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Flying Alongside Migrating Birds in an Ultralight

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For more than 20 years, Christian Moullec has been flying with migratory birds in his ultralight aircraft. He raises birds of vulnerable species on his farm and then when it’s time for them to migrate, he shows them how, guiding them along safe migration paths. To support his conservation efforts, Moullec takes paying passengers up with him to fly among the birds. What a magical experience!

My passengers come from all over the world and are all kinds of people, especially Europeans. The flight inspires in me a huge respect for nature and I can communicate this respect to my passengers. There are also people with disabilities and those who want to experience a great time in the sky with the birds before leaving this world. It is an overwhelming spiritual experience. The most beautiful thing is to fly in the heavens with the angels that are the birds.

When watching the video, it’s difficult to look away from the birds, moving with a powerful grace through the air, but don’t miss the absolute joy and astonishment on the faces of Moullec’s passengers. This is going right on my bucket list.

See also The Kid Should See This on Moullec’s efforts, the 2011 documentary Earthflight that features Moullec, and Winged Migration, a 2001 nature film that features lots of stunning flying-with-birds footage. (via @tcarmody)

Tags: birds   Christian Moullec   flying   travel   video
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3 days ago
Waterloo, Canada
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WATCH: Trump Bickers With Pelosi, Schumer Over Wall Funding


President Donald Trump bickered with Democratic congressional leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for several minutes in a televised Oval Office meeting over congressional funding for his proposed border wall.

Watch below:

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3 days ago
"So go do it"
Waterloo, Canada
3 days ago
The toddler in chief
Washington, DC
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What are your thoughts on Brian Eno鈥檚 stance on Israel?

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Dear Christopher, I have received a number of messages broadly relating to this issue, so perhaps this is an opportunity to address this matter by sharing some actual correspondence I had with Brian Eno about it. After announcing my decision to play two shows in Israel at the end of my world tour last year,...

The post What are your thoughts on Brian Eno鈥檚 stance on Israel? appeared first on The Red Hand Files.

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3 days ago
Gotta love Nick Cave... I love Brian Eno as well so this is an interesting read and ultimately I have to agree with Nick... you can try to protest but at some point you have to engage the hearts of people to change the minds of the leaders
Waterloo, Canada
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The Year Ahead Planner (PDF) via my trusted friend Garrick is a tool for reflect...

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The Year Ahead Planner (PDF) via my trusted friend Garrick is a tool for reflecting on the year that’s been so one may best plan the year ahead. As previously stated, the market for those that play the long game is almost always bull.

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4 days ago
If I can get some time, I think I'll try this out
Waterloo, Canada
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From a trash-filled Earth to the futuristic Axiom and back again, WALL路E is a finely crafted balance between consumerist dystopia and sixties space-race optimism. Please join me, then, for a detailed dive聽into the uniquely robotic future of a remarkably human film, as seen through the eyes of its eponymous hero, WALL路E.

[This article is from the聽Typeset in the Future book, which is really very good聽and you’re聽probably going to want to聽buy a copy of. If you’d rather read the article first, don’t worry鈥擨’ll remind you again later on.]

Before we get started, there is an important detail we must clear up. Our hero鈥檚 name is not, as you might think, WALL-E. Moreover, it definitely isn鈥檛 WALL鈥. His name is WALL路E, and that dot is an interpunct, not a hyphen or a bullet.

WALL路E鈥檚 front plate, clearly showing his interpunct.

An interpunct is, of course, a vertically centered dot originally used to separate words in Latin and ancient Greek. (Spaces weren鈥檛 invented until several centuries later.) The interpunct is still in use today鈥攊t鈥檚 the official decimal point in British currency (拢9路99), and is used to represent the dot product of two vectors in mathematics (x 路 y). Most relevantly, it鈥檚 used in Japanese to separate titles, names, and positions, as in 鈥滆闀疯浣 路 閳存湪鈥 (Assistant Section Head 路 Suzuki). It is therefore entirely appropriate as the separator in WALL路E, which is short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter 路 Earth Class.

The bold extended typeface seen on WALL路E鈥檚 front plate is Gunship, designed by Dan Zadorozny, one of the unsung heroes of modern sci-fi type design. Dan is an amateur type designer from Texas whose Iconian Fonts website features more than six hundred free hand-crafted typefaces, many of which have been used by sci-fi movies, TV shows, and book designers.

In addition to WALL路E鈥檚 front plate, Gunship is seen on Earth and aboard the Axiom, the flagship spacecraft of megacorporation Buy n Large (BnL, for short), most notably for robot-facing wall and door typography. Its upper- and lowercase variants include different combinations of cutouts and curve orientations, giving designers flexibility when crafting robot signage. (Strictly speaking, this means that our hero鈥檚 name, correctly capitalized, is 鈥渨aLL路e,鈥 with the interpunct as a further customization鈥擥unship鈥檚 own interpunct is rectangular.)

