebula.

On the Axiom, the descendants of the ship's original passengers have become morbidly obese after centuries of microgravity effects and relying on the ship's automated systems for their every need. The ship's 6th captain, McCrea, leaves most of the ship's operations under the control of its robotic autopilot, Auto.

WALL-E follows EVE to the bridge of the Axiom, where the Captain learns that by putting the plant in the ship's holo-detector to verify Earth's habitability, the Axiom will make a hyperjump back to Earth so the passengers can recolonize it. However, Auto orders McCrea's robotic assistant GO-4 to steal the plant as part of his own no return directive, which was issued to all BnL autopilots after the corporation incorrectly concluded in 2110 that the planet could not be saved.

With the plant missing, EVE is considered defective and taken to the repair ward along with WALL-E (for cleaning). WALL-E mistakes the process on EVE for torture and tries to save her, accidentally releasing a horde of malfunctioning robots that were being kept for repairs in a jail for robots. The on-board security systems then designate both WALL-E and EVE as "rogue robots". Angry with WALL-E's disruptions, EVE brings him to the escape pod bay to send him home. There they witness GO-4 dispose of the missing plant by placing it inside a pod which is set to "self-destruct mode". WALL-E enters the escape pod in an attempt to retrieve the plant, but GO-4 jettisons the pod into space. WALL-E escapes with the plant before the pod explodes. Reconciling with EVE, they celebrate with a dance in space outside the Axiom.

With the plant brought to the captain, EVE's recordings of Earth are surveyed and concludes that mankind must return to restore their ruined home. However, Auto reveals his directive and stages a mutiny. He tasers WALL-E, severely damaging him, when he tries to protect the plant. EVE realizes the only parts for repairing WALL-E are in his truck back on Earth. She helps him bring the plant to the holo-detector to activate the ship's hyperjump. McCrea opens the holo-detector and fights Auto for control of the ship. Auto partially crushes WALL-E by closing the holo-detector on him. Auto is eventually disabled by McCrea, and EVE places the plant in the holo-detector, which frees a crushed WALL-E and sets the Axiom on the instant hyperjump to Earth.

EVE immediately brings WALL-E back to his home where she repairs and reactivates him. After the repair WALL-E no longer recognizes EVE, reverting to his original programming as an emotionless waste compactor. Heartbroken, EVE gives WALL-E a farewell kiss that jolts WALL-E's memory, and his personality returns. WALL-E and EVE happily reunite as the humans and robots of the Axiom begin to restore Earth and its environment.

Cast and characters[edit]

  • Ben Burtt produced the voice of WALL-E, the title character. WALL-E, a robot who has developed sentience, is the only robot of his kind shown to be still functioning on Earth. He is a small mobile compactor box with all-terrain treads, three-fingered shovel hands, binocular eyes, and retractable solar cells for power. He collects spare parts for himself, which becomes pivotal to the plot, and replaces broken and/or worn out parts on-the-fly by cannibalizing "dead" WALL-Es. Although working diligently to fulfill his directive to clean up the garbage (all the while accompanied by his cockroach friend Hal and music playing from his on-board recorder) he is distracted by his curiosity, collecting trinkets of interest. He stores and displays these "treasures" such as a birdcage full of rubber ducks, a Rubik's Cube, Zippo lighters, disposable cups filled with plastic cutlery and a golden trophy at his home where he examines and categorizes his finds while watching video cassettes of musicals via an iPod viewed through a large Fresnel lens.
    • Burtt is also credited for the voice of M-O (Microbe Obliterator), as well as most of the other robots. M-O is a tiny, obsessive compulsive maintenance robot with rollers for hands who keeps Axiom clean.
  • Elissa Knight as EVE, a sleek robot probe whose directive is to locate vegetation on Earth and verify habitability. She has a glossy white egg-shaped body and blue LED eyes. She moves using antigravity technology and is equipped with scanners, specimen storage and a plasma cannon in her arm, which she is quick to use.
  • Jeff Garlin as Captain B. McCrea, the commander, and apparently only officer, on the Axiom. His duties as captain are daily routines, with the ship's autopilot handling all true command functions.
  • Fred Willard as Shelby Forthright, historical CEO of the Buy n Large Corporation, shown only in videos recorded around the time of the Axiom '​s initial launch. Constantly optimistic, Forthright proposed the evacuation plans, then to clean up and recolonize the planet. However, the corporation gave up after realizing how toxic Earth had become. Forthright is the only live action character with a speaking role, the first in any Pixar film.
  • MacInTalk, the text-to-speech program for the Apple Macintosh, was used for the voice of Auto, the rogue autopilot artificial intelligence built into the ship. Unlike other robots in the film, Auto is not influenced by WALL-E, instead following directive A113, which is to prevent the Axiom and the humans from returning to Earth because of the toxicity, and he will prevent anyone from deviating from it.
  • John Ratzenberger and Kathy Najimy as John and Mary, respectively. John and Mary both live on the Axiom and are so dependent on their personal video screens and automatic services that they are oblivious to their surroundings, for instance not noticing that the ship features a giant swimming pool. However, they are brought out of their trances after separate encounters with WALL-E, eventually meeting face-to-face for the first time.
  • Sigourney Weaver as the voice of the Axiom '​s computer. Stanton joked about the role with Weaver, saying, "You realize you get to be 'Mother' now?"[7][8] referring to the name of the ship's computer in the film Alien, which also starred Weaver.[8]

Production[edit]

Writing[edit]

BACK ON M-O AND WALLY [sic]
M-O just finishes cleaning the floor.
Wally is fascinated.
Impishly makes another mark.
M-O compulsively cleans it. Can’t resist.
M-O (bleeps): [Look, it stays clean. You got that?]
Wally wipes the bottom of his tread on M-O’s face.
M-O loses it.
Scrubs his own face.

