WALL-E appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While I’m not sure I’d call this a literally flawless presentation, it comes close.
At all times, sharpness remained immaculate. I saw virtually no signs of softness during this concise presentation. Even the widest shots remained tight and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects emerged, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. As for source flaws, you’ll find none in this clean image.
During the shots on Earth, a dirty brown palette dominated. Some other hues emerged in the first act, but the film reserved its brighter tones for its time on the Axiom. I thought the colors were always full and dynamic, as the movie replicated the tones well. Blacks seemed firm and dark, while shadows presented good clarity and delineation. This was a splendid transfer that satisfied.
And the flick sounded good, too! Ben Burtt may be the best sound designer in the business, so he brought a great sense of life to WALL-E’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. The movie boasted an excellent sense of place and movement at all times.
We found plenty of activity around the spectrum, and with its space setting, many elements zipped about the room. The surrounds kicked in with a lot of unique information and brought nice details to the table. Too much of the movie remained subtle for this to be a truly butt-kicking mix, but it did all the little things right to make it work.
Audio quality was solid. Speech appeared natural and concise, with no edginess or other concerns. Music seemed lively and dynamic, and effects followed suit. Those elements sounded full and accurate. The film boasted nice low-end response to flesh out the spectrum. I found a lot to like about this very good soundtrack.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the DVD release? Audio showed greater range and oomph, while picture was tighter, more vivid and smoother. The DVD was a good product but the Blu-ray surpassed it easily.
The Blu-ray repeats the DVD’s extras and adds some new ones. Two animated shorts appear here. Presto (5:15) ran prior to theatrical screenings of WALL-E, while BURN-E (7:35) is new and exclusive to this set. The former features a hungry magician’s rabbit who causes havoc with the act when he doesn’t get fed. The short features a definite Looney Tunes vibe and provides some fun dialogue-free antics.
As for BURN-E, it focuses on a repair droid and shows what he was up to during the Axiom-based drama of WALL-E. It’s a cute look at a different part of the story, but it doesn’t really go anywhere terribly interesting.
The disc also provides a Storyboard Version of BURN-E. As you watch the short, this shows storyboards in the upper left corner of the screen. It offers a nice way to compare the boards to the final product.
New to the Blu-ray, Cine-Explore combines the DVD’s commentary with visual elements. For the chat-only portions, we hear from director Andrew Stanton. He offers a running, screen-specific piece that looks at the use of material from Hello, Dolly!, storytelling and the emphasis on silent film material, the flick’s concept and development, influences, character and visual design, voice and audio design, cast and performances, research, music, and a mix of other production subjects.
Stanton gives us an excellent commentary here. He digs into the flick with gusto and provides a really rich, insightful take on the movie. Stanton aptly illustrates the choices made for WALL-E and provides a great deal of context. This is a thoughtful, informative and very enjoyable chat.
As for the visual components, “Cine-Explore” adds art and photos as the film progresses. These reflect the content of the commentary. We see concept art for characters and other early designs as well as photos of cast and crew. We also get some test footage and other elements.
“Cine-Explore” option adds a little kick to the standard commentary. It certainly isn’t revolutionary, but it gives you more content as you watch. This is a nice touch. I tape commentaries and listen to them elsewhere, partially because it’s more efficient, but also because it’s so dull to stare at the screen for so long. “Cine-Explore” provides added material that brings more flair and involvement to the usual film discussion.
Another addition to the Blu-ray, the Geek Track features character team supervisor Bill Wise, co-producer Lindsey Collins, story artist Derek Thompson, directing animator Angus MacLane. They sit together for a running, screen-specific commentary that looks at a mix of movie trivia, tech notes and observations.
The “Geek Track” lives up to its title, as it offers a lot of nerdy thoughts about film elements. That means many references to other sci-fi flicks as well as debates about the accuracy of WALL-E choices. Because of this, we don’t get a ton of info about the movie’s creation, but the participants keep things light and fun enough to ensure that we enjoy the chat.
A few ads open Disc One. We get clips for Up, Blu-Ray Discs, Pinocchio, and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with promos for Earth, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Disney Movie Rewards and Disney Parks.
Over on Disc Two, the extras split into two areas. Humans sticks with a more technical, behind the scenes orientation.