Gunship (lowercase characters).
Gunship (uppercase characters).

The movie begins with an insight into WALL路E鈥檚 typical workday, which is spent building gigantic piles of trash by compacting waste into neat, stackable cubes. After a hard day鈥檚 crushing, we follow him on his journey home, learning some useful exposition along the way. This includes a bank of electronic ads for BnL, promoting everything from liquid air to quadruple-patty burgers. Common throughout these ads is an insistence on immediate consumption鈥斺淒RINK NOW,鈥 鈥淗UNGRY NOW,鈥 鈥淩UN NOW,鈥 鈥淐ONSUME.鈥 And if consuming a product once isn鈥檛 enough, you can repeat the experience a second time鈥攖he signage seen below includes ads for both 鈥100% Reused Food鈥 and 鈥淩egurgi-Shake: Twice the Flavor.鈥


We鈥檝e seen how corporate mergers, such as Alien鈥檚 Weylan Yutani and Blade Runner鈥檚 Shimata-Dominguez, are an inevitability in sci-fi futures. WALL路E鈥檚 Buy n Large is similar, except that this company was formed by a merger between a frozen yogurt manufacturer (Buy Yogurt) and a maker of suits for the larger gentleman (Large Industries). Clearly a marriage made in heaven, this corporate combination led to a rapid expansion, culminating with Buy n Large owning every company and government in the world.

The Buy n Large logo is an over-italicized customization of Futura Extra Bold Oblique, as demonstrated by a super-distinctive capital G in the BUY N LARGE BANK logotype that WALL路E passes early in the movie.

Futura Pro Extra Bold Oblique, released by Berthold. Original Futura design by Paul Renner.
鈥淏UY N LARGE BANK鈥 signage, set in Futura Extra Bold Oblique, showing its distinctive capital G.

If the red-and-blue logo feels familiar, it shouldn鈥檛 be a surprise鈥攊t鈥檚 because BnL uses the exact same typeface and color scheme as real-world retail giant Costco Wholesale Corporation.

The Costco Wholesale Corporation logo, in Futura Extra Bold Oblique.

There鈥檚 another curious BnL subsidiary to be found among the city鈥檚 electronic ads, on a beaten-up billboard advertising 鈥淓ggman Movers (Creating More Space).鈥 This company is an Easter-egg reference to WALL路E production designer Ralph 鈥淓ggman鈥 Eggleston, and it shares the name of the moving company from 1995鈥檚 Toy Story, for which Ralph was art director.

Eggman Movers, from 2008鈥檚 WALL路E.
Eggman Movers, from 1995鈥檚 Toy Story.

The presence of a Buy n Large鈥揵randed bank means Buy n Large鈥揵randed banknotes, which are unusual for being strewn across the floor of the deserted city. If you look closely at the notes, you鈥檒l see that some of them have 鈥106鈥 in the corner, and are marked 鈥渢en million dollars.鈥 Others look to be marked 鈥996,鈥 suggesting that Buy n Large stores continued the classic $9.99 pricing trick even after adding six zeroes to the end of everything. (Indeed, it says much about the Buy n Large approach to consumerism that it prints notes with the 99s already included, to avoid customers having to receive any change.)

$10 million and $99 million bills lie abandoned on the ground near a Buy n Large Bank.

We discover later in the movie that the Axiom left Earth in the year 2105. This suggests that in the preceding years of overconsumption there was a period of severe hyperinflation, making a $10 million note a necessity. This is not without historical precedent鈥Earth鈥檚 most extreme example of hyperinflation occurred in Zimbabwe in November 2008, just a few months after WALL路E鈥檚 release, when the inflation rate for the Zimbabwe dollar reached a staggering 79,600,000,000 percent per month. At this point, a single US dollar was equivalent to 2,621,984,228 Zimbabwe dollars.聽The largest-denomination note printed during this time was the $100 trillion note, which makes Buy n Large鈥檚 $10 million bill seem like small change by comparison.

A $100 trillion bill from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, showing some impressively pointy Futura.

WALL路E leaves the bank behind and continues his journey via the disused tracks of the BnL Transit monorail system. In the absence of working trains, these concrete tracks provide a convenient route through the middle of the deserted city.

WALL路E climbs an escalator聽to a BnL Transit monorail station.

