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Pixar Films on DVD: Toy Story • A Bug's Life • Toy Story 2 • Monsters, Inc. • Finding Nemo • The Incredibles • Cars • Ratatouille • WALL•E • Up • Toy Story 3

Pixar Films on Blu-ray: Toy Story • A Bug's Life • Toy Story 2 • Monsters, Inc. • The Incredibles • Cars • Ratatouille • WALL•E • Up • Toy Story 3

WALL-E: 3-Disc Blu-ray Review

WALL-E movie poster WALL-E

Theatrical Release: June 27, 2008 / Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Andrew Stanton / Writers: Andrew Stanton (story & screenplay), Pete Docter (story), Jim Reardon (screenplay)

Voice Cast: Ben Burtt (WALL-E, M-O), Elissa Knight (EVE), Jeff Garlin (Captain), Fred Willard (Shelby Forthright, BNL CEO), Macintalk (Auto), John Ratzenberger (John), Kathy Najimy (Mary), Sigourney Weaver (Ship's Computer)

Buy WALL-E from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD / 3-Disc Special Edition DVD / 1-Disc DVD / Blu-ray / 3-Disc Blu-ray

By Aaron Wallace

To the best of my recollection, WALL-E is the first-ever animated sci-fi silent romcom. That's a pretty fair description and reason enough to call this one of the most thought-provoking films to come around in a long time, but in fact not one of those labels paints the whole picture.

WALL-E is a robot who occupies a sparsely (and mostly non-biologically) populated Earth
hundreds of years in the future. His job is to clean up the refuse left behind by a society that had trashed itself out of a home following a century of reckless consumerism. Retailer-turned-governing entity Buy n Large has long since sent the human race on an indefinite luxury cruise through the galaxy, sending only an occasional land roving unit back home in the hopes of discovering sustainable life.

When one of those rovers, EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), finds plant life in WALL-E's vicinity, the trash-compacting robot finds the first meaningful alternative to the loneliness he has always known. EVE has a higher calling than companionship, however. Too thrilled by her arrival to let her go, WALL-E will have to follow her on a journey that is bigger than he could know.

Never before has there been such palpable emotion in binocular robot eyes. A glowing lightbulb or a mastered Rubik's Cube? EVE gives WALL-E a choice.

The movie isn't quite like anything we've seen before. But now to deconstruct the classification I gave at the top of the review.
Let's start with "animated". True, the film is animated, and with luscious digital imagery that rivals anything Pixar has done before (we're comparing unblemished apples at this point). But there's a live-action component that runs throughout. Buy n Large CEO Shelby Forthright is depicted in living color by the always amusing Fred Willard. He, along with clips from WALL-E's VHS of 1969's Hello, Dolly!, serve as visual reminders of the many years that separate the relatively near future from the relatively faraway. Plus, this is the first time Pixar has turned their live-action cameras on, and the seamless fusion of the two is as wondrous today as it was in traditionally animated mixed films like Mary Poppins decades ago.

Move on to "sci-fi". Yes, the story is set in the future and partly in space. And yes, robots and machinery comprise the leading cast. It's not the least bit technical, however, and is every bit as universally accessible as Pixar films of the past (more than some -- ahem, Cars). Setting this tale in a world destroyed by consumerism invited early skepticism by those fearing that Pixar had taken an unwelcome leap onto a political soapbox. Amazingly, the studio has fully embraced that universe without going anywhere near a sermon. Rather than prophesy, the narrative merely imagines a "what if?" scenario, doesn't get wrapped up in a blame game, and is far more inspirational than didactic. The end note is as uplifting as anything I've seen.

As for "silent"... Well, while there is a definite paucity of dialogue, the robot protagonists find their own language that is later supplemented by verbal human interaction. WALL-E refuses to fall back on broad visual gags to supplement its patches of silence. Despite that, the movie isn't dull for a single second. The characters are largely responsible for that. There's also the active, score and effects-filled sound design. And I'd be remiss not to mention the brilliant use of the Hello, Dolly! soundtrack or Peter Gabriel's excellent closing song, "Down to Earth".

That brings us to "romcom". Certainly, the bond between WALL-E and EVE is a romantic one and the prevailing tone in the film is one of levity. The unusual characters' simplicity makes their interactions fresh and endearing, not at all stale and clichιd like the "romcom" moniker might imply. The movie is brimming with heart and I dare say it's impossible not to fall in love with its protagonists. WALL-E reminds me a lot of my miniature dachshund. He has all the attributes of a lovable pet, plus enough human characteristics to make his longing completely relatable.