This section features a documentary entitled The Pixar Story. During the one-hour, 28-minute and 30-second show, we find notes from Stanton, filmmakers John Lasseter, Brad Bird, John Musker, Ron Clements, George Lucas, Pete Docter, and Lee Unkrich, animators Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Glen Keane, and Jim Murphy, producer Don Hahn, Pixar co-founder Alvy Ray Smith, Pixar president Ed Catmull, former NYIT president Alexander Schure, Pixar VP of Technology Rob Cook, Pixar animation scientist Eben Ostby, Pixar supervising technical director William Reeves, Pixar senior scientist Loren Carpenter, Pixar technical director Tom Porter, ILM visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, Pixar/Apple Computers CEO Steve Jobs, computer scientist Alan Kay, former Lasseter assistant/modeling and shading manager Deirdre Warin, former Walt Disney Company chairman Peter Schneider, Pixar technical director Tom Porter, former Pixar story supervisor Joe Ranft, former Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner, former Walt Disney Animation president Thomas Schumacher, Walt Disney Company director emeritus and consultant Roy E. Disney, film historian Leonard Maltin, former Robertson Stephens Investment Bank CEO Mike McCaffrey, Pixar producer Darla K. Anderson, Pixar University professor Randy Nelson, Lasseter’s wife Nancy, composer Randy Newman, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger, Walt Disney’s daughter Diane, story artist/writer Joe Grant, and actors Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Billy Crystal.
The program looks at how many future Pixar and Disney filmmakers came together at school in the 1970s as well as Lasseter’s time at Disney. From there we go through the origins/development of computer technology in movies, Lasseter’s move to Lucasfilm and the roots of Pixar. The rest of the program looks at the studio’s early shorts and shift to feature films with Toy Story, and their subsequent success and achievements.
The 2007 documentary provides a great look at Pixar. It offers a detailed look at the studio’s development and doesn’t shy away from potentially controversial areas; that means it never comes across like a happy-happy sanitized take on matters. The show always proves informative and interesting as it takes us through the studio’s history.
Four Deleted Scenes fill a total of 22 minutes, 24 seconds. We can see “Garbage Airlock” (6:55), “Dumped” (2:40), “Secret Files” (4:37) and “Docking” (8:12). In “Airlock”, WALL-E rescues EVE, while “Dumped” shows a romantic moment between the robots. “Files” shows an alternate piece of exposition related to the Axiom’s mission, while “Docking” depicts WALL-E’s arrival at the ship.
The first two are best – and feature virtually finished animation, something rarely observed in deleted scenes for cartoons. The other two are interesting as well but got the boot earlier in the process, so they appear only as storyreels.
We can watch these with or without introductions from Stanton. He gives us background about the scenes and also lets us know why they got the boot. As usual, Stanton gives us good info. (Note that the running times listed include Stanton’s intros.)
For some behind the scenes info, we go to a featurette called Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds from the Sound Up. In this 18-minute, 44-second piece, we hear from Stanton, sound and character voice designer Ben Burtt, film editor Stephen Schaffer, producer Jim Morris, co-producer Lindsey Collins, Disney sound designer Jimmy MacDonald, and directing animator Angus MacLane. As implied by the title, “Worlds” looks at the history of audio in animated films, and Burtt provides some insights into his work on WALL-E. We find some fun details in this informative piece.
Six more featurettes appear under the banner of “Behind the Scenes”. The Imperfect Lens: Creating the Look of WALL-E goes for 14 minutes, 31 seconds and provides remarks from Stanton, Morris, Collins, director of photography: camera Jeremy Lasky, director of photography: lighting Danielle Feinberg, production designer Ralph Eggleston, visual consultants Roger Deakins and Dennis Muren, supervising technical director Nigel Hardwidge, technical pipeline supervisor John Warren, technical development lead Lucas Ives, post-animation camera artist Craig Good, and effects supervisor David MacCarthy. The program looks at computer camerawork, film influences and other aspects of the visual design. The thoughts about how to use the camera in the CG domain prove especially valuable, and this piece digs into its topic well.
For a look at the non-robotic characters, we go to Captain’s Log: The Evolution of Humans. In this seven-minute and 57-second piece, we hear from Stanton, MacLane, Morris, Eggleston, Hardwidge, Burtt, story artist Derek Thompson, character supervisor Bill Wise, story supervisor Jim Reardon, character art director Jason Deamer, and character modeling lead Jason Bickerstaff. We see the early inclination to use gelatinous aliens instead of humans and the changes that came to the story. We got a hint of this early plan in the deleted scenes, but “Evolution” fleshes out the issue in a compelling manner.
From there we move to Notes on a Score. The 10-minute and 40-second piece offers comments from Stanton, Schaffer, Collins, Morris, composer Thomas Newman, and music editor Bill Bernstein. As expected, “Notes” looks at the movie’s music. As usual, the featurette offers a tight, incisive take on its topic, so it merits your time.