Stanton wrote the screenplay to focus on the visuals
and as a guide to what the sound effects needed to convey[9]

Andrew Stanton conceived WALL-E during a lunch with fellow writers John Lasseter, Pete Docter, and Joe Ranft in 1994. Toy Story was nearing completion and the writers brainstormed ideas for their next projects – A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo – at this lunch. Stanton asked, "What if mankind had to leave Earth and somebody forgot to turn off the last robot?"[7] Having struggled for many years with making the characters in Toy Story appealing, Stanton found his simple Robinson Crusoe-esque idea of a lonely robot on a deserted planet strong.[10][11] Stanton made WALL-E a waste collector as the idea was instantly understandable, and because it was a low-status menial job that made him sympathetic.[12] Stanton also liked the imagery of stacked cubes of garbage.[13] He did not find the idea dark because having a planet covered in garbage was for him a childish imagining of disaster.[14]

Stanton and Pete Docter developed the film under the title of Trash Planet for two months in 1995, but they did not know how to develop the story and Docter chose to direct Monsters, Inc. instead.[15][16] Stanton came up with the idea of WALL-E finding a plant, because his life as the sole inhabitant on a deserted world reminded Stanton of a plant growing among pavements.[17] Before they turned their attention to other projects, Stanton and Lasseter thought about having WALL-E fall in love, as it was the necessary progression away from loneliness.[14] Stanton started writing WALL-E again in 2002 while completing Finding Nemo.[18] Stanton formatted his script in a manner reminiscent of Dan O'Bannon's Alien. O'Bannon wrote his script in a manner Stanton found reminded him of haiku, where visual descriptions were done in continuous lines of a few words. Stanton wrote his robot dialogue conventionally, but placed them in brackets.[11] In late 2003, Stanton and a few others created a story reel of the first twenty minutes of the film. Lasseter and Steve Jobs were impressed and officially began development,[19] though Jobs stated he did not like the title, originally spelled "W.A.L.-E."[20]

While the first act of WALL-E "fell out of the sky" for Stanton,[14] he had originally wanted aliens to plant EVE to explore Earth and the rest of the film was different. When WALL-E comes to the Axiom, he incites a Spartacus-style rebellion by the robots against the remnants of the human race, which were cruel alien Gels (completely devolved, gelatinous, boneless, legless, see-through, green creatures that resemble Jell-O). James Hicks, a physiologist, mentioned to Stanton the concept of atrophy and the effects prolonged weightlessness would have on humans living in space for an inordinately extended time period.[7][21][22] Therefore, this was the inspiration of the humans degenerating into the alien Gels,[23] and their ancestry would have been revealed in a Planet of the Apes-style ending.[24] The Gels also spoke a made-up gibberish language, but Stanton scrapped this idea because he thought it would be too complicated for the audience to understand and they could easily be driven off from the storyline.[25] The Gels had a royal family, who host a dance in a castle on a lake in the back of the ship, and the Axiom curled up into a ball when returning to Earth in this incarnation of the story.[25] Stanton decided this was too bizarre and unengaging, and conceived humanity as "big babies".[24] Stanton developed the metaphorical theme of the humans learning to stand again and "grow[ing] up",[24][26] wanting WALL-E and EVE's relationship to inspire humanity because he felt few films explore how utopian societies come to exist.[27] The process of depicting the descendants of humanity as the way they appear in the movie was slow. Stanton first decided to put a nose and ears on the Gels so the audience could recognize them. Eventually, fingers, legs, clothes, and other characteristics were added until they arrived at the concept of being fetus-like to allow the audience to see themselves in the characters.[25]

In a later version of the film, Auto comes to the docking bay to retrieve EVE's plant. The film would have its first cutaway to the captain, but Stanton moved that as he found it too early to begin moving away from WALL-E's point-of-view. As an homage to Get Smart,[28] Auto takes the plant and goes into the bowels of the ship into a room resembling a brain where he watches videos of Buy n Large's scheme to clean up the Earth falling apart through the years. Stanton removed this to keep some mystery as to why the plant is taken from EVE. The captain appears to be unintelligent, but Stanton wanted him to just be unchallenged; otherwise he would have been unempathetic.[23] One example of how unintelligent the captain was depicted initially is that he was seen to wear his hat upside-down, only to fix it before he challenges Auto. In the finished film, he merely wears it casually atop his head, tightening it when he assumes real command of the Axiom.[25]

