| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Disney-Pixar blasts off into
uncharted territory with Friday's release of animated film
"Wall-E," a space adventure mixing an unusual love story with
somber messages about the future of Earth and humankind.
The film features dystopian landscapes, social commentary
and a lack of conventional dialogue that are rare under the
Walt Disney Co banner, but it sticks to Pixar's basic themes of
love, loyalty and friendship.
Still, the sober tone and odd love-story between robots has
prompted concerns that the "Wall-E" box office may not
compensate for Disney's other big summer release, "The
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," whose $259 million box
office take has lagged forecasts so far.
"Investors have been wary of 'Wall-E's' box office
potential given Pixar's risky bet on an offbeat main character,
who rarely speaks during the film," Pali Capital analyst Rich
Greenfield said in a note to clients this week.
A solid performance by "Wall-E" could boost Disney's
results in upcoming quarters, in which the company faces tough
comparisons with 2007 hits "Pirates of the Caribbean: At
World's End" ($961 million worldwide) and "Ratatouille" ($621
million) in theaters and DVD frames.
While Greenfield noted Wall Street concern, he added that
"Wall-E" had been well-received in early screenings, and he
pegged the film's ultimate global box office take at $500
million to $600 million. He also predicted it also would be a
"solid contributor" to DVD and consumer products sales.
The movie will debut in more than 3,900 U.S. theaters on
Friday and roll out around the world through December.
'ELEMENTS OF THE WORLD I KNEW'
The character Wall-E, or Waste Allocation Load Lifter
Earth-Class, is the last of a cadre of robots tasked with
cleaning up piles of trash discarded by humans who abandoned
the planet centuries before.
The human race set off on a luxury space cruise during a
planned five-year clean-up that lasts much longer and results
in unfortunate changes in the human physique and psyche.
In the meantime, Wall-E faithfully reports to work each day
on Earth with his pet cockroach and a lunch box in which he
stores the knick knacks he finds among mountains of trash.
The arrival of a sleek girl robot named Eve, sent to Earth
by the orbiting humans to look for plant life, sends Wall-E on
an adventure that changes his own and humanity's destiny.
Director Andrew Stanton, who won an Academy Award for
Pixar's most lucrative film, "Finding Nemo," said he wanted to
show a future in which people had lost track of what matters in
"I thought, 'Well that's the question that Wall-E is trying
to figure out: What is the point of living?"' Stanton said.
"It's to love one another. It's to further a relationship."
In choreographing the non-verbal courtship of Wall-E and
Eve, Stanton and his animators looked to "the hard process of a
boy going over to ask a girl to dance."
"It's all just metaphor for what it's like for a boy to
court a girl," Stanton said. "It's all in there."
The film's references to current hot-button issues -- the
environment, obesity and corporate greed -- were a coincidence,
Stanton said, because he conceived the premise in 1994 with the
idea of reviving the science-fiction films he loved as a boy.
"I just was using elements of the world I knew," he said.
"I wasn't trying to put anybody to task. I knew that, 'Wow this
is starting to make some really uncomfortable parallels' but
... as long as I don't have an agenda I'm not going to worry
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Braden Reddall)