June 30, 2008 [WALL•E]

Somewhere in a Saturday matinee sixty or so years ago, a young Porky Pig-ish fellow hogs down everything in sight and wishes for more—and that night he dreams of a Hell in which he is crammed with goodies like a bad bad goose, punished with no small measure of real cruelty for his sweet tooth and hollow leg.

That vague recollection came back to me during the last half of WALL•E when we find out what happened to all the Earth people: They'd been pampered into Porky Pigs, their pink skins and stubby little fingers of no use when danger threatens—and they're glad of it, glad to have the robots cram them, gently, with dainties and second helpings. It was hilarious, and I'm not going to dwell on any social commentary—if only because the movie lets their round little faces speak for themselves, no overt scolding necessary—besides, the little roly-polys are so darn cute, tumbling around like Weebles—even in their alarm they make us grin, their round eyes matching their bellies, their rubber-ball-squeaky efforts to flee as much fun as watching penguins plunge into the pond at the aquarium.

As almost-creepy as the old cartoon was, I'm happy it popped in my head: WALL•E, like just about everything Pixar produces, knows that it's a cartoon, too, and knows that kooky voices and pell-mell chases stand at the core of that Merrie medium, all the way back to the weird animals on board with Steamboat Willie—and all the way up to the lightspeed action of The Incredibles and the cutie-pie squeak of little Boo in Monsters, Inc. The computer-cartoon keeps evolving, but when it knows what it should be—as it does in the no-dialogue opening sequence of WALL•E, as direct an homage to, not Chaplin, but early Popeyes and the road Runner—Pixar finds its voice, and it's all buzzes and whirrs, the foley art of sound and the Carl Stalling joy of music.


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