Originally, EVE would have been electrocuted by Auto, and then be quickly saved from ejection at the hands of the WALL-A robots by WALL-E. He would have then revived her by replacing her power unit with a cigarette lighter he brought from Earth. Stanton reversed this following a 2007 test screening, as he wanted to show EVE replacing her directive of bringing the plant to the captain with repairing WALL-E, and it made WALL-E even more heroic if he held the holo-detector open despite being badly hurt. Stanton also moved the moment where WALL-E reveals his plant (which he had snatched from the self-destructing escape pod) from producing it from a closet to immediately after his escape, as it made EVE happier and gave them stronger motivation to dance around the ship.[23] Stanton felt half the audience at the screening believed the humans would be unable to cope with living on Earth and would have died out after the film's end. Jim Capobianco, director of the short film Your Friend the Rat, created an end credits animation that continued the story – and stylized in different artistic movements throughout history – to clarify an optimistic tone.[29]

Design[edit]

WALL-E was the most complex Pixar production since Monsters, Inc. because of the world and the history that had to be conveyed.[10] Whereas most Pixar films have up to 75,000 storyboards, WALL-E required 125,000.[30] Production designer Ralph Eggleston wanted the lighting of the first act on Earth to be romantic, and that of the second act on the Axiom to be cold and sterile. During the third act, the romantic lighting is slowly introduced into the Axiom environment.[7] Pixar studied Chernobyl and the city of Sofia to create the ruined world; art director Anthony Christov was from Bulgaria and recalled Sofia used to have problems storing its garbage.[31][32] Eggleston bleached out the whites on Earth to make WALL-E feel vulnerable. The overexposed light makes the location look more vast. Because of the haziness, the cubes making up the towers of garbage had to be large, otherwise they would have lost shape (in turn, this helped save rendering time). The dull tans of Earth subtly become soft pinks and blues when EVE arrives. When WALL-E shows EVE all his collected items, all the lights he has collected light up to give an inviting atmosphere, like a Christmas tree. Eggleston tried to avoid the colors yellow and green so WALL-E – who was made yellow to emulate a tractor – would not blend into the deserted Earth, and to make the plant more prominent.[33]

WALL-E holding a bra
WALL-E finds a bra. Roger Deakins and Dennis Muren were consulted on realistic lighting including backgrounds that are less focused than foregrounds.

Stanton also wanted the lighting to look realistic and evoke the science fiction films of his youth. He felt Pixar had captured the physics of being underwater with Finding Nemo, so for WALL-E he wanted to push that for air. It was while rewatching some of his favorite science fiction films he realized Pixar's films lacked the look of 70 mm film and its barrel distortion, lens flare and racking focus.[10] Producer Jim Morris invited Roger Deakins and Dennis Muren to advise on lighting and atmosphere. Muren spent several months with Pixar, while Deakins hosted one talk and was requested to stay on for another two weeks. Stanton said Muren's experience came from integrating computer animation into live-action settings, while Deakins helped them understand not to overly complicate their camerawork and lighting.[27] 1970s Panavision cameras were used to help the animators understand and replicate handheld imperfections like unfocused backgrounds in digital environments.[7] The first lighting test consisted of building a three-dimensional replica of WALL-E, filming it with a 70 mm camera, and then trying to replicate that in the computer.[34] Stanton cited the shallow lens work of Gus Van Sant's films as an influence, as it created intimacy in each close-up. Stanton chose angles for the virtual cameras that a live-action filmmaker would choose if filming on a set.[14]

Stanton wanted the Axiom '​s interior to resemble Shanghai and Dubai.[10] Eggleston studied 1960s NASA paintings and the original concept art for Tomorrowland for the Axiom, to reflect that era's sense of optimism.[7] Stanton remarked "We are all probably very similar in our backgrounds here [at Pixar] in that we all miss the Tomorrowland that was promised us from the heyday of Disneyland," and wanted a "jet pack" feel.[10] Pixar also studied the Disney Cruise Line and visited Las Vegas, which was helpful in understanding artificial lighting.[7] Eggleston based his Axiom designs on the futuristic architecture of Santiago Calatrava. Eggleston divided the inside of the ship into three sections; the rear's economy class has a basic gray concrete texture with graphics keeping to the red, blue and white of the BnL logo. The coach class with living/shopping spaces has 'S' shapes as people are always looking for "what's around the corner". Stanton intended to have many colorful signs, but he realized this would overwhelm the audience and went with Eggleston's original idea of a small number of larger signs. The premier class is a large Zen-like spa with colors limited to turquoise, cream and tan, and leads on to the captain's warm carpeted and wooded quarters and the sleek dark bridge.[33] In keeping with the artificial Axiom, camera movements were modeled after those of the steadicam.[35]

The use of live action was a stepping stone for Pixar, as Stanton was planning to make John Carter of Mars his next project.[10] Storyboarder Derek Thompson noted introducing live action meant they had to make the rest of the film look even more realistic.[36] Eggleston added that if the historical humans had been animated and slightly caricaturized, then the audience would not have recognized how serious their devolution was.[33] Stanton cast Fred Willard as the historical Buy n Large CEO because "He's the most friendly and insincere car salesman I could think of."[24] The CEO says "stay the course," which Stanton used because he thought it was funny.[37] Industrial Light & Magic did the visual effects for these shots.[7]

Animation[edit]

