Sunday, July 06, 2008

WALL-E breakdown

WALL-E's been out for over a week, so hopefully you've had a chance to see it. It was a really fun show to work on for me. Because there was so little dialog, the animators had a lot of leeway for adding acting beats and ideas to help further develop the characters visually. Very often I would end up adding time to my shots (sometimes even doubling the length) and really indulging a moment. Here is a breakdown of most of the work I did on it:

-------------SPOILERS AHEAD!---------------

"Day at work" - I did the shots of Wally opening the twinkie and the roach jumping in. Then Wally boxes up, parks in his shelf and rocks himself to sleep. The rocking thing was something I had done in a test animation and Andrew liked it so he had me add it to this scene. I also did the next scene where Wally wakes up, batteries low, and tries to put on his treads. At the time we had a newborn baby, and I wasn't getting enough sleep, so I was involuntarily doing lots of research for the scene.

"Eve arrives" - I did the stuff of Wally coming home, then seeing the red laser dot and starting to chase it down the freeway offramp.

"Courtship" - The scene of Wally watching Eve scanning from atop a reactor, then boxing up as she zooms by and shuts down.

"The plant" - The loooong scene where Eve tries to shoot the Big Mouth Billy Bass, then Wally starts handing her objects to play with: eggbeater, bubblewrap, lightbuld, Rubik's cube, etc. Then she pulls the tape out of the VHS tape and he freaks out. He rewinds the tape and puts it in the machine. It plays back and he presents the video to Eve. She scans it.

"Eve vigil" - Wally and Eve, sitting on the bench. He pries her arm open to hold her hand, it clamps down on his hand, he tries to free himself and falls off the bench. This is a scene that I added a lot of time to, and Andrew let me "go for it".

"Spacewalk" - I did the initial stuff of Wally flying around with the fire extinguisher. He and Eve whiz past each other, then he slowly works his way back to her and sprays her with it. She says to get going, and he instead uses the extinguisher to spin himself around and fly away. The sequence was changed after I finished my shots, so some were omitted and others were reworked a bit.

"Garbage airlock" - I did the shot of Eve staring at the plant for a while, then tossing it and offering her hand to Wally: "Directive".

"Showdown" - My only human scene on this film. I did the stuff of the Captain hotwiring the video system and taunting Auto: "Look what I got, Auto! That's right, the plant! Oh, you want it? Come and get it, Blinky!" Then he yanks the cables out. The cable rig was really hard to work with, so I animated the Captain first pantomiming the action, did some 2D animation of the cables on top of the 3D, then match-moved the 3D cables to the 2D motion on 1's. It was hard.

"Back on earth" - I did the stuff of Wally rebooting after he has just been repaired. Eve tries to jog his memory, but he doesn't recognize him. He cubes some of his souvenirs, then exits, squashing the roach. Eve watches him from the doorway of the trailer, devastated.

-------------END SPOILERS---------------

That's all I can remember off the top of my head. This is definitely the most work I've done on any film so far. Including the Superbowl commercial, I think I did about 7 minutes of footage. I was involved very early in animation (I was on for 2 years, total) and this list doesn't include the test shots I did. When the DVD comes out around Christmas I'll post a reel. Thanks for reading!


  1. Victor,
    Wow! that's a whole lot of work, and some of my favorite scenes! Just wondering, how did WALL-Es name come about, was he named Wally and then somebody came up with an acronym and they used it, or how was it? Also, what exactly is the Pixar West Village?
    Big fan, Martin

  2. Most of these shots that you've listed are my favorite shots in the movie!

    I even left the movie talking about the shot where he rocks himself to sleep. It was an inspiring piece of animation because of how much it did to make the audience care for the character. That shot defines Wall-E's personality to me.

    That's great that you were able to add time to your shots and Mr. Stanton was all for it. He must really trust you!

    Thanks again for making such inspiring material!

  3. The shot of him waking up and putting his treads on was actually my favorite shot in the movie. I think I've got a permanent dent in my forehead from walking into the bathroom door frame.

