Interview with Angus MacLane, who was a directing animator on WALL·E
Read an interview with Sound designer Ben Burtt who was the man hired to come up with the voices for WALL·E
What if mankind had to leave Earth, and somebody forgot to turn off the last robot?
That's the intriguing and whimsical premise posed by DisneyPixar's extraordinary new computer-animated comedy set in space, "WALLE." Filled with humor, heart, fantasy, and emotion, "WALLE" takes moviegoers on a remarkable journey across the galaxy, and once again demonstrates Pixar's ability to create entire worlds and set new standards for storytelling, character development, out-of-this-world music composition and state-of-the-art CG animation.
Set in a galaxy not so very far away, "WALLE" is an original and exciting comedy about a determined robot. After hundreds of lonely years doing what he was built for, WALLE (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) discovers a new purpose in life (besides collecting knick-knacks) when he meets a sleek search robot named EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). EVE comes to realize that WALLE has inadvertently stumbled upon the key to the planet's future, and races back to space to report her findings to the humans who have been eagerly waiting on board the luxury spaceship Axiom for news that it is safe to return home. Meanwhile, WALLE chases EVE across the galaxy and sets into motion one of the most incredible comedy adventures ever brought to the big screen.
Joining WALLE on his fantastic journey across the universe 800 years into the future is a hilarious cast of characters including a pet cockroach and a heroic team of malfunctioning misfit robots.
The ninth feature from Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, "WALLE" follows the Studio's most recent triumph, "Ratatouille," which won an Oscar® for Best Animated Feature, garnered the best reviews for any 2007 release, and was a box office hit all over the globe. The combined worldwide box office gross for Pixar's first eight releases is an astounding $4.3 billion.
"WALLE" is the latest film from Academy Award-winning director/writer Andrew Stanton, who joined Pixar in 1990 as its second animator and the fledgling studio's ninth employee. He was one of the four screenwriters to receive an Oscar nomination in 1996 for his contribution to "Toy Story" and was credited as a screenwriter on subsequent Pixar films, including "A Bug's Life," "Toy Story 2," "Monsters, Inc." and "Finding Nemo," for which he earned an Oscar nomination as co-writer. Additionally, he co-directed "A Bug's Life," executive produced "Monsters, Inc." and the 2007 Academy Award-winning "Ratatouille," and won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature for "Finding Nemo."
DisneyPixar's "WALLE," directed by Andrew Stanton, from an original story by Stanton and Pete Docter, and screenplay by Stanton and Jim Reardon, is executive produced by John Lasseter and produced by Jim Morris ("Star Wars, Episodes I and II," "Pearl Harbor," "The Abyss," and three of the "Harry Potter" films), who helped create some of the industry's ground breaking visual effects during his 18-year association with ILM as president of Lucas Digital. Lindsey Collins, an 11- year Pixar veteran, serves as co-producer; Tom Porter is associate producer. Oscar®-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins serves as visual consultant.
The voice cast includes funny man Jeff Garlin ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), Pixar veteran John Ratzenberger ("Cheers," "Ratatouille," "Toy Story"), award-winning actress Kathy Najimy ("Sister Act," "King of the Hill"), stage and film star Sigourney Weaver ("Alien," "Gorillas In The Mist," "Baby Mama"), and acclaimed four-time Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt ("E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"). Comedian Fred Willard ("Best In Show," "Back to You") also appears in the film.
WALLE's expressive range of robotic voices was created by Burtt, whose memorable work includes creating the "voice" of such other legendary robots as R2-D2 (from the "Star Wars" films). Drawing on 30 years of experience as one of the industry's top sound experts, Burtt was involved from the film's earliest stages in creating an entire world of sound for all of the robotic characters and the space craft, as well as all environments.
The original score for "WALLE" is composed by eight-time Oscar nominee Thomas Newman, who had previously worked with Stanton on "Finding Nemo." Rock-and-roll legend Peter Gabriel collaborated with Newman on an original song called "Down to Earth." Gabriel wrote the lyrics for this captivating and clever musical epilogue, and performs the song as well.
OUT TO LUNCH: PIXAR PIONEERS CHEW ON NEW FILM CONCEPTS --A ROMANTIC ROBOT BEGINS TO TAKE SHAPE
The idea for "WALLE" came about in 1994 at a now-famous lunch that included Pixar pioneers Stanton, John Lasseter, Pete Docter, and the late storytelling genius Joe Ranft. With their first feature, "Toy Story," in production, the group suddenly realized that they might actually get a chance to make another movie. At that fateful gathering, the ideas for "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc." and "Finding Nemo" were first discussed. "One of the things I remember coming out of it was the idea of a little robot left on Earth," says Stanton. "We had no story. It was sort of this Robinson Crusoe kind of little character -- like what if mankind had to leave earth and somebody forgot to turn the last robot off, and he didn't know he could stop doing what he's doing?"
