“We wanted the audience to believe they were witnessing a machine that has come to life. The more they believe it’s a machine, the more appealing the story becomes.”
~ Andrew Stanton, Director/Co-Writer
The image of a lonely little robot – the last one on the planet – methodically going about his job picking up trash intrigued director/co-writer Andrew Stanton from the first time it came up over lunch with his colleagues back in 1994. It would be many years before he would find a unique story that could use this character to its full potential.
Stanton explains, “I became fascinated with the loneliness that this situation evoked and the immediate empathy that you had for this character. We spend most of our time on films trying to make our main characters likeable so that you want to follow them and root for them. I started thinking, ‘Well, where do I go with a character like this?’ And it didn’t take long to realize that the opposite of loneliness is love or being with somebody. I was immediately hooked and seduced by the idea of a machine falling in love with another machine. And especially with the backdrop of a universe that has lost the understanding of the point of living. To me, that seemed so poetic. I loved the idea of humanity getting a second chance because of this one little guy who falls in love. I’m a hopeless romantic in cynic’s clothing. This movie gave me a chance to indulge in that romantic side a little more than I normally would in public.”
Jim Reardon -- a veteran director and story supervisor on “The Simpsons,” who directed 35 episodes of the show and supervised story on nearly 150 episodes -- came on board to be head of story for “WALL•E.” He ended up co-writing the screenplay for the film along with Stanton.
According to Reardon, “We started with the idea of making ‘WALL•E’ a comedy, but about a third of the way through, we realized that the film is a love story, too. WALL•E is an innocent and child-like little character who unintentionally ends up having a huge impact on the world. The story arc of the film is really about EVE. Her character undergoes the biggest change, and the film is as much about her as it is about him. She’s very sleek, techno-sexy, and very futuristic looking. He’s totally designed just to do his job, and is rusty, dirty and ugly. But we always thought that would make a great romantic adventure.”
Producer Jim Morris sums it up. “This film is a mix of genres. It’s a love story, it’s a science fiction film, it’s a comedy, it’s a romantic comedy.”
One of the great turning points for Stanton in creating the story for “WALL•E” was stumbling upon the idea of using the musical imagery and songs from the 1969 movie version of “Hello Dolly” to help him define WALL•E’s personality. In fact, it is WALL•E’s repeated viewings of an old videotape of that film (the only one in his collection) that have led to the glitch of his romantic feelings.
Stanton explains, “I had been searching for the right musical elements to go with the film, and stumbling upon ‘Hello Dolly’ was the best thing that could have ever happened. The song ‘Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” with it’s ‘Out There’ prologue, seemed to play so well with the themes of the film, and yet would normally not be the kind of music you’d expect to find in a film like ours. It’s a very naïve song really, and it’s sung in ‘Hello Dolly’ by two guys who don’t know anything about life. They want to go to the big city and they ‘won’t come home until we’ve kissed a girl.’ There’s such simple joy to it and it really worked for us. When I found ‘It Only Takes a Moment,’ it was like a godsend. That song became a huge tool for me to show WALL•E’s interest in what love is.”
It only takes a moment
For your eyes to meet and then
Your heart knows in a moment
You will never be alone again
I held her for an instant
But my arms felt sure and strong
It only takes a moment
To be loved a whole life long...
~ Excerpt: “It Only Takes A Moment,” Hello Dolly
Says producer Morris, “Holding hands is the thing that WALL•E’s wanted to do the entire movie cause it’s what he’s learned from watching ‘Hello Dolly,’ it’s the way you show affection in that movie.”
Adds Stanton, “And I realized ‘that’s right.’ That musical moment in the film showed these two people holding hands and I knew it was meant to be,” he says. “I’ve always felt, almost with a zealous passion, that animation can tell as many stories in different ways as any other medium, and it’s rarely been pushed outside of its comfort zone,” concludes Stanton. “I was so proud to have had something to do with the origin and creation of ‘Toy Story,’ because I felt that the tone of the movie, and the manner of its storytelling broke a lot of conventions that were in people’s minds. And I still feel like you can keep pushing those boundaries. Even before I knew this film was going to be called ‘WALL•E,’ I knew it was yet another step in pushing those boundaries out farther. I’m so proud that I got a chance to make it and that it matched my expectations.”