November 19, 2008 / 12:35 AM / 11 years ago

For "Wall-E" director, art mixes well with commerce

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If there ever was a person meant to make a movie about a U.S. Civil War soldier from the Confederate States of America stranded on the planet Mars, it just may be Andrew Stanton, director of animated hit “Wall-E.”

Chief Creative Officer of Disney and Pixar Animation Studios John Lasseter (L) and Andrew Stanton, director of Disney-Pixar's film "Wall-E" pose with an animatronic robot of character Wall-E at the film's world premiere in Los Angeles, California June 21, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser


A soldier of the confederacy was a “rebel” in the 1860s when the United States fought its war between the states, and Stanton also comes from a pack of rebels — the filmmakers at Disney-Pixar — whose movies like “Wall-E” have time and again defied conventional Hollywood wisdom and become smash hits.

“Wall-E” debuts on DVD on Tuesday with some extra features but as much as anything, at its core is the movie about a little robot, stranded on Earth, who falls in love with another robot sent to do a survey of the planet.

It never was a standard Hollywood plot — in fact, for much of the movie there is no dialogue — but with hits ranging from “Toy Story” to “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles,” Disney-Pixar has never been known for typical ideas.

“To me it seems bass ackwards when you’re asking yourself, ‘Okay, what has the rest of the world accepted and what will they accept next?’ That just seems weird. That’s like looking at (movies) like a businessman,” Stanton said about the way he and the filmmakers at Disney-Pixar approach story ideas.

“That is the last way we think. Almost to a fault, we think like artists: ‘What is it that would excite me? ... For most artists, typically, the answer is something that’s challenging, never been done before, risky and outside the norm.”

“Wall-E” was all of that, and this past summer it raked in big bucks at box offices with a worldwide haul of $485 million. It is still playing in some overseas markets.

Last year, Disney-Pixar released “Ratatouille,” about a rat who becomes a chef in a Parisian kitchen, and it took in $621 million worldwide. Then there’s the one about the fish that got lost at sea, “Finding Nemo,” ($865 million). The list goes on.

Stanton, who wrote the screenplay for “Nemo,” said the movies are successful for several reasons but mostly because they deal with universal themes. In the case of “Wall-E,” the movie deals with “loneliness solved by love,” he said.

The DVD comes with extras that include a documentary on the making of “Wall-E”, and on special Blu-Ray discs there is a mock video game modeled after old Atari games that Stanton called “incredibly addictive.”

As for that confederate soldier story, “John Carter of Mars” is Stanton’s next animated feature project. It is based on a story written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, best known for his “Tarzan” books.

Stanton said he read “John Carter” as a boy and has been in love with it ever since. It is based on a simple idea, he said: “an ordinary person in an extraordinary world.”

But audiences wanting to go there will have to wait several years before the movie hits theaters. But when it does, the betting is that like “Wall-E”, it, too, will be a hit.

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