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Toon Tuesday : "WALL E" skillfully blends sci-fi & satire to tell a surprisingly sweet tale

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Toon Tuesday : "WALL E" skillfully blends sci-fi & satire to tell a surprisingly sweet tale

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By now, you've probably seen pictures of "WALL E" 's title character. Maybe you've even caught a glimpse of this film's unique-looking logo.

But what do you actually know about Pixar's 2008 release? Very little, I'll bet. Which is standard operating procedure for this Emeryville-based animation studio. They like keeping the storylines for their upcoming animated features under lock & key for as long as possible.

But "WALL E" went over the wall (so to speak) last week. You see, I had the chance to talk with someone associated with this new Andrew Stanton film who just couldn't contain themselves. They had to talk about "WALL E."

Why For? Because this individual believes that Stanton's next movie is important. That it's going to be such a step up from the work that Andrew did on "Finding Nemo" that "WALL E" is going to shock people. Both for its choice of source material as well as its style of storytelling.

And the story that this animation insider told me ... It's such a departure for Pixar, such a ballsy choice that one wonders how mainstream audiences are actually going to react to "WALL E." Will they be able to embrace a message movie that so liberally mixes science fiction & satire?

Be warned, folks. If you don't want to know anything about the story of Pixar's Summer 2008 release, now would be a really good time to bail out of JHM. For I'm about to give you the skinny on "WALL E."



Still there?



Okay. Here goes ...

"WALL E" starts out on Earth in the year 2700. Which -- due to the horrible way that humans have treated this planet -- is now just one massive trash heap floating in space.

Earth in fact has become so toxic that -- centuries before our story actually gets underway -- mankind has abandoned the planet. We're now all living aboard the Axiom, this massive spaceship that circles high overhead. Waiting for the day that the planet once again becomes inhabitable.

But the only problem is that mankind hired this enormous, inept corporation -- Buynlarge -- to supervise the clean-up effort. And that company -- in turn -- sent hundreds of thousands of robots down to the planet's surface to pick up all of the trash.

But Buynlarge's Waste Allocation Load Lifters -- Earth Class units really weren't up to the task. And so -- over the centuries -- these robots slowly began breaking down. Until now (as the film's story finally, officially gets underway) there's only one WALL E left running on the entire planet.

Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar

And so every morning, this WALL E powers up and then tries to accomplish the task that he's been programmed to do. Which is pick up all of the trash that's been scattered around the Earth. It's obviously an impossible job. But still this robot (with the help of his pet cockroach, Spot) does what he can every day.

But here's the thing, folks. Over the past 700 years, WALL E has gotten ... quirky. To be specific, he's become somewhat self-aware & curious.

"Curious about what?," you ask. Well, humans for starters. Over the centuries, this WALL E has collected an amazing array of human artifacts. Things like a Rubik's Cube, a lightbulb, a Playmate portable ice chest. But this robot's proudest possession is an old VCR. On which he plays -- over and over again -- a VHS copy of "Hello, Dolly !"

Now let's pause here for a moment and just think about that. Everything that this robot knows (Or -- more importantly -- thinks he knows) about mankind, he's either learned from picking through garbage and/or by watching a 700-year-old Barbra Streisand film.

Anyway ... Given that he's the last operational robot left on the planet, with only Spot to keep him company, WALL E has become lonely. He longs for companionship.

Which is why this robot is thrilled one morning when a spaceship almost lands on him. And what should float out of the craft but this sleek new unit, EVE.

Eve has been sent down to Earth to find ...something (Sorry. But I really don't to give "WALL E" 's entire story  away with today's article). And as this sleek new unit hovers around the planet, endlessly scanning the Earth's surface ... WALL E follows along behind EVE like a lovesick pup. Desperate to get her attention, to have this newer model notice him.

It isn't 'til a sudden sandstorm forces WALL E & EVE to seek shelter in the very same vehicle that these two mechanical devices then really begin trying to communicate. With the trash-collecting robot trying to impress this more advanced model by showing off his collection of rare human artifacts.

But then EVE is recalled. And as she reboards her craft to return to space, WALL E has a decision to make. Should this robot just do as he's programmed? Remain on Earth and continue to pick his way through those never-ending mountains of trash? Or should WALL E actually take a chance, continue to try & win EVE over by following her out into outer space?

At the very last moment, as EVE's rocket is actually blasting off, WALL E latches onto her craft. And this  robot -- along with the rocket -- is hurtled off into space. Which is where the real fun begins ...

Now keep in mind that all I've described here is just the first third of "WALL E." Which plays out with little or no dialogue. By that I mean: The age-old trash-picking robot and the sleek new scanning droid may beep & boop at one another. But -- with the exception of the music & the dialogue that we hear coming from that VCR that plays "Hello, Dolly !" -- that's it. The rest of this section of Pixar's 2008 release is (in effect) a silent movie.

And wait 'til you see what happens to WALL E once he gets on board the Axiom and finds out what has become of mankind. How -- because humans have grown even more lazy in the 700 years that they've been off Earth -- we're all now just these enormous fat blobs who can only move about because we travel in huge floating lounge chairs.