The Captain is excited by what he learns about mankind's life on Earth. EVE and WALL-E attract attention by bearing a striking resemblance to the renegades depicted in the Axiom's all points bulletin.

Simply put, WALL-E is one of the best films of the year. In fact, I consider it the best -- at least so far. If you didn't catch it in theaters, you can still see it in plenty of time for the awards season, where hopefully it will get some love. Disney this week released the film on single-disc DVD, three-disc DVD, double-disc Blu-ray, and three-disc Blu-ray. The lattermost of these is profiled below.

Buy WALL-E: 3-Disc Blu-ray from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround EX (English)
Release Date: November 18, 2008
Three single-sided discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Suggested Retail Price: $40.99
Double-wide blue keepcase with tray in
Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Box
Also available in 1-Disc DVD, 3-Disc Special Edition DVD with Digital Copy, and 2-Disc Blu-ray
The Wonderful World Of Disney Christmas Tree

VIDEO and AUDIO

The movie is presented in anamorphic 2.39:1 widescreen, preserving its original aspect ratio, and in 1080p high definition. Even on standard definition DVD, the direct digital transfer of Pixar's masterfully animated films looks almost as good as can be. Blu-ray's higher resolution brings WALL-E to an even more eye-popping level. The animation simply dazzles without a single blemish as even the smallest background details are crystal clear, making it possible to peer deep into the frame and find something to appreciate. Simply put, this is perfection.

The audio is presented on a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 Surround Sound track. Watching with 5.1 channels, the lossless track is as perfect as the video quality. Channel separation and sound clarity leave no complaint. Sound effects are living it up in this track, both during long stretches of relative quiet and during intense action sequences. The score and songs are positively glorious here. One couldn't ask for more.

BONUS FEATURES

The Blu-ray offers all of the Bonus Features found on the DVD (except for three Easter eggs that I was unable to find on the Blu-ray) plus a few extras. Every bonus feature on the disc is presented in 1080p high definition. I'll address the Blu-ray exclusives below:

Disc One offers two commentary tracks. The first is "Cine-Explore", which is basically the DVD's audio commentary by director Andrew Stanton, just enhanced with graphics that appear atop the movie during playback. I can't say this revolutionizes the commentary experience but it certainly adds something to it. As for the discussion itself, Stanton has a lot of excellent information and analysis to offer. Even if his voice in this one-man show starts to lull one to sleep by the end, it's definitely worth listening to.

The second track is called "Geek Track: Trash Talk & Trivia". This is essentially an exclusive audio commentary, with the added bonus of a silhouetted couch on which the participants sit occasionally appearing on the screen. The conversation here lives up to its name. The substance very frequently dives off-topic but the obvious rapport among the commentators and their (sometimes irreverent) jokes about the movie make this enjoyable to listen to.

In addition to the new short BURN-E (which is found on all releases), the Blu-ray offers "Burn-E with Boards", which plays the short again with a concept art reel playing in real time in the upper corner. This is fine to include but I can't imagine that it would have been if not for Disney wanting to add another thing to the list of upgrade-enticing Blu-ray exclusives.

Under the Set-Up menu is something called "Maximize Your Home Theater". This is found on the DVD too, so it isn't really an exclusive, but I mention it here because (A) home theater settings are so important to the Blu-ray experience you've invested so much in and (B) with the easy-to-follow instructions and cool Pixar character appearances, it's just really neat. Note: I had some trouble loading the early screens, having to return to the Main Menu each time before returning to the feature so that I could advance one more screen -- about halfway through, that problem stopped altogether.

Finally, there is BD-Live, which requires a compatible Blu-ray player and an Internet connection. This feature allows you to chat with other BD-Live users anywhere in the world while they watch the movie at the same time as you, play movie trivia games with others around the world, sync a video of yourself to a scene in the movie and mail it to someone so that it shows up when they reach that part of the movie, and engage in Disney Movie Rewards online activities which are BD-Live-exclusive and can earn you extra DMR points.

Disc Two's Bonus Features menu is divided into two sections. Robots caters to younger viewers while Humans appeals to more serious fans.

