Disney, Opinions, Pixar

Pixar Rewind: ‘WALL-E’

Share on Pinterest

Welcome to the Pixar Rewind! Over the next couple weeks, we at Rotoscopers will analyze every Pixar film ever, and what makes each one so great. At the end of the series, and after the release of ‘Inside Out,’ we will have a fan vote to determine which film is the best of them all!

WALLE-Opening-HelloDolly

“Out there,
there’s a world outside of Yonkers,
way out there beyond this hick town, Barnaby,
there’s a slick town, Barnaby.
Out there,
full of shine and full of sparkle,
close your eyes and see it glisten, Barnaby.
Listen, Barnaby…”

The immediate nostalgia of the classic 1969 musical, Hello, Dolly!, is combined unexpectedly with the extensive beauty of space as WALL-E descends into an even more unexpected image of life on Earth.

WALLE-Opening-Earth

Wall-E, short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter- Earth class, is the last of his kind, created by humanity to clean up the massive amounts of trash the human-race left behind when pollution forced them to launch into space. Wall-E leads a simple existence pursuing his work and collecting human memorabilia, reveling in the various sentiment provided by unusual objects left behind: light bulbs, lighters, VHS tapes, forks and spoons, and toys like the Rubik’s cube. His only companion, and perhaps the only other living being on the planet, is the small cockroach that follows him to and from work, eating and living in surviving Twinkies.

The Medium

The soundtrack that Wall-E works to is that of the beloved 1969 film, Hello, Dolly!, which introduces Wall-E to the concept of love and hand-holding, during the iconic song “It Only Takes a Moment”, which holds all Wall-E’s attention. His all too human curiosity pays off when EVE, Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, arrives to scan the planet; he shows her his collection, culminating in his recent discovery of a small plant. His thirst for companionship and adventure take him out into the stars where he discovers what happened to the human race.

The film could almost be classified as a modern silent film, excepting the small moments of dialogue that become more frequent when the humans are introduced. This silence focuses the audience visually on the film before them: details aren’t pointed out, Wall-E’s purpose isn’t defined by voice-over narration, and Eve doesn’t explain the jump from humanity today to the humanity of the film. Instead, the audience must pay attention to the actions and elements of each scene to understand what happened, what is happening, and, in some cases, what will happen.

WALLE-BNLNews

The use of music from Hello, Dolly! juxtaposes the true past with this version of the future. The 60’s era is referenced often, even in the jingle for Buy N Large superstore: “Buy N Large is your super store, we’ve got all you need, and so much more.” The jingle is reminiscent of the bouncy and catchy jingles from commercials in the fifties and sixties. It combines friendliness and the perfection of barbershop quartet harmonies. Aside from the automatic playing of the jingle as Wall-E passes it on his way, the soundtrack of Wall-E’s journey is Thomas Newman’s iconic score. Working hand-in-hand creatively with director Andrew Stanton, Newman creates a score with themes motivated less by character and more by events as they happen on the screen.

The only character theme repeated more than twice is Eve’s theme, which fatures feminine high strings and is repeated the third time in the end credits. Peter Gabriel’s song “Down to Earth” uses the bass and drum figures from Eve’s theme in an attempt to maintain the pattern created by Newman throughout the film and to blend the song with the score. “Down to Earth” features the return of humanity to Earth in various styles of animation, based on art styles from the history of mankind, such as cave drawings, Van Gogh, and even 8-bit video games.

WALLE-EndAxiomArt

Outside film’s amazing score, effective minimization of dialogue, and the beautifully rendered animation, Wall-E is a film that presents many common Pixar themes, while also supporting some new ones along the way.

The Message

The initial indication that WALL-E is a true Pixar film is the emphasis on non-human beings. Almost every Pixar film features a non-human character, or characters, as sentient beings: the ants of A Bug’s Life, Dug and Kevin in Up, the toys of Toy Story, the cars from Cars, and, soon, even an individual’s emotions themselves in Inside Out. In considering themes, this one is arguably the most important to the film’s plot. These robots, beings not usually considered to have emotions (though the idea has been fictionally explored), must convince the audience of their souls and personalities. For Wall-E, his curiosity and hunger for sentiment provide the backdrop in which the audience begins to empathize with him. As his relationship grows with those around him, especially Eve and M-O, the audience is quickly convinced that robots, indeed, can fall in love, feel sadness, and have their own free will outside their initial purpose of creation.

Pop. You pop.

Pop. You pop.

The relationships formed between the robots and mankind provide an interesting juxtaposition. In some ways, humanity has become the insentient being, oblivious and indifferent to the world around them until they are disconnected from their screens. The human race becomes reliant on their technology, no longer innovating for the future and no longer maintaining awareness of their past. In an almost comical scene, the captain of the Axiom spends several minutes searching the computer database, beginning with an interest in Earth’s soil to the foods commonly eaten – like pizza – and finally ending with an explanation of dancing. The cultural history of Earth was clearly left behind, just like the planet itself, and yet this human reintroduction to dancing is juxtaposed with robots actively dancing outside the Axiom (as beings motivated with emotion enough to do so). With this odd reversal, a symbiotic relationship is begun in which a balance must be created between technology and humanity; humans must realize their own potential as living beings again, rather than simply going through the motions for another 700 years.