  4. Those are many of my favorite shots as well...esp the tread scene. Amazing work, victor!

  5. Anonymous7:32 PM

    Hey Victor,
    Great work on Wall-e! Keep it up, I'm a big fan! By the way, do you remember your short stint, working on Titan A.E. over at Reality Check in Hollywood? Well if you do, then we briefly worked together. Had I known you were going to be this kick-ass character animator, I would have paid more attention to what you did! Hope to meet again someday. Take care!

  6. Thanks everyone for the nice comments! The shot of Wally trying to put on his treads was very reflective of my life at the time, as we had just had our second baby so I was getting no sleep.

    martini833 - I'm not sure about the exact genesis of his name. I think he was initially just called "Wally", then they decided to make it an acronym. For a while it was just "WAL-E", but people thought it was pronounced like "whale". West Village is just another building on the Pixar campus. That's where Pixar University and our Tools department are housed. We can't all fit in the main building anymore, so we're spread out around 4 or 5 buildings.

    3dmaker / Christian - yeah I remember you! I seem to recall having fun working on that film, though the hours were long and the end result stunk. Our stuff looked good, though. Let's give these angels something to chase!

  7. Wow, those are scenes I remember being in particuraly high regard of, impressive stuff. Brilliant having Wall-E rock himself to sleep.

  8. Oh wow Victor! That is super cool! :)
    My absolute favorite part of the whole movie is rocking himself to sleep!
    Great work!

  9. it was you the one who did the "wake up" shot..! all i have to say is:

    my respects man... my respects.. :)

  10. Kudos! Thanks for this incredible gift to the world. Is there a chance you could post the keynote file from your cruise presentation?

  11. hey victor, I liked the scenes you animated a lot as well. Keep doing the great work you´re doing.


  12. Cool stuff! Can't wait to see the reel. You animated a lot of great shots!

  13. Your scenes may be the most absolutely (can I be any more emphatic?) endearing parts of the movie - the reason people love Wall-E so much.

    If I could be good at any job, yours would probably top my list! Excuse me while I turn green...

  14. Great to know Victor, thanks for sharing! I have to say that my favorite moment was when he woke up in that groggy stupor. That was hilarious! So was the whole laser chase scene inspired by how crazy cats get when chasing lasers? Cause I loved that part too. Awesome work! Wall-e has to be the most appealing Pixar character to date.

  15. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and shots. It's nice that Andrew let you add time to a few of these shots. Did he acknowledge the need for this at the onset of the film, since there's not a lot of dialog. I imagine this is atypical of most animated films.

  16. Cool! Those were stand out moments in the movie, congratulations!

    I really like how "dead" he feels at the end, without any memory. Great contrast given the cute and hectic beginning. He feels so cold and "robotic" :)

  17. It turns out that you were responsible for many of my favorite scenes from the movie. I really enjoyed the Twinkie gag for its subtlety; all too often, American animation just clubs you over the head with its simple-minded humor, while Wall-E had a more subtle, more respectful approach. You can tell this movie was the work of true artists who respected the audiences. I wish I could say that for more Hollywood pictures.

    I especially enjoyed the scene of Wall-E rocking himself to sleep in his home. It's quiet. It's slow. It allows you to enter his world gracefully. It is a peaceful mood; I would encourage everybody at Pixar to explore this style further and develop a quiet emotional honesty in future projects.

    This reminds me - and I should blog about this one of these days - I really do think Pixar would be served by creating more short films. Clearly, the studio is maturing and experimenting, moving away from the loud noisy cartoons the other Hollywood studios are hurling at us (and they may as well throw rocks, it hurts just the same). Setting the artists free on some short films - 5 minutes, 30 minutes, it doesn't matter - would allow greater freedom to explore and develop, without the high pressures of a regular feature. Pixar could greatly expand its storytelling palette, and help to push the boundaries of animation in the US as well.

    My thanks and congratulations for the success of Wall-E. I'm loudly cheerleading it on my blog, telling the Ghibli Freaks to drag their friends and family along for that second and third viewing. We artists must stick together, after all. Good luck and best wishes!

