From Toy Story in 1995 to Toy Story 3 in 2010, John Lasseter’s Pixar animation house produced 11 features, all winners — and a few the very best films of their year. As the director of Finding Nemo, the studio’s biggest hit, Andrew Stanton had free run of his imagination for WALL•E. Working from a story by Pete Docter (who directed Monsters, Inc. and Up), Stanton devised a cartoon feature whose first half hour dares to focus on a single lonely character who speaks rarely, and then mostly in beeps. (It’s like The Artist, but stripped of intertitles and all but a few bars of music.) Stranded on Earth for centuries cleaning up the detritus of the vanished human race, robo-boy WALL•E might be old Carl, the solitary widower of Up, but soldiering on a poignant, irrepressible optimism. When this trash-can Adam meets his sleek EVE (a robot sent to scour Earth for possible vegetation), they inhabit a sci-fi cyborg romance for the ages.
As daring aurally as it is narratively, the movie boasts a soundscape — WALL•E’s and EVE’s metallic conversation, the other machines and weapons, the scooting of a cockroach — almost wholly created by Ben Burtt, Pixar’s audio Audubon, who in his years with George Lucas invented the sounds of the lightsabers in Star Wars and the whip crack in Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Burtt used his own voice, distorted by computer, for WALL•E and Pixar staffer Elissa Knight’s for EVE.) The movies of the past dozen years will be remembered for their technical wizardry and digital sheen. WALL•E has all that, plus a toy-meets-girl love story as pure as any in the cinema’s first 100 years.