I have had the inestimable pleasure from time to time of watching animated and live action children's movies with my kids. As has always been true, there is as much in them for adults as there is for the kids. Think Popeye, Aladdin, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia ... lots of political, religious, social commentary there.
I had been putting off watching the movie Wall-E because at some point, I felt I achieved saturation after all these years. I finally watched it a few weeks ago and it really stuck with me. Let me tell you why.
It's not just about a futuristic robot with a human personality who is a garbage compactor on a deserted planet and one day encounters a sleek new scout robot and they develop a relationship. Oh no. Kids would be bored to death by that.
The interesting part is the underlying subtext of the movie. It's an environmental, political and social commentary about how we are destroying not only our planet, but ourselves - and we are willfully and blissfully ignorant of it. Stay with me for a moment.
The obvious destruction of the planet has come about from the skyscraper-like mountains of non-biodegradable detritus the inhabitants have left behind after they've all boarded a huge space cruiser for an extended "vacay" until the planet shows some sign of life once again and they can return, but at this point the passengers don't realize that because the ship has been cruising around for 700+ years and the original passengers are the ancestors of this generation of cruisers. The Nth generation captain doesn't exactly know what's going on either; he's just there to push some buttons when the ship's computer tells him to. (Yes, most of the captains are still white men.)
Cut to some ancillary scenes of the grossly overweight passengers floating around on their hovercraft-type "scooters" in a semi-recumbent position sipping liquid "nutrition" from a big gulp-sized container and watching videos on their personal monitors while they're scooter-floating at the pool, floating by the gym, getting stuck in rush hour traffic going from one place on the ship to another. Every one of them is the size of a small whale. They don't see each other any more; they are only tuned in to their screens.
Okay, for those who aren't quite following, I'll summarize the subtext:
WE are destroying our planet with our "disposable" mentality, WE are abrogating our responsibility and accountability for the running of things, WE are allowing ourselves to eat ourselves into unhealthy sedentary obesity, WE are disconnecting from each other on a human level by focusing on the electronic info-tainment pablum and nonsense we're fed 24/7 on television and the internet, and WE deserve what we get, or don't have any more, because of it.
What I find particularly interesting is Disney/Pixar's making of this movie. However, I'm guessing that the writers were "inspired" by the masses of people visiting Disney parks every year, many of whom are so overweight they must rent scooters to travel through the park (though the majority of them wouldn't be classified as senior citizens), many of whom toss their trash in places other than the garbage cans, many of whom run over each other with their scooters to get some place first, many of whom have mush for brains (after listening to It's a Small World After All a thousand times!). Sounds like they had the perfect laboratory environment for character and back story development.
I'm all about the subtext. (My former english and theatre professors would be proud.) We've all heard the phrase "those who don't study history are destined to repeat it" but this adds a different dimension. "Those who don't pay attention to what's really going on around them will end up stupid, the size of a whale, and floating around in garbage."
But it sounds so much nicer when you pitch it as a romantic story about a lonely little robot with a personality.
Thank goodness for marketing people.