WALL·E

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Kazu
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Post by Kazu » Sat Jul 05, 2008 2:01 pm

Cameron, don't feel bad about your post! It prompted me to write the lengthy reply below, so if anyone finds this fruitful (or offensive!) then it was because of your very honest and brave reaction that spurred it.
CameronCN wrote:Dangit, Kazu, how'd you manage to make me mad? I hardly ever get mad about anything, especially in matters of art, which heaven knows are terribly relative to the observer...yet you did. How?
That's a great question. No one should ever have to feel defensive about these films. Yet so many people do. If someone truly loves something, they will feel no need to defend it, because that love exists between that person and the object of love themselves.

With these new Pixar films, it's hard to ignore the strange feeling of entitlement that runs as an undercurrent to their productions, so I'm going to go right out and talk about something that's been bothering me about the latest two films they've produced. Strangely enough, I'm actually reminded of a time when I was in elementary school...

A new kid just moved into my neighborhood, and I was the first friend he made. Along with my little brother, we would spend afternoons playing at the local park or playing video games at my house. When school started, he quickly realized that the popular surfer kids at our school tended to enjoy picking on me, and he decided he wanted to be friends with them. One day at recess, when I met him on the playground, he decided to punch me in the stomach and start a fight. At the time, it confused me until I later realized what was happening... He was going through the motions to get approval from the bullies and it had nothing to do with whatever stood between me and him. Suffice it to say we were no longer friends after that. At a 10-year high school reunion (we also went to the same high school), he actually came up to me and apologized for what happened that one day.

Now, that may sound like a sad story, but it's not, because I did the same thing to someone else a year later. I actually tripped a guy that my friends liked to pick on in order to look cool in front of others, and to prove he was lower than me on the playground pecking order. It's one of the moments in my life I'll never forget, and still regret doing it to this day. The point of all this is that the feeling I had before I tripped that guy, the feeling that my friend probably had before he punched me in the stomach, is the very same feeling I sense lightly emanating from the last two Pixar films. It's really faint, but it's there. That sense of fear of being accepted by others overriding any sense of individual thought or emotions. It causes people to get defensive, and it breeds division.

I only have two real villains in my life. Fear and guilt. I find that most everything bad that happens in life is fueled by an inability to control these uncomfortable emotions. So if I see anything that tends to breed these feelings, I tend to look very negatively on it. If you look at the stories of both Ratatouille and Wall*E, you will notice that much of characters' actions are motivated by fear and guilt. From Remy feeling sorry for Linguini - who fears losing his job - being the impetus for the story in Ratatouille (compounded by the fact that the penultimate goal of their journey is the approval of a harsh critic), to Wall*E's incredibly loud subtext engaging our own fear and guilt about what we're doing to this planet (coupled with EVE's guilt over her treatment of Wall*E being the linchpin for their love story), the last two Pixar films are driven by the same kinds of emotions that drive people to do bad things. This is fine in a film like The Verdict or Goodfellas, where we're supposed to go through these missteps with the characters to get a sort of rugged emotional cleansing when we realize that turning around and doing the right thing is harder when you mess things up, but when a storyteller simply uses these emotions to drive plot and avoids engaging in a proper dialogue with these issues, then I think it's all just careless and selfish communication. They don't help you fight your feelings of fear and guilt, they only activate them in order to service their plots. In the case of Wall*E, their fear also kept them from going all the way with a brilliant concept.

Many children (who, no matter what anyone says IS the focal audience for these particular films) are actually intelligent enough to see through all this and are less thrilled with the new films for their lessening of emotional truth (since vocabulary and social context are still at their earliest stages of development, emotions become a child's compass), but seeing adults belittle the children for being too "dumb" to understand these films is probably what saddens me the most. Things like Harry Potter and the early films of Pixar did so much to bring generations closer together, and here we have Pixar coming back to turn it around, with a bunch of nervous artists cheering them on. And for what? Critical acceptance and alleviating the fear of failure? It makes me sad, and brings me to wonder if they'll ever realize why Finding Nemo was their biggest success.



Anyway, Cameron don't feel bad about your comment. You should never feel afraid to express your opinion about something. With Amulet and all of my other works, I'm always very interested in hearing critical reviews, negative or positive. Nothing can ever be truly universally appealing, so I am interested in seeing how different audiences react.
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Post by thirdeyeh » Sat Jul 05, 2008 2:46 pm

Nice post Kazu. I had two thoughts after reading it. 1.) I totally agree with your sentiments about defending these films or your opinions of them. I felt the same way after watching The Happening and loving it. Everyone hated it or really really really disliked it, except a handful of people I know and people wanted me to defend why I liked it. I really don't see the point of this. There are FAR too many things in the world that are deserving of my attention and debate than the merits of a film. If you loved Wall-E that's awesome. I'm glad you did. Just because someone else doesn't share the same opinion, that's fine too. It's just a movie. At the end of the day it's just a movie. No matter how masterful, no matter how successful. It's a story. It may have a huge impact on people. but its still a movie and it becomes to you what you make of it.

