WALL-E

It’s no secret that the film I’m most anticipating in 2008 is Pixar’s WALL-E. I fell in love with the movie when I saw the first teaser trailer and have been closely following the film ever since.

Andrew Stanton, the Academy Award winning director of Finding Nemo, came across the bridge to San Francisco to premiere five video clips from WALL-E.

Partly inspired by Luxo Jr, the idea was created machine first, character second. Stanton said the idea was born at an A’s game (the audience booed), Stanton quickly added “rooting for the Red Soxs” (the audience cheered). He spent an entire inning playing with binoculars. Able to get a whole personality just from that simple design. The rest of his look came directly out of the functionality he was supposed to have.

“I wanted to believe that a robot is really there. I wanted to believe he is really a robot and not just a human in a robot shell.”

An audience member asked if Short Circuit partly inspired the design. It seemed like a question Stanton is already tired of hearing. He said that it might be possible that he was subconsciously inspired by Johnny 5 but probably not. The bionoculars served more to inspire WALL-E’s eyes. Stanton also admitted that he had seen Short Circuit only once, long ago.

Stanton talked about his formative years, and growing up in the golden age of sci-fi films. He really missed the feel of that genre of films. He said the biggest improvement to the technology behind this film involved the filming techniques. He wanted to capture the look and feel of the 70mm sci-fi films from his youth, and tech has attempted to emulate things like barrel distortion and lens flares, but not accurately. He says that some of it might not be noticeable to most.

Stanton set up the footage explaining that somewhere in the future, over commercialism has left earth covered in trash. The Human race took off on a space cruise, leaving robots to clean up the mess. All the robots broke, except one, and the humans mysteriously never returned.

The first video clip begins with WALL-E turning on after a full solar charge. He is on the trashed brown looking earth we have seen in the trailers. WALL-E gathers his BuyNLarge cooler with a few human artifacts. While leaving his truck, WALL-E almost runs over a roach he has befriended. He compounds some trash, examines a bra and collects some more human artifacts including a fire extinguisher which gives him a quick scare.

Stanton sets up the second clip by explaining that a probe droid named Eve is sent down. Wall-E “falls head over heels.” They finally meet and Walle shows Eve his home, which is decorated with some of the more interesting human artifacts he has collected. He shows her a sheet of bubble wrap and teaches her the fun of popping the bubbles. Eve pops all the bubbles in machine gun like speed. Wall-E shows Eve a light bulb, which she is able to light up. And Eve solves a rubix cube in record time. Wall-E pops a tape in and a musical comes on an old television. WALL-E begins dancing. Eve tries but shakes the whole truck, spins, throwing Wall-E into the wall.

“Their relationship gets more complicated. It’s a love story.”

In the third clip, WALL-E stows away on the outside of Eve’s spaceship. We see a sad shot of WALL-E’s roach friend looking sadly up as the ship rockets into space. WALL-E quickly discovers zero G and almost floats away from the ship, but grabs hold. They fly by the moon, which has a holographic billboard from years ago. Traveling by the sun, WALL-E recharges. And traveling by Saturn, he trues to grab some of the rock particles that make up the planet’s ring. The ship approaches the starliner, parked way out in space. Thomas Newman’s score sounds very reminiscent of John Williams’ Star Wars. Some of the footage was unfinished, but I really couldn’t tell. Andrew apologized to the audience about some “overblown or dark shots”.

In the fourth clip, WALL-E had made things worse for EVE, who is trying to usher WALL-E aboard a pod ship which would send him back to Earth. WALL-E keeps trying to impress Eve and doesn’t understand why she is trying to get rid of him. Suddenly a third robot shows up and delivers a boot with a plant growing out of it into the pod. I assume that this was probably an item that Eve had collected, but they were unaware it had life growing in it, so they were sending it away so it can’t contaminate the starliner. Again, this is just my speculation. It’s not made clear in the clip. Reguardless, WALL-E enters the pod to give the plant to Eve. The door seals and the pod rockets off with 20 seconds to self destruct. WALL-E is traying everything to stop the self destruction sequence, but to no avail. Cut to Eve’s POV where the podship explodes. Eve looks visibly sad, until then never having shown any sign of emotion. A few seonds later WALL-E comes flying towards Eve. He used his fire extinguisher to rocket away from the pod.

Someone asked during the question and answer session if WALL-E would be released in  Disney Digital 3D. Stanton nervously replied “Its hard to say, we’re not planning for 3D, but you never know. It can always be done in the post process.” I think WALL-E is the perfect movie for the 3D treatment. And from what I understand, minimal effort is required since the film is created in a 3D computer space.

Stanton also revealed that John Ratzenberger will be featured in WALL-E as a character named John.

“John Ratzenberger will always be in all of our films, don’t worry!”

Someone asked if the Pizza Planet Truck will make a cameo in the film. Stanton told the audience to pay attention during the first 20 minutes of the film.

The footage shown today was the most extensive and most impressive shown thus far. It has become immediately clear that the interaction between WALL-E and Eve is key to this story. Stanton insists that while this is a sci-fi film, that it’s a lvoe story at heart. I think that when America sees some of this interaction they will all come on board for the ride.

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