The rest of this amazing motion picture is set deep out in space, where WALL E runs into some even more mis-begotten creatures ... And some 700 years after doing what he was built to do, this robot will finally discover what he was meant to do.

Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar

Trust me, folks. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to "WALL E." There are so many other aspects of this Andrew Stanton that are daring and/or charming. Take -- for example -- Fred Willard's involvment with this production. Fred plays the president of the Buynlarge Corporation. And this will be the very first time that a really-for-real human performer will appear in a Pixar production.

There's so much more to talk about in regards to "WALL E." But -- as I said earlier -- I don't want to totally ruin this upcoming Pixar release for you. I just want to give JHM readers some sense about the size & the scope of the story that Andrew Stanton is trying to tell here. The sort of a picture that he's trying to make this time around.

Given what you heard so far, aren't you interested in learning how the rest of "WALL E" plays out? The story that starts in the year 2700. After Earth has been abandoned. But someone forgot to turn the last robot off.

Your thoughts?

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  • It's a departure, certainly, but I, for one, am pretty excited.

    Hopefully it won't be plagued by deceptive expectations...

  • Wow. Dang. Amazed Beyond all reason.

    You know, this film actually sounds VERY smart. It's a good thing that many kids will be watching this films, kids that could actually be inspired and decide to change earth's fate.

    But whoa. I'm flabbergasted! Andrew's film seems to have gone up and beyond a regular film. It has an actual message giving to today's society. whoa.

    This film seems to be one I will love. especially since andrew's making it, he's a pretty awesome director. I can't wait for this film. And definitely trust this man to make it heck of an amazing picture.

  • Sounds like one big bore to me. I'll give it a chance, but I'm not one of those fanboys who thinks everything Pixar does is golden. Quite frankly, everything from the logo, to the image we saw the other day to this description sounds quite boring.

  • Sounds kinda like Pixar is going for an "E.T." meets "A.I." kinda thing.  I hope it's good.  Let's just hope it's not a preachy movie, I want it to be an entertaining movie, not one that belittles the audience.  I wonder if Jim means Fred will be "in" the movie as in filmed footage or  cgi version of him will be in the movie.

  • I'm not a big fan of Pixar, I think some of their work is great but other projects (if not most) are way overhyped. But I have to admit, this sounds pretty good. I'm glad Pixar is taking a departure.

  • Sounds cool... Sort of Lilo&Stitch meets Idiocracy possibly. Hope it's cool. I'm all jazzed up for Robinsons now. :D

  • ...wow. Sounds like an epic, I must say! I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully audiences will embrace this film, even though its still in the works.

  • Bold choice... kudos to Pixar for avoiding the "wise-cracking-jive-talking-farting-cuddly-critters-who-learn-the-true-meaning-of-family" rut that animation now seems trapped in.  Light-hearted CG Kubrick is what this seems like... should be VERY interesting...

  • Ha ha ha!  GA Mike, stop!  You're killing me!!  It's one big bore 'cause it's Pixar!  Ha ha ha!!

    AH ha ha ha ha!  Sto- hop it!  You're too much!

  • It sounds really different. And I was hoping for Pixar to do something totally different with their future films, 'cause I thought the original spirit was a little gone there. But the epic, adventurous, and original taste to "Wall-E" gives me good spirit!

    I don't think mainstream audiences will embrace the movie, but it sure as hell will be a classic.

  • Live human performers in a cgi film? Heavy political messages? This is reminding me of the last third of Happy Feet. Could pixar possibly be trying to outdo them? Could this have something to do with Cars losing to Happy Feet at the Oscars? Just some thoughts...

  • "(with the help of his pet cockroach, Spot)" - I love it!  

    "we're all now just these enormous fat blobs who can only move about because we travel in huge floating lounge chairs." - that just made me laugh!

    "And this will be the very first time that a really-for-real human performer will appear in a Pixar production."- wow...that's pretty cool.

    This sounds like an AMAZING movie!  So much heart.  I'm so excited for this now!

    askmike1 said:

    "but I'm not one of those fanboys who thinks everything Pixar does is golden." I'm not, well, a fangirl of Pixar...especially since Disney bought them and they've been running the show.  But this sounds like a great movie, period.

    And, fravit, although I wouldn't touch "Happy Feet" with a long pole, and therefore haven't seen it, the Oscars *just* happened, and I'm sure this plot was thought of before the Oscars.  Which *just* happened.  

  • Hmmm.... The last science fiction movie that opened with 30 minutes of no-dialogue action did alright. It's been 40 years, so why not give it another try? If this one is 1/3 as good, I'll be thrilled with it!

  • This sounds fantastic. As a fan of sci-fi and Pixar, I am eagerly anticipating this one. Early naysayers be (as I'm sure our friend WALL E would say) beeped.

  • Eh ... I kinad of agree with AskMike on this one ... sounds kinda stupid to me. I'm not really one for films with an overly preachy message and this one sounds like it fits that bill ...

    Then again, I'm not really that big a fan of hokey sci-fi crap either.

    This may be the first Pixar film that I truly have no interest in seeing.

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