Despite their association with aspirational futures, monorails have been failing to become a global mass-transit system for almost two hundred years. The first passenger monorail opened in 1825 in Cheshunt, England, primarily to transport bricks, though it was also utilized for transporting people, mostly for novelty purposes. Unlike the top-of-rail system seen in WALL路E, Cheshunt鈥檚 monorail consisted of carriages suspended beneath an overhead track, and was powered by a single horse.

The Cheshunt style of monorail鈥攚ith suspended carriages hanging beneath a single rail鈥攚as also adopted by the Wuppertal Schwebebahn, which began operation along the Wupper River in Cologne, Germany, in 1901. The Wuppertal鈥檚 suspended system is still in operation today, carrying more than sixty-five thousand passengers on an average weekday.

A Wuppertal Schwebebahn monorail train arrives at the Werther Br眉cke station in Cologne, 1913.

The monorail seen in WALL路E is of the style popularized by Swedish entrepreneur Axel Wenner-Gren, whose prototype ALWEG (Axel Lennart Wenner-Gren) monorail system came to the attention of Walt Disney after a family visit to Wuppertal gave him monorail fever. Disney saw the potential for a monorail attraction at his new Disneyland theme park in California, and the Disneyland-ALWEG Monorail System opened in June 1959. The system remains in operation today (under the name Disneyland Monorail), and there are similar attractions at Disneyland Tokyo and Walt Disney World in Florida. In total, Disney monorails have transported more than one billion passengers into an aspirational transportational future.

The Disneyland-ALWEG Monorail System at Tomorrowland station, 1963.聽Photograph by Robert J. Boser, CC BY 3.0.
The Disneyland-ALWEG Monorail System at Disneyland Hotel station, 1963.聽Photograph by Robert J. Boser, CC BY 3.0.

It鈥檚 not entirely clear what US city WALL路E lives in, but the presence of a monorail network certainly positions it as a location that was once optimistic about the future. This mid-century futurism is borne out by other architectural features of the city, most notably a curved building seen among the billboards encountered earlier. This building is strongly reminiscent of the Space Needle observation tower in Seattle, Washington, which was built for the city鈥檚 1962 World鈥檚 Fair, together with an ALWEG monorail system that is still in operation today.

Seattle鈥檚 ALWEG monorail passing in front of the city鈥檚 Space Needle, 2008. Both were built for Seattle鈥檚 1962 World鈥檚 Fair.聽Photograph by Smart Destinations, CC BY-SA 2.0.
A remarkably space-needle-like building seen close to the monorail in WALL路E’s home city.

Near the monorail, WALL路E passes a promotional poster for himself, with the caption 鈥淲orking to dig you out!鈥 This poster has definite communist propaganda undertones, showing a stylized army of WALL路Es working together to build a brighter future. The implication of this design choice鈥攖hat communist values are the solution to decades of rampant consumerism鈥攊s a pretty bold political statement for what is only the fourth minute of the movie.

Buy n Large poster for WALL路E robots, with the caption 鈥淲orking to dig you out!鈥

The future to which these WALL路Es aspire is apparently just above and behind the viewer鈥攁 common trope for communist propaganda, where the aspirational group gaze is almost always in this direction.

Chinese communist propaganda poster with the caption 鈥淭o go on a thousand 鈥榣i鈥 march to temper a red heart.鈥 A 鈥渓i鈥 is about 500 meters, so a thousand-li march is about 310 miles.
Soviet communist propaganda poster, with the caption 鈥淟et鈥檚 raise a generation utterly devoted to the cause of communism!鈥 Designed by Victor Ivanov, 1947.
North Korean propaganda poster, with the caption 鈥淭he party calls! To important construction!鈥

Indeed, this gaze is聽such a common trope that it became the primary styling of the promotional poster for 2014鈥檚 banned comedy movie The Interview, in which two Americans travel to North Korea to interview the country鈥檚 leader, Kim Jong-un. (The WALL路E poster鈥檚 bottom-edge caption, punctuated by an exclamation mark, is a recurring design feature in North Korean propaganda posters.)

Promotional poster for The Interview, with the Korean-language caption 鈥淒on鈥檛 believe these American bastards!鈥

This aspirational style is an example of socialist realist design, the officially sanctioned visual aesthetic of the Soviet Union, which positioned broad-shouldered, purposeful workers as the true heroes of the age. As a robot who is literally a rectangle, there is surely no worker more broad-shouldered and purposeful than our movie鈥檚 eponymous hero, WALL路E.

WALL路E鈥檚 self-promotional poster is also a fine example of Handel Gothic, one of the movie鈥檚 supporting typefaces. Originally designed in 1965 by Donald J. Handel, the font has become a mainstay of design futurism. (Indeed, it is quite possibly the originator of one of our rules for futuristic type: Make straight things curved.)

