Wimping on WALL*E

Disney/Pixar’s WALL*E is a robot love story, yes, but also — as I reported a while back — a message movie about the lunacy of destroying our planet with fossil-fuel pollutants and whatnot, as well one that points the finger at the evil agents of this destruction. In an article up today, CHUD’s Devin Faraci, who’s seen the film, has described these bad apples as “corporations, out-of control branding, insidious advertising and rampant consumerism.”

And yet writer/director Andrew Stanton, oddly, recently downplayed the ecological theme during the film’s recent press junket. Faraci has also confessed to being “fascinated by the disconnect between the film’s ecological and anti-consumerism messages and the huge merchandising push to sell plastic toys and other crapola.”
Here’s what Faraci has written today:
“The most I do is recycle, and sometimes I’m even pretty bad at that,” Stanton said at the WALL*E press junket when asked about the ecological and political themes of the film. And he wanted to make sure that the assembled journalists didn’t think he was smuggling a subversive message into his kid’s movie. “I don’t have a political bent….I don’t have an ecological message to push.”
And yet, Faraci says, “the environmental and political themes of this movie are well beyond subtext and are so blatant that you’d expect to see the WALL*E character being used in conservation ads and for the life-size animatronic WALL*E built to promote the film to show up at environmentally-themed events. Instead Stanton and Pixar are all but disavowing these obvious, in-your-face messages and pushing WALL*E as a simple robot love story.
“Pixar’s always been good about staying on message. Go back to all the publicity for Cars and you will see every single person involved with that movie spinning the same tale about John Lasseter‘s family and their cars and blah blah. The White House can’t get their p.r. spin together as well as Pixar does.

“That ‘on message’ aspect is part of what makes Pixar a successful company. They understand that they’re building their own myth right now. They understand that having a narrative behind the scenes helps make everything more sellable. And it helps draw attention away from elements they’d rather not focus on and highlight the elements they do want to have spotlighted; in this case to not talk so much about the environment and to bring it back to young robots in love (a message all the participants at the press day were on point for except John Ratzenberger, who seemed to claim global warming didn’t exist).
Stanton, says Faraci, was not completely dismissing any positive environmental themes. “I don’t mind that it supports that kind of view….it’s certainly a good citizen way to be,” he said in the most half-hearted support for environmentalism possible.
“Stanton’s measured, middle-of-the-road language clarifies to me just what the heck is going on here: someone in Pixar decided that leaning on the environmental angle would possibly scare off certain segments of the ticket buying public.”

  • Mgmax, le Corbeau

    More proof that Ferngully: The Last Rainforest is the most influential animated film of all time.

  • bb

    “Stanton’s measured, middle-of-the-road language clarifies to me just what the heck is going on here: someone in Pixar decided that leaning on the environmental angle would possibly scare off certain segments of the ticket buying public.”
    Yeah, maybe the segment that doesn’t look to cartoons for its political outlook. In other words, the rubes.

  • EOTW

    Actually, the thing that makes Pixar’s films so great, and rewatchable (esepcially for adults) is the fatc that they fit such great themes that resonate beyond what little kids will like. Just look at any of their films and they are so much mroe than animated films. Well ,I don’t about CARS. it looked so uninteresting to me. It’s the only one of their films I have never seen. I’ll be checking out a late show of this one after I sneak into HULK.

  • LexG

    Every year these cartoons come out and they all get like 99.9999999999% on the TOMATOMETER…
    which leads me to wonder if there ever isn’t just ONE CRITIC who’s like, yeah, I JUST DON’T WANT TO GO SEE CARTOONS I’M 50 YEARS OLD and gives this stuff like ONE STAR.
    I’m sure by the standards of CARTOONS they’re well done but isn’t there like ONE CRITIC who just doesn’t dig animation? Does EVERYONE just love this stuff unquestionably?
    I love just about all kinds of films, but CARTOONS and ANIMATION don’t even register with me… I never go to see these and if I had to sit there and watch it, my mind would wander like I was sitting through church or something.
    I just don’t really care. Hard to believe there isn’t one real critic who just doesn’t acknowledge this stuff.

  • Rich S.

    I remember them saying much the same thing about Star Trek IV. As I recall, Nimoy said something to the effect of, “well, we could have used Snail Darters, but they’re not as photogenic.”

