WALL·E [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Andy James & Noor Razzak (30th December 2008).
The Film

So we come to Pixar’s latest masterpiece of animation and storytelling, "WALL·E" The film focuses on its titular character, a clean-up robot alone on Earth, as he finds a new friend and his quest to be reunited with her. WALL·E (Ben Burtt), you see, is the lone surviving robot of the many other WALL·E's left behind to clean up mankind’s mess of the planet, as we’ve taken off in a spaceship whilst this big clean-up goes on. Some 500 years have passed since mankind’s desertion and WALL·E is understandably lonely.

When first hearing about "WALL·E" you have to admit it’s a risky move on Pixar’s part – the first half of the story is set on a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with a main character that barely speaks a word and watches "Hello, Dolly!" (1969) in his spare time. And this is a kid’s film. What carries this, of course, is the little guy himself – Pixar are amazingly deft at quickly and easily drawing real characters, and it’s hard not to feel for WALL·E, as he trolley’s around packing trash and collecting those things he finds interesting. WALL·E is a little run-down hero trundling away steadily and seems to have more personality than his wee robotic body can hold.
All this changes, of course, with the arrival of EVE (Elissa Knight); a graceful iPod-like survey robot from the human ship. Like WALL·E (and for the sake of the film) she too has more personality than one would ascribe to a robot. She swoops and swirls around the wasteland. WALL·E is infatuated. However, after showing EVE a living plant she shuts down and signals the mothership. Another bold move from Pixar as a large portion of the relationship development is left up to WALL·E as EVE hibernates. He doesn’t let up and he doesn’t give up.

The majority of the criticism aimed at "WALL·E" seems to concern the introduction of the humans. And whilst I can agree with some of this – the second half set on The Axiom is much more traditional in terms of story beats, overcoming obstacles, antagonists etc, I have to disagree with the criticism. For one thing, where else would the story have gone? The human race is gone and the robots are all that is left? That’s too dark, even for this year of dark films. It is on The Axiom where we have some of the most wonderful pieces of the film: the dance through space, EVE realizing just how special WALL·E is and quite unintentionally causing chaos in his wake and awakening humans and robots alike (and there’s something more to be said about that – chaos causing growth out of order). The Axiom is consumerism and conformity run amok and WALL·E is an unintentional revolutionary – he just wants to find his friend EVE but he cannot help changing all their lives.

It seems almost pointless to mention the animation – it’s a marvel and breathtakingly perfect, as you would expect from Pixar. It is, however, worth mentioning the interesting step of incorporating live actors in some of the sequences. It does set up an interesting juxtaposition with how the human race ends up, but I am unsure if it really works. The environmental message is there, but it’s never really beaten in to us. Yes, the trash piles are miles high and this is all quite an Apocalypse of our own greedy, lazy making but the focus is really WALL·E and EVE. Yes, you can consider it an “environmental message film” but there’s enough character and adventure to take it past being some sort of polemic. And hey it’s, y’know, for kids.

I will confess to being a sci-fi geek with a fondness for robots and animation, so I had a soft spot for "WALL·E" before I even saw it. But what really takes this up to the status of a classic, along with "Toy Story" (1995) and "The Incredibles" (2004), is the characterization. Even if you’re not someone who doesn’t usually go for robots you’ll find it hard not falling for the charms of this little rundown clean-up ‘bot.

Video

Buena Vista has released this film on Blu-ray in its original theatrical ratio of 2.39:1 in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been mastered with AVC MPEG-4 compression codec. The film is digitally produced and this transfer has been struck using the original digital elements. As a result the image is phenomenally sharp, detailed and there's not a single flaw that I could find. No dirt, no compression related issues, no blemishes, no edge-enhancement. Lets start with sharpness, there are moments where the image appears soft, however these moments are aesthetic as they are like that to show the desolation and 'dirtiness' of Earth. The Earth scenes seem covered in a haze, which amplifies the dust and grit of the environment. The Axiom scenes are where the sharpness of this image truly shines; throughout this entire transfer there were no jagged lines, pixels. Detail is also just as solid; the dirt on our hero is a prime example of how good the textures of this film are. There are fine details all over this transfer ranging from the dirty and grimy to the clean and shiny. Depth looks good, as the animated environments seem like they can go on forever. Colors look good, blacks are deep and overall this is about as reference quality as transfers get.