WALL-E went undeveloped during the 1990s partly because Stanton and Pixar were not confident enough yet to have a feature length film with a main character that behaved like Luxo Jr. or R2-D2.[11] Stanton explained there are two types of robots in cinema: "human[s] with metal skin", like the Tin Man, or "machine[s] with function" like Luxo and R2. He found the latter idea "powerful" because it allowed the audience to project personalities onto the characters, as they do with babies and pets: "You're compelled ... you almost can't stop yourself from finishing the sentence 'Oh, I think it likes me! I think it's hungry! I think it wants to go for a walk!'"[38] He added, "We wanted the audience to believe they were witnessing a machine that has come to life."[7] The animators visited recycling stations to study machinery, and also met robot designers, visited NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to study robots, watched a recording of a Mars rover,[18] and borrowed a bomb detecting robot from the San Francisco Police Department. Simplicity was preferred in their performances as giving them too many movements would make them feel human.[7]

Stanton wanted WALL-E to be a box and EVE to be like an egg.[39] WALL-E's eyes were inspired by a pair of binoculars Stanton was given when watching the Oakland Athletics play against the Boston Red Sox. He "missed the entire inning" because he was distracted by them.[40] The director was reminded of Buster Keaton and decided the robot would not need a nose or mouth.[41] Stanton added a zoom lens to make WALL-E more sympathetic.[41] Ralph Eggleston noted this feature gave the animators more to work with and gave the robot a child-like quality.[33] Pixar's studies of trash compactors during their visits to recycling stations inspired his body.[7] His tank treads were inspired by a wheelchair someone had developed that used treads instead of wheels.[39] The animators wanted him to have elbows, but realized this was unrealistic because he is only designed to pull garbage into his body.[7] His arms also looked flimsy when they did a test of him waving.[39] Animation director Angus MacLane suggested they attach his arms to a track on the sides of his body to move them around, based on the inkjet printers his father designed. This arm design contributed to creating the character's posture, so if they wanted him to be nervous, they would lower them.[42] Stanton was unaware of the similarities between WALL-E and Johnny 5 from Short Circuit until others pointed it out to him.[11]

From left to right, characters Auto, the captain, and EVE are pictured in a room within the Axiom ship.
Auto, the captain and EVE

Stanton wanted EVE to be at the higher end of technology, and asked iPod designer Jonathan Ive to inspect her design. He was very impressed.[10] Her eyes are modelled on Lite-Brite toys,[41] but Pixar chose not to make them overly expressive as it would be too easy to have her eyes turn into hearts to express love or something similar.[39] Her limited design meant the animators had to treat her like a drawing, relying on posing her body to express emotion.[7] They also found her similar to a manatee or a narwhal because her floating body resembled an underwater creature.[39] Auto was a conscious homage to HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the usage of Also sprach Zarathustra for the showdown between the captain and Auto furthers that.[11][not in citation given] The manner in which he hangs from a wall gives him a threatening feel, like a spider.[43] Originally, Auto was designed entirely differently, resembling EVE, but masculine and authoritative; the Steward robots were also more aggressive Patrol-bots.[23] The majority of the robot cast were formed with the Build-a-bot program, where different heads, arms and treads were combined together in over a hundred variations.[7] The humans were modelled on sea lions due to their blubbery bodies,[33] as well as babies. The filmmakers noticed baby fat is a lot tighter than adult fat and copied that texture for the film's humans.[44]

To animate their robots, the film's story crew and animation crew watched a Keaton and a Charlie Chaplin film every day for almost a year, and occasionally a Harold Lloyd picture.[11] Afterwards, the filmmakers knew all emotions could be conveyed silently. Stanton cited Keaton's "great stone face" as giving them perseverance in animating a character with an unchanging expression.[41] As he rewatched these, Stanton felt that filmmakers – since the advent of sound – relied on dialogue too much to convey exposition.[11] The filmmakers dubbed the cockroach WALL-E keeps as a pet "Hal", in reference to silent film producer Hal Roach (as well as being an additional reference to HAL 9000).[7] They also watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Black Stallion and Never Cry Wolf, films that had sound but were not reliant on dialogue.[36] Stanton acknowledged Silent Running as an influence because its silent robots were a forerunner to the likes of R2-D2,[27] and that the "hopeless romantic" Woody Allen also inspired WALL-E.[15]

Sound[edit]

Producer Jim Morris recommended Ben Burtt as sound designer for WALL-E because Stanton kept using R2-D2 as the benchmark for the robots.[28] Burtt had completed Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and told his wife he would no longer work on films with robots, but found WALL-E and its substitution of voices with sound "fresh and exciting".[7] He recorded 2500 sounds for the film, which was twice the average number for a Star Wars film,[18] and a record in his career.[7] Burtt began work in 2005,[45] and experimented with filtering his voice for two years.[46] Burtt described the robot voices as "like a toddler [...] universal language of intonation. 'Oh', 'Hm?', 'Huh!', you know?"[47]

During production Burtt had the opportunity to look at the items used by Jimmy MacDonald, Disney's in-house sound designer for many of their classic films. Burtt used many of MacDonald's items on WALL-E. Because Burtt was not simply adding sound effects in post-production, the animators were always evaluating his new creations and ideas, which Burtt found an unusual experience.[48] He worked in sync with the animators, returning their animation after adding the sounds to give them more ideas.[7] Burtt would choose scientifically accurate sounds for each character, but if he could not find one that worked, he would choose a dramatic if unrealistic noise.[48] Burtt would find hundreds of sounds by looking at concept art of characters, before he and Stanton pared it down to a distinct few for each robot.[10]