  18. Yeah...the scene at the end with him being "dead" is really amazing man. Really great acting.

  19. Anonymous5:57 PM

    Hey Victor,
    I'm glad you remember! Yeah, the movie as a whole was kinda bad, but you're right, the stuff you guys did was pretty cool. I love that you have blog. I certainly will be keeping an eye on it. I'm trying to follow along with the Animation Mentor way of doing things, which seems to jive with the Pixar way of doing things, so maybe, just maybe, one day I'll be able to animate like you guys (fingers crossed)! If you get a chance, check out what I'm doing so far in my site, I'd be curious to hear what you have to say and any tidbits of advice you might have would be appreciated. Again, great job on Wall-e. By the way, are you allowed to say what you're currently working on? Keep up the good work!!

  20. A Strasbourg, il faut attendre le 30 Juillet pour pouvoir le voir au cinéma...
    But, still 2 weeks and I could see your work, can't wait!

  21. Hey Victor!

    Just as a few other people have said, the shots you worked on were some of my favorite ones in Wall-E. I think all of the animators did a tremendous job at bringing Wall-E to life and giving him so much character. Was it challenging for you to animate the "Back on Earth" scene - to switch from an extremely lively and expressive character to a robot with no emotion?

    On a side note, when I first started school at AI in Orange County, you came and did a talk about being an animator. You really got me excited about animation and inspired me to try and become an animator. Your lecture's on AM were also very helpful and i'm putting a lot of your techniques to good use :) You are definitely an animator I look up to and respect immensely.


  22. It's really cool that you're responsible for some of the most memorable scenes in my book! Fantastic work, Victor! I'm stoked to add this Pixar gem to my collection when it eventually comes out... boy, this is going to be a long wait.

  23. Wall-E totally looks like the robot from "Short Circuit," minus the cheesy 80's style of course... but i'm sure Pixar made a totally original story otherwise

  24. Thanks again for all the nice comments!

    Daniel Thomas Macinnes - Pixar is definitely continuing to make shorts, for just those reasons. It's a great opportunity to try out new talent and new styles. Of course, we don't really make any money off the shorts, and we have a big studio to run, so they can't take precedence over features.

    Tim - I'm glad to have been of some inspiration! A few people have mentioned the scenes of Wally being "brain-dead", and thinking that must have been an extra challenge. For me, the only difficult thing about it was breaking the habit of trying to give him appeal. Early on we did lots of research as to how real robots move, trying to make him feel like a real machine, then we would layer the character on top of that. For these scenes I tried to leave out the character bit, and just think about how he would move procedurally. I also made some subtle adjustments to his poses to push him slightly "off-model" and take away some of his appeal.

  25. Victor,
    I have seen this work of art with my wife and even though we just love Pixar's movies (all of them) it was the first time we felt the urge to communicate our feelings to the creators. So we sent a "thank you, you are awesome" note to hoping it would reach someone. How childish...
    Now that I stumbled on this blog through a comment you made on the Oktapodi (great) animation, I finally can touch someone. This was a wonderful experience. You (and your colleagues) filled our heart with warmth and awe with these extraordinary images and outstanding animations.
    We can't thank you enough for what you give us.

    Years ago, when you posted Alien song on the net, I told you :Stay by the phone Victor, someone will call you. I'm glad Pixar did...

  26. Richard, thanks for the kind words! A lot of people worked really hard for a long time to bring WALL-E to the screen, and I'm proud to count myself among them. I will forward your sentiments to the rest of the team.

  27. WOW the walle movie was awe some i just watched i my favorite purt was when EVE blowed up the boat with that cool gun i never thought a probe would have a gun to

  28. So you are the bubble wrap animator.

    I don't think there is any word imaginable that could express how lovely the animation is when she pops the second bubble and does the full body movement.

    I wont tell you how many times I have seen the film in cinemas now as it will shock many (live in Aus, only just released), but every single time that piece of animation comes on, I am stunned.

    Great work. Hope your getting some decent shut eye now. :)


  29. ashley, I'm glad you enjoyed that shot! It was a marathon to work on (the full shot is almost a minute long) but it was a lot of fun. Incidentally, Eve's little "happy dance" was inspired by the gopher dancing at the end of "Caddyshack". I haven't seen that movie in a long time, but in my memory the gopher moves something like that. Thanks for commenting!

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