It's not lost on many people that Disney/Pixar's new Wall-E looks a lot like Johnny-5, the reflective glassy eyes, the tank-tred wheels, the lovable nature. But in my opinion, it's something Wall-E lacks rather than something he has that puts him ahead in the game. The ability to speak.
About two months ago I attended a preview of clips from the film as well as demos from the video game both of which are being released this week. I was already anticipating the film for it's title characters precociousness but I was more impressed when I found out there's not a whole lot of dialogue in the film at all. In fact, there's really only one main character who talks, the Captain, voiced by Jeff Garlin. "We went back to studying a lot of early silent films to create this film," said Director/Production Designer at Pixar, Ralph Eggleston. "It was very difficult because everything had to be done visually."
Placing the success of a animated film in the hands of a main character who doesn't speak was a bold move by Pixar. Wall-E and the other robots in the film make only noises, which sometimes can resemble words, but they were left in the hands of a master. Ben Burtt of Star Wars fame. His sound design brings the oldest, and only, robot left on Earth to life better than any actor could have.
Wall-E stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth class. His job, along with others like him, was to clean up Earth after humans abandoned it for the Axiom Starliner. "He's been there for 700 years," said Eggleston, "and you'll find he's evolved a personality on his own by finding bits and pieces of stuff around the planet." Day in, day out, Wall-E continues his job cleaning up Earth by compacting trash into cubes in his body, then popping them back out and piliing them on top of countless others. Sometimes he finds objects that interest him and brings them back to his home where he lives with his pet cockroach. Of course, the only creature still living on the planet.
Wall-E's monotonous life is finally disrupted when another robot lands on Earth. EVE is her name and Wall-E becomes instantly smitten with her but she's on an important mission. Of course EVE stands for something too but telling you would give away part of the plot. Needless to say EVE completes her mission and takes off again but not before love-sick Wall-E is able to hitch a ride without her knowing.
Soaring past a sign on the moon that reads "Outlet Mall Coming-Soon" Wall-E's eyes are already wider than ever before. Finally landing on the Axiom he sees all types of new robots that are very different from him. For one, they are all impeccably clean and a robot you'll come to know as Mo takes a compulsive interest in cleaning Wall-E. But Wall-E has no time to spare and sets off to find EVE. "He finally does track her down and she wants to send him home after fear for his own safety but he won't give up the fight so easily," explained Eggleston. It's easy to see there's something more going on here than just cute robots. My guess is Wall-E saves the day and looks adorable doing it.
Up next, Part Two of my Wall-E coverage: Wall-E the video game