Pixar could score big with unconventional character

Take an unconventional idea and drop it in a conventional movie. That’s the concept behind Pixar’s latest feature film, Wall-E, about the last robot on Earth after humankind has abandoned it.

What kind of risk is Pixar taking? For starters, the protagonist Wall-E does not speak – in a conventional sense – nor does he have any facial features. And director Andrew Stanton, speaking during a conference call, said he is hoping it will be more fun for audiences to guess what Wall-E is thinking throughout the movie, rather than having him explicitly expressing himself.

The concept for Wall-E first swam around Stanton’s head as he was writing Finding Nemo, which won him the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003. Wall-E was a long time in the making though, because Stanton felt that he “needed a few hits under his belt” before he could sell the idea to producers. Because Wall-E speaks his own language, much like R2-D2, Stanton felt the project was riskier.

“That’s just enough of a radical idea for a conventional movie,” Stanton said.

As the last robot on Earth, Wall-E passes his days cleaning in isolation. This makes loneliness and questioning one’s existence the premise behind Wall-E. This may seem like weighty material for a children’s movie, but Pixar claims to not even create its films for children, necessarily.

“We never think about who our audience is,” Stanton said. “We sort of assume it’s going to be anybody.”

This artistic freedom seems to have worked well for Pixar in the past, as many of its films have received awards and nominations, allowing the creators to make unique and meaningful animated films.

Wall-E seems like it will live up to that lofty standard of success for a Pixar movie, in its own quirky way. What’s not to love about a pile of moving metal and bolts, right? The creators of the robot took a risk with the character, as they designed Wall-E to be “a machine first, and a character second,” Stanton said.

Stanton expects people will project personalities and human characteristics onto the robot as they do with pets. Even without facial expressions or language, from the trailer, Wall-E looks every bit as cute and empathic a character as any of Pixar’s talking fish, toys or rats.

Almost every year, Pixar releases an animated feature, and almost every year that film becomes an instant classic. Wall-E looks like a promising addition to the company’s impressive list of films.

Stanton doesn’t deny the pressure of having to live up to the expected success and quality, but he says that they’re used to it.

“It’s almost like a sports season,” Stanton said. “You just get out there and try to play a good game.”

From the looks of it, the release of Wall-E this summer could be another big win for both Pixar and audiences.

Carla Tabag can be contacted at c.tabag@umiami.edu.