By Craig Modderno | Posted: 20 Nov 2008
With no box office bombs and a string of original animated hits such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille and Wall-E, Pixar has become a brand label for families seeking quality entertainment.
Wall-E director-screenwriter Andrew Stanton joined Pixar in 1990 as its second animator and ninth employee. Finding Nemo, which he co-wrote and directed, won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003. Stanton also received an Oscar nomination for that film and Toy Story. Wall-E, which came out on DVD and Blu-ray Disc this month, deals with an isolated robot in outer space as its simple plotline. But like most Pixar films, it's much more emotionally complex than that.
HM: What part of the filmmaking process is most revered at Pixar?
Stanton: The story. Without a good one we won't move forward. It's as simple as that. The story has to appeal to people of all ages and ethnicities, which is why our films are syndicated all over the world. We take risks. However, as we deal in subjects from talking fish and talking toys to talking cars etc., we have one constant in all our films, and that is to never have our characters talk down to our audience.
HM: How much of an influence did director Stanley Kubrick’s classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey have on Wall-E?
Stanton: A lot, but I was influenced by seemingly all science-fiction films made between 1968 and 1982, which were the years that shaped my consciousness about movies. It includes Silent Running, Blade Runner, Alien, Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, big time. Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Outland — to me this was the golden era of pictures. 2001 has the most clinically clean environment I was seeking for Wall-E. For my fellow filmmakers to get an idea of the tone and mood of Wall-E, I showed a clip reel containing moments from 2001, Amadeus, The Station Agent and Black Stallion. For technical purposes and again for the type of picture I wanted, on our lunch breaks for a year I showed all the Buster Keaton films and Charlie Chaplin films I could find and director Douglas Trumbull’s underrated masterpiece Silent Running.
HM: Do you have celebrity actors in mind when you write the characters for your films?
Stanton: Sometimes. And sometimes I'm wrong. Originally I wouldn't see Albert Brooks to read for the lead in Finding Nemo because I thought he was too old (laughs). I know what you're thinking. How can someone be too old to play an animated character? He just wasn't who I had in mind when I wrote the part, and, of course, he turned out to be wonderful. In Wall-E I had one of the two main characters saving the other and after I showed the sequence to the many employees at Pixar, they all agreed it should be the opposite of what I had envisioned.
HM: A handful of Pixar titles are available on Blu-ray Disc. Will other films debut soon on Blu-ray?
Stanton: Most definitely. We love the format and respect the technology and will with our future films release them on DVD and Blu-ray at the same time.