Let’s talk about WALL-E for a minute. The widely-praised Pixar film was released in 2008, and stars a little trash-compacting robot who is seemingly the last “living” thing on earth. The bot toils away at his job, collecting trash into towers of cubes in some futile effort to clean the planet for future generations, though humans are nowhere to be found. And then he meets the girl.
That’s it, really, a little robot love story, and then other things happen. A lot people focused on the environmental allegory and its comment on consumerism, and that’s all there, but really it’s a small, sweet romance story more than anything. If anyone is the target audience of a Pixar robot romance adventure, it’s me. It me.
I’m sort of a quiet, stubborn, perhaps nebbish loner by nature, and I’m also preoccupied with being industrious. So it’s little surprise that WALL-E, all alone on his planet (plus a friendly roach) and continuing his dutiful work was so appealing. I practically am WALL-E! Cube with tank treads is my beach bod.
Aside from the character traits, it’s also such a wonderful design:
It actually makes sense as an autonomous trash-compactor, with its thick industrial metal painted yellow like a tractor, worn and faded at the edges from heavy labor. (Of course the hard-angled, brute force aspect of WALL-E acts a visual contrast to Eve’s more sophisticated and mysterious curved form—a blunt portrayal of masculinity and femininity.) And what makes it really work—what makes us care—are the large, expressive eyes.
If I recall correctly, Stanton said it was a stroke of luck when he was watching one of this children play with binoculars at a baseball game. He noticed how expressive the center-pivot folding motion of binoculars can be. The first teaser (which was very inventive itself!) had me at hello. I mean, at “WaaaAAALL-E”. It’s just so charming, instantly.
After the movie was released I wrote on my blogspot (lol) that it should be nominated for best picture. Not best animated picture, just plain ol’ best picture. It knocked the wind out of me at the time.
But I needed something more than simply rewatching it. I needed a WALL-E to call my own. Luckily, Disney was quick to enterprise upon a movie that’s critical of consumption and there were a range of wonderful toys available when the film was released. At first I just indulged in a small 2-inch figure, but I soon returned to the toy store for something more substantial: a talking, animated toy.
That particular WALL-E toy had rudimentary voice-activation; you could yell “HEY WALL-E!” and the little bot would frantically look around and wave his arms. There were even higher end models that could roam around on working treads, but I was sensible enough to obtain a more humble option. However! Seven years after the film’s release, there’s a new WALL-E on the block.
More like... made of blocks.
Angus MacLane is a LEGO aficionado who happens to also have been the directing animator on the movie. He tinkered with designing the robot in LEGO before the actual computer models were even finalized, and now almost a decade later, the LEGO kit has been made available through LEGO Ideas. Of course I bought one.
It’s remarkably faithful to the actual design for something made entirely of LEGO bricks, complete with articulated arms and eyes, working plastic tank treads, and WALL-E’s front opening door. It’s a delight.
I’ve never been a huge collector of LEGO, but I like the appeal of an adorable blocky thing constructed from an adorable blocky medium. There’s a refined, tactile quality that is more satisfying than a mass-produced plastic toy that’s soft around the edges. And assembling it was relaxing for its own reasons.
Maybe when I’m a little older and crazier I’ll aim to recreate a “life-size” WALL-E like some industrious hobbyists have been making for years. Disney has one too—but they’re a little afraid of running over children’s toes with it, apparently. Until then, I’ll continue to populate my desk with toy robot knickknacks and occasionally use WALL-E as an online avatar. Because I am literally a small garbage tank with roaches for friends!
Images by Disney Pixar and The Art of WALL-E.