  • roquentin

    Sure, they’re worried about politicizing the message because of ticket sales, but could it also be that in this hyper-politicized climate they didn’t want the film to be hijacked by one of its themes? That they didn’t want a journalist asking two weeks from now whether Wall*E would support Obama or McCain? I don’t think filmmakers NEED to own up publicly to everything that’s in their films. Far from it. If it’s that obvious, it speaks for itself; if not, the audience can work a bit to put it together. No doubt Pixar is clamping down, but part of the overprotective Pixar attitude is, I think, beneficial to the films, to their mystique. Next post…Andrew Stanton should’ve endorsed Obama before Hillary dropped out. Boycott the movie!

  • Mgmax, le Corbeau

    Stanton may be downplaying the anti-corporate message, but I hear the Happy Meals are really hardhitting.

  • tophertilson

    If not admitting to the message (and it’s in there in all capital letters, believe you me) means that more people will be exposed to the message, then so be it. The movie is as close to a masterpiece as anything we’ve seen this year. If they’re playing the P.R. bullshit game to get more people in there, is that so wrong in this instance?

  • NotImpressedYet

    “Next post…Andrew Stanton should’ve endorsed Obama before Hillary dropped out. Boycott the movie”
    Ha!!! That’s hilarious and does a good job of encapsulating HE’s perspective on the 2008 campaign.
    I also agree that in terms of pure cinema, there’s something to be said for letting the theme of a movie speak for itself.
    At the same time HE is probably dead on about Pixar’s motives.

  • Mark B

    I for one think the Pixar team is playing this one right. The PR for a movie “with a message” (subtle or not) can be a minefield.

  • corey3rd

    bad apples as “corporations, out-of control branding, insidious advertising and rampant consumerism.”
    Would love to see the notes from the Disney suits that say, “Hey, that’s us!”

  • John Cocktosten

    Trust the art, not the artist. I can’t wait to see this, and I hope the Trojan horse message resonates with all quadrants.

  • http://www.mustardayonnaise.com lazespud

    Pixar is definitely playing this one right. Think about how right wing radio decided that Happy Feet was some kind of pro-environment propaganda… though the movie did really well, for several weeks there was a constant drumbeat that “hollywood” was trying to “brainwash the kids”. This argument was certainly helped by the producers and director constantly pointing out the environmental aspect of their story… Pixar’s not dumb; they don’t want to go down that path….

  • breadlymoore

    “The movie is as close to a masterpiece as anything we’ve seen this year.”
    BULLSHIT.
    It’s 45 minutes too long, doesn’t have a script, and the anti-corporate message is laughable at best.

  • http://fgfgg dsqadsa

    I’d like to share it with the hotties who also like sports I met at W E A L T H Y C H A T . C O M, where the successful and affluent singles and hot girls and models to hook up for Love, Romance, Flirt and Sexy Dating!

  • DarthCorleone

    What’s the saying? You can attract more flies with honey than vinegar?
    This reminds me of Michael Moore’s Oscar speech a few years back. It didn’t matter if he was right or wrong; his obnoxious, abrasive behavior onstage is what alienated the audience and did more harm than good for his message. Contrast that with Errol Morris’ speech a year later, and it’s easy to see how you can more effectively reach people if you want to sway them.
    So, yeah, I’m fine with the soft sell on WALL*E’s message, although I can’t help but be a little cynical about it about the studio’s attempt to have their cake and eat it too.

  • Richardson

    “I’m sure by the standards of CARTOONS they’re well done but isn’t there like ONE CRITIC who just doesn’t dig animation?”
    If you don’t dig on any animation, you should recuse yourself from reviewing them, because why would you bother?

  • Mgmax

    More proof that Ferngully: The Last Rainforest is the most influential animated film of all time.

  • Mgmax

    Stanton may be downplaying the anti-corporate message, but I hear the Happy Meals are really hardhitting.

  • D.Z.

