(Three-Disc Special Edition)
I don’t know if words can do justice to Pixar Animation Studios’ latest masterpiece WALL•E ($41). With every new film, Pixar proves their absolute mastery of their computer animation craft. However, WALL•E is not only a testament Pixar’s unerring technical brilliance, it also exemplifies the studio’s ever maturing storytelling elegance. What struck me most about WALL•E is the fact that much of the film harkens back to the era of silent film, in which comedy and pathos are played out in purely visual terms. Sure, WALL•E is not a silent film by any stretch of the imagination, but there are long stretches of the film that play without dialogue, and these sequences demonstrate the innocent wonder that one finds when watching the likes of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin.
WALL•E is a futuristic tale set some seven hundred years after mankind left a horribly polluted Earth. It seems that in the twenty second century, a corporate entity named Buy n Large had taken over everything- including the Earth’s governments. Under Buy n Large, consumerism spun out of control, as did the propagation of waste products associated with such uncontrolled consumerism. The world was literally waist deep in garbage and the planet was rendered fairly toxic and virtually uninhabitable. With the Earth unsuitable for living, Buy n Large offered the populace the option of living off world on luxury spacecrafts for a period of five years, while robots would clean up the planet.
As WALL•E opens, we are introduced to the title character, a little robot whose name is an acronym for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class. WALL•E has diligently done the job he was programmed for seven hundred years, even as his fellow sanitation robots have either broken down or stopped function for other reasons. During all of his time alone, WALL•E has become something more than a mere automaton; he is self aware, has begun collecting odd bits of junk that appeal to him and has begun to understand the meaning of life and love through a copy of the movie HELLO, DOLLY! that he discovered amongst the refuse. Then one day WALL•E finds his lonely existence forever changed by the arrival of a space ship that deposits an Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator on the surface.
The Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator or "EVE" is a sleek robotic probe that begins scanning the planet in the general vicinity of where WALL•E conducts his never-ending clean up duties. Of course, after one look at the sleekly styled EVE, and WALL•E finds himself smitten with the new robot. At first, EVE only concerns herself with her primary mission; however, the ever-present WALL•E does manage to get under her programming. As a gesture of his affection, WALL•E presents EVE with a newly sprouted plant that he discovered amongst the mountains of garbage. This simple act sets in motion an outer space adventure that literally proves the metal of our heroic little protagonist. The vocal talent behind WALL•E includes Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, MacInTalk, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy and Sigourney Weaver. Look for a rare use of live action footage in WALL•E, which features Fred Willard as Shelby Forthright- the twenty second century CEO of Buy n Large.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (and Pixar) has made WALL•E available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation for WALL•E is nothing short of breathtaking; on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give the visual quality of this Blu-ray Disc a 32. Sure, I don’t want to make it seem that I am exaggerating about how good WALL•E looks in high definition, but this Blu-ray Disc represents pre-packaged perfection. Coming off the original digital computer files, WALL•E produces astonishing image clarity, depth and detail. Some of the computer animation is so beautifully textured and rendered that it looks like real life. Colors can be wonderfully saturated or quite subdued, depending on the film’s given environment- all of it is perfect rendered. Blacks are dead on the money, as are the whites. Contrast is as smooth as can be rendered by computer. There is no grain and no imperfections in the image. Every frame is glorious, thus making WALL•E the primo Blu-ray demo disc for CGI movie playback.
WALL•E is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. As I stated above, there are long stretches of WALL•E that come without dialogue, but they are certainly not without sound. This is a marvelous soundtrack that also gets top marks for its beauty and clarity. Sonically, the lossless encoding really brings the track to life; it is enveloping and wholly believable sound effects come from everywhere. The fidelity of the music truly amazes; Thomas Newman’s score is superb- I have never heard Put On Your Sunday Clothes and It Only Takes A Moment from HELLO, DOLLY! sound any better than this (now if we could only get the entire film on Blu-ray with a lossless soundtrack). The bass channel is deep and authoritative without ever seeming overblown. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but English subtitles are provided.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across all three discs of this set. Disc one features two running Commentaries; the first is a an Audio Commentary with director Andrew Stanton, which is enhanced with the Cine-Explore Mode of pop-up picture-in-picture features, the second is called Geek Talk, Trash Talk & Trivia that has been augmented with silhouettes of participants character team supervisor Bill Wise, co-producer Lindsay Wallace, story artist Derek Thompson and lead animator and story consultant Angus McClain. Next up are a couple of Pixar Short Films, the first is BURN•E, an expansion of the WALL•E universe and the second (and more delightful) short is PRESTO, a hilarious onstage battle between a magician and his hungry rabbit. A few bonus Trailers close out the first disc. WALL•E is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).
Moving on to disc two, one will find the largest body of supplemental programming which have been divided into two sections: Humans & Robots. In the Humans section: There are twenty-three minutes of Deleted Scenes to start things off. Featurettes include The Imperfect Lens: Creating The Look of Wall•E, Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds From the Sound Up, Captain's Log: The Evolution Of Humans. Notes On a Score, Life Of A Shot: Deconstructing The Pixar Process, Robo-Everything and WALL•E & EVE. BnL Shorts offers full versions of short films seen within the film. The Gallery section offers extensive images in the following areas: Character Design, Layouts & Backgrounds, Visual Development and Publicity. Also included is a selection of Worldwide Trailers for WALL•E and 3-D Set Fly-Throughs.
Finally in the Humans section is the single most enjoyable and entertaining supplement contained on disc two: The Pixar Story. The Pixar Story runs eighty eight minutes and traces the animation studio from origins of computer graphics to its own humble beginnings to its artistic success through commercial success and finally to its integration into Disney- as Disney’s new creative voice. In the Robots section: WALL•E's Treasures & Trinkets gives the robot a series of different props that create humorous misadventures. Other bits include Lots Of Bots Storybook, Axiom Arcade (games), WALL•E's Tour Of the Universe and Bot Files.
Disc three contains a Digital Copy of the film.
As I stated above, WALL•E is a CGI animation masterpiece. Also as I stated above, the Blu-ray represents pre-packaged perfection. WALL•E gets the absolute highest recommendation that I can give.
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