Burtt saw a hand-cranked electrical generator while watching Island in the Sky, and bought an identical, unpacked device from 1950 on eBay to use for WALL-E moving around.[49] Burtt also used an automobile self starter for when WALL-E goes fast,[48] and the sound of cars being wrecked at a demolition derby provided for WALL-E's compressing trash in his body.[50] The Macintosh computer chime was used to signify when WALL-E has fully recharged his battery. For EVE, Burtt wanted her humming to have a musical quality.[48] Burtt was only able to provide neutral or masculine voices, so Pixar employee Elissa Knight was asked to provide her voice for Burtt to electronically modify. Stanton deemed the sound effect good enough to properly cast her in the role.[37] Burtt recorded a flying 10-foot-long (3.0 m) radio-controlled jet plane for EVE's flying,[7] and for her plasma cannon, Burtt hit a slinky hung from a ladder with a timpani stick. He described it as a "cousin" to the blaster noise from Star Wars.[51]

MacInTalk was used because Stanton "wanted Auto to be the epitome of a robot, cold, zeros & ones, calculating, and soulless [and] Stephen Hawking's kind of voice I thought was perfect."[27] Additional sounds for the character were meant to give him a clockwork feel, to show he is always thinking and calculating.[48]

Burtt had visited Niagara Falls in 1987 and used his recordings from his trip for the sounds of wind.[50] He ran around a hall with a canvas bag up to record the sandstorm though.[7] For the scene where WALL-E runs from falling shopping carts, Burtt and his daughter went to a supermarket and placed a recorder in their cart. They crashed it around the parking lot and then let it tumble down a hill.[52] To create Hal (WALL-E's pet cockroach)'s skittering, he recorded the clicking caused by taking apart and reassembling handcuffs.[7]

Music[edit]

Thomas Newman recollaborated with Stanton on WALL-E since the two got along well on Nemo, which gave Newman the Annie Award for Best Music in an Animated Feature. He began writing the score in 2005, in the hope that starting this task early would make him more involved with the finished film. But, Newman remarked that animation is so dependent on scheduling he should have begun work earlier on when Stanton and Reardon were writing the script. EVE's theme was arranged for the first time in October 2007. Her theme when played as she first flies around Earth originally used more orchestral elements, and Newman was encouraged to make it sound more feminine.[53] Newman said Stanton had thought up many ideas for how he wanted the music to sound, and he generally followed them as he found scoring a partially silent film difficult. Stanton wanted the whole score to be orchestral, but Newman felt limited by this idea especially in scenes aboard the Axiom, and used electronics too.[54]

WALL-E watching a clip from Hello, Dolly!
A live-action clip of the song "It Only Takes a Moment" from Hello, Dolly!, which inspires WALL-E to hold hands with EVE

Stanton originally wanted to juxtapose the opening shots of space with 1930s French swing music, but he saw The Triplets of Belleville (2003) and did not want to appear as if he were copying it. Stanton then thought about the song "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from Hello, Dolly!, since he had portrayed the sidekick Barnaby Tucker in a 1980 high school production.[55] Stanton found that the song was about two naive young men looking for love, which was similar to WALL-E's own hope for companionship. Jim Reardon suggested WALL-E find the film on video, and Stanton included "It Only Takes a Moment" and the clip of the actors holding hands, because he wanted a visual way to show how WALL-E understands love and conveys it to EVE. Hello Dolly! composer Jerry Herman allowed the songs to be used without knowing what for; when he saw the film, he found its incorporation into the story "genius".[56] Coincidentally, Newman's uncle Lionel worked on Hello, Dolly![7]

Newman travelled to London to compose the end credits song "Down to Earth" with Peter Gabriel, who was one of Stanton's favorite musicians. Afterwards, Newman rescored some of the film to include the song's composition, so it would not sound intrusive when played.[7] Louis Armstrong's rendition of "La Vie en rose" was used for a montage where WALL-E does not get EVE's attention on Earth. The script also specified using Bing Crosby's "Stardust" for when the two robots dance around the Axiom,[9] but Newman asked if he could score the scene himself. A similar switch occurred for the sequence in which WALL-E attempts to wake EVE up through various means; originally, the montage would play with the instrumental version of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head", but Newman wanted to challenge himself and scored an original piece for the sequence.[57]

Themes[edit]

This movie is widely recognized as a critique on society. It brings up real issues that the world, and especially densely populated areas, are dealing with today and even more so in the future. Katherine Ellison asserts that “Americans produce nearly 400 million tons of solid waste per year but recycle less than a third of it, according to a recent Columbia University study.” Landfills are filling up so quickly that the UK may run out of landfill space by the year 2017.[58]

Environment and waste[edit]

Because WALL-E overtly critiques consumerism, it also critiques Disney's production values and aesthetic, without being too obvious.[6] In the DVD commentary, Stanton said that he has been asked if it was his intention to make a movie about consumerism. His answer was it was not; it was a way to answer the question of how would the Earth get to the state where one robot would be left to continue the cleanup by itself.

