June 28, 2008


The Little Robot That Could: Pixar's Andrew Stanton first thought of WALL•E in 1994, and now it's hitting theaters. We caught up with Stanton to discuss his faith, creativity, and that lonely little 'bot. (Mark Moring, 06/24/08, Christianity Today)

Apparently the idea for WALL•E was first born in 1994?

Stanton: At the time, it wasn't a whole story. It was just the foundation of a great character—and it was literally born from the sentence, "What if humankind left earth and somebody left the last robot on, and it just kept doing the same futile thing forever?" And I thought that was the saddest, loneliest character I ever heard of in my life. [Co-writer] Pete Docter and I loved that idea, and thought we'd love to see a movie like that.

But since we hadn't even finished Toy Story yet, our next sentence was, "Nobody would ever let us make a movie like that." And we put it on the shelf and got caught up doing all these other things. But the idea stayed with me all these years, and when I was writing on Nemo, I started thinking about WALL•E again—and I couldn't stop. That's when I realized that I was attracted to the pure loneliness of this character, and the opposite of loneliness is love—so it should be a love story. From then on, suddenly the skies opened and I just couldn't stop writing.

It is a wonderful love story. But at the same time, it seemed to have heavier social commentary than most Pixar films. It seemed like a story about fat, lazy, American consumers who don't care about the environment and …

Stanton: That's your interpretation, but that's not where I was coming from. I certainly see the parallels, but honestly, all those factors came from very different places. All my choices in the film came from what I needed to amplify the main point, which was the love story between these robots. The theme that I was trying to tap into was that irrational love defeats life's programming—that it takes a random act of loving kindness to kick us out of our routines and habit.

You could blame consumerism as one thing that's happening in this film, but there's a million other things we do that distract us from connecting to the person next to us and from furthering relationships, which is truly the point of living. So I came up with the idea that as WALL•E was picking up trash, it would have all these signs of humanity for him to rifle through, to get him interested in what humans were all about. I loved the idea of WALL•E finding something real. He was fascinated with the idea of living. And what's the point of living? Something real. He was a manmade object with something real inside him. And he found something real while surrounded by manmade objects. That just was poetic for me.

OK, but why were the humans on the space station all fat and riding around in their hovering lounge chairs?

Stanton: I wasn't trying to make the humans into fat, lazy consumers, but to make humanity appear to be completely consumed by everything that can distract you—to the point where they lost connection with each other, even though they're right next to each other. The reason I made them look like big babies was because a NASA guy told me that they haven't yet simulated gravity perfectly for long-term residency in space. And if they don't get it just right, atrophy kicks in and you begin to lose your muscle tone—you just turn into a blob of goo. For a while, that's what I did with the humans in the movie; they were just big blobs of Jell-O. But it was so bizarre, we had to pull it back. So I said, well, let's just make them look like big babies. That's where all that came from.

I wasn't trying to make some sort of mean-spirited comment on consumerism or today's society. I was going with just the logic of what would happen if you were in a perpetual vacation with no real purpose in life. So I went with the idea that we'd become sort of big babies with no reason to grow up. I definitely saw humanity as victims of this system that they were in. They were just big babies that needed to stand on their own two feet. [...]

Stanton: [G]uys like you and others at Pixar, and other Christians like Scott Derrickson and Ralph Winter, are bringing biblical themes into the movies without making them feel "preachy." Where are you on all of that thinking?

Stanton: I agree with what you said. Just because you're strong in your faith doesn't mean that you suddenly have to be dumb and pander to a certain audience. When did that become a rule? I think you were given a brain to use it, and I think you were given talents to use it. And so the same intoxicating, seducing talents and cleverness and wisdom that you see in what may be considered "secular" entertainment, there's no reason that those things should be held back for anything else, I like to think.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 28, 2008 9:02 AM

We took our granddaughter and one of her friends to see this last night at the drive in.

I was amazed at the movie and it's social overtones, but the kids just saw it as the authors intended.

A love story.

They loved it and of course want the DVD as soon as it comes out.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Posted by: Papa Ray at June 28, 2008 10:17 AM

I took my 4 year old today and am pleased to report that the desire for freedom trumps the desire for security at the end.

Posted by: Foos at June 28, 2008 7:11 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus