We saw WALL-E yesterday and I had much the same reaction — it’s a great movie and will really affect you if you let it. We also got the soundtrack, and I am listening to the Peter Gabriel song as I write this. (go to the link to hear the song)
I have seen — time after time — how marketing departments and senior executives can’t stop themselves from “improving” programming. They smooth the edges, make the message general, find the inoffensive middle. In the process, they remove surprise and originality.
And not just in Hollywood.
So it strikes me as no accident that the best commercial I’ve seen this year is will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” video for Barack Obama, which was made on no budget by a passionate amateur. Or that the best film is WALL-E, created by a cadre of fiercely independent filmmakers at a studio that values independence.
And I don’t think it’s coincidental that Disney paid $7.4 billion for Pixar in 2006 and that the stock-market value of General Motors is now about $6.5 billion. Pixar challenges and delights, and those ingredients, plus a bit of luck, are the recipe for creating value. General Motors plays it safe and bets on old formulas — and erodes its value. Perhaps a pundit might like to chew on that.
At the end of WALL-E, I didn’t want to leave. The Peter Gabriel song was part of it, and maybe the tears of joy streaming down my cheeks had something to do with me staying in my seat. And then there’s the fact that the creativity didn’t end when the credits began— there was a lot to watch after the movie was over.
Because I stayed, I saw something many may have missed — the film’s dedication to Justin Wright (1981-2007).
I googled Wright as soon I got home. I learned that he was born with a badly defective heart, and, at 12, got a transplant. His doctor saw he loved to draw and took him to visit Pixar. And there, he saw his destiny. After college, he got in as an intern. Later, he scored his dream job: storyboard artist. “People might get mad at me if they knew how good we have it here,” he wrote on his blog. Sadly, not for long: In March, he had a heart attack and died.
I thought it was sweet of Stanton and Pixar chief John Lasseter to dedicate the film to Justin Wright. Then I saw it another way — that this 27-year-old kid was much like WALL-E. Resourceful. Imaginative. Courageous. And totally fulfilled when he could express himself.
Lot of kids like that out there. Lot of grown-ups like that too. In a dark time, Pixar has given all of them a shaft of light.