While WALL-E is often considered an environmental film pushing for the elimination of technology, the eco-friendly theme actually presented is a little more complex. Humanity, in the film, is indeed all too reliant on technology; however, the solution presented by the film is not an exclusion of technology, but rather an integration of it. As humanity returns to the beginning of a new progressive cycle, depicted through the end credits, humans are shown to work side by side with robots that were initially created for other purposes aboard the Axiom: the typing machine pokes holes for seeds, the larger Waste Allocation Load Lifters hold building materials too heavy to carry, and Eve’s high-speed spinning helps to create a new well. Through WALL-E, Pixar shows that environmentalism and technology are not mutually exclusive causes. What is required to create a productive and healthy environment is the correct balance between human independence from and human reliance on technology. The end credits show that progress is a cycle; even if progress seems to end badly the cycle can begin again, with better informed and more responsible human beings.

WALLE-FinalPlanting

Conclusion

WALL-E is a film that ultimately promotes balance: between the past and future, technology and humanity, curiosity and complacency. While environmentalism serves as a motif to support the film’s main point, the majority of the film is focused on humanity itself and the evolution of technology in the absence of human motivation. Rather than technology serving as the antagonist or humanity serving as the antagonist, the enemy is complacency and ignorance (a pattern requiring Wall-E’s rude awakening as he boards the Axiom and ends the 700 years humanity has spent aboard a five-year mission). WALL-E is beautiful, visually and musically, maintains the sweetness and comedy of Pixar, and tells a story much deeper than man versus nature. From the first image of the cosmos, WALL-E captures the universe and every heart within it.

WALLE-EndPixarLamp

What do you think of WALL-E? Do you think it is Pixar’s best film?

More from the Pixar Rewind:

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

Share on Pinterest

About Kajsa Rain Forden

Kajsa is a writer from San Francisco, with a BA in English Literature, and a recent Cast Member at the Disney Store in San Francisco. She spends most of her time writing, binge-watching animated movies, and working in social media. With a soft spot for stop-motion, her favorite films are Coraline, Castle In The Sky, and The Thief and the Cobbler (Recobbled). You can find her on Twitter, or Tumblr (and most other social media) @TheKajsaRain, or at Disneyland.
  • Ryan Prieto

    Kajsa Rain Forden I loved your article. Wall-E means so very very much to me. It gave me years of comfort, and so man great memories. I watched it before I went to bed, when a bad day crept into my life, or just when I wanted to be entertained. I think many of us run into a film which allows for limitless views, Wall-E is mine. It appeals to my aesthetics, my favorite plot devices and story lines, which make it my favorite film of all time.
    I do wish Wall-E got a little bit more representation in the parks and purchasable items, because I would gladly fork over any amount of money for it. Not even California Adventures “Pixar Parade” has Wall-E in it (Or at least it didn’t during my three views). That being said I probably wouldn’t be happy with an infinite amount of memorabilia, because I love the film that much.
    Thank you Pixar for this film, you’ve given me a gift that reaches far past the films initial viewing. Thanks Rotoscopers for the awesome article of my favorite movie.

    • Kajsa Rain Forden

      I’m glad you loved the article! WALL-E is my absolute favorite Pixar film and I agree it’s undersupported in the parks. You’d think it would be pushed in Tomorrowland as a perfect fit.

      The special features on the DVD and Blu-Ray are totally amazing – and I am also an avid commentary listener. I don’t know if the parks have added WALL-E to the Pixar Parade, since I haven’t seen it in a while, but I hope they do soon, either way.

  • Frank

    Great article, I adore Wall-E so much. I still remember seeing it in theaters and being blown away by the dancing scene in space. It’s definitely one of the best sequences I’ve seen in any animated movie.

    I know the movie has its critics saying that the second half of the movie is just as good, but I disagree. I never saw Wall-E as being preachy to audiences. There is no evil business owner that only cares about money. All the human characters are innocent people that are oblivious to the world around them (that’s the purpose of John/Mary as characters). There is also no scene where the villain talks down to audience starting everything that is “wrong” with society (i.e. Tomorrowland). I just like there isn’t a true “villain” in Wall-E. Auto is basically like Darla in Finding Nemo, more of an obstacle to get through.

    I’m really glad you mentioned how the movie isn’t against technology given how they help rebuild the earth. Plus, the scene with the robots and humans working together to get the plant to Eve symbolized that.

    Once again, great article on one of my favorite Pixar movies!

    • Ryan Prieto

      Frank you are truly enlightened. I have had to explain to several of my friends about the true nature of the story. I understand to some capitalism and things like conservation/global warming, can be hot topics for people but Andrew Stanton and several others leads on the story have stated that Wall-E had no grounds in preaching a moral about excess. They just took trends and extrapolated them and exaggerated others to make a good story, you dirty up the planet to much you have to leave.
      I’d also have to agree about the dancing scene. I happen to be very fond of when Wall-E is trying to hand Eve the plant and says “Directive” and she pushes it away, before this her directive came first but in that moment all that mattered was the adorable bro-bot she cared about. Also the robot smooch in space was awesome too.

