HE is rusty, lipless, sub-literate and keeps company with garbage. Worse, he’s a "Hello Dolly!" fan. This little robot, who goes by the name Wall-E — for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class — is also the newest face (not that he has one) of Pixar.
Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Andrew Stanton wrote and directed the almost-silent “Wall-E.”
Last year’s offering, "Ratatouille" about a cartoon rat with Cordon Bleu aspirations, seemed like a hard sell. But Pixar may have outdone itself in the weird-premises department with "WALL-E," a $180 million post-apocalyptic, near-silent robot love story inspired by Charlie Chaplin.
Andrew Stanton, who wrote and directed the film, doesn’t care if the kiddies want to hug Wall-E or not when the movie comes out on Friday. “I never think about the audience,” he said. “If someone gives me a marketing report, I throw it away.”
Mr. Stanton, 42, sat in a Toronto hotel room this month, shaggy-haired and bearded, bouncing in his chair with a tween’s frenzied energy. In this way he seemed to embody the anti-corporate posture that is part of the Pixar mythology. When John Lasseter
, Pixar’s chief creative executive, announced the company’s $7.4 billion acquisition by the Walt Disney Company in 2006, he did so in a Hawaiian shirt and jeans. Employees at the Pixar “campus” in Emeryville, Calif., ride scooters and play foosball. “It’s like a film school with no teachers,” Mr. Stanton said. “Everyone actually wants you to take risks.”
Such is the Pixar brand, or anti-brand: a multibillion dollar company that acts like a nerd hobbyist in a basement. But that balancing act is even tougher to pull off as a subsidiary of Disney, a company whose very name has been turned into a neologism — Disneyfication — for a kind of bland commercial aesthetic.
Perhaps to assure the public that nothing has changed under new ownership, an early trailer for “Wall-E” plays up Pixar’s carefree mystique. The teaser, narrated by Mr. Stanton, describes a 1994 lunch, when the central Pixar players were finishing "Toy Story," the first feature-length CG animated film. Over lunch they sketched on napkins characters that would end up in "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc." and "Finding Nemo."