Under Robots is a section called "Axiom Arcade". Inside are four Blu-ray-exclusive virtual games. Two of these -- "EVE's Bot Blaster" and "WALL-E's Dodge & Dock" will not load on my Blu-ray player; I expect it may be the same for many of you. (A firmware update for my player may very well fix the problem but I'm temporarily unable to perform one.) The next is "M-0's Mop-Up Madness", a game intentionally designed to look like the old NES format in which you control M-0 as he tries to mop up WALL-E's dirt tracks while avoiding security bots. Each level becomes more challenging as the game progresses. Simple though it may be, I must say it's fun. "BURN-E's Break Through" is the same kind of idea -- a little more challenging and a little less fun. Here, you try to move BURN-E from the bottom level of a platform to the top while avoiding the security bots.

The first exclusive under Humans is "3D Set Fly-Throughs", which are nothing new to home video. They're exactly what they sound like (only they're three-dimensional in the CGI sense, not the requires-special glasses-sense)
and they are extra awesome in high definition. This section provides a blueprint of the Axiom ship that EVE calls home and plots eight points on it. Click on each brings up a three-dimensional exploration of that environment without any characters to distract. A corresponding soundtrack adds to the atmosphere. There are also two Earth-set fly-throughs. My favorites are the trip through WALL-E's truck and the tour around the outside of the Axiom.

The exclusive "Gallery" is made up of many submenus and sub-submenus that showcase concept art, backgrounds, visual development, and publicity art. Navigation is cumbersome and I doubt many are up for the chore of seeing it all. Still, what's here is neat to see. There's a "Play All" option, but it doesn't play anything; it just lets you scroll through everything without clicking on the various menus (it still takes forever). A moving reel that shows the artwork without requiring a new pack of AA batteries for the remote would be preferable.

Under the label "Worldwide Trailers" are four trailers that were lamely denied to those purchasing the movie on DVD. The first, "Domestic Trailer #1" (1:35), is the one widely seen in theaters with Andrew Stanton talking about his legendary lunch that led to WALL-E and many of the Pixar masterpieces that preceded it. It's odd to think back to how much this preview turned me off, given how strongly I feel about the movie now. "Domestic Trailer #2" (2:30), which starts with WALL-E changing Luxo Jr.'s lightbulb in the Pixar logo, is better. "Domestic Trailer #3" (2:30) gives the most accurate portrayal of the movie and is the one I'd use to sell the movie to friends who are debating it for a group viewing.

After those, there are several international trailers. "Trailer 3: French Canadian" (2:24) and "Trailer C: Japanese" (2:13) are very similar to "Domestic Trailer #3", but in their respective native languages. "Trailer F: Italian" (1:25) is very different from any of these others, as it relies on clips from the movie playing against "Love is in the Air" by John Paul Young with occasional screens of Italian text -- it's quite fun.

And then comes the coolest Blu-ray exclusive of all -- the "Super Bowl Spot" (1:00) in which Toy Story's Woody and Buzz sit on a couch with a bowl of popcorn and banter about WALL-E while hilarious clips of the eponymous bot struggling with a vacuum cleaner play.

Everything else is the same as on the DVD. Here's an outline of what's included:

Disc One

•"Cine-Explore" (HD) *
•"Geek Track: Trash Talk & Trivia" (HD) *
•Presto (HD)
•Burn-E (HD)
•"Burn-E with Boards" (HD) *
•"Maximize Your Home Theater"
•B-D Live (B-D Live) *

Disc Two

Robots
•"WALL-E's Treasures & Trinkets" (HD)
•"'Lots of Bots' Storybook" (HD)
•"Axiom Arcade" (HD) *
--"EVE's Bot Blaster" *
--"WALL-E's Dodge & Dock" *
--"M-O's Mop-Up Madness" *
--"BURN-E's Break Through" *
•"Sneak Peek: 'WALL-E's Tour of the Universe" (HD) *

Humans

Deleted Scenes
•"Garbage Airlock" (HD)
•"Dumped" (HD)
•"Secret Files" (HD)
•"Docking" (HD)
•Optional intro by Andrew Stanton for each of the scenes (HD)

Behind the Scenes
•"The Imperfect Lens: Creating the Look of WALL-E" (HD)
•"Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds from the Sound Up" (HD)
•"Captain's Log: The Evolution of Humans" (HD)
•"Notes on a Score" (HD)
•"Life of a Shot: Deconstructing the Pixar Process" (HD)
•"Robo-Everything" (HD)
•"WALL-E & EVE" (HD)
•BnL Shorts (five in total) (HD)

•3D Set Fly-Throughs (HD) *
•Gallery (HD) *

Worldwide Trailers *
•Domestic Trailer #1 (HD) *
•Domestic Trailer #2 (HD) *
•Domestic Trailer #3 (HD) *
•Trailer 3: French Canadian (HD) *
•Trailer C: Japanese (HD) *
•Trailer F: Italian (HD) *
•Superbowl Spot (HD) *

•The Pixar Story (feature-length documentary by Leslie Iwerks) (HD)

An * above denotes a Blu-ray exclusive.

