Ain't It Cool News (www.aintitcool.com)
Animation and Anime

Quint sits down with WALL-E director Andrew Stanton!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Of all my regrets from Comic-Con, of all the panels I had to miss or footage I had to skip out of for interviews, my biggest regret by far is that I had to leave the WALL-E panel halfway through in order to interview Robert Downey Jr. If it was almost any other interview, I would have blown it off… and if I had known they were screening the first 5 minutes of WALL-E I might have even left Downey hanging. It’s Pixar… I’m sure he’d understand. I did see much of the panel, including Ben Burtt (legendary sound designer whose work on STAR WARS is a great part of why we love that movie today… think about it. He invented the lightsaber noise. He invented that unique laser blast. He invented Darth Vader’s breathing) who did a live sound mix for us on the stage, illustrating how he gave voice to WALL-E. That’s what was on my mind when I sat down with Andrew Stanton (FINDING NEMO), the director of WALL-E and our conversation begins with Ben Burtt. In fact, our conversation started even before I sat down and could get my audio recorder out. So, we jump in a tad late, but you’ll be able to keep up. Enjoy!



Andrew Stanton: We’ll have meetings and we’ll be like doing something with the reels and we’ll have scratch music from say like the map room in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and he’ll suddenly be like “You know, it’s funny that you used that for scratch, because when I was doing the map room editing, we used NORTH BY NORTHWEST,” and the whole room would just get quiet and “oh my gosh, that’s right.” You just forget, because he’s such an unassuming guy and you just get humbled by him.

Quint: Well, I really liked the presentation.

Andrew Stanton: Good.

Quint: Watching the trailer, the original teaser… what I loved about it is you don’t really know anything, but what’s great about Pixar is the emotion and the character showed through without us having to know anything about the plot, so it was really fascinating to see this story was so much bigger in scope than I was expecting it to be.

Andrew Stanton: Well, we’re trying to you know, dole it out, the cat’s out of the bag now, but we kept… Initially arguing with marketing, but then they really got behind this idea for what that teaser become, we said “We remember growing up, when all E.T. was three fingers coming around a door and that was it, you had to know more.” We were like “why can’t we go back to that?” So it’s nice to know that it kind of succeeded in that sense.

Quint: I love the new logo too.

Andrew Stanton: I really like it. I love the whole putting the last letter in a circle, because we’ve said that you could do that to DISNEY, you could do that to a PIXAR, you could do that to people’s names, so…

Quint: So just watching that stuff… I don’t know, it’s already, and I know this sounds kiss ass, but it really does feel like the character of Wall-E is already part of the Pixar group…

Andrew Stanton: Wow, well… *knocks on the wooden table* …your word’s to God’s ear.

Quint: Well it’s the design, it’s like it really… like I told you on that teaser, there’s just so much hope and personality just in that one little bit of footage.

Andrew Stanton: Yeah, well you know it’s funny, I didn’t get to elaborate because there was a guy with a card saying “two more questions… three more questions…” so I had to be short, but when that first question came up about the design of it, I mean the binoculars kicked it off, but then you start pulling from… You know I remember going to the STAR TOURS ride on the inaugural night. I waited up all night with my college buddies and through midnight and they had taken this animatronic, from AMERICA SINGS, and stripped off all of its feathers and stuck it in the middle area where you kind of move around and it’s got binoculars, stereoscopic eyes, and I love that. I said, “that is the coolest looking thing I have ever seen.”

Quint: It’s so awesome that you mention that, because once you said that, I knew exactly what you were talking about!

Andrew Stanton: Yeah and it’s still there and then I got a bunch of my sci-fi… everybody’s a sci-fi geek at Pixar and so they were all excited to finally be on something. We sat around a room literally for weeks, just sketching what would be cool robots, you know, with sort of pie in the sky and it was really great to see it naturally, organically, start to come down, because we did Eve and Wall-E at the same time and just naturally came down, people where grabbing photographs from anything they would see, where they would read… because all I cared about, was “I want to read a character into it. I don’t want to put a character on it, I want to put a character into it…” just like you do when you look at a car or you look at a certain thing and so we started collecting photographs of anything, any kind of inanimate object or artifact that made you read a character… just a vacuum cleaner or a bicycle and why… So we would just really home this down until we got these things down to an essence, so that you would think you would see it… I kept saying “see it as an appliance first, and then read character into it” and that’s been the driving goal for any of the designs and kicked off basically those two characters.

Quint: It’s always amazing to me to see a digital effect, or what’s essentially a digital effect, have a soul. It took the integration of live action movies a long time for that to happen, I’d say until Gollum and KONG…

Andrew Stanton: Right!

Quint: I believed that there was a soul to those creatures, but if you think about it PIXAR was able to do that before…

Andrew Stanton: With Luxo…

Quint: Yeah, very much so.

Andrew Stanton: But it’s a specific direction, you can’t compare it to Gollum, it’s the enduing a life into an inanimate object.

Quint: Yeah, and you can also point to Walt Disney’s work before that, making you believe a piece of plastic and paint was real.

Andrew Stanton: Yeah, but there’s something to it. I honestly believe that it’s a different part of your audience response system or muscle that when you look at a pet or an infant, you don’t get the full equation and because of their appeal, you draw from your own history of “I think that dog is sad. I think that baby wants food.” And you end up pulling from personal memories. So they end up being much stronger in your response than if a character on a screen is telling you their specific world and why they specifically feel a certain way and so I felt like “man, imagine if you could put that in a bottle and watch a whole movie of some thing that did that to you” That’s really what was driving the desire to make WALL-E… was having that effect on top of this space genre.

Quint: This is the first time Pixar has gone out into space right?

Andrew Stanton: Yeah.

Quint: You’ve done inner space with NEMO…

Andrew Stanton: I’ve even said Dan, I said “look, when I was a kid and I saw STAR WARS and R2 was alone going through Tatooine before the Jawas… I didn’t care if we ever went back to anybody else again.” I said, “You could have stayed right there and...” I thought a lot of people, and this is not a criticism of the movie, no we love it, but I’m saying like how much it made you want to know more about just that world and that character and the power that carried.

Quint: And doing that in animation, I can only imagine is the perfect medium to translate that …

Andrew Stanton: It has caught up. Again, you know like I said, WALL-E has been, well at least the nugget of it, around since before TOY STORY was done and I always felt like “I want to believe that I’m really there and I want to believe that box is really there. I just don’t want it to be… I don’t want it to be photorealistic, but I want to believe it’s really there and so I was very psyched when we finished NEMO and I felt like we had really achieved the physics of believing you were really under water, so I said “Hey, let’s do that with air.” I said, “Let’s do that with air. Let’s fix our lenses, let’s get the depth of field looking exactly how anthropomorphic lenses work and do all these tricks that make us have the same kind of dimensionality that we got on NEMO with an object out in the air and on the ground. I felt like if we can get that, then we’re going to get him to that sort of Tatooine-esque, you know, first STAR WARS movie feel of something out there, that is really out there.” We are really embracing our inner geeks on this one. It’s been a real enjoyable ride.

Quint: Was it always from the very beginning that you wanted to have a completely electronic dialogue?

Andrew Stanton: Yeah, because to me I wanted R2.

Quint: You want the bloops?

Andrew Stanton: It’s not even… I just wanted logic if you really want to break it down. I wanted to just buy that that thing was just doing what it was built for and then evolved a need to communicate beyond what it was built to do, so that was really the drive. It always felt like that was what you got from R2, a limited vocabulary and you had to translate and I just… I knew from day one that’s what I wanted to do with it. I didn’t know what I wanted it to exactly sound like… what exactly the vocabulary would be and what exactly it would look like, but it really helped to be able to make those choices, because I just knew that was the goal.

