WALL-E: 2 Disc Special Edition Review

In the future, Earth has become a huge garbage dump where the possibilities for new growth seem minimal. The human population have decamped to a series of space stations from which they will return when search robots tell them that new life has returned. Meanwhile, the Earth is managed by robots, one of whom is an engaging fellow called WALL-E whose job is to pick up garbage, compact it and tidy it away into a huge block. The robot lives a solitary existence, accompanied by his collection of salvaged objects and a cherished videocassette of Hello Dolly. But everything is about to change…

Pixar’s smash hit from the summer has arrived on DVD just in time for Christmas and will no doubt be a winner in the fierce competition for the credit-crunch pound. I adore the film and will be placing it in my Top 10 of the year – watch this space – but it’s hard not to feel that my colleagues Clydefro (here), Chris Stringer (a href=http://newlook.dvdtimes.co.uk/content/id/68413/wall-e.html>here) and Michael Mackenzie (here) haven’t already said everything that needs to be said in praise of it. So I will concentrate on looking at what the SD punter can expect from this R2 release.

The Disc

One reliable thing about Disney DVD is that they will always push the boat out for a Pixar movie and Wall-E is no exception. The 2-disc special edition is packed with features that should keep both adults and children occupied for quite some time.

The SD disc is available in a couple of packaging types. My review copy was the ‘environmentally friendly’ version which is made up of a couple of pieces of card and a sliding mechanism. It looks pretty nice but I suspect that a couple of rough handlings from the kids will result in it falling apart so families might think about getting the amaray version instead.

The first disc contains the film which is anamorphically enhanced and presented at an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. It’s a stunning transfer, as you’d expect, and it should satisfy even the most demanding SD-DVD viewer. The level of detail is staggering, the colours are to die for and everything is crystal clear. I suspect the Blu-Ray disc, reviewed elsewhere on this site, is even better but I’m more than happy with this kind of quality for the time being.

No DTS track unfortunately, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a corker – as it needs to be with a film like this where sound design is everything. The slightly fragile music score comes across particularly well and the sub-woofer gets an impressive workout, particularly when EVE demonstrates her talent for destruction.

The extras on the first disc are headlined by two short animated features. The first, Presto, was seen before the film on its cinema release and is a very funny study of the somewhat dysfunctional relationship between a magician and his rabbit. Audio and visual quality is as good as for the main feature. The same goes for BURN-E which is a new short that looks at how the mess made by WALL-E is cleared up.

On this first DVD, there are two deleted scenes with optional introductions from Andrew Stanton. “Garbage Airlock” features our hero escaping from rampant trash-guzzling machines. “Dumped” features EVE being hurt rather than WALL-E and was changed in order for the latter to seem weaker and, eventually, more heroic.

“Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds From The Sound Up” is an 18 minute featurette with sound designer Ben Burtt – best known for Star Wars. It’s fascinating, not least because sound design is an interesting and somewhat neglected area of film production.

Finally on the first DVD, we get a commentary from Andrew Stanton which is enthusiastic, informed and just a little bit dull. It might have been a good idea to get someone else in the room to add a bit of excitement or even a bit of variation. He does, however, explain a few of his more unusual decisions, notably the use of scenes and songs from Hello Dolly.

The second disc contains lots more special features, divided into two sections – Humans (for film fans) and Robots (for families).

The highlight of the former section is the 80 minute long documentary The Story of Pixar from the documentarian Leslie Iwerks. It’s a fascinating piece which doesn’t shy away from controversy in terms of the roots of the company which stretch back to Disney’s fallow period of the mid-1980s. Virtually everyone of any importance is chased up and interviewed, from Roy Disney to Billy Crystal, and the use of film clips is intelligent and useful.

“Behind The Scenes” contains six featuerettes, the best of which is “Life Of A Shot” which looks in detail at how one shot is produced – not unlike a shorter version of the Star Wars documentary “Within a Minute”. “The Imperfect Lens” concentrates on the design of the film, while “Notes on a Score” is a slightly self-congratulatory feature about Thomas Newman’s contribution as composer. “Captain’s Log” looks at the depiction of future-humans in the film and “Robo-Everything” is about the robotic environment. Finally, “WALL-E and EVE” is about our central couple. Everything is this section is interesting in its own way and I wish that some of it were longer.

“BnL Shorts” is a collection of humorous featurettes about the corporation which has taken over the world featured in WALL-E. These are gently satirical and worth a watch, although they’re not amusing enough to reward a second look.

Two more deleted scenes are included, the first of which is in rough sketch form and includes a different version of OTTO. The second scene, also in a very early form, shows the ship docking. Both scenes come with an optional introduction from the director.

The Robots sections mostly for kids. “WALL-E’s Treasures and Trinkets” shows our lovable hero interacting with a variety of objects for four minutes to not particularly memorable effect. “Bot Files” focuses on the different robots featured in the film and will no doubt appeal to those small people who can’t get enough of diggers and the like. “Lots of Bots Storybook” is a lengthy piece for children containing narration and some simple games.

Although there are a number of foreign subtitles included, no English subtitles are available for the special features on either disc 1 or 2. This is a shame and mars an otherwise sensational package.

In Conclusion

WALL-E is so delightful, so overwhelmingly charming, that it seems curmudgeonly to cavil about the things which don’t work. But in a film as good as this, false notes seem all the more jarring and it has to be said that parts of the middle section of the film are misconceived, the “mad robot” subplot is clichéd and predictable, and the targets of some very mild satire are easy.

But you know what? The flaws really don’t matter because, quite apart from its technical brilliance, WALL-E is a stirring and deeply touching celebration of the joys of contact, understanding and, ultimately, love between beings – robot or human, it doesn’t really matter. It ends of a note of giddy optimism which can make you slightly drunk with happiness.

This special edition of WALL-E is a must-buy. It’s a lovely movie, beautifully presented and garnished with some very interesting special features. Highly recommended.

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