In "WALL-E: from environmental adaption to sentimental nostalgia," Robin Murray and Joseph Heuman explain the important theme of nostalgia in this film. Nostalgia is clearly represented by human artifacts, left behind, that WALL-E collects and cherishes, i.e. Zippo lighters, hubcaps, and plastic sporks. These modern items that we use out of necessity, are made sentimental through the lens of the bleak future of Earth. Nostalgia is also expressed through the musical score, as the film opens with a camera shot of outer space that slowly zooms in to a waste filled Earth while playing "Put on Your Sunday Clothes," reflecting on simpler and happier times in human history. This film also expresses nostalgia through the longing of nature and the natural world, as it is the sight and feeling of soil, and the plant brought back to the space ship by EVE, that make the captain decide it is time for humans to move back to Earth. WALL-E expresses nostalgia also, by reflecting on romantic themes of older Disney and silent films.[6]

Stanton describes the theme of the film as "irrational love defeats life's programming":[24]

I realized the point I was trying to push with these two programmed robots was the desire for them to try and figure out what the point of living was ... It took these really irrational acts of love to sort of discover them against how they were built ... I realized that that's a perfect metaphor for real life. We all fall into our habits, our routines and our ruts, consciously or unconsciously to avoid living. To avoid having to do the messy part. To avoid having relationships with other people or dealing with the person next to us. That's why we can all get on our cell phones and not have to deal with one another. I thought, 'That's a perfect amplification of the whole point of the movie.' I wanted to run with science in a way that would sort of logically project that.[24]

Technology[edit]

Stanton noted many commentators placed emphasis on the environmental aspect of humanity's complacency in the film, because "that disconnection is going to be the cause, indirectly, of anything that happens in life that's bad for humanity or the planet".[59] Stanton said that by taking away effort to work, the robots also take away humanity's need to put effort into relationships.[43] Christian journalist Rod Dreher saw technology as the complicated villain of the film. The humans' artificial lifestyle on the Axiom has separated them from nature, making them "slaves of both technology and their own base appetites, and have lost what makes them human". Dreher contrasted the hardworking, dirt covered WALL-E with the sleek clean robots on the ship. However, it is the humans and not the robots who make themselves redundant, and during the end credits humans and robots are shown working alongside each other to renew the Earth. "WALL-E is not a Luddite film," he said. "It doesn't demonize technology. It only argues that technology is properly used to help humans cultivate their true nature – that it must be subordinate to human flourishing, and help move that along."[60]

The Axiom and EVE have been compared to Noah's Ark and the dove in that story.

Religion[edit]

Stanton, who is a Christian,[12] named EVE after the Biblical character because WALL-E's loneliness reminded him of Adam, before God created his wife.[61] Dreher noted EVE's biblical namesake and saw her directive as an inversion of that story; EVE uses the plant to tell humanity to return to Earth and move away from the "false god" of BnL and the lazy lifestyle it offers. Dreher also noted this departure from classical Christian viewpoints, where Adam is cursed to labor, in that WALL-E argues hard work is what makes humans human. Dreher emphasized the false god parallels to BnL in a scene where a robot teaches infants "B is for Buy n Large, your very best friend", which he compared to modern corporations such as McDonald's creating brand loyalty in children.[60] Megan Basham of World magazine felt the film criticizes the pursuit of leisure, whereas WALL-E in his stewardship learns to truly appreciate God's creation.[12]

During writing, a Pixar employee noted to Jim Reardon that EVE was reminiscent of the dove with the olive branch from the story of Noah's Ark, and the story was reworked with EVE finding a plant to return humanity from its voyage.[62] WALL-E himself has been compared to Prometheus,[28] Sisyphus,[60] and Butades: in an essay discussing WALL-E as representative of the artistic strive of Pixar itself, Hrag Vartanian compared WALL-E to Butades in a scene where the robot expresses his love for EVE by making a sculpture of her from spare parts. "The Ancient Greek tradition associates the birth of art with a Corinthian maiden who longing to preserve her lover’s shadow traces it on the wall before he departed for war. The myth reminds us that art was born out of longing and often means more for the creator than the muse. In the same way Stanton and his Pixar team have told us a deeply personal story about their love of cinema and their vision for animation through the prism of all types of relationships."[63]

Release[edit]

Continuing a Pixar tradition, WALL-E was paired with a short film for its theatrical release, Presto. The film was dedicated to Justin Wright (1981–2008), a Pixar animator who had worked on Ratatouille and died of a heart attack before WALL-E '​s release.[7]

Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) built animatronic WALL-Es to promote the picture, which made appearances at Disneyland Resort;[64] the Franklin Institute; the Miami Science Museum; the Seattle Center; and the Tokyo International Film Festival.[65] Due to safety concerns, the 318 kg robots were always strictly controlled and WDI always needed to know exactly what they were required to interact with. For this reason, they generally refused to have their puppets meet and greet children at the theme parks in case a WALL-E trod on a child's foot. Those who wanted to take a photograph with the character had to make do with a cardboard cutout.[66]