Next comes the five-minute and eight-second Life of a Shot: Deconstructing the Pixar Process. It features Stanton, Morris, Eggleston, Burtt, MacLane, Bickerstaff, assistant to the director Marguerite Enright, art coordinator Zoë Boxer, story artist Peter Sohn, layout artist Bob Whitehill, animators Wendell Lee and Bret Parker, set shading lead Chris Burrows, production artist Jennifer Chang, set dressing leads/layout artists Derek Williams and Alison Leaf, digital painter Japeth Pieper, technical lighting lead Erik Smitt, effects sequence lead Chris Chapman, production artist Jay Shuster, character articulation artist Austin Lee, character shading artist Brandon Onstott, and render technical director Mark VandeWettering.
The short piece escorts us through some short – and seemingly simple – shots. Essentially it acts to teach us that it takes a village to make an animated film. The focus remains superficial, but it’s still neat to see how many hands touch each small bit.
Robo-Everything lasts five minutes, 45 seconds as it provides info from Stanton, Deamer, MacLane, Bickerstaff, Wise, Shuster, and animators Victor Navone and Amber Martorelli. This program looks at all the work put into the creation of the movie’s secondary droids. Some nice details emerge in this fun featurette.
After this we shift to the seven-minute, one-second WALL-E and EVE. It includes remarks from Stanton, Reardon, Shuster, Wise, Navone, Lee, MacLane, Bickerstaff, Warren,
supervising animator Alan Barillaro, supervising animator Steve Hunter, and character articulation artist Sajan Skaria. This one follows the same approach as the prior featurette except it concentrates on the lead characters. It continues to educate and entertain.
Five BnL Shorts go for a total of nine minutes, two seconds. These let us get a closer look at the commercials occasionally seen in the movie – and some that I don’t think appear at all. Some of these don’t get much airing in the final flick, so it’s cool to view them in full.
An added Blu-ray feature, 3D Set Fly-Throughs gives us a look at various “locations”. We can explore aspects of the Axion, the refinery and WALL-E’s truck. This offers a neat look at the digital sets.
Two more BD exclusives follow. Equipped with stills, Gallery breaks into four areas: “Character Design” (232 images), “Layouts & Backgrounds” (210), “Visual Development” (305) and “Publicity” (16). That’s a whole lot of material to absorb, and the thumbnail set-up makes it easy. The domain provides lots of good images.
Worldwide Trailers includes four ads. We get three “domestic trailers” as well as one French Canadian clip. These offer interesting glimpses of the movie’s promotion.
With that we move to the more kid-oriented Robots section of the disc. WALL-E’s Treasures and Trinkets runs four minutes, 56 seconds as it shows WALL-E and pals as they play around with objects like soccer balls and Hula Hoops. The short offers modest entertainment, but it’s reasonably fun.
For more info about the flick’s droids, we go to the Bot Files. These let us learn facts related to WALL-E, EVE and 26 of the flick’s other robots. We get a little bit of text and narration to tell us about the characters. I like this component a lot, especially since it allows us to see all the thought that went into some little-used droids.
Next we find a Sneak Peek at “WALL-E’s Tour of the Universe”. This 50-second clip advertises… something. It really doesn’t let us know what “Tour of the Universe” will be, as it just sends us to a website for more information. Fun?
New to the Blu-ray, Axiom Arcade provides four games: “EVE’s Bot Blaster”, “WALL-E’s Dodge & Dock”, “M-O’s Mop-Up Madness” and “BURN-E’s Break Through”. These all offer 80s style videogames that use WALL-E characters. They’re cute but not as entertaining as I might like.
“Robots” ends with a Read-Along Storybook. Entitled “Lots of Bots”, this piece works differently than the usual Disney storybook. For one, it requires more interactivity, as it forces the viewer to assemble robots from various pieces. It also takes a rhyming, Dr. Seuss tone and quizzes the viewer. It’s probably best for the kiddies, but at least it’s more creative than the usual dull storybook. (A standard three-minute, seven-second version that reads the story without interaction also appears.)
Because of their long roster of continued excellence, a merely “pretty good” Pixar flick can be a disappointment. That’s the category into which WALL-E falls. The film provides a charming, enjoyable experience, but it's not one that matches with the studio’s best work. The Blu-ray brings us excellent picture and audio as well as a solid selection of supplements. This will never be one of my favorite Pixar efforts, but it’s a strong release.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of WALL-E