2.) I am interested in your thoughts on the fear/guilt issue as it relates to Finding Nemo. Because that whole films is about fear (Marlin) and guilt (Nemo). Do you just feel it was more direct in how it handled that issue? Maybe you said that in your post, but I just didn't see the disconnect between it and the most recent Pixar films.
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Post by Kazu » Sat Jul 05, 2008 3:00 pm

thirdeyeh wrote:2.) I am interested in your thoughts on the fear/guilt issue as it relates to Finding Nemo. Because that whole films is about fear (Marlin) and guilt (Nemo). Do you just feel it was more direct in how it handled that issue? Maybe you said that in your post, but I just didn't see the disconnect between it and the most recent Pixar films.
In Finding Nemo, fear and guilt are most certainly addressed as issues that characters must work very hard to overcome. Expressing a parent's need to let go of their fear for their child's well-being when they've come of age and to trust them to become their own person is a powerful idea. And it is very elegantly and beautifully portrayed in the film. In the recent two Pixar films, the filmmakers stir fear and guilt in the audience to simply drive the plot forward, and in the case of Ratatouille, acts of servicing these emotions are even lauded by film's end.
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Post by Nick » Sun Jul 06, 2008 1:25 am

Okay, just to clarify I didn’t have a problem with what was said earlier but rather how it was said. I’m not going to prattle on, I’m glad this was all resolved in such an insightful manner.
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Post by CameronCN » Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:17 am

Thanks for being so gracious, Kazu. And after reading your response there a few times, I think the only real difference is a matter of personal reaction. Nobody likes a movie that reminds them unpleasantly, even slightly, of their own fear or guilt. The difference here is that I felt no such thing from WALL-E and only a tiny bit from Ratatioulle. I did, however, from A Bug's Life and a little from Finding Nemo. I've never quite figured out why people like Nemo so much--at the time, I found it rather boring, and still do. So basically, I'd have to say it simply indicates that we tend to feel afraid/guilty about completely different things. Since we can agree that they are all excellently made films, these sort of subjective reactions become the basis of our judgments of them.
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Post by [adam] » Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:40 pm

Kazu wrote: The point of all this is that the feeling I had before I tripped that guy, the feeling that my friend probably had before he punched me in the stomach, is the very same feeling I sense lightly emanating from the last two Pixar films. It's really faint, but it's there. That sense of fear of being accepted by others overriding any sense of individual thought or emotions.
An incredibly keen observation, Kazu.

I can't help but feel that a lot of feature animation these days holds an overwhelming sense of entitlement, at least in our western cinema. Perhaps I'm the only one, but ANY interview involving John Lasater feels absolutely insincere and devoid of any type of passion for the art. I find his relationship (again, maybe personal) with Miyazaki San half-assed and superficial, as if he's more interested to have him as a business partner then a friend.

And that there seems to sum up these big name companies. They're more concerned about how much the audience is willing up pay then how well they connect with them, just so that at the next fancy party they attend they can say they were number 1 in the box office opening weekend again.

It makes you wonder if these guys even feel fear and guilt anymore, or if they've gone through the motions so many times that they forget what they're really doing.

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Post by Nick » Tue Jul 29, 2008 2:53 pm

I finally got around to seeing Wall.e and I’m pretty disappointed. I feel they achieved more with Presto. Presto was a series of extremely fast and punchy gags, implemented in such a sleek and elegant fashion that I don’t believe I’ve seen in CGI. It had a real feel of spontaneity.

The issues I had with Wall.e were similar to many expressed through this thread. So I won’t really go into them too much. Wall.e felt like he was relegated to a secondary character once the story had departed earth and the only way they could bring him back to the fore was for every secondary character to point him out and say his name every time he trundled passed.

It was pretty impressive in terms of visuals except for those awful, nasty moments with the Buy-N-Large president. Adding real life humans was perhaps the most jarring visual aspect of the entire film, they couldn’t have added anything more alien if they’d tried. Lighting, movement, texture, scale, it’s all different and it knocked me out of Wall.e world every time. The CGI acting was also far better, I guess he was supposed to be hammy, but there’s hammy and then there’s crap.