Audio

There's a single audio track presented in English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 6.1 Surround mixed at 48kHz/24-bit. Usually Disney had included uncompressed PCM tracks on their releases but in this case they have opted for a DTS-HD audio track, which certainly does the trick. This film heavily relies on sound, the first half of the film is virtually dialogue-free and viewers are drawn in with the various sound effects and musical cues that immerse the viewer. Veteran sound designer Ben Burtt is in charge of cresting the aural world and does an incredible job of it. The various sounds are mixed in a complex yet natural manner that never feels out of place, the human elements work well as dialogue is clear and distortion free, ambient sounds are well placed, there are few aggressive moments but they feel deep and impacting. The sound mix has an incredible sense of depth and range.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

Buena Vista has released this film with an incredible array of extras that includes an audio commentary with optional picture-in-picture video, a trivia track, short films, storyboards, interactive games, deleted scenes, a multitude of featurettes, a documentary, galleries, theatrical trailers, BD-Live features, bonus trailers and a digital copy of the film. Below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

First up is the “Cine-Explore” audio commentary by the film's director Andrew Stanton, this feature can be viewed in two ways, a standard audio track or with optional picture-in-picture video. The PiP option requires a profile 1.1 or greater player. In the track the director comments on the development of the film, on how it was one of the original films outlined after the first "Toy Story" film was completed (1995). He talks about story concepts, plot lines and characters among other things. It's a fascinating track that details the creative and production process as he takes us through the details of making a Pixar movie. He talks about the changes the story went through, the animation process and the voice cast as well. It's well worth checking out even if you've seen the film many times before.

“Geek Track: Trash Talk & Trivia” is next and is a visual commentary by character team supervisor Bill Wise, co-producer Lindsay Collins, story artist Derek Thompson and lead animator and story consultant Angus McClain. This feature also requires a profile 1.1 or greater player. This feature is very cool, basically in the same vein as "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (1988-1999) where the participants commenting on the film are seen as silhouettes in the movie theater pointing out various aspects of the film. They cover a range of topics regarding their roles on the film; they talk about the various references seen in the film (of which there are many) among other things. The tone is very light and you get a sense that these guys had a lot of fun not only making the film but also talking about it together, It's another really cool feature on this disc.

“Presto” is the animated short film directed by Doug Sweetland that played before the film when originally screened theatrically. The short film runs for 5 minutes 14 seconds. The latest in Pixar's line of funny shorts, this time about a magician and his uncooperative rabbit.

“BURN·E” follows next and are additional animated short film which runs for 7 minutes 19 seconds and follows the exploits of the maintenance robot BURN·E during the events of the film, this is another hilarious film and can also be viewed with optional picture-in-picture storyboards that displays the rough animation that was created to plot out the sequence, you can compare them to the final version as you watch the short.

This first disc also includes a "Maximize Your Home Theater"feature found in the set-up menu of the disc, this allows you to properly set up your home theater for optimal video and audio presentation.

You can also connect via the Ethernet port of your player to the various BD-Live features through the Disney port, this feature is only accessible with profile 2.0 players. Here you can access "Movie Chat" and talk to others while watching the film, play the "Movie Challenge" game, access "Movie Mail" and visit the "Disney Movie Rewards" shop among other things. This feature goes unreviewed at this time.