Years later, the idea took shape -- literally. "I started to just think of him doing his job every day, and compacting trash that was left on Earth," Stanton recalls. "And it just really got me thinking about what if the most human thing left in the universe was a machine? That really was the spark. It has had a long journey."
Stanton says he was heavily influenced by the sci-fi films of the 1970s. "Films like '2001,' 'Star Wars,' 'Alien,' 'Blade Runner' and 'Close Encounters' - they all had a look and feel to them that really transported me to another place and I really believed that those worlds were out there," he explains. "I haven't seen a movie since then that made me feel that same way when we went out to space, so I wanted to recapture that feeling."
In preparation for their assignment on "WALLE," Pixar's animation team made field trips to recycling stations to observe giant trash crushers and other machinery at work, studied real robots up close and in person at the Studio, and watched a wide range of classic films (from silents to sci-fi) for insights into cinematic expression. Sticking to Pixar's motto of "truth in materials," the animators approached each robot as being created to perform a particular function, and tried to stay within the physical limitations of each design, while creating performances with personality. Alan Barillaro and Steve Hunter served as the film's supervising animators, with Angus MacLane assuming directing animator duties.
Production designer Ralph Eggleston ("The Incredibles," "Finding Nemo," "Toy Story") drew inspiration for the look of "WALLE" from NASA paintings from the 50s and 60s, and original concepts paintings for Disneyland's Tommorowland by Disney Imagineers. He recalls, "Our approach to the look of this film wasn't about what the future is going to be like. It was about what the future could be -- which is a lot more interesting. That's what we wanted to impart with the design of this film. In designing the look of the characters and the world, we want audiences to really believe the world they're seeing. We want the characters and the world to be real, not realistic looking, but real in terms of believability."
Adding to the believability of the film is the way the film is photographed. Jeremy Lasky, director of photography for camera, explains, "The whole look of 'WALLE' is different from anything that's been done in animation before. We really keyed into some of the quintessential sci-fi films from the 60s and 70s as touchstones for how the film should feel and look."
Stanton adds, "We did a lot of camera work adjustment and improvements on our software so our cameras were more like the Panavision 70 mm cameras that were used on a lot of those movies in the '70s."
A WORLD OF ROBOTS AND OTHER 'BOTS THE WHO'S WHO IN "WALLE"
*WALLE (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) is the last robot left on Earth, programmed to clean up the planet, one trash cube at a time. However, after 700 years he's developed one little glitch -- a personality. He's extremely curious, highly inquisitive and a little lonely. WALLE was one of thousands of robots sent by the Buy n Large corporation to clean up the planet while humans went on a luxury space cruise. He is alone, except for the companionship of his pet cockroach, affectionately known within Pixar's walls as Hal (named after a famous 1920s producer, Hal Roach, and in homage to HAL from "2001: A Space Odyssy"). WALLE faithfully compacts cubes of trash everyday, uncovering and collecting artifacts along the way. In fact, WALLE has amassed a treasure trove of knick-knacks - a Rubik's Cube®, a light bulb, a spork - which he keeps in a transport truck he calls home. A bit of a romantic, WALLE dreams of making a connection one day, certain that there must be more to life than this monotonous job he does every day. His dream takes him across the galaxy and on an adventure beyond his greatest expectations.
*EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) is a sleek, state-of-the-art probe-droid. She's fast, she flies and she's equipped with a laser gun. EVE, also called Probe One by the Captain of the Axiom (the enormous luxury mother ship which houses thousands of displaced humans), is one of a fleet of similar robots sent to Earth on an undisclosed scanning mission. EVE has a classified directive and she is determined to complete her mission successfully. She hardly even notices her new admirer WALLE. One day, frustrated with not finding what she is looking for, she takes a break and makes an unexpected bond with this quirky robot. Together, they embark on an amazing journey through space.
* M-O (Microbe-Obliterator) is a cleaner-bot programmed to clean anything that comes aboard the Axiom that is deemed a "foreign contaminant." M-O travels speedily around the Axiom on his roller ball, cleaning the dirty objects he encounters. His biggest challenge comes on the day WALLE shows up on the ship. M-O becomes fixated on the filthiest robot he has ever seen. A game of cat and mouse ensues as M-O attempts to wash years of garbage residue off WALLE. However, as WALLE tries to escape this pest, the two eventually become friends and M-O is soon WALLE's devoted sidekick.
