Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Film Yap: Pixar Talk - WALL-E

Every week Austin is going to have a chat with Victoria Disque about a Pixar film. This is all leading up to a speech Austin will be giving about Pixar at the E.B. and Bertha C. Ball Center in Muncie on December 9th. Victoria is a producer of The Reel Deal and is currently majoring in telecommunications at Ball State University.

Austin: So for the second week in a row you watched a Pixar film for the very first time. What are your initial thoughts for “WALL-E”?

Victoria: I definitely liked “Ratatouille” more, but “WALL-E” was the first Pixar film I’ve seen that was just gorgeous. The animation is great for all of them, but that was the only word I could think of.

Austin: Which is so odd considering it’s a world devastated by trash.

Victoria: Exactly! I found it very ironic too.

Austin: I really was caught off guard because the level of detail for the robots is so good, I would honestly believed it was miniatures. That they just made a little robot WALL-E and filmed it on a little set. The other films had great texture and details to their fur and skin, but the machinery here looked insane.

I think so much of the believability came from the audio as well. Every little creak of the machines and them moving around on the dirt. Especially when you have the two main characters who only communicate through simple audio cues.

Victoria: I noticed the audio throughout and even though people were talking near the end, it still felt like an old silent film. It really reminded me of Charlie Chaplin because WALL-E seems like The Tramp and Eve is the beautiful younger woman who makes him super clumsy.

Austin: It’s clumsy, but he always pops back up with a smile. He’s wonderfully cartoonish and happy even when all of the shopping carts fall on him. They made it so you love the character so much, but you still want to see the carts hit him.

The character of WALL-E is so insanely adorable. The first half hour is just him looking at stuff, being entertained by small things.

Victoria: And I was entertained. I loved him looking through his little storage area. He has a space for lighters, he found a Rubix’s Cube, and he carries it all in a cooler. I would watch an entire based on what he finds.

Austin: I just love the very realized perspective he has. He finds a ring, but that has no value to him. He just loves the box and the little hinge it has.

Victoria: I laughed aloud at that part. He found a ring, but immediately tosses it aside.

Austin: It’s always about what entertains him. It’s so pure in that regard. Then there are the things he doesn’t like. I love him interacting with things he doesn’t like. I loved him playing with the fire extinguisher the first time where he keeps falling down. He hates it so he throws it far away.

I don’t know if I want a sequel to this, but I want a new short of this every year. Make it like Curious George where it’s like “WALL-E Goes to the Jungle” or “WALL-E Goes to Wherever”. I want to see a new place through his eyes.

Victoria: I was impressed like how we talked about with “Cars” how they weren’t animated the best way. You’d think that a robot would be even harder to feel for that character. It’s amazing how expressive they made his eyes, but they still so you can tell when he was sad. I love how when he was scared, he would shake. He seemed like such a person.

Austin: The story is that Andrew Stanton was at a baseball game with his son and they had binoculars to watch the game. At one point, Stanton stopped watching the game and started playing with the binoculars to see how he could make emotions from it. That was the start of the design.

Unlike “Cars” as well, their design has to be practical. This robot was built to pick up trash so it doesn’t need to look like a person because that’s not practical. It needs to be a walking trash compactor. It needs to look both ways so it’s a hero to us but a logical tool as well. Then there’s Eve who is a newer model and looks like an Apple product. I love how his goal is so insanely tragic. This is one of the most ambitious concepts for a kid’s movie. The world is destroyed by trash and one robot, for whatever reason, still is around to pick it up, alone on the planet. It’s such a depressing concept, but you smile the whole time because you have this scrappy machine who has possibly been there for hundreds of years as the guide.

It’s such a wonderful film. It’s my favorite Pixar and also one of the best films I’ve seen in years. It’s up there was one of the best of the last decade for me. Utterly charming.

Victoria: The only part I didn’t get was why the Autopilot didn’t want them to go back to Earth. Is it because he would be out of a job?

Austin: I think it’s a little bit of that. He was assigned to stay the course. It’s functioning on the rational decisions of “Earth isn’t safe. You’re not going to Earth.” All of the people have regressed to this childlike form. The Autopilot needs to take care of them and by doing that none of them can take care of themselves. Until WALL-E shows up, that’s when they have the inspiration to move forward.

He’s such a great catalyst to make everyone lives change. Even MOE the cleaner follows a very rigid path of the line of the floor. Then WALL-E shows up and MOE is able to get off the line. There are so many people who get off their “line” once WALL-E serves as a muse for them.

