Wall-E unwrapped

24th Dec 2008 | 13:00

Wall-E unwrapped

Interview: Pixar legend Andrew Stanton on how he created a high-def hero

Wall-E is probably Pixar's most celebrated animation to date.

It pushes the boundaries of CG technology, and in the process is likely to become one of the biggest-selling Blu-ray titles yet. All the more reason, then, for Home Cinema Choice magazine to jump at the chance for an interview with director Andrew Stanton at the Disney-Pixar studio outside San Francisco.

Stanton first introduced the character of Wall-E at a now legendary Pixar lunch meeting fourteen years ago. It must have been a long lunch, because the characters of A Bug's Life and Finding Nemo were born at the same time. You can imagine the sketches on the tablecloth by the end of it.

'I've had the idea of this lonely robot who has been left behind and forgotten in my head for years,' Stanton explained to us, 'but how to make a non-speaking robot work as the main character in a movie isn't so obvious. Movies have different elements: visuals, sound, plot, dialogue, etc. With Wall-E there is no dialogue in the first part of the film. That made the other elements much more important, a bit like a Buster Keaton movie.'

The apple of his eye

Wall-E's love interest Eve is visually more expressive and, some might say, a little more Apple-like. It's no secret that Apple's CEO also sits on the board of directors at Disney.

Stanton doesn't dispute this. 'We wanted Eve to represent a highly sophisticated robot from the future, and Mac computers have that look. In fact, when we showed the preview to Steve Jobs he said we should get his designer Jonny Ives to come over and take a look at it. We did that and he loved it.'

The movie also showcases a technological breakthrough, borne from Stanton's conviction that Pixar's shots could look more like actual film cameras. 'We invited the best cinematographer we could think of to actually film a sequence here in the studio to see how it compared,' says the director.

'Roger Deakins [Hollywood legend] came along and filmed life-size models of Wall-E and Eve in the main lobby. In response, the technical team came up with completely new virtual lenses that achieved the same live-action feel as Deakins' film.'

Disc of delight

Stanton is a big fan of Blu-ray. Not surprising really, as the hi-def format has become a natural home for animated movies. 'For the first time, fans will be able to see the film in the same quality that we have been watching it here in the studio, and I'm excited about that.'

Wall-E continues Disney-Pixar's tradition of high-calibre releases. For instance, alongside the hilarious short movie Presto and the usual commentary/galleries/etc, there are some fully-rendered deleted scenes. It's a rarity, according to Stanton, to get fully-rendered outtakes as extras.

Chatting with Stanton, it's clear that working in California for the world's best animation company definitely has its perks. But, as he reveals before we left for the airport, this didn't necessarily extend to the Wall-E crew while the film was being made.

'While the Ratatouille team were sent to Paris to eat in five-star restaurants for their research, we had a tour of the rubbish dumps in Oakland!'

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First published in Home Cinema Choice, Issue 164

Now read The best high-def games and movies for Christmas

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