Goodnight Oppy, about a NASA rover alone on Mars for 15 years, won the Critics Choice documentary feature award (though it didn’t make the Oscar shortlist) and brings to mind Wall-E, the 2008 Pixar movie directed by Andrew Stanton.
The idea for the intergalactic tale was born out of a 1994 Pixar lunch meeting where concepts for some of the studio’s biggest hits were first crystallized. “What if mankind left Earth and somebody forgot to turn the last robot off?” was the premise. Wall-E is a trash collector tasked with cleaning up the mess after mankind has abandoned the planet. His routine is shaken up when he befriends Eve, a sleek robot who’s been sent down to find proof that life is once again sustainable. Wall-E gets pulled into a mission that will determine the fate of mankind when he follows Eve aboard her spaceship.
When the film was pitched, we “all knew ‘nobody would ever let us make a movie like that,’ ” Stanton told THR in November 2008. But after the story and characters were fleshed out, it was greenlit. “I tried hard not to follow any convention. I just tried to let the film be as true to itself as it could be,” he said. “If that broke people’s conventional thinking about what an animated or sci-fi film is, then great. That’s why I go to the movies: to be surprised and entertained in a whole new way.”
Audiences and critics had just that reaction: Wall-E opened in June 2008 and earned $521.3 million worldwide ($720.8 million today). THR‘s review called it “a whimsical sci-fi fantasy about robots 800 years into the future that has all the heart, soul, spirit and romance of the very best silent movies 60 years ago.”
That December, the Los Angeles Critics Association named Wall-E the year’s best picture — the first time in the organization’s 34-year history an animated feature earned that honor. And in February 2009, it won the Academy Award for best animated feature (it was nominated in five other categories, including original screenplay).
“For me, it’s the complete innocence of how much it thrilled me as a kid to be moved by a movie, and the opportunity to do that for somebody else is such a privilege,” Stanton said. “It only takes the right movie and I’m 10 again and want to be a part of it.”
This story first appeared in a Jan. stand-alone issue of magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.