Quint: I remember when, I think it was Disney, when they did DINOSAUR and that was the dream of that teaser, that we were going to see this beautifully animated movie…

Andrew Stanton: Yeah.

Quint: … that was completely told without a traditional…

Andrew Stanton: It kind of killed it, didn’t it?

Quint: It did. It really… because that teaser, to this day, in that original poster are still brilliantly perfect.

Andrew Stanton: I agree. I got dinked too.

Quint: It’s really fascinating, it’d take having Pixar to have the balls to go through with, so…

Andrew Stanton: You know, it’s one of those things where when you talk about it, it seems like some huge challenge, but when you watch it, it’s so obvious, especially if you go back and… you know, we went back and watched all of our favorite movies that where pre-sound and God, there were things you could do then that you can’t do now, because of sound and there are scenes and ways to do scenes that get you engrossed in ways to express character’s moments that just aren’t a choice anymore, because you know people could just say something. It’s great to be able to dip a little toe into that pool and pull from some of that. I mean, there really is a lost art form that went out with Keaton and Chaplin and all of those guys.

Quint: Well, I mean visually to me and what I love about movies is the visual storytelling. It’s like, sure I love a great Tarantino dialogue or I love a great Woody Allen dialogue, but you look at… it’s always the visuals. That’s the first thing, because you can read good dialogue, but seeing somebody else’s vision is really what pushes the movie, so that’s what I think is kind of fascinating about this.

Andrew Stanton: It is a fascinating experiment, but I don’t plan to ever make a movie like this again. It’s a one of a kind time and opportunity and we are all embracing it.

Quint: Do you have anything else kicking around for… I mean you’re still working on this for another full year, right?

Andrew Stanton: Yeah, I have no time to do anything else but this, but you know, I’m always procrastinating, so…

Quint: Do you think you will continue to do more animated films?

Andrew Stanton: Possibly… I would want to do whatever would make the next idea I have sell, like be realized on the screen and I’ve been saying that since TOY STORY. I said, “as soon as I run out of fully CG realized ideas, I’m just going to do whatever it takes to make that next idea work,” so it’s always been idea driven. I don’t think I’ll ever leave PIXAR, because it’s the safest creative environment you could ever be in. Why would I want to leave it? But I may try to convince people to dabble in other things, to be able to get ideas realized, but that’s already happening with people like Brad (Bird) and stuff…

Quint: I’ve always wanted to go out there. I’ve talked to them occasionally and I grew up in the Bay Area, so…

Andrew Stanton: Oh yeah? Where?

Quint: Sunnyvayle.

Andrew Stanton: Oh yeah, you’re not too far… like an hour.

Quint: Last time I was out there, I went to ILM… on a visit for a really crappy movie, it was for VAN HELSING, but…

[Andrew Stanton laughs]

Quint: … but I couldn’t turn it down, like… and it was for the DVDs, so it was even after I knew it was a crappy movie…

Andrew Stanton: Still got to go…

Quint: But they said “You get to tour ILM” and I was like “I’m there.” I was talking to the PR people from Pixar, but I heard back just the day I was leaving and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. I’ve always wanted to go visit the campus…

Andrew Stanton: It’d be great to see you when you come up.

Quint: Well thanks so much for talking to me.

Andrew Stanton: Sure man.



I have to say that Stanton was one of the nicest people I’ve ever interviewed. There was a boyish excitement about him, no sense of any stress or cynicism showed through the entire time we talked. He spoke quickly, so excited to share his project with anyone who would listen. I really can’t wait to see what they have in store for us on this one. -Quint quint@aintitcool.com



Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 11, 2007, 7:16 a.m. CST

    BEN BARTT AS THOR

    by BringingSexyBack

    or HULK, doesn't matter.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 7:23 a.m. CST

    No dirty jokes?

    by SpencerTrilby

    there's a lot to say about robots' dirty habits, though. </p>

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 8:09 a.m. CST

    Predator - best action movie of all time

    by Steve0

    Though you guys might find this interesting. http://kokshoor.com/opinion/Predator_-_best_action_movie_of_all_time

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 8:29 a.m. CST

    The Footage was Amazing..

    by Redfive!