Very small quantities of merchandise were sold for WALL-E, as Cars items were still popular, and many manufacturers were more interested in Speed Racer, which was a successful line despite the film's failure at the box office. Thinkway, which created the WALL-E toys, had previously made Toy Story dolls when other toy producers had not shown an interest.[65] Among Thinkway's items were a WALL-E that danced when connected to a music player, a toy that could be taken apart and reassembled, and a groundbreaking remote control toy of him and EVE that had motion sensors that allowed them to interact with players.[67] There were even plushies.[68] The "Ultimate WALL-E" figures were not in stores until the film's home release in November 2008,[65] at a retail price of almost $200, leading The Patriot-News to deem it an item for "hard-core fans and collectors only".[67]

Home media[edit]

The film was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on November 18, 2008. The various editions included Presto, a new short film BURN-E, the Leslie Iwerks documentary film The Pixar Story, shorts about the history of Buy n Large, the behind-the-scenes special features and a Digital Copy of the film that can be played through iTunes or Windows Media and compatible devices.[69] It sold 9,042,054 DVD units ($142,633,974) in total becoming the second best-selling animated DVD among those released in 2008 in units sold (behind Kung Fu Panda), the best-selling animated feature in sales revenue and the 3rd best-selling among all 2008 DVDs.[70]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

WALL-E grossed $223,808,164 in the USA and Canada and $297,503,696 overseas for a worldwide total of $521,311,860, making it the ninth highest grossing film of 2008.[2]

The film premiered at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on June 23, 2008.[71]

In the US and Canada, it opened in 3,992 theaters on June 27, 2008. During its opening weekend, it topped the box office with $63,087,526[72] which is the fifth-best opening weekend for a Pixar film[73] and the fourth-best opening among films released in June.[74] The movie earned $94.7 million in its first week and crossed the $200 million mark during its sixth weekend.[75]

WALL-E grossed over $10 million in Japan ($44,005,222), UK, Ireland and Malta ($41,215,600), France and the Maghreb region ($27,984,103), Germany ($24,130,400), Mexico ($17,679,805), Spain ($14,973,097), Australia ($14,165,390), Italy ($12,210,993) and Russia and the CIS ($11,694,482).[76]

Critical reaction[edit]

WALL-E was met with universal critical acclaim.[77] Rotten Tomatoes reported that 96% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based upon a sample of 236 reviews, with an average rating of 8.5/10.[78] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 94, based on 39 reviews, which represents "universal acclaim".[77] indieWire named WALL-E the third best film of the year, based on their annual survey of 100 film critics, while Movie City News shows that WALL-E appeared in 162 different top ten lists, out of 286 different critics lists surveyed, the most mentions on a top ten list of any film released in 2008.[79]

Richard Corliss of Time named WALL-E as his favorite film of 2008 (and later of the decade), noting the film succeeded in "connect[ing] with a huge audience" despite the main characters' lack of speech and "emotional signifiers like a mouth, eyebrows, shoulders [and] elbows". It "evoke[d] the splendor of the movie past" and he also compared WALL-E and EVE's relationship to the chemistry of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.[80] Other critics who named WALL-E as their favorite film of 2008 included Tom Charity of CNN,[81] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly, A. O. Scott of The New York Times, Christopher Orr of The New Republic, Ty Burr and Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe, Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal, and Anthony Lane of The New Yorker.[82]

Todd McCarthy of Variety called the film "Pixar's ninth consecutive wonder", saying it was imaginative yet straightforward. He said it pushed the boundaries of animation by balancing esoteric ideas with more immediately accessible ones, and that the main difference between the film and other science fiction projects rooted in an apocalypse was its optimism.[83] Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter declared that WALL-E surpassed the achievements of Pixar's previous eight features and probably their most original film to date. He said it had the "heart, soul, spirit and romance" of the best silent films. Honeycutt said the film's definitive stroke of brilliance was in using a mix of archive film footage and computer graphics to trigger WALL-E's romantic leanings. He praised Burtt's sound design, saying "If there is such a thing as an aural sleight of hand, this is it."[84]

Roger Ebert writing in the Chicago Sun-Times found WALL-E "an enthralling animated film, a visual wonderment, and a decent science-fiction story". Ebert said the scarcity of dialogue would allow it to "cross language barriers" in a manner appropriate to the global theme, and noted it would appeal to adults and children. He praised the animation, saying the color palette was "bright and cheerful [...] and a little bit realistic", and that Pixar managed to generate a "curious" regard for the WALL-E, comparing his "rusty and hard-working and plucky" design favorably to more obvious attempts at creating "lovable" lead characters. He said WALL-E was concerned with ideas rather than spectacle, saying it would trigger stimulating "little thoughts for the younger viewers."[85] He named it as one of his twenty favorite films of 2008 and argued it was "the best science-fiction movie in years".[86]

The film was interpreted as tackling a topical, ecologically-minded agenda,[78] though McCarthy said it did so with a lightness of touch that granted the viewer the ability to accept or ignore the message.[83] Kyle Smith of the New York Post, wrote that by depicting future humans as "a flabby mass of peabrained idiots who are literally too fat to walk", WALL-E was darker and more cynical than any major Disney feature film he could recall. He compared the humans to the patrons of Disney's Parks and Resorts, adding, "I'm also not sure I've ever seen a major corporation spend so much money to issue an insult to its customers."[87] Maura Judkis of U.S. News & World Report questioned whether this depiction of "frighteningly obese humans" would resonate with children and make them prefer to "play outside rather than in front of the computer, to avoid a similar fate".[88] The interpretation led to criticism of the film by conservative commentators such as Glenn Beck, and contributors to National Review Online including Shannen W. Coffin and Jonah Goldberg (although he admitted it was a "fascinating" and occasionally "brilliant" production).[89][not in citation given]

