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Mania Manifesto: Top 5 “Inspirations” for Wall-E

Why Pixar’s new movie might seem familiar

By Damon Brown     July 01, 2008


Pixar's hero inspects a Rubik's Cube in WALL-E(2008).
© Pixar & Disney

Each week, Mania special correspondent Damon Brown, author of Porn & Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and Other Sexy Games Changed Modern Pop Culture, offers his unique take on society, entertainment and other issues of critical concern to Maniacs. You can also find Brown writing about technology, sex, music and video games for Playboy and Spin.

 

#5: The Twilight Zone

THE SITUATION: In “Time Enough at Last,” a cranky bank teller hates being around people and only wants to read his books. He happens to be in the vault during a nuclear attack and, after leaving, realizes he may be the last living person on earth. Excited, he grabs all the books he can find and begins reading them all. Just as he gets settled, he accidentally drops and breaks his Coke bottle-thick glasses. Now virtually blind, the guy starts crying. The end.

WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Wall-E isn’t voiced by The Twilight Zone alum Burgess Meredith – because, well, he’s dead – but the isolated robot is suffering from extreme loneliness as being the only living thing on earth. If the trailer is any indication, rather than compensate with books, Wall-E is obsessed with shopping carts and women’s bras.

 

#4: Castaway

THE SITUATION: A FedEx delivery man survives an aquatic plane crash and lives alone on a deserted island for more than four years. He has one-way conversations with Wilson, a shipped volleyball that happens to wash onshore. He uses his blood to draw a face on Wilson.

WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: The space-age, presumably female bot Wall-E falls for changes his outlook on life. But is the fembot real? Wall-E could be delusional, or, while cleaning up the earth’s rubbish, accidentally sniffed up some lead. Wilson? Wilson!  

 

#3: Blade Runner

THE SITUATION: In the movie based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, human-like robots called replicants are shipped to various planets to do human’s dirty works. The first problem is that the replicants learn that they only live for four to five years. The second problem is that most replicants do not know that they are replicants. Chaos ensues.

WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Sure, it’s a cute film from the people that brought you TOY STORY! and CARS!, but Pixar’s latest is really about us sending unfeeling, programmable pieces of scrap metal to do our landfill bidding. Robots are the perfect slaves: no complaining, no questioning and no raises. And, if they are cheap enough, it is easy to power down an old or malfunctioning model and break it down for parts. Wall-E better not get too human, or The Corporation will be sending a cleaner to shut it up. Let’s hope Pixar has that sequel in the works.

 

#2: Finding Toy Monster Cars

THE SITUATION: A talented, yet unappreciated kid or kid-like character gets teased by his cohorts, but a wonderful, perilous journey, filled with life-affirming events and romantic, yet safe relationships, brings him back home a hero.

WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Call it a riff on The Hero’s Journey or just call it a stale formula. Either way, the Pixar storyline is the blueprint to every one of its movies. Is it plagiarism if you trace your own work?

 

#1: Short Circuit

THE SITUATION: A military scientist, played by Police Academy/Dancing With The Stars veteran Steve Gutenberg, creates several fully-functional robots. The scientist has a change of heart, however, when he realizes they will be used for war. A lightning storm short circuits one of the robots, No. 5, and reprograms it to have self awareness. No. 5 escapes, falls in love with a recluse – played by Ally Sheedy – and, with Gutenberg’s help, becomes a successful fugitive. It spawned DeBarge’s last hit, “Who’s Johnny,” referencing No. 5’s nickname.

WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: In Wall-E, a robot made to clean up human’s nasty situations becomes self aware and falls in love. Actually, this situation should actually be number one, two, three, four and five. Even the trailer references that the one malfunction Wall-E has is that it got “a personality.” No word on whether white guy Fisher Stevens will cameo as a nerdy Indian scientist, but disappointed parties can go see The Love Guru in the next theater. Assuming it’s still playing.

 

Read Damon’s blog at www.damonbrown.net.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 7 of 7
1 
ponyboy76 7/1/2008 3:52:02 AM
You forgot to mention that Wall-E looks pretty much just like a shorter No.5.
almostunbiased 7/1/2008 5:46:30 AM
No.5 is alive.
fft5305 7/1/2008 7:35:08 AM
I heard "Who's Johnny" on the radio this weekend. Cracked. Me. UP!
Oldsouless 7/1/2008 6:57:15 PM
Very nice article comprised of opinions based soley on what the trailers have presented. Most of which being fabrications on the actual story if you watched the movie. You're assesment on the influences of 3-5 aren't even valid. Especially considering the credits at the end and your statement of a possible sequel. You didn't even mention 2001: Space Odyssey.<BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />Let's begin with a breakdown of your imposed influences rather than what the movie actually presents.<BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />#5: The Twilight Zone<BR itxtvisited="1" />The opening shot and Wall-E's daily routine are lonely but not dismal. <BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />More reminded of The Matrix and how the Earth looked after the humans completely destroyed it, which is exactly what happened to Wall-E's Earth. It wasn't a Nuclear blast but I think I'll make that more 4th influence.<BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />#4: Castaway<BR itxtvisited="1" />Once again Wall-E's lonliness is not the focal point of the film.<BR itxtvisited="1" />To put this blatantly...SPOLIER ALERT: Fembot is real...THE CAKE IS A LIE!<BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />Al Gore's movie probably had some influence on Wall-E. It shows what happens to the Earth as humans continued to live in excess without respect to the environment.<BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />#3: Blade Runner<BR itxtvisited="1" />Never is their a problem with Wall-E and his personality. No one feels the need to fix him for it, or tries to.<BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />Super Size me has more to do with this film than Blade-Runner. Even to a lesser extent would be The Island. The humans are not only obese, but naive not one of them have any kind of experience whatsoever with anything. They are confined to chairs, and monitors oblivious to the world around them.<BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />As for #1, and number #2 to say the Hero's journey is plaigerism of their own work is bullshit. The hero's journey has existed long before Pixar. Number 1, I'll give it to you, Wall-E looks very close to Johnny 5's design. However their stories are different.<BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />For next time, watch the movie, all of it don't make assumptions based upon the trailers.
mckracken 7/1/2008 10:27:59 PM
"Who's Johnny?" I always thought that was refferencing Jack Nicholson from the Shining. and speaking of The Shining, a loney guy goes nuts in a haunted hotel and kills his family...or tries to. in Wall-E, a lonely robot goes nuts on a haunted planet and kills his fembot... or tries to. you know.. We can continue making absurd comparisons to other stranger sci/fi movies that are closer to Wall-E than Blade Runner and Castaway or we can just simply review the movie. right? RIGHT?
MonophobicCinephile 7/2/2008 1:23:47 PM
Thank god I'm not the only one who sees the undeniable resemblence between Wall-E and Short Circuit! Regardless of how cute Wall-E undoubtably is, I definitely feel like I can wait for this on DVD. p.s. Mckracken- the Nicholson line was "Here's Johnny" not "who" but close enough.
karas1 7/4/2008 10:50:52 AM
The replicants in Blade Runner were not robots, they were GELFS (Genetically Engineered Life Forms). If they were actually robots they could just have x-rayed the new employees at the Tyrell Corporation instead of going through long and laborious psychological evaluations.
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