  • Crate

    Wow thank you for an amazing article kajsa, on one of my favorite movies ever. I love how you described The 1960’s happy “Hello dolly” music over the dark and depressing earth as being juxtaposed.

    • Kajsa Rain Forden

      Thank you so much! I love Hello, Dolly! and I always thought the nostalgic attachment to it was an interesting opposition to the dystopian future WALL-E inhabits. It works because the plot and story are so concerned with the past, and using it to enhance the future of the humans in the story. A great movie and definitely one of my favorites too!

  • Katie

    One of my favorite Pixar movies. I love Wall-E and his hoarder collection. My favorite scenes are when the captain is figuring out the book and stuff starts shutting down, when eve is being repaired, and the flying through part. Oh, and the commercial for the Axiom. And for some reason I always really wanted M-O to finish cleaning wall-e’s trail of dirt. It bothered me when he left it. Ok question. Where in the credits are the characters in 8 but form?

    • Kajsa Rain Forden

      The characters go into 8-bit near the end of the credits. Watching the credits all the way through is totally recommended because it is all extraordinarily detailed.

      I love Wall-E’s collection too, and the automation of the Axiom is super cool. I also was kind of stressed about M-O never finishing the dirt trail. I have a headcanon that he went back to the Axiom and finished it even though nobody was there just to make himself happy. It would make a cute short for Pixar sometimes in the future!

  • Baymax

    Oh boy (sighs). I have a WHOLE lot to say. I never saw it in theaters. I saw it in second grade when learning about recycling. The dark, depressing tone scared me, I cried twice, the teacher never gave a shit, and we saw it right before lunch, so that made it worse. Over about a year and a half, I overcame the fear, but I still play in the act that I am still scared of it so my parents won’t make me face any other top secret fears of mine. This is what you call an adult family movie like Secret of NIMH, Watership down, all dogs go to heaven, grease, and more. Also, on google, if you search WALLE fat hate on google, you see very interesting articles. I think I am like captain b mccrea. I’m a friendly person, sometimes lazy, chubby, have strong interests, speak for what I believe in, a good leader, and love the environment.

    • Kajsa Rain Forden

      I’m sorry your first experience with the movie was so bad (that teacher should not be a teacher). But I agree this is, as you say, an “adult family film”, on par with NIMH. I would encourage you to try watching it again, but forcing people to face their fears isn’t healthy either.

      The obesity issue in Wall-E is handled in a somewhat interesting way: it’s not shamed, but treated as a matter of fact, scientific truth. It’s only directly addressed once in dialogue and handled with a throw-away line: “nothing a few laps around the track won’t fix”. I think I could write a whole ‘nother article about this, not to mention how body weight plays into other films. It’s an interesting topic so I’m not surprised people have a lot to say!

      I hope you give the film another try, but if you don’t perhaps take a look at the Pixar short, BURN-E; it might ease you back into WALL-E or not, but it’s cute and takes place at the same time all of WALL-E is happening.

      • Baymax

        Saw burne. It was very cute. I already said I faced the fear, but thanks for encouraging me 🙂

        • Kajsa Rain Forden

          Sorry about that. Walking through an airport while replying is not conducive to comprehensive reading, apparently! 😀

          • Baymax

            Yep. Your thing says you have a soft spot for claymation. I recently saw nightmare before Christmas, and it turned out to be one of the greatest films ever made. Do you love that movie? Jack is very relatable. He yearns for more, but still likes current life.

          • Kajsa Rain Forden

            Words cannot express how much I love that movie. It’s a huge part of my childhood. I got to see the Nightmare Before Christmas themed Haunted Mansion for the first time ever last year and I loved every second. Jack and Sally I find very relatable: like Jack, I don’t like being stuck in routine and like to add excitement; but, like Sally, I can step back and look at the big picture to decide what could be fun and what could be disastrous!

            It’s a fantastic film and one of the first to facilitate my fascination with animation. Consequently, anything stop-motion will always find itself worthy of my attention (Boxtrolls was amaze!).

  • Ok to be honest I wasn’t sure about this movie when it first came out, but as I am getting older I see its true nature and it works just wonderfully well! I especially love that very first trailer that came for the movie where the creators have lunch and talk about the other Pixar movies, just so perfect!
    Overall this movie does draw me out a little but I respect it enough to call it pretty cool

    • Kajsa Rain Forden

      I always loved this film, but that’s largely due to being raised on a diet of nostalgia, sentimentality, and classic musicals like Hello, Dolly!. That trailer was what initially caught my eye for the film – as a writer, I love anything behind the scenes looking at the creative minds that made whatever cool thing is coming next. It’s not a universal favorite, or the first movie people think of when you say Pixar, but I think it’s fabulously original and fun to watch.

  • Manuel Orozco

    Wall-E started off a bit slow since I was not into with the silence is golden concept when I first saw it. But it got more interesting as the plot progressed. The storytelling is surprisingly astonishing and beautiful.