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Monday, June 30, 2008

Look What My Kid Got at Wall•E

posted by on June 30 at 10:12 AM

I took my son to see Wall•E this weekend.

The latest from Pixar, a hit with critics and audiences, is set a eight or nine centuries in the future. Wall•E paints a picture of a planet destroyed by a thoughtless humanity in the thrall of a consumer culture that eventually overwhelms the earth with… junk. Garbage, refuse, crap—everywhere. Humans are forced to abandon the planet and blast off into space, where humanity survives on spaceships that look and function like cruise ships or, um, Disney resorts. There’s not much to do out there in space but sit on lounge chairs (floating space lounge chairs), and eat, eat, eat. Meanwhile on earth huge garbage ziggurats tower over abandoned skyscrapers, container ships full of crap sit on dried up ocean beds, and dust-and-garbage storms blow scour the surface of the earth.

Depressing—all that garbage, all that thoughtless over-consumption, all that environmental devastation. But look what we got on the way into the theater…


That’s a watch. A cheap plastic watch. According to the instruction card that comes with it, my son’s Wall•E watch was made in China, it’s not water resistant, and it’s batteries are not replaceable. So basically it’s a disposable watch brought to us by a movie about the dire consequences of thoughtless over-consumption, a watch that is just one of many—tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands—that will be coming soon to landfills near you.

UPDATE: In Wall•E the world appears to be governed by a huge corporation called Buy ‘N Large, which at first encourages over-consumption and then, when the environmental consequences become clear, tries to find ways for humanity to consume its way out of the environmental crisis that over-consumption caused in the first place. Eventually the planet has to be abandoned—via Buy ‘N Large space ships. Slog tipper Pop Tart draws our attention to a Buy ‘N Large website, where you can… buy movie merchandise…

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It's a shame that the creative team doesn't have any control over the marketing department.

Posted by Sir Learnsalot | June 30, 2008 10:17 AM

Since I am in a Pixar euphoria, I blame Disney.

Crossmarketing and all that shit is what is ruining the world.

Posted by Clearlyhere | June 30, 2008 10:18 AM

The movie is made by Disney.
That explains everything.

Posted by Will in STL | June 30, 2008 10:18 AM

Loved the movie though.

Posted by Clearlyhere | June 30, 2008 10:19 AM

i saw this movie on saturday night. it was well done and had a good message, but overall pretty depressing. i wasn't expecting that from a kid's movie. i don't think i would have seen it if i knew it was going to be such a downer.

Posted by tiffany | June 30, 2008 10:21 AM

It would have been adorably cynical if Pixar had put an "easter egg" in the movie featuring Wall-E picking up a cheap, plastic version of himself (or any other Pixar film) from the garbage.

Posted by Martin | June 30, 2008 10:23 AM

They need to make all the garbage so the movie becomes true and can be hailed as a prophetic and visionary film. Like those weird religious end times guys who pray with members of Congress, you know?

Posted by Jason Josephes | June 30, 2008 10:32 AM

wonderful movie. I'm gonna blame the Disney part of the equation as well.

@5 I didn't think it was so depressing, did you see the end/watch the credits? Humans realizing what we'd lost and working to revive Earth?

Posted by Mac | June 30, 2008 10:33 AM

Makes you wonder if the marketing team actually took the time to WATCH the movie.

Posted by Darrell | June 30, 2008 10:33 AM

Where's my goddamned Wall-E watch?!

Posted by Hooty Sapperticker | June 30, 2008 10:35 AM


Posted by tom in chicago | June 30, 2008 10:52 AM

Why is made in China highlighted in your post along with the fact that the batteries are not replaceable? A little racism to go with your eco-outrage?

Posted by Chinese Guy | June 30, 2008 10:52 AM

Crap like this is necessary to keep our landfills from flying off into space.

Posted by Fnarf | June 30, 2008 10:55 AM


I look forward to the column where you laud the use of free childrens toys as cock rings and anal ticklers...

You dirtbag...

Posted by ecce homo | June 30, 2008 10:57 AM

Chinese Guy, maybe he highlighted the fact that it was made in China because it's not eco-friendly to ship things thousands of miles.

Posted by Bob | June 30, 2008 10:57 AM

@ 8

i didn't stay for all of the ending credits. however i don't think they would have made up for the majority of the movie anyways. don't get me wrong, i didn't want to hang myself afterwards, but i didn't feel a sense of enjoyment either.

