USA 2008, 103 mins
Director: Andrew Stanton

NB: The short BURN-E will screen after the feature.

In the future, Earth has been evacuated and rubbish-collecting robots prepare the planet for the return of humankind. With the passage of time, the robots become obsolete, save for energetic but lonely WALL-E, who may just hold the answer to the future of the planet. With a near-silent first section that was compared favourably to the best of Chaplin, this unique, eco-minded Pixar animation warns of prioritising technology over humanity.

Near the end of Pixar film Ratatouille, a joyless food critic is spiritually revived by the titular peasant dish. Humbly, he declares to the world that the only thing critics are good for is ‘discovering and defending the new.’ The speech, delivered in Peter O’Toole’s rich tones, smacked of a cartoon studio simultaneously trumpeting its artistic worth and blowing a raspberry at reviewers who underrated its work.

It’s tempting, then, to be sceptical about Pixar’s ninth CGI film WALL-E, a future-set saga about the romantic-heroic adventures of a little-guy robot, left to clear up a litter-covered Earth long after all the humans have gone. On the one hand, the film has been sold to us as ‘R2-D2 The Movie’, though the robot’s gormlessly cute appearance is more reminiscent of Johnny Five, the mawkish hero of the 1980s Short Circuit films. Indeed, the eponymous WALL-E recalls both droids, as well as E.T. and the toasters-on-legs of Silent Running (1972). His curiosity about the discarded items people have left behind also qualifies him as an honorary Womble.

At the same time the pre-publicity warned that WALL-E is a ‘risky’ Pixar film, with little or no dialogue (actually, it has more than we might have expected, and even the empty world where the first act is set is rarely silent). But with so much about WALL-E presold before we even enter the cinema, it seems a bit much to expect reviewers to champion a film backed by a lucrative Hollywood brand.

Annoyingly, WALL-E – from Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton, who previously had a less auteurist cachet than Ratatouille’s Brad Bird – is exceptionally good. In fact it’s one of Pixar’s best films, ranking alongside Toy Story 2 (1999) and The Incredibles (2004). Moreover, it indeed feels ‘new’, moving out of Pixar’s comfort zone while retaining the brand’s populist virtues: loveable characters, crafted jokes, aw-shucks niceness and wonderful images.

As the film unfolds, it seems that this story can’t work in animation, much as people felt Disney’s debut cartoon feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs couldn’t work in 1937. At first it appears too humourlessly photoreal, too like the live-action ‘empty worlds’ in films such as I Am Legend (2007). Then WALL-E seems destined to shunt itself into one-note repetitions of a theme, such as the robot’s cute antics in his planet-sized playground or his pratfalling efforts to woo EVE, the white egg-shaped probe (inspired by the sleek lines of iPods) who descends from the sky.

The film’s joy, though, is the way WALL-E’s situation develops in an organic, lyrical, musical way. The rhythms recall Disney’s Bambi (1942), while the audiovisual world – as Stanton acknowledges – is extrapolated from the opening of Star Wars (1977), where a nervously beeping R2-D2 trundle through a strange world of childlike anthropomorphic beings, many of them robotic, who whine and whirr and squeal. The vocalisations in WALL-E are by the same feted sound designer, Ben Burtt, and they’re suitably winsome and winning.

But it’s the appearance of the robots – a male square, a female circle – that the viewer remembers. The pairing of the clunky WALL-E and the pristine EVE recalls Buzz and Woody in Toy Story, and in the second half of the film there is a lot of chasing around in futuristic interiors à la Monsters, Inc. (2001). The robot protagonists’ limited artificial expressions recall Cars (2006), but without the Tootles the Taxi associations. As in Cars, some of the most lyrical scenes convey the joys of being a supple piece of metal in motion (one joyous space flight matches anything in Miyazaki Hayao’s animation). Conversely, there’s a surprisingly dark interlude where WALL-E obsessively cares for EVE when she’s shut down and effectively ‘dead’, with disturbingly funny overtones of Norman Bates.

