LIST POSITION: #13
DIRECTOR: Andrew Stanton
CAST: Ben Burtt, Fred Willard, Jeff Garlin, Elissa Knight, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver
• “BURN-E” With Boards
• “Lots Of Bots” Storybook
• “Making Of” Featurettes
• Deleted Scenes
• Sneak Peek: WALL-E’s Tour Of The Universe
• Audio Commentary — With Director Andrew Stanton
• Additional Deleted Scenes
• Geek Track
• WALL-E’s Treasures And Trinkets
• Bot Files — Get To Know WALL-E’s Robot Friends
• Cine-Explore — With Director Andrew Stanton
• The Axiom Arcade
• 3-D Set Fly-Throughs
• “The Pixar Story” By Leslie Iwerks
• “Presto” Short Film
• Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds From The Sound Up
WHY IT’S ON THE LIST:
Released just weeks before fellow ranking film The Dark Knight in the summer of 2008, Wall-E blew away audiences with its heart, comedy, and ingenuity. The film won countless awards, including the Best Animated Feature Academy Award and Golden Globe. TIME’s Richard Corliss ranked Wall-E as the best film of the decade – 2000’s. Looking like Johnny 5’s little brother and having no top billed celebrity voice, Wall-E was the little robot that could succeed against all odds. Proving once again that creativity ranks above a slapstick plot or talking animals, the film dared to spend the entire first act with no dialogue spoken.
An incredibly tight story from a plot perspective, we are quickly introduced to a toxic and deserted future Earth where trash and pollution has dominated the landscape, forcing the humans to leave. Through a series of show, don’t tell moments we learn all there is to know about the seemingly last robot left to try and manage the garbage problem on the planet. His ability to compress trash, the way he can replace damaged body parts at will, his immortal cockroach pal, and most of all- his personality. The penchant for collecting objects of interest makes him all too human (see my Hoarders: Season One review for all-too-frightening proof of this). While he goes about his business beeping and building, the film does cheat to tell us all there is to know of corporation Buy & Large who seemingly are to blame for the mess, the Axiom ark ship that won’t actually be seen for another act, and even learn what the acronym WALL-E stands for. But it is all incorporated in a brief and natural, flowing way that helps to not break the otherwise silent opening moments.
While Up may hold the standard for the greatest wordless love story told in ten minutes, the structure was certainly laid in Wall-E. The arrival of vegetation scouring robot EVE prompts Wall-E to explore a concept of interaction that he only knows from watching Hello, Dolly! on VHS. I would argue that this love story is as good as any in film history, especially considering that most of their relationship develops while EVE is catatonic (the implications of that are a psychological discussion for another time). Using Hello, Dolly! as a launching point for Wall-E learning to dance, love, and sing is as random a choice as there has ever been, but it just works so damn well. It is a testament to the film that the incorporation of live action humans like Fred Willard, and also giving a historical place to Hello, Dolly! does not feel especially odd in context, setting the future humans apart even further than their basic lazy mindless CGI selves could.
The character animation on display here is some of my favorite of any Pixar film. Wall-E’s basic slapstick movements communicate his ineptitude both as a mundane model surrounded by fancier robots and on a very personal level that endears him both to EVE and the audience. Andrew Stanton reportedly screened classics from silent stars like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd daily to get his animators into the proper mindset to give life to the many hilarious and touching moments the film offers through Wall-E’s actions. EVE has no legs, no face, and a straight bullet body but just through the use of her morphing hands and eye shapes we are able to understand her entire personality. What drives this point home the most is that the villain of the entire movie is a wheel. Nothing more, nothing less, he just moves around and spins. But we HATE THAT WHEEL.
If the lesson of Wall-E’s story and characters are brilliance through minimalism, the audio is the piece de résistance. Ben Burtt, best known as the Academy Award winning sound designer for Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, performs as the “voice” for Wall-E and many other robots in the film. As much as The Dark Knight and Slumdog Millionaire may have deserved their sound awards in 2008, the snub of Wall-E is something that will be realized by the populace with time. Burtt reportedly recorded over 2500 sounds (twice that of any Star Wars film) and spent two years perfecting the way Wall-E would speak. There are many moments that you would swear you know what Wall-E is saying, despite the fact that he says no few words. The use of inflection and tone are used in ways that perfect the bleeps and bloops of R2D2. The blu-ray bonus “Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds from the Sound Up” delves into more details on how many sounds were achieved, and is an essential feature for this film. Truly, the blu-ray’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio on the feature presentation does wonderful justice to the work put into making the visuals come alive.
If Wall-E is represented by his VHS tape of Hello, Dolly!, EVE is this blu-ray. She is slick, powerful, and flies flawlessly. A two disc affair (three if you spring for the digital copy version), the bonus features exclusive to this edition are many and varied. The video is a 1080p, 2.39:1 ratio master class in crisp presentation taken directly from the original digital source at Pixar. The stunning starscapes and detailed dusty Earth are breathtaking when seen on a big screen. This film pioneered new uses of virtual cameras in CGI, developed with the help of Dennis Murren and Roger Deakins. This work is obvious to even a casual observer, who is seeing authentic zooms, focus and lens flares in animation for the first time. Seriously, why would you not own Wall-E on blu-ray yet?
WHY DIDN’T IT RANK HIGHER?:
That’s a damn good question. One can take some solace in the fact that pretty much from here on out everything on this list is a top film with top presentation. But Wall-E on blu-ray has no flaws as I see them. Only time is the enemy of Wall-E, being such a recent film that other “classics” take precedent over it. But I assure you that if the Academy Awards had expanded to ten nominees a year earlier it would be Wall-E that gained the first animated Best Picture nomination since Beauty and the Beast, not Up.
THE BEST SUPPLEMENT:
There are so many things to choose from in this stacked release. Making ofs, Deleted Scenes, wonderful additional short films like Burn-E and Presto with their own supplemental features, 3-D fly-throughs of the film’s locations, and a Cine-explore with Director Andrew Stanton that immerses you in the development of this film. But if there was one supplement that stands above the rest, it would be the inclusion of Leslie Iwerks’ feature-length film The Pixar Story.
For those of us who have been fans of Pixar’s films since the beginning, or just care about animation and technological history, this is a wonderful look into the complete account of the company’s ups and downs. Reaching back to their origins at Disney’s troubled animation studio in the early 80’s (for more on that see the recently released on DVD documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty) and coming up right through the integration of Pixar into Disney as an official wing only a few years ago, the documentary is a wonderful insight into a creative machine that continues to impress. The film could have easily been given its own release on a separate disc that consumers like myself would have happily paid for. But the fact that it is included here among all the great other features is a true class act.
The Jizzmopper of the future.
The last thing Johnny 5 ever saw.
Artoo never did this shit. When you needed him to fix something, he did it. Hell, he even caught a laser or two while working. Artoo is hood.