We went to see WALL*E the day it opened. The boys had seen the previews and Kyle especially really wanted to see it (he has an affinity for "cute" things and WALL*E looked adorable). I have to admit that it was not anything like what I expected and I loved it! Besides the animation being incredible, the fact that they were able to tell a story with virtually no dialog through almost the first half of the movie blew me away. It is amazing how much you can get attached to a non-verbal trash compactor...and how much can be conveyed without words. Incredible. While I was watching it, I was wondering how this would capture really young kids (my boys 11 and 8 loved it). But from what I have read, it seems to spellbind all ages from preschoolers on up to adults.
I listened to an NPR interview with Andrew Stanton, the director and co-writer of WALL*E. I have to say that I found this interview just as fascinating to listen to as the movie was to watch. You can tell that this was a work of passion for him...definitely not just a "job" or chance to make money on a hit movie. He really truly loves the creative process. Those of you with right-brained learners will definitely want to listen.
The concept for WALL*E started with the idea of "the last robot on earth doing its job forever not knowing that it was a waste of time" which led him (reluctantly) to the idea that people have polluted the earth so badly that it is unlivable. I love that the movie truly is character-driven...you get to know WALL*E so well as he goes about his daunting task. And you love the fact that he has managed to find small pieces of joy despite the utter destruction that exists around him. He is very innocent and child-like which makes him very endearing.
It was fascinating to listen to Stanton talk about the process...how he saw a concert where the artist had two stages...he performed the male oriented songs on the square stage and the female oriented ones on the circle stage...this intrigued him and he decided to play with this concept a bit...making WALL*E very square contrasted with Eva who was very rounded. Also in the idea to make WALL*E very low-tech...very much mechanical. You can see the parts and how they work. Contrasted with the very high-tech Eva who is very smooth and sleek with how she works very hidden (and yes, this was a big nod to Apple...as Eva looks very iPod-ish and even has the Apple start-up sound!)
Stanton talks quite a bit about how they figured out what WALL*E would look like. They knew they wanted him to be a trash compactor and basically a box with treads, but it took them a couple of months to figure out the face. They were looking for faces that would were robotic but would also allow for a lot of expression of feeling. Stanton was at a baseball game when a friend handed him a pair of binoculars...he ended up missing part of the game as he played with the binoculars...figuring out how to make them look sad, happy, scared etc and he knew that he had found the answer.
They decided that Eva would have a more high-tech face with electronic eyes (he actually based the idea on a light-brite). I loved hearing how he came up with so many of his ideas...he said animators are always looking around at the world, gathering ideas, collecting objects...looking at things from different perspectives. He remembered seeing strange objects as a kid and guessing at what they must be used for (an egg slicer was a mini-harp, his mother eye-lash curler was some sort of torture device). WALL*E's collections were similar to that...things that seemed interesting or unique in some way.
Stanton also talked about his own career path...how when he got to animation school he learned that there were lots of kids who were "his type"...kids who worried that his bicycle got cold at night or that falling leaves might be afraid of heights. How excited he got as he got into computer animation at Pixar...he said that he was not always the best artist in the room, but he was extremely good at coming up with the stories and characters. Computer animation gave him more control and allowed him to tweak these creations to more closely match what he had in his head. Computers also reduce the more tedious aspects of animation. (Can we say right-brained learner, anyone?)
Stanton worked with the sound designer who did the Star Wars movies. This again must be an awesome job for a right-brained learner...collecting sounds for a living (although I am sure he must have some left-brained help with the organization aspect of over 30 years worth of sounds!) And I have to say, the sounds obviously make the movie. WALL*E's voice could not be any more adorable and there was a such a rich audio component (what Stanton called unconventional dialogue) that you hardly missed the lack of verbal communication. You do not really even notice the richness that is brought to the movie through the sounds.
I found a great collection of WALL*E trailers and vignettes for those of you who have not seen the movie. My favorite is the Vacuum Cleaner Vignette. Check them out if you want to see right-brainers doing what they do best...create!
The NPR interview really reinforced the desire for me to help my kids find their passion in life. Stanton was so enjoyable to listen to because you could clearly see how much this was a labor of love and that he got a lot of personal satisfaction from his creation. His career path was most definitely not what you would call "typical" and he definitely has more than just "a job". I can only hope that my kids are so lucky to find what they are passionate about.