    Probally the best stuff I saw at comic con.Iron Man was cool too but Wall-E nailed it and I think its gonna be "Nemo" Huge for Pixar.It is basicly R2-D2 the movie.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 10:04 a.m. CST

    Quint: Hey Andrew HINT HINT HINT!

    by half vader

    Ha ha. Ya gotta use the opportunity when it presents itself I guess. Respect.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 10:15 a.m. CST

    Can you imagine trying to get R2 through the suits

    by half vader

    these days? <p> "Let me get this straight. He doesn't talk." <p> "Nope." <p> "Just uh, 'bleeps' and 'bloops'." (reading from notes, then looks at other suit with facetious smile. Other suit chuckles) <p> "And you really think Mom and Pop will 'get' this abstract shit?" (more chuckling, brushing of lint, looking out window) <p> "Well yeah, it's a basic sort of com-" (cut off by suit #1) <p> "That's great. Really uh, 'creative'. Just great stuff. Un fucking workable though" <p> (other suit chimes in) "What if he was gay?"

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 11:49 a.m. CST

    Finding Nemo is so overrated

    by Rupee88

    It is contrived and corny and not very clever. Toy story 1 nad 2 and the Incredibles are the bomb, but Pixar does not bat 1.000.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 12:08 p.m. CST

    Damn,,,

    by WONKABAR

    why teh Pixar-peeps so goddamn hush-hush?

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 12:14 p.m. CST

    Still

    by WriteFromLeft

    I'd like to see some traditional flat animation again. I love Pixar. But I miss the artistry of hand-drawn.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 12:24 p.m. CST

    SoylentMean: I don't know if there are suits.

    by Barry Egan

    Other people here may have a better understanding of this, but sine John Lassiter is in charge of Disney animation it would appear that Pixar are their own suits. Am I wrong in this assumption? Ratatouille is going to make $200 million here and likely as much if not more than that in foreign markets. It will sell millions of DVDs. I think it's doing fine business.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 12:43 p.m. CST

    2009

    by half vader

    Isn't that when the one about the kid and the old codger comes out? Called "Up".

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 12:47 p.m. CST

    "Frog Princess" from Disney will be hand-drawn, Write.

    by half vader

    but unfortunately also have a wacky post/'twist'-take on a fairy tale. Sigh.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 12:49 p.m. CST

    Sorry for the attempt at humour

    by half vader

    Obviously NOT funny, because it's true.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 12:56 p.m. CST

    # 5 Alive!

    by Doc_Hudson

    come on,you were thinking it too.....

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 12:59 p.m. CST

    Wow that interview felt cut off!

    by Evil Hobbit

    Feels like this conversation could have go on for ever! Great stuff, Wall-E is brilliant, Pixar is perfection.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 1:06 p.m. CST

    Hey Pixar: After Wall-E:

    by covenant

    Incredibles II. Or else.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 3:23 p.m. CST

    Brian Dennehy is in Ratatouille!!

    by performingmonkey

    Sorry but I only just realised that. For me, Brian Dennehy is immortalized in the South Park movie (during the What Would Brian Boitano Do? song). By the way, I thought Ratatouille was fucking excellent. Pixar have yet to let me down (those of you who didn't like Cars are brainless cunts)

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 8:54 p.m. CST

    State of animation...

