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What is Wall-E?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
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  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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WALL-E is the ninth feature length animated film by Pixar Animation Studios. The film was released on 27 June 2008 to wide critical acclaim. The movie follows the life of the last robot on the abandoned earth, a Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, whose acronym is WALL-E.

The movie was originally conceptualized at a mid-1990s lunchtime meeting before the release of Pixar’s first film, Toy Story. In the meeting, Pixar’s creative team made several suggestions for future films, many of which would become successful films over the following decade. At the time, the robot story was considered too much of a risk to put into immediate production, as it would involve considerable technological advances and the story problems of how you build a plot around a completely isolated character. Director Andrew Stanton has repeatedly said that the idea stayed with him, although he would not develop the concept until after directing the incredibly successful Finding Nemo.

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WALL-E tells the story of the lonely robot, whose life is forever changed when a sleek probe robot named Eve is sent to Earth to find signs of potential habitability. In the 22nd century, humans had to leave Earth after high levels of pollution destroyed the ability to sustain life. For 700 years, humans have lived a leisurely existence onboard the space station Axiom, awaiting the day that the robots left behind to clean the planet will complete their job and life can return to the planet. Unfortunately, with the exception of the hardy WALL-E, the robots failed, leaving the planet covered with garbage for much longer than anticipated. When Eve discovers plant life, she returns to Axiom to report her findings, with the smitten WALL-E trailing closely behind.

The film has elements of a biblical origin story. Some critics have pointed out Eve’s name as a possible tribute to the first woman in the biblical book of Genesis, and noted her resemblance to the biblically-significant dove. The movie makers also attribute much of their character inspiration to early silent films, including the work of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

The first 45 minutes of the film do not contain human dialogue, as WALL-E and Eve make robot noises instead of speaking a human language. To facilitate this form of dialogue, Andrew Stanton worked in concert with sound engineer Ben Burtt, who created the robot language for R2D2 in the Star Wars films. Stanton would write scenes with human dialogue, which Burtt would then translate into robotic noises using what he terms audio puppeteering. By combining universally recognized sound patterns with expression and situation, audience members are able to understand the robots’ intentions and feelings without specifically understanding their words.

Director Andrew Stanton suggests that the film is meant to be an exploration of what it means to live and to be alive. Humans in the film have reached such a deteriorated state that they are nearly incapable of forming loving relationships with each other. Eve and WALL-E are not technically alive, as robots, but their love of humanity and each other gives them the ability to live rather than merely survive according to orders. The film is being hailed by many critics as one of the best movies of 2008, an excellent follow-up to Stanton’s Finding Nemo, and a ninth worthy entry to the Pixar canon of films.

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