The first piece of animation I saw from Pixar many years ago was Luxo Jr. You know, the little lamp that now features as part of the logo. Unbelievably that short film was made over twenty years ago in 1986 and for all the amazing advances that have been made in computer animation since then it is the charm that is somehow conveyed by an anglepoise lamp which means it still brings a smile to your face today. In fact seeing as you're here:
In many ways WALL-E is the direct descendent of that little lamp. A simple robot with limited movements and yet somehow capable of communicating subtleties of emotion, executing nuanced physical comedy and, crucially, making us laugh. It is the year 2700 and the Earth has been deserted by its human population after life became unsustainable. The rising tide of waste has covered the planet and it was the job of the Wall-E robots to collect, compact and clear it in preparation for our return. From space we zoom in past the thick layer of space junk orbiting the planet, past what look like rolling hills and skyscrapers but which resolve themselves into piles of rubbish, some haphazard some neatly stacked and ordered by the last remaining Wall-E, our hero. The first half hour of the film is all his. No speech, no other characters (well, he has one companion, a hardy cockroach) it's like a return to the era of silent comedy. Perfectly judged, filled with neat in-jokes it's just wonderful. If the rest of the film doesn't quite match its simplicity it can't be blamed, we need a plot to see us through a feature and in fact it's an achievement to keep it as focused on that same physical comedy as it does.
It's also a surprisingly brave for a studio like Disney to be behind a film with such a strong anti-corporate message and with such an apocalyptic set-up. But let's not go overboard looking for the wider cultural significance of the film, far better to appreciate its true strength: following that first achievement of computer generated imagery through to its apogee (so far!).