Posted by tiffany | June 30, 2008 10:59 AM

@12: Or because Chicomm factories lack the environmental safeguards (such as they are) that American ones have?

Posted by christopher | June 30, 2008 10:59 AM

I made that point about made-in-China because the film specifically goes out of its way to condemn shipping goods around the world—via container ship. There's a scene [SPOILER ALERT!] where a beached row of tankers explode and burn. The message is unmistakable.

Posted by Dan Savage | June 30, 2008 11:01 AM

A good way to fight swag is to refuse it.

Posted by Emily | June 30, 2008 11:06 AM

I thought it was a great movie, but also had the same experience of ironic annoyance.

Three minutes after the movie started, a family of mom, dad, 3-year old and barely walking infant came and sat right next to us. Why parents would bring an infant to a movie is beyond me, and totally rude in my opinion.

But then said immediately shat its diaper, and what does the mother do? Take the infant to the restroom? Leave it for the rest of us to smell for the next two hours? Leave with the rest of the family embarrassed for bringing an infant in the first place? None of the above. She calmly whips out a new diaper and changes the baby in the seat next to her while the movie is playing.

As we leave after the movie, I notice the dirty diaper has been left under the seat they were sitting in.

Humans really do not deserve this planet and if there is a God, he really is long overdue in wiping this plague off the surface of the planet.

Posted by James | June 30, 2008 11:06 AM

Marketing departments: immune to irony since forever.

Posted by Greg | June 30, 2008 11:07 AM

Agreed on your main point, but I was more disturbed by the scores of children clutching popcorn boxes featuring the stoned faces of Seth Rogen and James Franco from Pineapple Express.

I'm no prude, but please reconsider marketing your stoner movie to kids next time, Team Apatow.

Posted by reval5 | June 30, 2008 11:20 AM

I've heard about the Wall-E watches, so I was pleasantly surprised when our theatre didn't give them out. To anyone. On Fri/Sat/Sun night.

*Shrugs* Maybe it's a big city thing.

PS: You could always burn it, if it infuriates you so.

Posted by Marty | June 30, 2008 11:22 AM

@ Martin - He doesn't pick anything up, cause that would kinda kill the mood, but this is Pixar of course there is a reference to their old movies everywhere.

In any case, this movie seemed aware of the fact that it was an environmentalist film where the cause of the problem is a culture that it is apart of. They spend a lot of time justifying that though. What other movie looks for lessons about humanity from a shitty old musical like Hello Dolly. You get my drift?

Posted by bc9b89 | June 30, 2008 11:40 AM

We saw it this weekend at the Cinerama, and saw those watches being handed out. I knew the basic plot of the film, and pointed out to the employees, "Doesn't that fly in the face of the film's whole point?" She shot back with, "Gimme a break. I'm just doing my job here."

And then she left to deal with an irate adult customer who was throwing an absolute fit because she couldn't get a free watch, too.

When we saw her head for the mail floor, still pissing vinegar over her denied free piece of crap, we headed for the balcony.

Posted by James | June 30, 2008 11:42 AM

Dan is this your way of saying The Stranger is no longer going to print cigarette ads?

Posted by elenchos | June 30, 2008 11:42 AM

This reminds me of a spot on Friday night's news...

The United States' biggest export to China is.... TRASH!

I thought we were paying THEM to take it - but NO. They BUY it - and then re-cycle it. (Do NOT know - but I got the impression they buy what we put in those recycle bins every week.)

China may be part of the problem, but it looks as if they're working to be part of the solution as well.


Why the fuck can't the US do that??

Posted by Ayden | June 30, 2008 11:45 AM

The director, Andrew Stanton, tries to equivocate on the film's message here.

G&M: This film has a big ecological message -

Andrew Stanton: Actually, no.

G&M: No? The world of the future is overflowing with garbage.

Stanton: Yeah, well I did that for other reasons. I just went with logic. I had no eco thing to push. I had to have everybody leave Earth, because I wanted the last robot on Earth. And then I needed something very visual, that made him feel like he was the lowest on the totem pole, that wouldn't require any dialogue to understand it. Trash is very get-able. One, you don't have to explain it - people see too much of it and they get it. And then second, it has all those human artifacts in it, so it allowed him to show through actions that he's interested in humanity.

