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July 3, 2008

Wall-E World

Posted: 04:48 PM ET

A little more than a century from now, our planet will be so polluted as to be virtually uninhabitable. That’s the cheery premise behind Disney/Pixar’s charming “Wall-E,” the most popular movie in the country last week.

AP Photo

The film takes place in the 2800s, when Wall-E, a cute little trash-compacting robot, is the last life of any kind remaining on Earth (aside from his indestructible pet cockroach). Long since abandoned, Wall-E goes about his solitary and meaningless work in a bleak urban landscape marred by dirty skies, sludgy seas and towering piles of consumer waste from Buy N’ Large, the free market’s last surviving megastore.

From “I Am Legend” to Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” recent pop culture has been full of post-apocalyptic stories. But “Wall-E” departs from those tales in one key aspect: The human race in this movie isn’t becoming extinct, it’s just on an indefinite vacation. In the future created by “Wall-E’s” filmmakers, we humans flee our ruined planet in 2110 for giant, cruise-ship-like space vessels, where we drift numbly through the solar system for the next 700 years. Coddled by servant robots, carted around on levitating recliner chairs, fed through Big Gulp-like cups and medicated by programming on ever-present hologram TVs, we have become infantile and morbidly fat.

In this way, “Wall-E” takes 21st-century societal trends – ecological destruction, rampant consumerism, corporate consolidation and obesity – and projects them forward to their most drastic consequences. Right-wing bloggers already have attacked what they see as the movie’s save-the-Earth message, although they might be heartened to see that in “Wall-E’s” vision of the future, government doesn’t seem to exist (the spacecraft are operated by Buy N’ Large).

Like many futuristic stories, “Wall-E” takes a cautionary view of technology. Its chief antagonist is a spaceship’s autopilot function (a nod to HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey”), and the movie’s ending celebrates the benefits of. . .simple farming. Wall-E himself is a mostly low-tech creation, more mechanical than digital, although he displays remarkable feelings of curiosity, fear and love.

One final thought: Considering that Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs also ran Pixar, it’s no surprise that the solar-powered Wall-E reboots to the swelling sound of the Mac startup tone. But Pixar does have a sense of humor - the evil autopilot computer is voiced by Apple’s speech-recognition software.

–Brandon Griggs, Tech Section Producer,

Filed under: environment • Movies

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A. Hubbard   July 3rd, 2008 7:17 pm ET

"A little more than a century from now"? Ahhh....doesn't a century mean 100 years? Watch me now...check my math....2008+100 years (a century) = 2108. If the film takes place in 2800, then maybe you meant "a little less than a millennium from now". Haven't seen the movie yet, so maybe I'm wrong.

A. Hubbard   July 3rd, 2008 7:21 pm ET

Perhaps I was wrong in my previous comment since it appears that the population left earth in 2110 and the movie takes place around 700 years later per your review. My apologies!

Franko   July 3rd, 2008 7:24 pm ET

We should have listened to Al Gore ?

TK   July 3rd, 2008 7:57 pm ET

"Right-wing bloggers" complaining about the ecological message in "Wall-E"? Amazing – who'd a thunk? I just saw this flick and enjoyed it thoroughly. I also noted the trends talked about in the article – pollution, consumerism, run-away corporate behavior, and lousy American fitness. Sadly, you can identify those trends in daiiy life right now in 2008. Of course, it's "bad for business" to worry about these sorts of things – private enterprise will solve everything the movie depicts. The same private enterprise that can't see beyond the next quarter and contributed to those same trends the movie highlights? That can't be right . . .

Larian LeQuella   July 3rd, 2008 11:55 pm ET

Well done Pixar. Although, you probably lost most of the Ritalin folks in the first 20 minutes, I found it to be a great movie on so many levels.

Oh, and the short at the start... BRILLIANT!

bryan in Illinois   July 4th, 2008 12:17 am ET

Speaking as someone who has had to google the method for turning off the speech software after my three y/o turned it on, I think the Apple speech software is an excellent choice for the evil side. Ugh, how annoying, although I can recognize its usefulness, I wish it wasn't so easy for my toddlers to turn on...