The disc is rounded off with some bonus trailers for:

- "Disney" spot which runs for 52 seconds.
- “Up” which runs for 1 minute 6 seconds.
- “Disney Blu-ray” spot which runs for 55 seconds.
- “Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition” which runs for 1 minute 27 seconds.
- "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" which runs for 38 seconds.
- "Disney Movie Rewards" spot which runs for 19 seconds.
- “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure” which runs for 1 minute.
- "Earth" which runs for 2 minutes 5 seconds.
- "Disney Parks" spot which runs for 31 seconds.

DISC TWO:

This disc is split into two sections; "Robots" and "Humans" below is a closer examinations of the extras on this supplements disc.

The first section is "Robots" here you will find the following:

“WALL·E's Treasures & Trinkets” short films runs for 4 minutes 56 seconds, our lovable robot hero and his girl EVE are seen in these segments that have WALL·E' play with balls, a hula hoop, a magnet and basically playing around in his own curious way among other things. These clips are all presented in a reel and were used as promotional shorts.

"Lost of Dots" interactive storybook is next, this feature includes some games that make up a storybook adventure which is narrated by John Ratzenberger and Kathy Najimy. You can learn about the various robots and what they do. The Storybook runs for 3 minutes 7 seconds, you can also "Play Along" where you can explore, create and learn about the robots in a series of puzzles. If you build a robot you can continue onwards in the story. It's a very cool feature for kids but will likely bore adults after a few minutes.

Next up are “Axiom Arcade” which features a series of interactive games, you can use you remote to play the games and they are pretty fun but just like the previous interactive extra they get tiring pretty quickly as the games themselves are fairly simple, the games included are:

- "EVE's Bot Blaster" this is a target game where you gain points by destroying as many GO-4 bots as they approach closer, it's like an old 8-bit game structure.
- "WALL·E's Dodge & Dock" you have to collect the plants in the shoe and dock on the ship before the time runs out in this game, it's also done in the 8-bit style.
- "M-O's Mob-Up Madness" is the next game in which you must avoid security robots while cleaning up the foreign contaminants before the time runs out.
- "BURN·E's Break Through" is the fourth and final game, here you must get to the next deck of the ship while avoiding those pesky GO-4 bots to earn points.

There's also a sneak peek at "WALL·E's Tour of the Universe" which runs for 49 seconds.

Next up are "Bot Files" feature, here you can gain access to the files on the various robots that populate the film. Learn about the 28 different robots and their purpose in this feature, the robots include WALL·E, EVE, M-O, VAQ-M, BRL-A, PR-T, AUTO, GO-4, WALL·A, D-FIB, BUF-R, SR-V, NAN-E, VN-GO, HAN-S, L-T, FIX-IT, GRAB-E, TYP-E, POW-R, BIRD-E, SPR-A, SAUT-A, VEND-R, SECUR-T, FIL-R, THIRST-E and BURN·E.

The next section is "Humans" featured here are the following extras:

First up on this section are a series of deleted scenes, 4 in total, they can be viewed individually with an introduction by the film's director Andrew Stanton that runs for 41 seconds that welcomes you to this section, each scene has the director commenting on the scene and why it was cut from the film. The scenes included here are:

- "Garbage Airlock" runs for 6 minutes 52 seconds, WALL·E tries to save EVE from the airlock, it's an original version of the scene where the roles are reversed. This scene is finished and fully animated.
- "Dumped" runs for 2 minutes 38 seconds, this is an alternate scene where WALL·E presents the plant to EVE, the scene is almost finished rough animation form to completed form.
- "Secret Files" runs for 4 minutes 35 seconds, a secret transmission is revealed in this animated storyboard format.
- "Docking" runs for 8 minutes 10 seconds, this is an alternate docking sequence where WALL·E is making his way to the ship and we see an early version of the ship's Captain in this animated storyboard sequence.

Next are a collection of "Behind-the-Scenes" featurettes, there are seven in total and include:

- “The Imperfect Lens: Creating the Look of WALL·E” featurette which runs for 14 minutes 32 seconds and this clip takes a closer look at the visual style of the film, its aesthetic and creating the look of a 70mm epic scale film. The story is almost entirely told with visual based communication (although the human scenes have dialogue) and these elements came together to help tell the story. The filmmaker's talk about making the film look and feel believable as if it was filmed in real life including all the imperfections that comes with that, on how the camera moves and playing with depth of field and the consultants brought in to help create that.

