Interview: Andrew Stanton

A couple weeks ago I got the chance to enter the Pixar Animation Studios campus in Emmeryville to interview Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton about his latest film WALL-E. When Stanton entered the room he told me that he reads /Film “all the time”, how cool is that? A big portion of our conversation was devoted to talking about his favorite films and cinematic influences, you can read that segment in our Movie Playlist: Andrew Stanton column. Enjoy!

Andrew Stanton: Did you get to see it here?

Peter Sciretta: No, I saw it last week in the city.

Andrew Stanton: Oh, OK, cool. Digital? No, yes. Digital?

Peter Sciretta: No, it was actually weird because it was misframed at first and they had to fix the projection during Presto.

Andrew Stanton: Oh shhh – your worst fear.

Peter Sciretta: Yeah, but it was fixed in time for “Out There…” (the beginning of WALL-E)…. One of the things I noticed, right away with Wall-E is, sure – he’s cute, he’s instantly cute to any viewer. Your instantly attached to him, but he’s also very functional. As a robot, everything about him is so functional, so what came first the chicken or the egg?

Andrew Stanton: Well yeah, it was kind of in tandem. We knew what we wanted his functions to be before we knew what he would look like, and when we were first boarding the – I sort of in the year that I was supposed to be just on vacation and thinking about what I wanted to do, I actually was here under the radar sneaking, doing the first act, because I knew it would raise a lot of questions and debate about whether I could do a film like this and I just didn’t want to go there. I just wanted to prove it, so I had to design something, so I very early on came up with the idea of him being a box, and Eve being a circle, and that was very masculine feminine and then we knew we wanted him to compact trash and stuff so we just gave him little treads and the binoculars came a couple of months later. I was starting to realize that was a much stronger way to play the face because binoculars already have a sort of character to them. They can have all this expression because of the hinge down the center so I kind of had those basic conceits (sic) about it but once we – once that shorthand worked in the boarding of it, then we spent much longer time actually designing it and doing I guess the equivalent of blueprints and getting all the engineering correct, because we thought it would be really cool if we could truly make this work, and the other thing we lie about is sort of the Tardis effect where like all his parts can go into that box. We’re definitely lying about the physics of that, but outside of that everything actually functions, there’s no cheating, I mean he, how the parts slide out, and the rails his arms run on and the extension of things, it’s all very accurate. We felt that we wanted on a much more intricate level the same design quality that was with Luxo. Luxo just felt like it was built to do its job and you feel like you’re working within the constraints of how he’s designed and there’s something just about the initial design of him that just evokes a personality. You actually want to throw a character on to it, even though it’s all designed just for its function and so we wanted Wall-E to be the very same kind of thing but on a much more intricate – so yeah, and then Eve came based on Wall-E, I mean it was really an opposite of Wall-E, yeah.

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