Lu-We   July 4th, 2008 1:41 am ET

Saw the movie, thought it was great. I just notice that the year 2800 flip the 8 and you get 2008. I wonder if they did that on purpose, but any who, great story.

Curt Turner   July 4th, 2008 5:59 am ET

Voice powered by speech-recognition software? Don't you mean speech-synthesis software? (recognition goes from speech->text, not text->speech)

Sam   July 4th, 2008 7:13 am ET

2800's would be 800 years in the future, not 100.

Chris C.   July 4th, 2008 10:09 am ET

WALL-E is a love story, and a great one at that. The movie has great humor and I rate it one of the best ever created by Pixar. Of course we notice the undertones of the movie but I hardly focused on them for more than a moment before I was recaptured by the story line. Either way these are important issues of our future on Earth. Is it likely anything remotely like this will ever happen? Of course not, but WALL-E presents them in a way that children can understand, and as a result ask questions. An informed child becomes an informed adult, what better than that to ensure the future of humanity.

Aren't you at least happy that global warming didn't come up?

Denim   July 4th, 2008 1:35 pm ET

Sam: re-read it and maybe you'll understand the math this time.

Anyway, in the movie, the government didn't cease to exist; it was taken over by Buy'N'Large. Pay attention, Mr. Griggs! 🙂

Paula   July 4th, 2008 4:06 pm ET

Loved the movie and loved your thoughtful article about it. Well done.

Kevin   July 4th, 2008 5:50 pm ET

Great movie. Anyone who thinks this movie in a leftist propaganda? You have just identified yourself as a problem. Seriously, if you found the anti-rampant consumerism/ destroyed the environment and now they need to fix it/ living as opposed to existing message "wrong", you need to step down if you have any control over the wellbeing of any life or finances, and get some psychological help.

Franko   July 4th, 2008 6:32 pm ET

"Aren’t you at least happy that global warming didn’t come up?"

Just wait, until they sleep on it.
This will be touted, by the Deniers, as proof, that CO2 is not hot and evil gas.

o3man   July 4th, 2008 7:55 pm ET

I never could understand how the lovely "eve" could be attracted to an ugly old rust bucket and his roach sidekick living in a garbage dump. My guess is that "eve" is a heavy drinker and had beer goggles on when she met her lover.

Also "eve" is unstable. She fires her laser at anything that moves and almost kills WALL-E & ROACH-E.

Kelly   July 4th, 2008 9:53 pm ET

The title of this review happens to be the name that my family and I (and others!) use for one of the current mega retailers: Wal-Mart! Coincidence?!?!?

Great review.

Rob   July 5th, 2008 12:10 am ET

i thought the evil auto pilot was sigourney weaver?

Jerry   July 5th, 2008 6:56 am ET

>>>>Right-wing bloggers already have attacked what they see as the movie’s save-the-Earth message, although they might be heartened to see that in “Wall-E’s” vision of the future, government doesn’t seem to exist (the spacecraft are operated by Buy N’ Large).<<<<

Holy crap! A future ran by Wal-Mart (or it's equivelent)? Someone just put the gun to my head and pull the trigger NOW!!!

Loved the animation, best since "Monster Inc." However, the movie story line was just a bunch of tree-huggin'-hippie crap, neatly packaged into what was supposed to be a childrens movie. Can't read a magazine, can't watch TV, can't even escape into good movie anymore without someone with an environmental agenda tryin' to sell me a line! It's worse than Televangelism!

Fred W.   July 5th, 2008 10:40 am ET

Great movie, yes a message about human sloth and all. If you take the message this movie gives personal, it's your conscious talking. But this movie also states there's always hope for us and the existence of any form. Like the good doctor once said, " He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man".

Badgersouth   July 5th, 2008 11:50 am ET

I'm old enough to remember how the tobacco industry fought tooth and nail against the medical and scientific community over the causal effect between cigarette smoking and cancer. It's no secret that Big Oil, Big Coal, right wing-nuts like Rush Limbaugh, Libertarians, and others have used the tobacco industry's tactics to cast doubt on the validity of what the scientific community has concluded about the causal effect between climate change and the release of greenhouse gases by mankind. Many Americans died because of Big Tobacco's greed and selfishness. This time around, the stakes are exponentially higher. For the sake of our children and future generations, we need to take action now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to mitigate against the climate change consequences that have already been set in motion.

