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‘WALL-E’ Expected to Impress on Video

By Chris Tribbey | Posted: 06 Nov 2008

PASADENA, Calif. — Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is expecting big things from WALL-E on DVD Nov. 18, evidenced by single-, double- and triple-disc offerings. But maybe more noteworthy is that Disney is throwing both two- and three-disc Blu-ray Disc versions before consumers.

“We’re very excited about the change Blu-ray brings to our business,” said Andy Siditsky, SVP of worldwide creative services and DVD production for Disney. “We’re creating a whole new form of entertainment.

“What makes WALL-E so special on Blu-ray is it looks amazing … in high-definition, it’s stunning.”

The Blu-ray special features aren’t too shabby either: With the help of Pixar animators, Disney developed a suite of 8-bit games, a detailed and breathtaking flyover feature for settings in the film, a “Geek Track” commentary and a picture-in-picture option.

On every version of the movie, consumers will get an exclusive DVD short consisting of a comical day in the life of one of the lesser-known robots from the film, BURN-E.

“It was really fortunate we got to make ‘BURN-E,’” said Angus MacLane, director of “BURN-E” and lead animator for WALL-E. “… To me the most important thing about the film is he has a positive effect on everyone he meets.”

As for WALL-E, a film conceived at Pixar before the first "Toy Story" movie was even released, members of Pixar spent a lot of time working on relaying a story with almost no words, and giving emotion to a non-human character.

“There were like 2,600 sound files made for WALL-E,” said Pixar sound guru Ben Burtt, best known for his work on Star Wars, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Raiders of the Lost Ark. “There’s so much detail in [WALL-E].”

He demonstrated how he created sounds for the film with an old Army generator, a stretched-out spring, and a punching bag being dragged across the ground.

For the character designs, the Pixar team went all out, taking a trip in early 2006 to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), to look at the robots created there for moon and Mars landings. And, Disney announced Nov. 5, thanks to WALL-E and NASA, some lucky kid will get to name the next Mars Rover. Starting on the WALL-E street date, NASA will accept name suggestions and essays from kids, with the grand-prize winner also getting the chance to sign the rover before it’s shipped to Cape Canaveral, Fla. More details on the contest can be found at marsrovername.jpl.nasa.gov.

“They thought it looked cool, but they were much more interested in how the motor sounded,” Julie Townsend, a mars rover engineer, said of the Pixar team’s interest in one robot. “I thought in the representation of the robots [in WALL-E] you could see where they took their inspiration from [JPL] in the antennas and eyes.”

WALL-E co-producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins said the JPL visit was just a small step in a long process in making WALL-E.

“On all the Pixar films, but this one in particular, we do a lot of research and see how things work in the real world,” Morris said. “The more it feels grounded, the more it gives it a feel of believability … trying to give it a look that it had been filmed ... that there was a cameraman there.”

Collins said that the film wasn’t made until recently because the technology hadn’t been there. She called the games on the Blu-ray “super cool” and praised the interactivity of BD Live.

“Blu-ray is just compelling, and there seems like there’s a growing market,” Morris said, adding that for digital downloads and physical disc, “I suspect they can coexist.”

“We’ll see how the DVDs do,” he said.

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