* AXIOM is the space-docked ship housing humans. Serving as the voice of the ship's computer is Sigourney Weaver, who coincidentally made her motion picture debut in "Alien," one of Stanton's inspirations for the film. And since her character in "Alien" battled Mother, the ship's computer, casting Weaver in the role was ultimately a nod to sci-fi for the filmmakers.
* CAPTAIN is the current commander of the Axiom. Trapped in a routine, like WALLE, the Captain longs for a break in the tiresome cycle of his so-called life. His uneventful duties are simply checking and re-checking the ship's status with Auto, the autopilot. When he is informed of a long-awaited discovery by one of the probe-droids, he discovers his inner calling to become the courageous leader he never could have imagined and plots a new course for humanity. Jeff Garlin, part of the hilarious ensemble cast on the popular HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm," lends his voice to this likeable character.
* AUTO is the Axiom's autopilot, who has piloted the ship through all of its 700 years in space. A carefully programmed robot in the form of the ship's steering wheel, Auto's manner is cold, mechanical and seemingly dutiful to the Captain. Unknown to all the Axiom crew, a hidden mandate exists in Auto's programming. Auto is determined to execute these secret orders at any cost, regardless of the consequences for the inhabitants of the Axiom.
* REJECT BOTS are the Axiom's cornucopia of robots that perform every function imaginable to serve the ship's passengers and keep them in the lap of luxury. However, even hundreds of years in the future, machines are still fallible. Robots that have malfunctioned are sent to the repair ward and branded with a red boot. WALLE befriends this renegade group of reject bots, among them a Beautician-bot that fails to beautify her clients, a Vacu-bot that erroneously spits out dirt, and an Umbrella-bot that opens and closes at inopportune moments. The misfit robots band together with WALLE to change the fate of the Axiom.
* GO-4 is the Axiom's first mate, who harbors a secret with the autopilot. A roving pneumatic capsule with a siren light for a head, he is dutiful to a fault.
* JOHN and MARY are two of the humans living on the Axiom, where they have settled into a life of pampered luxury. The arrival of WALLE jolts them from their daily routines and causes them to realize the existence of one another, and that there may be more to life than floating around on their high tech deck chairs. Pixar veteran/good luck charm John Ratzenberger lends his voice to the character of John, while actress/comedienne Kathy Najimy ("Sister Act," "King of the Hill") speaks for Mary.
* SHELBY FORTHRIGHT is the personable and charming CEO of the Buy n Large corporation, the massive global entity that gained control of the universe with its product line of robots (including the WALLE line) and luxury space cruisers (like the Axiom). The corporation's promises of a great big beautiful tomorrow echo on through Forthright's digital messages even though things haven't turned out according to plan. Fred Willard ("Best in Show," "Fernwood 2 Night") appears in the film as the face of the company.
THE IDEA BECOMES REALITY DIRECTOR/CO-WRITER ANDREW STANTON'S FUTURISTIC TALE OF ROBOTS, ROMANCE AND GALACTIC ADVENTURE
"We wanted the audience to believe they were witnessing a machine that has come to life. The more they believe it's a machine, the more appealing the story becomes."
~ Andrew Stanton, Director/Co-Writer
The image of a lonely little robot - the last one on the planet - methodically going about his job picking up trash intrigued director/co-writer Andrew Stanton from the first time it came up over lunch with his colleagues back in 1994. It would be many years before he would find a unique story that could use this character to its full potential.
Stanton explains, "I became fascinated with the loneliness that this situation evoked and the immediate empathy that you had for this character. We spend most of our time on films trying to make our main characters likeable so that you want to follow them and root for them. I started thinking, 'Well, where do I go with a character like this?' And it didn't take long to realize that the opposite of loneliness is love or being with somebody. I was immediately hooked and seduced by the idea of a machine falling in love with another machine. And especially with the backdrop of a universe that has lost the understanding of the point of living. To me, that seemed so poetic. I loved the idea of humanity getting a second chance because of this one little guy who falls in love. I'm a hopeless romantic in cynic's clothing. This movie gave me a chance to indulge in that romantic side a little more than I normally would in public."
Jim Reardon -- a veteran director and story supervisor on "The Simpsons," who directed 35 episodes of the show and supervised story on nearly 150 episodes -- came on board to be head of story for "WALLE." He ended up co-writing the screenplay for the film along with Stanton.