G&M: Inevitably, someone will point out that -

Stanton: Sure, that's fine! But I'm not going to stand there and go, "That's what I was trying to do."

G&M: But you're depicting a future world cluttered with junk, and meanwhile there will be tons of WALL-E-generated toys, lunch boxes, T-shirts and candy wrappers.

Stanton: Possibly. Possibly. [An awkward, fixed-look pause passes]. I was just trying to make the best film I could.

G&M: Um, okay.

Posted by laterite | June 30, 2008 12:10 PM

I was horrified by the vision of consumer future in Wall-E (which was fantastic), but my boyfriend thought differently. Hoverchairs, food in cups, robots and video screens to do and see everything for you-- that's fucking awesome, he said.

And he was only half-joking.

Posted by V | June 30, 2008 1:17 PM

the ability of the human race to dissapoint, on so many levels, never fails to dissapoint me. when will this evolutionary dead end die out? I hope I get one more trip to Prada in.

Posted by another example | June 30, 2008 1:18 PM

I loved the movie and downtown was giving out free watches. The watches were being given to kids.

It thought it gave a great wake up call to adults and children. I walked away with this message: the Earth needs humans as much as humans need Earth.

Wall E has lived among the good and bad of consumerism while picking up compassion and love thru a movie. He makes art where there is none. He turns trash into treasure. He impacts the braindead humans, he falls in love and convinces another robot to fall in love with him.

We all needed this reminder, including kids about being "programmed" into buying happiness thru useless things.

yes, the movie had some problems but overall it was a wonderful movie.

Posted by Elva | June 30, 2008 2:15 PM


I know.

Sitting in a theater with a bunch of people eating, drinking, and hanging on to their new Wall*E watches. . . OMG. It was hilariously, painfully ironic.

Posted by violet_dagrinder | June 30, 2008 2:15 PM

elenchos @26,


Posted by Jeff Stevens | June 30, 2008 4:36 PM

Took our 7 year old to see it and they gave him the watch. My wife says "wheres mine" guy said kids only. You could buy an extra kid ticket and get one. LOL

Posted by Terry | July 1, 2008 1:21 PM

This reminds me of my aunt and uncle, who, after watching Finding Nemo, went out and bought a clown fish for their aquarium. *sigh*

Posted by Ginger | July 1, 2008 4:31 PM

Thanks for the spoiler without a warning! Asshole.

Posted by Anon | July 1, 2008 5:23 PM

But the most ironic part is that we could never get either of the two watches my grandchildren got to work at all. I'm guessing the outside buttons don't line up with the inside.

Personally, I didn't like the movies - too little of the funny stuff. Did very little laughing. Nemo, Monster Inc, Ice Age are MUCH better. I laughed a lot more at the short before the feature.

Posted by Veronica | July 2, 2008 7:53 PM

Ha ha, I work at a 10-screen local movie theater, and I had to pass out hundreds of these. Despite the Wall-E branding, the real function of the watch was to pitch Disney's next terrible kids movie, Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Every watch came with 3 cards advertising the movie.

Posted by Brent | July 3, 2008 1:00 AM

I was glad to read this post. It's about time people opened their eyes, switched their brains on and realized this simple truth: to produce stuff we consume resources and produce garbage. Resources are finite, garbage keeps piling up. Both serious problems. At least let's not make them worse by craving utterly useless stuff.

I think it's a very practical issue. There's no need to see a political or ecological message in them. It's a household problem: no one is collecting the garbage on the sidewalk in front of our collective house.

Posted by Andy | July 3, 2008 2:26 AM

You can call Pixar at 510-922-3000 and complain about it. Slightly more satisfying than griping on the Internet.

Posted by The Stink Eye | July 3, 2008 10:26 PM

Thanks for the write up. I spent the whole movie holding my watch, my daughters watch, and my sons watch as I thought, "What am I suppose to do with these? Oh my God I have no way to get rid of them." The guilt and irony combined as I watch the movie present mounds of trash on a desolate planet, was kind of painfully funny and then ironic, then irritating, and then mind opening. My husband wanted to go to Wallmart after to kill some time. That was where we picked up more nonessentials. The only immunity is a partial lobotomy or a cultural revolution. Pick your potion.

Posted by Harini Reed | July 6, 2008 8:04 PM

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