Jeff   July 5th, 2008 3:55 pm ET

Wall-E is all about a simple love story. Everything about global warming, capitalism, and shear laziness was purposely blown way out of proportion so that we can relate to it and poke fun at ourselves.

To those folks that think this a "left-wing conspiracy", please remember that this is just a movie.

To those folks that enjoy a great love story with a tongue-in-cheek look at our society, please sit back and enjoy! Bring a date. You'll laugh/giggle a lot and maybe cry a little.

There's a good chance that most that read this blog are feeling the economic pressure of the times. I guarantee at the end of this film that you will have a grin/smile on your face, and the world could use a few more of those.

Cindy   July 5th, 2008 7:40 pm ET

The children in the audience when I saw the film made interesting comments. One turned to his mom and asked how the planet got like that. Another child asked how could people let that happen. Hmmm. But even more interesting was the comment a work colleague of mine said. He laughed and said he was confused by the movie at first because he thought the first part of the movie took place on Mars. Hmmm – again.

Franko   July 5th, 2008 8:51 pm ET

Greyhound Dogs, racing to catch the fake rabbit. Good conversation piece.

"tobacco industry fought tooth and nail" – See "Thank You for Smoking"

"reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to mitigate against the climate change"
"Harsh Winters Force Mongolian Horsemen to Abandon Nomadic Life"
Stop pruducing those gasses! they are freezing the descendants of Ghengis
Soon, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse will be driving Taxi in New York.

Amanda   July 5th, 2008 10:38 pm ET

I enjoyed your review on Wall-E. =)
I think that it's good that Pixar is throwing a little "green" into their movies. Maybe it will influence children to grow up caring about the sustainability of our planet. And that's never a bad thing. =)

Outraged N'Austin   July 6th, 2008 1:55 am ET

We have this little thing called spoilers where we warn people before absolutely spoiling a movie.

Worst movie blog ever.

Edward   July 6th, 2008 10:09 am ET

"although they might be heartened to see that in “Wall-E’s” vision of the future, government doesn’t seem to exist (the spacecraft are operated by Buy N’ Large)."

No, in fact government in that movie consists of a corporation controlling every aspect of life. The consolidation of Government and Corporation is fascism.

When the state regulates the economy, corporations cooperate to maximize their gain and lower their loss from regulation. You then go from social democracy (or "Liberalism" in north american speak) to fascism.

The american right is "Liberal" in the european sense: against economic control and regulation by the state. The right is NOT heartened by what they see in this movie, as it is an extrapolation of centre-left policies. The right wants to remove from legislators the power to grant preferential treatment to corporations that cooperate by removing their power to interfere all-together.

To understand the difference between fascism/corporatism and wanting limited government will go a long way in your understanding of the issues.

C. Miller   July 6th, 2008 12:44 pm ET

I can deal with the preaching of "save the earth" and all that junk. It's become the norm.

What I wish Pixar would do is to admit that they used Johnny 5 from Short Circuit as inspiration for Wall-E. Forget the propaganda argument (it's everywhere nowadays).

Give credit where credit is due. Wall-E is not an original robot. He is just Johnny 5's mentally challenged little brother.

M. Foster   July 6th, 2008 1:24 pm ET

Well, fogive me.... I took my two grandaughters (aged 7 and 11) to see Wall-E and thought it was the MOST BORING MOVIE EVER!!! A stupid machine, mountains of trash and a cockroach! By the way, they agreed!

Jason   July 6th, 2008 4:19 pm ET

Can anyone just watch a movie without trying to make a political statement out of it? It is a love story and it was brilliant. The animation was great the story telling was wonderful and the charicters were phenominal. This discussion is the same as saying finding nemo was about ocean preservation or toy story 2 was about globalisim in the antique market. Face it people how else would you get a cockroach a trash compactor and an ipod into the same story. It was a fun movie and if your trying to find left or right wing conspiracies in a cartoon family movie your missing the fun and your probably not fun to be around.