According to Reardon, "We started with the idea of making 'WALLE' a comedy, but about a third of the way through, we realized that the film is a love story, too. WALLE is an innocent and child-like little character who unintentionally ends up having a huge impact on the world. The story arc of the film is really about EVE. Her character undergoes the biggest change, and the film is as much about her as it is about him. She's very sleek, techno-sexy, and very futuristic looking. He's totally designed just to do his job, and is rusty, dirty and ugly. But we always thought that would make a great romantic adventure."
Producer Jim Morris sums it up. "This film is a mix of genres. It's a love story, it's a science fiction film, it's a comedy, it's a romantic comedy."
One of the great turning points for Stanton in creating the story for "WALLE" was stumbling upon the idea of using the musical imagery and songs from the 1969 movie version of "Hello Dolly" to help him define WALLE's personality. In fact, it is WALLE's repeated viewings of an old videotape of that film (the only one in his collection) that have led to the glitch of his romantic feelings.
Stanton explains, "I had been searching for the right musical elements to go with the film, and stumbling upon 'Hello Dolly' was the best thing that could have ever happened. The song 'Put on Your Sunday Clothes," with it's 'Out There' prologue, seemed to play so well with the themes of the film, and yet would normally not be the kind of music you'd expect to find in a film like ours. It's a very naïve song really, and it's sung in 'Hello Dolly' by two guys who don't know anything about life. They want to go to the big city and they 'won't come home until we've kissed a girl.' There's such simple joy to it and it really worked for us. When I found 'It Only Takes a Moment,' it was like a godsend. That song became a huge tool for me to show WALLE's interest in what love is."
It only takes a moment For your eyes to meet and then
Your heart knows in a moment You will never be alone again
I held her for an instant
But my arms felt sure and strong
It only takes a moment
To be loved a whole life long...
~ Excerpt: "It Only Takes A Moment," Hello Dolly
Says producer Morris, "Holding hands is the thing that WALLE's wanted to do the entire movie cause it's what he's learned from watching 'Hello Dolly,' it's the way you show affection in that movie."
Adds Stanton, "And I realized 'that's right.' That musical moment in the film showed these two people holding hands and I knew it was meant to be," he says. "I've always felt, almost with a zealous passion, that animation can tell as many stories in different ways as any other medium, and it's rarely been pushed outside of its comfort zone," concludes Stanton. "I was so proud to have had something to do with the origin and creation of 'Toy Story,' because I felt that the tone of the movie, and the manner of its storytelling broke a lot of conventions that were in people's minds. And I still feel like you can keep pushing those boundaries. Even before I knew this film was going to be called 'WALLE,' I knew it was yet another step in pushing those boundaries out farther. I'm so proud that I got a chance to make it and that it matched my expectations."
"This little robot actually teaches humanity how to be human again."
~ Lindsey Collins, Co-Producer
Co-producer Lindsey Collins observes, "Andrew's films have an incredible emotional core to them that lays the foundation upon which the action adventure plays out. He writes stories that are so simple and identifiable. Even though the movie is out there in terms of its concept and scale, it feels very personal from him as a writer. He likes to write about small characters whose journey or struggle has an enormous impact. In 'Finding Nemo,' Marion went on a journey, and Dory unintentionally had this enormous impact on him, and he was changed as a result.
"In a similar way, WALLE is this unintentional hero. He has the ability to impact humanity, and the ironic thing is that he is the most human thing left on Earth. This little robot actually teaches humanity how to be human again. It's that twist and irony combined with real emotion that I think is going to resonate with audiences.
READ MORE ABOUT PIXAR'S ANIMATORS ADD ROBOTS TO THEIR REPERTOIRE
WHAT THE BEEP?: LEGENDARY SOUND DESIGNER BEN BURTT CREATES UNIQUE ROBOT VOICES ALONG WITH A UNIVERSE OF SOUNDS FOR "WALLE"
READ MORE ABOUT PRODUCTION DESIGNER RALPH EGGLESTON'S FANTASTIC VISIONS OF EARTH AND SPACE
ADVANCING THE ART OF COMPUTER ANIMATION: ACCLAIMED CINEMATOGRAPHER ROGER DEAKINS AND VISUAL EFFECTS PIONEER DENNIS MUREN CONSULT ON "WALLE"
DOWN TO EARTH MUSIC:THOMAS NEWMAN & PETER GABRIEL CREATE COSMIC COMPOSITIONS
FILMMAKERS ANDREW STANTON (Director/Screenwriter/Vice President, Creative, Pixar Animation Studios) and JIM MORRIS (Producer/Executive Vice President, Production, Pixar Animation Studios)
THE ART OF ANIMATION HOME