- “Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds from the Sound Up” featurette runs for 18 minutes 43 seconds, this clip takes a closer look at the creation of the sound for the film. The challenge for this film is that it's filled with complex amounts of sound that cover a vast range from Earth ambient sounds to space to the various robots that inhabit the Axiom ship. Also the sounds make up their character and how they communicate as the filmmakers take us through the process and on making the right choice for the right sound at the right moment in the film. But also looks at how the sound is created in this fascinating clip.

- “Captain's Log: The Evolution of Humans” featurette which runs for 7 minutes 57 seconds, this clip takes a look at the design of the humans in the film, and the development of their look from initial blob like characters to fat humans with a reduced skeletal system than we have now because of their limited mobility. The clip examines the differences of the original form of acts two and three to what it became of in the final version of the film. The clip also looks at the abandoned sequences from the early stages of the story among other things including the animation process.

- “Notes on a Score” featurette runs for 10 minutes 39 seconds, this clip takes a look at the collaboration between the film's director and the composer as they work to develop a theme and musical motif for the film. The film's music helps to add to the emotionality of the film and adds another layer to the film's emotional core. We get a look at the creation and development of that music from temp music to the final recording process among other things including a look at the music from key sequences.

- “Life of a Shot: Deconstructing the Pixar Process” featurette runs for 5 minutes 8 seconds, this is a short clip that takes viewers through the entire Pixar process and shows you what it takes to complete a single shot in a film as complex as this. There are many people involved in making this film and this clip gives fans of how involved the process is.

- “Robo-Everything” featurette runs for 5 minutes 46 seconds, this clip takes a look at the designing of the various robots, each one with a specific purpose. The animators take viewers through the research process and the development, the idea to make them interchangeable using a modular system thus making it easier for the animators to create the potentially hundreds of robots that they had to build for the film, on how they move and getting a performance out of a non-human character among other things.

- “WALL·E & EVE” featurette runs for 7 minutes and takes a look at the relationship between these two robots and what makes them so unique, their journeys in which they take over the course of the film and the research they went through in looking at real robots in the deign of the two key characters of the film and the various challenges they faced including creating characters without elbows and how to animate certain movements.

Next up are a collection of 5 "BnL" shorts, these are the complete unedited clips of the various BnL promo clips created for the film, these are all very fun to watch and can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option and include:

- "Captaining the Axiom" is an instructional video which runs for 2 minutes.
- "Operation Cleanup" is about the cleanup process on Earth and runs for 1 minute 50 seconds.
- "Meet the BnL Bots" is a promotional video about the various robots made by BnL, which runs for 1 minute 30 seconds.
- "The History of Buy N Large" is a video about the company's past and family of companies, which runs for 1 minute 10 seconds.
- "All Aboard the Axiom" is an introduction video to what life is like on the ship and runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.

Following those clips is the "3D Set Fly-Throughs" interactive feature, you get full fly-through of the various decks of the Axion and the Earth sets: the Refinery and WALL·E's Truck. I suppose these were created for animators to get a sense of the geography of each location, but it's unclear and this feature could have used some introduction or even a narration. Otherwise it's cool to see these sets in their full scale.

Up next is an extensive gallery that features tons of artwork created for the film covering all aspects; this is a wonderful reference for fans on the development of the look for the film and its characters. The galleries include:

- "Character Design" of which there are 17 separate sections that include:

- - "Autopilot" which features 7 images.
- - "BG Bots" which features 65 images.
- - "Cockroach" which features 1 image.
- - "EVE" which features 12 images.
- - "Gels" which features 24 images.
- - "Gopher" which features 8 images.
- - "Hover Chairs" which features 11 images.
- - "Humans" which features 7 images.
- - "M-O" which features 27 images.
- - "Nanny Bot" which features 4 images.
- - "Patrol Bot" which features 2 images.
- - "Plant Retriever" which features 4 images.
- - "Repair Bot" which features 5 images.
- - "Steward" which features 18 images.
- - "Typing Bot" which features 8 images.
- - "WALL·A" which features 5 images.
- - "WALL·E" which features 24 images.