    by palimpsest

    ...and sat through HAPPILY N'EVER AFTER this weekend with my four-year old. Argh. A hideous mess of a movie that got precisely one laugh out of the audience all the way through. I don't like the idea of yet another postmodern fairytale spin, if Disney are really taking that route with FROG PRINCESS. SHREK THE THIRD proved creatively, if not financialy, that this is all played out, and HOODWINKED stank up the screen too (even if the premise was workable). RATATOUILLE might not be making the megabucks of a TOY STORY (I'm a firm believer in the old adage that if Joe Cinemagoer can't pronounce the title of the movie, he won't buy a ticket for it), but it's got the strength of characterisation that will see it through, and make the movie last. The Pixar gang is so right about this, in the way early Disney was - get the characters right, and the movies will last forever. No-one's going to watch HOODWINKED or HAPPILY N'EVER AFTER or SHREK THE THIRD in ten years time, but I'll bet there's still an audience for each and every one of the Pixar movies (even CARS, which is by some way the weakest) to date, in the same way that there is for the likes of DUMBO.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 10:33 p.m. CST

    Andrew Stanton is a SOOPAH-genius

    by Osmosis Jones

    And Pixar will always guarantee my ass in a theater seat.

  • Aug. 11, 2007, 10:49 p.m. CST

    SEE THE LEGEND BEN BURTT IN ACTION...

    by hollywoodsummers

    This is a short doc about the first 10 years of him and crew building the Lucasfilm sound library. Enjoy. http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=15521832

  • Aug. 12, 2007, 2:52 a.m. CST

    These interviews don't get near enough talkback posts.

    by mefrog

    It makes me wonder if people even read them, because they're some of the best articles of the site. Great review, this and The Dark Knight are my two most anticipated films of next year.

  • Aug. 12, 2007, 7:22 a.m. CST

    My most anticipated of 2008

    by Rindain

    The Comic-Con footage was phenomenal. I wish I could see that first 10 minutes again right NOW.

  • Aug. 12, 2007, 12:13 p.m. CST

    Hand-drawn will come back

    by dasaroo

    When Steve Jobs and John Lasseter sold Pixar to Disney (and Lasseter took over Disney Animation) Lasseter stated that one of his goals was to try to bring back the classic style of hand-drawn Disney animation. That style (along with Miyazaki) is probably the largest influence on the Pixar stable of artists. He has already succeeded in another goal, which was to drive a stake through the humiliating Cinderella IV/ Bambi VIII direct-to-DVD "sequels". I'm sure people are aware that Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. was/is co-owner of Pixar- and that there is a direct correlation between his obsession with quality and user-friendliness in both his computers & software and his Pixar films. Just sayin'.

  • Aug. 12, 2007, 12:23 p.m. CST

    On the subject of Brad Bird

    by dasaroo

    I hope everyone who likes his Pixar films have checked out "The Iron Giant". It's a lovely hand-drawn film (with some echos of Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky"- another must-see) that has a cool '50s flying saucer vibe to it. It is beautifully done.

  • Aug. 12, 2007, 4:46 p.m. CST

    Comicon footage looked GREAT!

    by GrendelGrendelGrendel

    Who knows if Walle will be a good film or a hit or anything, but the footage shown at Comicon LOOKED GREAT. Thankfully, Pixar continues eschewing the notion that their cg films have to LOOK realistic. It looked better than most so-called "realistic" films.

  • Aug. 12, 2007, 8:53 p.m. CST

    Just sayin'

    by half vader

    As I said Dasaroo, Frog Princess.

  • Aug. 13, 2007, 8:15 a.m. CST

    Palimpsest is so right

    by filmcoyote

    The great thing about Pixar is they not only make films that work now they make beautifully crafted stories with heartfelt characters that will go on lasting 50 years from now and beyond. DWA haven't a clue or a care about making a classic movie they just want a Rod Tidwell "show me the money" moment. Pixar's level of artistry is something I don't believe any other American animators can come close to achieving anymore because its all the almighty dollar and damn the audience if they wish they had that ten bucks and 90 minutes of their life back - suckers paid didn't they? Pixar respects the audience enough to make movies that are worth your theater dollars, your DVD dollars and your devotion. Can't wait to see WALL-E continue their great tradition.

  • Aug. 13, 2007, 5:37 p.m. CST

    Cool

    by Cobbio

    Thanks for the interview, Quinty. God, I can't wait to see Pixar roll out some science fiction! Hell yes!