True, WALL-E’s adventures in the cartoon form were anticipated in independent animations, such as Sylvain Chomet’s mostly wordless Belleville Rendez-Vous (2003). Bu t WALL-E sets firsts in taking the commercial Hollywood cartoon into new and unexpected places while insisting – as Disney did – on innocent, cute, loveable stars. For all its 2001 jokes and SF plotting, the film’s heart is in its beeping babes in the wood. Between them, they make an old brand invigoratingly new.
Andrew Osmond, Sight and Sound, August 2008

Directed by: Andrew Stanton
©: Inc. Disney Enterprises, Pixar
Production Company: Pixar
Presented by: Walt Disney Pictures
Created by: Pixar Talking Pictures
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Executive Producer: John Lasseter
Produced by: Jim Morris
Co-produced by: Lindsey Collins
Live Action Line Producer: Gillian Libbert
Associate Producer: Thomas Porter
Production Manager: Andrea Warren
Editorial Managers: Noelle Page, Colin Bohrer
Layout Manager: Richmond Horine
Animation Manager: Jake Martin
Character Managers: Adrian Ochoa, Jake Martin
Crowds/Simulation Manager: Kathleen Relyea
Sweatbox Managers: Sabine Koch, Kearsley Higgins
Sets Previs/Modelling Manager: Mary Van Escobar
Lighting Manager: Jenni Tsoi
Effects Manager: Brad Kane
Rendering Manager: Paul Mcafee
Image Mastering Manager: Joshua Hollander
Post-production Manager: Eric Pearson
End Titles Production Management: Sara Maher, Galyn Susman
Render Pipeline Group Manager: Anne Pia
Production Office Manager: Tricia Andres
Character Supervisor: Bill Wise
Sets Supervisor: David Munier
Effects Supervisor: David MacCarthy
Technical Pipeline Supervisor: John Warren
Crowds Supervisor: Mark T. Henne
Rendering Supervisor: Susan Fisher
Live Action Pixar Digital Production Supervisor: John Warren
Supervising Technical Director: Nigel Hardwidge
Post-production Supervisor: Paul Chichocki
Director of Editorial/Post-production: Bill Kinder
Character Modelling Lead: Jason Bickerstaff
Character Shading Lead: Athena Xenakis
Set Modeling Lead: Kristifir Klein
Set Shading Lead: Christopher M. Burrows
Set Dressing Lead: Derek Williams
Motion Graphics Technical Lead: Sandra Karpman
Fix Animation Lead: Andrew Beall
Crowds Animation Lead: Arik Ehle
Crowds Sequence Lead: Ziah Sarah Fogel
Technical Lighting Lead: Erik Smitt
Motion Graphics Designer: Philip Metschan
Script Supervisor: Stacey Hendrickson
Casting by: Kevin Reher, Natalie Lyon
[Live Action] Casting: Nancy Hayes Casting, Marla Dell Casting
Screenplay by: Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon
Original Story by: Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter
Story Supervisor: Jim Reardon
Story Manager: Sabine Koch
Director of Photography: Camera: Jeremy Lasky
Director of Photography: Lighting: Danielle Feinberg
Live Action Director of Photography: Marty Rosenberg
Camera Operator: Jeff Wan, Mark Dinicola
Live Action Pixar Visual Effects Supervisor: Richard Hollander
Live Action Production by: Kerner Optical
Live Action Visual Effects by: Industrial Light & Magic
Supervising Animators: Alan Barillaro, Steven Clay Hunter
Directing Animator: Angus MacLane
Film Editor: Stephen Schaffer
2nd Film Editors: Axel Geddes, Jason Hudak, Nicholas C. Smith
Additional Editing: Kevin Nolting
Production Designer: Ralph Eggleston
Visual Consultants: Roger Deakins, Dennis Muren
Character Art Director: Jason Deamer
End Titles Direction: Jim Capobianco
End Titles Design Lead: Scott Morse
End Titles Title Design: Susan Bradley
Colour Grading Operators: David Lortsher, Susan Brunig
Colour Timers: Terry Claborn, Jim Passon
Original Score Composed/Conducted by: Thomas Newman
Sound/Character Voice Designer: Ben Burtt
Additional Sound Design: E.J. Holowicki
Original Dialogue Mixers: Vince Caro, Doc Kane
Additional Dialogue Recording: Bobby Johanson
Supervising Sound Mixer: Ben Burtt
Re-recording Mixers: Tom Myers, Michael Semanick
Supervising Sound Editors: Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood
Sound Effects Editors: Teresa Eckton, Dustin Cawood, Al Nelson
ADR Editor: Steve Slanec
Foley Artist: Jana Vance, Dennie Thorpe
Foley Recordist: Sean England
Foley Mixer: Frank Rinella
Foley Editor: Kevin Sellers, Juan Peralta
In loving memory of: Justin Wright
Created/Produced at: Pixar Animation Studios