A few notable critics have argued that the film is vastly overrated,[90] claiming it failed to "live up to such blinding, high-wattage enthusiasm",[91] and that there were "chasms of boredom watching it", in particular "the second and third acts spiraled into the expected".[92] Other labels included "preachy"[90] and "too long".[91] Child reviews sent into CBBC were mixed, some citing boredom and an inadequate storyline.[93]

Patrick J. Ford of The American Conservative said WALL-E '​s conservative critics missed lessons in the film that he felt appealed to traditional conservatism. He argued that the mass consumerism in the film was not shown to be a product of big business, but of too close a tie between big business and big government: "The government unilaterally provided its citizens with everything they needed, and this lack of variety led to Earth's downfall." Responding to Coffin's claim that the film points out the evils of mankind, Ford argued the only evils depicted were those that resulted from losing touch with our own humanity and that fundamental conservative representations such as the farm, the family unit, and wholesome entertainment were in the end held aloft by the human characters. He concluded, "By steering conservative families away from WALL-E, these commentators are doing their readers a great disservice."[94]

Director Terry Gilliam praised the film as "A stunning bit of work. The scenes on what was left of planet Earth are just so beautiful: one of the great silent movies. And the most stunning artwork! It says more about ecology and society than any live action film – all the people on their loungers floating around, brilliant stuff. Their social comment was so smart and right on the button."[95]

Accolades[edit]

WALL-E won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing at the 81st Academy Awards, which it lost to Slumdog Millionaire (Original Score, Original Song, Sound Mixing), The Dark Knight (Sound Editing), and Milk (Original Screenplay).[96][97] Walt Disney Pictures also pushed for an Academy Award for Best Picture nomination,[98] but it was not nominated, provoking controversy as to whether the Academy deliberately restricted WALL-E to the Best Animated Feature category.[99] Peter Travers commented that "If there was ever a time where an animated feature deserved to be nominated for best picture it's Wall-E."[100] Only three animated films, 1991's Beauty and the Beast and Pixar's next two films, 2009's Up and 2010's Toy Story 3, have ever been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. A reflective Stanton stated he was not disappointed the film was restricted to the Best Animated Film nomination because he was overwhelmed by the film's positive reception, and eventually "The line [between live-action and animation] is just getting so blurry that I think with each proceeding year, it's going to be tougher and tougher to say what's an animated movie and what's not an animated movie."[17]

WALL-E made a healthy appearance at the various 2008 end-of-the-year awards circles, particularly in the Best Picture category, where animated films are often overlooked. It has won the award, or the equivalent of it, from the Boston Society of Film Critics (tied with Slumdog Millionaire),[101] the Chicago Film Critics Association,[102] the Central Ohio Film Critics awards,[103] the Online Film Critics Society,[104] and most notably the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, where it became the first animated feature to win the prestigious award.[105] It was named as one of 2008's ten best films by the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.[106][107]

It won Best Animated Feature Film at the 66th Golden Globe Awards, 81st Academy Awards and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards 2008.[108][109] It was nominated for several awards at the 2009 Annie Awards, including Best Feature Film, Animated Effects, Character Animation, Direction, Production design, Storyboarding and Voice acting (for Ben Burtt);[110] but was beaten out by Kung Fu Panda in every category.[111] It won Best Animated Feature at the 62nd British Academy Film Awards, and was also nominated there for Best Music and Sound.[112] Thomas Newman and Peter Gabriel won two Grammy Awards for "Down to Earth" and "Define Dancing".[113] It won all three awards it was nominated for by the Visual Effects Society: Best Animation, Best Character Animation (for WALL-E and EVE in the truck) and Best Effects in the Animated Motion Picture categories.[114] It became the first animated film to win Best Editing for a Comedy or Musical from the American Cinema Editors.[115] In 2009, Stanton, Reardon and Docter won Nebula Award, beating The Dark Knight and the Stargate Atlantis episode "The Shrine".[116][117] It won Best Animated Film and was nominated for Best Director at the Saturn Awards.[118]

At the British National Movie Awards, which is voted for by the public, it won Best Family Film.[119] It was also voted Best Feature Film at the British Academy Children's Awards.[120] WALL-E was listed at #63 on Empire '​s online poll of the 100 greatest movie characters, conducted in 2008.[121] In early 2010, TIME ranked WALL-E #1 in "Best Movies of the Decade".[5]

Robotic recreations[edit]

In 2012, Mike McMaster,[122] an American robotics hobbyist, began working on his own model of Wall-E. The final product was built with more moving parts than the Wall-E which roams around Disneyland. McMaster's four-foot robot made an appearance at the Walt Disney Family Museum and was featured during the opening week of Tested.com[123] a project headed up by Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage of MythBusters. Since Wall-E’s creation, Mike and the popular robot have made dozens of appearances at various events.[124]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]