There were some nice moments between Wall.e and Eve probably reaching a high in Wall.e’s pad in the first half. On the whole it was fun enough, but it was only going through the motions.
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Post by gau dog » Tue Jul 29, 2008 7:15 pm

Having seen it recently, I feel similar to most comments. The beginning was great but the rest wasn't as enjoyable. When WALLE was romancing a sleeping EVE, I had two thoughts. One was awww, these are some very sweet moments. The other was WALLE's kind of sick, like someone romancing an unknowing corpse!

I can understand the direction of the plant story though. It's the Macguffin and leads to bigger, showier, Hollywoodish entertainment. I wouldn't expect anything less from a corporate movie. Those political "stay the course" satire lines are just unnecessary for a movie like this. They're already dated too. At the end, when WALLE was in danger of "dying", I didn't even care cause robots can be rebuilt. Maybe if he looked like a human, I would have more sympathy.

Overall, however I didn't think it was that bad. I'd give it a 7.

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Post by Sskessa » Tue Jul 29, 2008 9:33 pm

Does it bother anybody else that the robots are gendered?
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Post by SonOfaRich » Tue Jul 29, 2008 9:47 pm

Sskessa wrote:Does it bother anybody else that the robots are gendered?
Are they? :P
Intergalactic proton powered electrical tentacle advertising droids!!!!!

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Post by Sskessa » Tue Jul 29, 2008 10:09 pm

SonOfaRich wrote:
Sskessa wrote:Does it bother anybody else that the robots are gendered?
Are they? :P
Well, the truth is, I haven't seen it >.>
But I keep reading reviews referring to WALLE as the boy and EVE as the girl. If the movie's not making that distinction, though, than nevermind.
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Post by Nick » Wed Jul 30, 2008 1:52 am

Well the distinction is there, but it’s reasonably subtle. In a lot of tribal paintings men are often depicted as squares and women as circles. Even now men are angular and women are fluid. Wall.e's design is basically that of a square and eve's an egg, so the distinction's there in the design. The tone of their voices also seperates them out, despite the variation in tech level. It’s enough for the audience to read into it if they so desire, but not so blatant that you can’t ignore it if you so wish.
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Post by maxdeth » Wed Jul 30, 2008 2:34 pm

you will notice that much of characters' actions are motivated by fear and guilt. From Remy feeling sorry for Linguini - who fears losing his job - being the impetus for the story in Ratatouille (compounded by the fact that the penultimate goal of their journey is the approval of a harsh critic)
I am confused. We are not told that being motivated by fear and guilt are good. Quite the opposite. Remy's main battle is to defy the position in life that he has been born into. He is but a rat and should not be allowed to cook food. Remy and Linguini are forced to work together in secret because of society's inability to not judge a book by its cover. They succeed in fighting society's unfair rules, thus the moral is don't be motivated by fear! You can succeed over fear if you really want it/can try hard enough. Furthermore, although they are trying to impress the food critic (last name "Ego" thus setting it up for more moral lessons), when confronted with the fact that a rat has cooked this delicious food, Ego ultimately relies on impartiality and logic to dictate that he must admit the food was delicious. Again we are told not too judge a book by its cover.

To use a Miyazaki example because both you and I (and probably most people here) love him: Nausicaa could be said to be motivated by fear for her people, fear for the earth and environment when she decides she must give the ultimate sacrifice to try and save them.

I fail to see how Marlin's fear for Nemo's safety differs from Remy's fear of defying the "natural order of things".

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Post by Michael J. Dowswell » Thu Jul 31, 2008 1:30 am

I honestly don’t know why some people didn’t like Cars and Finding Nemo, though I will say this...on the first viewing of Finding Nemo I was a bit disappointed….also, there was this feeling throughout Finding Nemo that made be feel quite down, and I don’t know exactly what it was, but I’ve always said it was the score, the music is possibly in a key that induces a sad feeling in me...they say that the key of C for example is happy.

Cars, when I saw the trailer for that I was quite frankly kind of shocked...I thought “oh this is awful...this is NOT going to work at all” and then when I finally saw it (when my sister brought it at Christmas for her kids) I found myself in front of it and it was really something that I couldn’t stop watching. When the fade to black and credits began to roll I said to myself “my god, they’ve done it again”

I’ve not seen Ratatouille or Wall-E yet.

Another thing I remember though, was that, a while back Pixar had a terrible loss...a man who I believe was something to do with the story, was he some sort of guy who critted their stories and made them much stronger?...was killed in a car accident. You guys will have to tell me who that was. But if Pixar have indeed gone downhill then maybe its because they lost this guy?
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Post by squirpy » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:50 am

That was Joe Ranft, right?
I keep a sketchblog here

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