Pixar’s WALL-E is one of my most anticipated films of 2008. It’s a sci-fi film unlike anything ever seen before. The computer animated movie takes place sometime in the future, when overpopulation and rampant consumerism literally buries the world in trash. And mankind, the entire population is forced to re-colonize for a mandatory five year cruise out in space, where they all regenerate into fat couch potatoes. WALL-E follows the last remaining cleaner robot left on the planet earth. At the Disney panel at Comic-Con 2007, it was explained that the film is essentially a silent movie, as there is no dialogue between any of the main robot characters. The more information I learn, the more I want to know, the more I want to see.
But I sat in Hall H wondering what kind of audience a film like this is hoping to connect with. I mean, this is unlike any film done in Disney’s history. Thankfully, IGN was able to ask the director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) that exact question. Here is his answer:
“One of the keys to us is we’ve never thought about our audience, or never thought about who our audience might be. We honestly are just making the movies that we want to make, that if we didn’t show it to anybody else but ourselves we’d be fine. So if that happened to be the 12-year old in me, that’s fine, or if that happened to be the 18-year old in me, [fine]. There’s no rhyme or reason and we’re making it up as we go along. There is no master plan or group of people in a room sitting and going, “What age are we speaking to?” We never had a dialogue like that, so it’s the exact opposite. We are going by the seat of our pants making films we’d want to see. Maybe when I look back and I’m sitting on my therapist’s couch, I’ll go, “Oh, that was when my son was graduating from high school, and maybe that’s why I was more into that kind of a film.” It’s no different than a songwriter gauging where they were at in their life when they wrote a song. But it’s all artistic; there’s not a single sort of corporate kind of audience point of view looking at any of the stuff we do — at least within the walls of Pixar.”
And normally when someone from a big corporation makes such claims, I would tend to brush them aside as P.R. fluff. But from what I understand, Disney was not in-favor of the realistic but some-what gross rat designs in Ratatouille. They believed that it would scare people away. But the people at Pixar decided to go with what was best for the story and not what was best for the marketing. And while Ratatouille was a modest hit and critically praised, it will probably end its run as one of Pixar’s least profitable films (#5 or #6 out of 8 films). But after home video, merchandising and theme park sales, even A Bug’s Life has turned a huge profit. So being a Pixar failure is not a failure in the real world perspective.
But it will be interesting to see how many people will buy a ticket for a movie about a robot on a deserted future earth. And if the film fails to put butts in seats, it will be interesting to see how fast Disney makes Pixar change their policy about marketability. But let’s hope that doesn’t happen.