Tiz   July 6th, 2008 4:30 pm ET

Umm...that's Apple's Speech Synthesis software, not speech-recognition software. Other way around, Brandon.

Gary D.   July 6th, 2008 11:51 pm ET

For those who can't grasp the 100 years thing, please just sit back in your levitating chairs, have a big gulp, and enjoy the movie!

Here's an explanation...

"A little more than a century from now, our planet will be so polluted as to be virtually uninhabitable. "...That's the year 2110...when humans flee the planet's pollution.

"...we humans flee our ruined planet in 2110 for giant, cruise-ship-like space vessels, where we drift numbly through the solar system for the next 700 years."....that's approximately the 2800's.

sarah   July 7th, 2008 12:47 am ET

In response to M. Foster's mentally-challenged daughters. The movie was not about them. They seem to be the only two and including yourself, in the whole planet Earth (6 billion people) who dislike the movie's deep meaning, besides their genetic obesity they will inherit later in life.

Matt   July 7th, 2008 1:48 am ET

I hate to break it to everyone, but there are just as many out of shape lazy left-wingers out there as right-wingers. There are also the same amount of both shopping at WalMart, overconsuming, driving barges to work and school, etc.

The concept of humanity being destoyed or exiled due to irresponsibility is hardly a new one in film. This theme goes way back. The 1970's especially had a number of notable films with a similar tone.

Can't wait to see WALL-E, though, looks like a fun movie with great animation. I am getting a little tired of having a lesson shoved down my throat at every cinematic opportunity, but this one looks good enough to live with it and go anyway.

Franko   July 7th, 2008 2:32 am ET

"He is just Johnny 5’s mentally challenged little brother."
Caterpillar, the bulldozer manufacturer, uses similar track design.
Caterpillar advertising mascot robot ?

Steve Gibson, the security specialist, was impressed by the robotic emotions.
My mind drifted off, dull colors on Garbage Mountain Earth.
Better was Bee Movie and Nemo. But, this has a cult message for everyone.
There is fun and fulfillment in garbage places, even roaches can be your best friend. Great place to explore is the garbage dump, better than any artificial playground ! Polar bears died out, due to lack of O2 ? but we have a bean sprout, that the CO2 taxes did not starve and kill off. We can destroy the planet, we cannot destroy the planet. .. ...

Please, in the sequel, Sex and Violence, hire the writer of Futorama, or Homer !

Adam B.   July 7th, 2008 5:42 am ET

So just out of curiousity, instead of a children's movie that trys to teach a message of save the planet and keep yourself in shape, you'd rather see a movie that tells your kids kill everything that moves, have no reservations on your actions, and become the fattest disgusting blob you can? Well, your in luck. Between Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, fat is in folks! As for being self destructive blobs of flesh, well, you wonderful parents are doing a great job of teaching that one.

Honestly folks, saving the planet is a bad thing to talk about?

As for the movie, its a love story built inside a world of characiture. Will things ever get as bad as what they are in Wall-E? God willing, no. But the extremes are fun to hypothisize, and serve as a perfect background to a story about robots who save the world. Focusing on the background images only leaves you out of the best animated movie in the computer age. And anyone who says it isnt the best, you've lost your imagination and should probably stop watching movies.

One final note: Wall-E starts up to a Windows theme (couldn't quite tell if it was 95 or 98), and EVE starts up to an Apple tone. You know, cause I wouldn't want you to get anything wrong lol.

Chris   July 7th, 2008 8:49 am ET

Since when did the concept of "don't waste anything" become a "liberal" concept? That was the attitude of my grandparents, one of the attitudes that won us WW II. They had gardens. They never tossed anything out that could be re-used. They collected bottles & cans for recycling. Our founding fathers thrived in such attitudes; everything was re-used, nothing was wasted. Since when is that "liberal"?

Since when did the concepts of personal effort & sacrifice & hard work become "liberal" concepts? The humans of WALL-E's world have lost those concepts; the movie shows them regaining them.

Science Fiction is the extrapolation of the future by focusing on current science or trends. WALL-E falls well within traditional SF that's been around since the Twenties - hardly "liberal".