    ‘Disney/Pixar’s WALL*E is a robot love story, yes, but also — as I reported a while back — a message movie about the lunacy of destroying our planet with fossil-fuel pollutants and whatnot, as well one that points the finger at the evil agents of this destruction. In an article up today, CHUD’s Devin Faraci, who’s seen the film, has described these bad apples as “corporations, out-of control branding, insidious advertising and rampant consumerism.”‘
    But Pixar’s sure to overlook its own corporate owners selling non-degradable single-use DVDs and i-Pods and i-Phones.
    “That ‘on message’ aspect is part of what makes Pixar a successful company. They understand that they’re building their own myth right now. They understand that having a narrative behind the scenes helps make everything more sellable.”
    Cars excluded, of course.
    Mgmax: “More proof that Ferngully: The Last Rainforest is the most influential animated film of all time.”
    Replace Ferngully with Nausicaa and Castle in the Sky, and I’ll agree.
    spud: “Pixar is definitely playing this one right. Think about how right wing radio decided that Happy Feet was some kind of pro-environment propaganda… though the movie did really well, for several weeks there was a constant drumbeat that “hollywood” was trying to “brainwash the kids”. This argument was certainly helped by the producers and director constantly pointing out the environmental aspect of their story…”
    Actually, I admire Miller and Warner for not kow-towing to the reality-challenged right wing, by trying to downplay any potential pro-environmental messages.

  • ZayTonday

    RE: LexG
    A lot of animated movies come out that get panned by critics, like Bee Movie for example. You can’t simply write off the artistic merit of a movie simply on the basis that it’s animated though (or as you put it: a CARTOON *oh noes a loaded word that discredits its quality and trivializes it even more*).
    As Tom Cruise would say, you’re glib.

  • ZayTonday

    Also, how can a movie like this where every frame is crafted in a very deliberate way NOT HAVE A SCRIPT?
    Can you say “non sequitur”?

  • Mcflyboy

    Re: Zay Tonday
    I think the “not having a script” comment means Pixar has already made a couple films about in-animate objects and those weren’t near-silent films (Can we go back and make CARS a silent film?). Wall-E could have talked…they decided he shouldn’t and that is either artistic license or laziness. Stanton apparently loves Buster Keaton and said he wanted the visuals and acting to have as much as info as possible to compensate. But as far as I’m concerned, any silent film made since The Jazz Singer is nothing but a cute homage to an era where technology wasn’t there yet. And as much as I love successful people taking a risk, Stanton made a film that’s way too cute for me.

  • http://www.antidisartsandent.blogspot.com K. Bowen

    My favorite moment in Cars is when they condemn the new super-straight superhighway that took the place of the old curvy, poorly-lit, two-lane highway that ran through the town. Ah, you know the old highway. THe one that kept getting tired travelers killed. Only to be replaced by the safe, well-lit one.

  • MPNeeb

    >>(a message all the participants at the press day were on point for except John Ratzenberger, who seemed to claim global warming didn’t exist).

  • Mgmax, le Corbeau

    I can’t believe people are basically suggesting that instead of visual comedy, what Wall-E really needed was the voice of Ray Romano or Dane Cook wisecracking all through it.

  • bluefugue

    [quote]I just don’t really care. Hard to believe there isn’t one real critic who just doesn’t acknowledge this stuff.[/quote]
    Thankfully, real critics tend not to dismiss whole subsets of the cinema out of hand.

  • bluefugue

    >But as far as I’m concerned, any silent film made since The Jazz Singer is nothing but a cute homage to an era where technology wasn’t there yet.
    It’s possible to tell stories well in cinema without dialogue. Rather than impose arbitrary restrictions on what a film can be based on a technological timeline, why not look at the thing in itself and see how well it accomplishes its ends?

  • tophertilson

    “But as far as I’m concerned, any silent film made since The Jazz Singer is nothing but a cute homage to an era where technology wasn’t there yet.”
    Does that include the first chunk of THERE WILL BE BLOOD?

  • bb

    I lived in Ukraine for a couple of years and by necessity watched a lot of movies in Russian, my grasp of which was limited.
    A lot of movies were improved upon by not having to listen to the dialogue.

  • tjfar67

    “I lived in Ukraine for a couple of years and by necessity watched a lot of movies in Russian, my grasp of which was limited. ..A lot of movies were improved upon by not having to listen to the dialogue.”
    In Russia, the movies listen to you!!

  • http://www.chud.com Devin Faraci

    I’d argue that HAPPY FEET was not hurt by the ‘controversy.’

  • SaveFarris

    McFlyboy thinks Wilson should have talked more in CastAway.

  • Mgmax

    I can’t believe people are basically suggesting that instead of visual comedy, what Wall-E really needed was the voice of Ray Romano or Dane Cook wisecracking all through it.