- "Layouts & Backgrounds" of which there are 16 sections:

- - "Axiom" which features 43 images.
- - "Bridge" which features 17 images.
- - "Captain's Apartment" which features 5 images.
- - "Commercial Area" which features 24 images.
- - "Docking Bay" which features 6 images.
- - "Earth" which features 34 images.
- - "Escape Pod" which features 1 image.
- - "EVE Grabber" which features 3 images.
- - "Garbage Airlock" which features 11 images.
- - "Landscape" which features 13 images.
- - "Lido Deck" which features 1 image.
- - "Nebula" which features 5 images.
- - "Newspaper" which features 1 image.
- - "Power Station" which features 5 images.
- - "Recon Ship" which features 39 images.
- - "WALL·E Truck" which features 2 images.

- "Visual Development" features 22 sections:

- - "WALL·E Intro" which features 44 images.
- - "Day at Work" which features 21 images.
- - "EVE Arrives" which features 33 images.
- - "Courtship" which features 13 images.
- - "The Planet" which features 5 images.
- - "EVE's Vigil" which features 7 images.
- - "Return Flight" which features 5 images.
- - "Space Travel" which features 42 images.
- - "Docking" which features 4 images.
- - "Axiom Tour" which features 15 images.
- - "Waking Up" which features 3 images.
- - "Repair Ward" which features 9 images.
- - "EVE Interface" which features 5 images.
- - "Garbage Airlock" which features 10 images.
- - "Lido Deck" which features 3 images.
- - "Dumped" which features 3 images.
- - "Spacewalk/Flying" which features 24 images.
- - "Rogue Robots" which features 1 image.
- - "Escape Pod Bay" which features 17 images.
- - "Showdown" which features 24 images.
- - "Homecoming" which features 10 images.
- - "Back Together" which features 7 images.

- "Publicity" is our final gallery and features 16 images.

The disc also features a series of Worldwide theatrical trailers, there are a total of seven that can be viewed individually and include:

- Domestic trailer #1 which runs for 1 minute 35 seconds.
- Domestic trailer #2 which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.
- Domestic trailer #3 which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.
- Trailer 3: French Canadian which runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds.
- Trailer C: Japanese which runs for 2 minutes 13 seconds.
- Trailer F: Italian which runs for 1 minute 25 seconds.
- Superbowl spot is last and runs for 1 minute.

Finally the disc is rounded off with “The Pixar Story by Leslie Iwerks” a phenomenal documentary that runs for 1 hour 28 minutes and 30 seconds. This feature takes us through the history of the groundbreaking company; Pixar and their vision to create CG films with heart, memorable stories and characters. There are a host of really great extras on this disc but this is by far my favorite. The feature starts out with a montage of animation through the years as we see the development from singe image to moving to 2-D cell animation, stop motion and through to 3-D computer generated images. The feature looks at the art of Pixar and the use of technology to help bring their characters to life over the last 20 years of the company's film business, we get a look at the creative force behind the company including interviews with key players and features incredible behind-the-scenes of the studio among other things. It's an invaluable feature that fans will enjoy as it provides an in-depth look at the most influential modern animation studio.

DISC THREE:

The final disc in this set includes a Digital copy of the film for your portable devices.

Packaging

This 3-disc set is packaged in a deluxe Blu-ray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

"WALL·E" is not only one of the best films of 2008 but this Blu-ray disc is loaded with excellent features that take you into the production process of the film and includes some cool interactive features that'll provide hours of fun for viewers and fans alike. This is a must buy disc if you have an HD set-up!

The Film: A+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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