Dear God. The so-called conservatives are shocked because it's getting pointed out to them that a certain lifestyle is not healthy to them, the planet or our long-term future. Time to get your heads out of the ground, and return to what your grandparents called "common sense".

Though I agree with most of the other posters here - WALL-E's a romance, pure & simple. If you're getting upset over other possible messages in the film, then you're likely one of the offenders. To paraphrase another great film, "I must've hit close to the mark to get 'em hoppin' like this, huh, kid?"

Kat   July 7th, 2008 10:47 am ET

In the movie the humans leave in 2100 due to all the trash leaving wall-e to clean it up. The movie then rejoins them 700 years later in 2800.

The Marquee Blog: Watch Showbiz Tonight on Headline News Blog Archive - ‘Wall-E’ and the children « - Blogs from   July 7th, 2008 1:19 pm ET

[...] Yes, there’s a wonderful love story, some Chaplinesque slapstick and an upbeat ending. But still, even putting aside Rich’s political points - that’s a topic for the CNN Ticker - much of “Wall-E” is sobering stuff for an adult, never mind a child. ( Tech Producer Brandon Griggs has a similar take.) [...]

Wally   July 7th, 2008 4:03 pm ET

This is just a "fiction" movie! Global warming is fiction let's not try to draw parallels.

Vinman   July 7th, 2008 4:19 pm ET

I knew the world would eventually get you to blog, Brandon!

Resistance is futile!

Join us. JOIN US!! Boooo ha ha ha ha!!!

Saggia   July 7th, 2008 4:41 pm ET

I want to see this movie, but frankly, Wall-E looks so sad that I just know I'll end up sobbing like a fool sometime during the film (I'm an unrepentant sentimentalist). Someone tell I right? Is this a BYOT (Bring Your Own Tissues) film for sappy sentimental romantics like myself? Or is is safe to see this in public and not wait until it comes out on DVD where I can blubber in the comfort of my own home?

Garebear   July 7th, 2008 7:53 pm ET

Yep, def a BYOT movie, but totaly worth it. Loved every second if it. Instant classic movie, probably getting several Oscars.

Mike in Maine   July 7th, 2008 10:04 pm ET

A Hubbard...need to work on your reading comprehension. You've got your simple math down though.

"...we humans flee our ruined planet in 2110 for giant, cruise-ship-like space vessels, where we drift numbly through the solar system for the next 700 years."

2110 + 700 = 2810

Franko   July 8th, 2008 1:01 am ET


Boys do not like tear jerking movie scenes, no attention grabbing distraction to salvage the scene for them. Girls cannot relate to robots with emotions.

A cult film, which will spawn better. Hopefully comical.

pop   July 8th, 2008 10:42 am ET

Sorry to buck the trend... thought it wasn't as good as, monsters inc.,, cars, any of the shrek movies, antz...etc.

i was OK. Not too funny overall but a couple of chuckles. Seemed rushed from the middle on but dragged it out for the rest of the movie. In other words, not much to say after the first half.

Shallow story. Wasteful humans leave earth to drift space as wasteful humans. Never learned a lesson. Still wasteful as evidenced by the huge Wall-E (Wall-Rs?) types on the ship jettisoning refuse to space.

The humans should have stayed in space a few more centuries until they learned something. The movie should have stayed in the production house until they learned some more jokes and found a better ending.

Franko   July 9th, 2008 7:34 am ET

Some movies are for kids growing up.
This is for adults growing down.

Stupidly Silly.

Lya   July 9th, 2008 11:04 am ET

Why are some of you so negative? Yes, this movie has a save the earth message in it (obviously) but it's just a children's movie. Seriously, in the end it's just a love story between robots set in the future and the main character is a lot like the Ugly Duckling. Oh, and of course good wins over evil and every one lives happily ever after.

W. Heyniger   July 9th, 2008 11:08 am ET

I don't know who this new "Brandon Griggs" fellow is, but I think he's destined for great things. Fine post. Welcome to the team, BG!

Claire Diane M. Tabanas   September 20th, 2008 9:28 am ET

I'm not willing to agree to all your comments. Wall-E is a good movie and it helps people in realizing their mistake in throwing their garbage.

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