For a detailed description of each of the non-exclusive bonus features listed above -- and for another perspective on the movie -- check out Luke's review of the three-disc DVD release on UltimateDisney.com.

The three-disc Blu-ray and three-disc DVD share Disc Three in common. The third disc is a DVD that contains only a digital copy of the movie. I still think that current storage capacity on iPods, iPhones, and even most laptops renders the digital copy craze unwarranted. That said, if I was going to load up a full-length film onto any of those devices to carry around with me, I may very well choose this one. The digital copy is the only difference between the two-disc and three-disc Blu-ray releases. Note: the digital copy file presents the movie in standard definition only.

MENUS and PACKAGING

Unlike the DVD, WALL-E's Blu-ray release does not come in eco-friendly packaging. In fact, the double-wide Blu-ray case uses more plastic than normal releases do! The first two discs are housed on either side of a plastic tray that snaps into the center of the keepcase once open. The digital copy disc is stored on the back panel. The blue keepcase is housed inside an embossed, holographic cardboard slipcover.

There are three inserts, each printed on thin newsprint-like paper that I assume is supposed to be more "green" (despite being mostly colored blue). One advertises the BD-Live network, another provides the activation code for the digital copy, and the third advertise a Disney Movie Rewards WALL-E sweepstakes and provides the program's Magic Code (currently worth 125 points).

The main menu screens replicate an Axiom computer screen module, with a view into space.
Disney Cars Sheet Labels - 5 scenes
Disney Checks, Labels, Covers
Disney Villains Checks
The menu is, as is custom for Blu-ray, accessible as a non-intrusive pop-up menu during playback. A very annoying computer chirping sound plays in the background of these otherwise silent menus... positively maddening to leave on for more than a minute. The menu screens appear to be quite different from those on the DVD.

The menus on both discs helpfully describe each bonus feature when it is selected. Runtimes are also helpfully provided.

When Disc One is inserted, the following previews/promos play: the common "Only One Disney" promo, a teaser for Pixar's Up, a newer Disney on Blu-ray Disc promo, Pinocchio: Platinum Edition (coming to DVD and Blu-ray), and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian on DVD and Blu-ray. The main menu also offers Sneak Peeks for Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Earth, the Disney Parks, and the Disney Movie Rewards program. The previews are all in HD.

Paddle boy momentarily entertains WALL-E, one of the only robots cleaning up the mess that is 29th century Earth. Shattered teal glass reveals the sources behind it: WALL-E and EVE in the Axiom's Repair Ward.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I can't say enough good things about WALL-E, one of the most unusual, complex, and moving films to come out of Disney or Pixar. The Blu-ray's exclusive bonus features are nothing to write home about but the supplements included on both the Blu-ray and DVD releases -- along with perfect video and audio presentation on the Blu-ray -- certainly are. Whether on DVD or Blu-ray, if you aren't buying this movie, I hope it's because you haven't yet moved on from your VCR.

More on the Blu-ray / Buy WALL-E from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD / Special Edition DVD / 1-Disc DVD / Blu-ray / Blu-ray with Digital Copy

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Pixar Films on DVD: Toy Story • A Bug's Life • Toy Story 2 • Monsters, Inc. • Finding Nemo • The Incredibles • Cars • Ratatouille • WALL•E • Up
New to DVD: Star Wars: The Clone Wars • Kung Fu Panda (with Secrets of the Furious Five) • Shrek the Halls • Tropic Thunder (Director's Cut)
New to Blu-ray: Planet of the Apes (1968) • James Bond Blu-ray Collection (Volumes 1 & 2) • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Recent Disney DVDs: Tinker Bell • Sleeping Beauty (Platinum Edition) • Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Four
Summer 2008 Blockbusters: Iron Man • Journey to the Center of the Earth • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull • Hancock
Pixar Shorts, Vol. 1 • 2001: A Space Odyssey • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy • The Black Hole • Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland
Walt Disney Treasures: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit • Dream On Silly Dreamer • Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition
Peanuts: Deluxe Holiday Collection • The Godfather Trilogy: The Coppola Restoration • A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!

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Reviewed November 20, 2008.