Voice cast
Ben Burtt (WALL-E)
Elissa Knight (EVE)
Jeff Garlin (Captain)
Fred Willard (Shelby Forthright, BnL CEO)
Macintalk (Auto)
Ben Burtt (M-O)
John Ratzenberger (John)
Kathy Najimy (Mary)
Sigourney Weaver (ship’s computer)
Lori Alan, Bob Bergen, John Cygan, Pete Docter, Paul Eiding, Don Fullilove, Jess Harnell, Sherry Lynn, Mickie McGowan, Laraine Newman, Teddy Newton, Jeff Pidgeon, Jan Rabson, Lori Richardson, Andrew Stanton, Jim Ward, Colette Whitaker (additional voices)

USA 2008
103 mins

Directed by: Angus MacLane
Story: Angus MacLane, Andrew Stanton, Derek Thompson
Characters: Stephen King
Producer: Galyn Susman
Editor: Steve Bloom
Production Designer: John Lee
Music composed by: J.A.C. Redford

Voice cast
Angus MacLane (BURN-E) Tessa Swigart (maintenance computer)

USA 2008
8 mins

With thanks to The Walt Disney Company

Disney’s Silly Symphonies
Sat 1 Jul 13:00; Mon 3 Jul 18:20
Dinosaur + Get a Horse!
Sat 1 Jul 15:20; Sun 23 Jul 18:15
Tangled + Tangled ever After
Sat 1 Jul 17:50; Sun 23 Jul 13:10
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs + Thru the Mirror
Sun 2 Jul 13:20; Sat 22 Jul 17:45; Mon 24 Jul 14:20
Who Framed Roger Rabbit + Tummy Trouble + Rollercoaster Rabbit
Sun 2 Jul 15:40; Sat 22 Jul 20:30
Splash + Sea Scouts
Wed 5 Jul 20:30; Mon 10 Jul 18:00
Disney at 100
Thus 6 Jul 18:15
UK premiere of 4K Restoration: Cinderella + Trailer Horn
Thu 6 Jul 20:30 + intro by season curator Justin Johnson; Sun 9 Jul 12:20; Tue 25 Jul 14:20
The Black Hole + Lifted
Fri 7 Jul 20:50; Sat 15 Jul 13:00
Sleeping Beauty + Magician Mickey
Sat 8 Jul 12:20; Sun 16 Jul 16:00; Wed 26 Jul 14:20
The Princess and the Frog + Babes in the Woods
Sat 8 Jul 12:30; Thus 18 Jul 18:00
Fantasia + Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom
Sat 8 Jul 15:00; Thu 27 Jul 17:50
Fantasia 2000
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Dead Poet Society + Geri’s Game
Sat 8 Jul 20:20; Thu 20 Jul 17:50
Alice in Wonderland + Pluto’s Party
Sun 9 Jul 15:30; Thu 13 Jul 18:10
Frozen + Frozen Fever
Fri 14 Jul 20:45; Sun 30 Jul 12:40
TRON + Smash and Grab
Sat 15 Jul 15:10; Fri 21 Jul 18:00
TRON: Legacy + Sanjay’s Super Team
Sat 15 Jul 17:45; Fri 28 Jul 20:20
Sat 15 Jul 20:45; Sat 29 Jul 12:30
Funday Workshop: Encanto Sing-along
Sun 16 Jul 11:00
Funday: Encanto Sing-along
Sun 16 Jul 12:30
Hocus Pocus
Sun 16 Jul 18:10; Wed 26 Jul 20:40
Moana + Inner Workings
Mon 17 Jul 18:00; Sat 29 Jul 13:00; Mon 31 Jul 14:20
Beauty and the Beast + Tick Tock Tale
Sat 22 Jul 11:50; Mon 24 Jul 18:05; Thu 27 Jul 14:20
Once Upon a Time: A Disney Day
Sat 22 Jul 12:00-17:00
Toy Story + The Adventures of Andre & Wally B. + Luxo Jr. + Red’s Dream
Sun 23 Jul 12:50; Sat 29 Jul 16:00
Toy Story 2 + Tin Toy + Knick Knack
Sun 23 Jul 15:30
Pocahontas + Lava
Sun 23 Jul 15:40; Fri 28 Jul 14:20; Sat 29 Jul 20:40

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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