People think this film is very political and I feel that I’m the only one that’s arguing that it’s not.

Victoria: I don’t think that’s what they were getting at, but I can see where people would think that. It just shows that we’re all going to be fat one day if we keep eating the way we do. They show how we are polluting the Earth because it all becomes trash. They don’t make it seem like anything big happened like a meteor, it’s just that we screwed the world up so we had to leave. I got that, but I don’t think that’s what the movie was about though.

Austin: No, I see it more as a humanities thing than a politics thing. To me, politics should have at least two different sides for each ideology. There is no one “for” pollution. There is no one “for” obesity. The politics are formed about what should be done about that. This film is more about asking you to recognize what you’re doing, don’t just go for what’s easy and convenient. Always try to push yourself more.

Victoria: When they all get off their chairs, it was a such a great scene. Especially when the captain fights the Autopilot.

Austin: And that was their one direct pop culture reference, again, it’s the music from “2001”. The Autopilot already has the red eye of HAL. As the captain is walking, it’s like the evolution of man. Bum, bum, bum bum! Very fun.

Something I focused on this time was all of the other WALL-E models that broke down. You can tell at the end, they didn’t have the personality he did. They only picked up the trash. Our WALL-E had a personality and was looking around. They were only focused on their jobs. The human on the Axium is only on vacation, all the time. It means nothing because they are always relaxing. WALL-E is the middleman as he’s the really strong worker but will stop to play with the car keys. That was the push that had him help Eve. Don’t just focus on getting the plant, recognize why that’s an important thing. That drive helped the people to learn the value of working towards something. It could have ended with the Captain seeing that Earth is a dump, but he was inspired to fight and make it his own.

It’s amazing how they accomplished all of that while still being funny from beginning to end.

Victoria: I was surprised to realize how much I laughed during it because I heard going in that there is no speaking for the first half. I could see myself falling asleep, but there was so much cute humor that it always kept my attention. This is perfect for little kids. They can have so much fun with WALL-E.

Austin: People are always surprised how much they enjoy the silent portion. It’s not really silent because he says his few words and such. But it reminded me of Looney Tunes. Tom and Jerry is silent, but those are really easy to watch. They know good storytelling to keep you entertained through different ways. That’s what silent directors knew so well to entertain without using dialog. This did it so well that critics didn’t like it when they went up into the spaceship because they liked it so much.

Victoria: I definitely perfered the first half to the second half. It’s still good, but the first half is so much fun.

Austin: I think the second half makes for a richer film, but I can easily watch a three hour silent film of WALL-E just walking around the planet.

Victoria: If there was no spaceship, you wouldn’t get any sort of message or story. People would be upset about that.

Austin: They get some of that humor back when they just focus on WALL-E and Eve. Like the escape pod sequence is great because I like how expressive they are. He gets out of the pod and stubbornly sits down. Eve sighs thinking “Oh WALL-E” and puts him back. Then he gets out and she becomes frustrated.

Then there’s the dance sequence. He gets out of the pod before it blows up, he has the plant, they have a little robot kiss and then they dance around space. Just beautiful.

Victoria: I really like the scene when he first gets into space and he’s moving his hand through the dust. That was where it sealed it for me. It’s such a gorgeous movie.

Austin: He’s so adaptable; then again he’s not. He focused on helping Eve however he can but he can enjoy what’s around him. Even when he’s utterly destroyed, he’s still trying to help her or properly introduce himself to MOE.

You know so much of the film is about loneliness for him, but he doesn’t take loneliness as “woe is me.” It’s a guide for him to keep moving on and befriend a cockroach. He’s very grateful for the things around him as he tries to find someone to be with and hold his hand. One of my favorite scenes is when that’s incorporated by WALL-E showing Eve his home. It’s very much like a kid wanting to show your friend your room.

Victoria: I loved that scene. It reminded me of “The Little Mermaid” because Ariel is a hoarder and they both collect all of these little trinkets.

Austin: Exactly. He even has a collection of forks, but then it’s a great visual joke where he doesn’t know where to put the spork. Then Eve comes in with a new perspective to all of his things, like being able to make the light bulb turn on. Then his fascination is renewed. Then his perspective inspires her as she enjoys the bubble wrap.

Just talking about this now makes me want to watch this again and I just watched it yesterday. I love this movie.

Victoria: I agree with you, I hope they make more shorts. They did it with “Toy Story” and that worked well without ruining any of their main story.


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