  • Redmond

    While Happy Feet wasn’t hurt theatrically, the Christian Right went bananas over this movie because of a supposed homosexual theme. Why didn’t he have a heart song and have a female mate? OH MY GOD, he’s gay! ATTACK!
    PIXAR is playing it close to the vest on this one, but up until I heard it was a silent movie with an eco tint I had absolutely no interest in this movie. I figured it was PIXAR making a cute robot movie to pacify Disney. Looking forward to watching it on Blu-ray. (Sorry, not about to expose myself to right wing hens clucking in the theater “Why aren’t they talking? Ecological undertones?! THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU! RUN CHILDREN! TO THE SUV!”)

  • Edward

    tjfar, the Ukraine is not Russia. I visited the Soviet Union in 1976 and when in the Ukraine was told by a local that in Moscow they live Communism first, in the Ukraine they live life first. At the time, the differences between Moscow and Kieve were remarkable.

  • http://www.chud.com Devin Faraci

    This isn’t a silent movie, by the way. It’s got a first act without talking, but there’s plenty of chatting when Wall-E gets to the big spaceship and the whole movie starts deflating.

  • Overstreet

    Andrew Stanton speaks:
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/movies/interviews/andrewstanton.html
    By the way, I saw the film last night, and I find the rising wave of bickering over the film’s politics and the “Stay the course” line to be dismaying. Before the nit-picking begins, can we at least stand back and admit that this is an awe-inspiring work of visual imagination, with some of the most breathtaking sequences of the last few decades, not to mention some remarkably delicate character development? This is a huge, gutsy step forward for Pixar, in my opinion, and I’m glad that (whatever Disney’s marketing machine does with it) we have a storyteller willing to write a children’s story that raises such urgent questions about reckless consumption, apathy, and waste. And he does it without losing track of the fact that it’s his job to tell a story, and tell it well, without reducing his story to a sermon. I rarely get such exhilaration at the movies, and I hope others can share that experience before the griping tarnishes this event.
    But that’s just me.

  • Redmond

    Overstreet, thanks for posting that interview. Interesting read and always love to see Christianity Today’s “take” on things.

  • breadlymoore

    “can we at least stand back and admit that this is an awe-inspiring work of visual imagination, with some of the most breathtaking sequences of the last few decades, not to mention some remarkably delicate character development?”
    Nope. Not a chance.
    WALL-E is worse than CARS.

  • http://lookingcloser.wordpress.com Overstreet

    LOL

  • Richardson

    “But as far as I’m concerned, any silent film made since The Jazz Singer is nothing but a cute homage to an era where technology wasn’t there yet.”
    You’re saying “silent film”, but it’s not silent. It’s just that the main character has more dialogue. I have read several things comparing this to Jacques Tati, who often made movies with little dialogue, and whose main character is for all intents and purposes a silent film character like that of Chaplin or Keaton. And if you think that “Playtime” is just a cute homage to an era where technology wasn’t there yet… well, I would have no idea how to respond to such a comment.
    A good screenwriter should use dialogue only as a last resort; the problem is, we’ve been so conditioned to dialogue as cinematic storytelling. It can be, certainly, but it should never be considered the best way.

  • Richardson

    and by “more dialogue”, I obviously meant “no dialogue”.
    Odd slip.
    Obviously, what the movie needs is voice over, so we can get into Wall-E’s head.

  • bb

    Ukraine and Russia are very different…to Ukrainians and Russians. Very similar to outsiders.

  • Richardson

    In America, planes fly over people’s heads. In Russia, references to Yakov Smirnoff fly over people’s heads.

  • PerfectTommy

    I’m with Mcflyboy. Who does Stanton think he is? They call the films ‘talkies’ these days for a reason. You know what else I hate? When films don’t have color. We have the technology and it must always be used. “Raging Bull”, “Control”, “Schindler’s List”, they should all be colorized.
    Maybe we could add some dialouge to Keaton and Chaplin’s films, too.

  • http://www.savetubevideo.com youtube converter mp4

    Thanks for your patience and sorry for the inconvenience!
    Best regards, Mary, CEO of mp3 from youtube and install windows 7 on iscsi

  • kerry

    Si vous etes interesses par le dossier, ou desirez en savoir plus, contactez-moi par mail, et je vous mettrai en contact.
    Best regards,Jane, CEO of what is storage area network

  • kerry

    Thanks for your patience and sorry for the inconvenience Best regards,Jane, CEO of storage area networks solution

  • kerry

    Thanks for your patience and sorry for the inconvenience Best regards,Jane, CEO of storage area network solution