Handel Gothic Com Bold, from Linotype. Handel Gothic was originally designed in 1965 by Donald J. Handel for FotoStar.

My favorite use of the typeface in WALL路E occurs later in the movie, when we see the distinctly curved E of some Handel Gothic鈥 on a handle. (I refuse to believe this is anything but a deliberate typographic joke.)

鈥淗andle鈥 Gothic.

Handel Gothic enjoyed a particular resurgence when the type family was expanded in the 1980s, and will be immediately familiar to anyone who visited EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World in Florida, which opened in 1982. (Later in this article, we鈥檒l look in detail at the theme park, which is now named simply Epcot.) The original EPCOT Center logo was Handel Gothic all the way, making particularly good use of a lowercase n in 鈥淐enter鈥 to bring some extra curviness, and choosing a font variant with a curved leg in its R for consistency. (It also added letter joining and slicing for good futuristic measure.)

Original logo for the EPCOT Center theme park at Walt Disney World, Florida.

Handel Gothic will also be familiar to Star Trek fans, from its appearance in the credits for both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993鈥99) and Star Trek: Voyager (1995鈥2001).

Opening credits from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode 鈥淓missary,鈥 showing some shiny metallic Handel Gothic (in this case, with a straight-legged R).
Opening credits from the Star Trek: Voyager episode 鈥淯nimatrix Zero: Part II,鈥 showing Handel Gothic with a similarly straight-legged R.

The movie that made Handel Gothic synonymous with sci-fi, however, was almost certainly Steven Spielberg鈥檚 Close Encounters of the Third Kind, released in 1977. Close Encounters used the typeface for its theatrical poster and for its opening credits, with the very words 鈥淐lose Encounters鈥 offering not one but three opportunities to recognize Handel Gothic鈥檚 trademark E.

Opening credits to 1977鈥檚 Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

But back to WALL路E鈥檚 journey. Toward the end of his trek home, he passes many more WALL路E units, all of them rusted and dead. The sole remaining WALL路E happily cannibalizes a Caterpillar track from a nearby broken unit to replace his own damaged part, and motors onward with the new track in place.

It鈥檚 an easy detail to miss, but WALL路E鈥檚 home is a broken-down 鈥淏nL WALL路E Transport鈥 vehicle, which may once have housed all the dead units he just passed. When he reverses himself into a WALL路E-size bin in a rotatable storage rack a few minutes later and rocks himself to sleep, his loneliness as the last robot on Earth is made all the more acute by the uninhabited bins around him, now filled with ordered trash.

Defunct WALL路E units litter the landscape, becoming part of the trash they one existed to clear.
A hulking WALL路E TRANSPORT, ironically rendered immobile by the piles of trash surrounding it.
WALL路E tucks himself into a transportation bin, as the last remaining unit still able to do so. Where there once would have been many more WALL路E鈥檚, there is now simply ordered trash.

Before he climbs into bed, WALL路E retrieves his favorite VHS cassette from a nearby toaster, and pops it into a VCR. It turns out this is a beaten-up copy of Hello, Dolly!鈥1969鈥檚 awkwardly punctuated Jerry Herman musical. Delightfully, the typography of this cassette is taken directly from the movie鈥檚 1991 VHS release, though the identity of its non-futuristic title font鈥攈alf Century Schoolbook, half Benguiat Caslon鈥攈as sadly eluded my detective skills.

WALL-E鈥檚 much-watched copy of Hello, Dolly!
The front cover of 1991鈥檚 US VHS release of Hello, Dolly!

WALL路E watches his Hello, Dolly! cassette via a small, portable device that looks almost exactly like an Apple iPod Video. I say 鈥渁lmost,鈥 because the real-world iPod Video had a smaller click wheel than the one seen in WALL路E, had white labels on its buttons, and did not support external playback from a VHS cassette player. Nonetheless, this iPod is just one example of many in WALL路E鈥檚 home that evoke nostalgia for gadgets past, reinforcing that WALL路E himself is the discarded, unwanted technology that humanity left behind.

WALL路E鈥檚 iPod, showing Hello, Dolly! on its LCD color screen.

To work around the tiny scale of his iPod鈥檚 screen, WALL路E uses a plastic Fresnel lens as a magnifying device to enlarge the image to several times its original size. In doing so, he follows a trend started in Terry Gilliam鈥檚 similarly dystopian Brazil, in which employees at the Ministry of Information Retrieval huddle around tiny CRT screens to watch westerns through Fresnel lenses when their boss isn鈥檛 looking.

WALL路E watches a movie on his iPod鈥檚 small screen through a rectangular Fresnel lens.
In 1985鈥檚 Brazil, Ministry of Information employees watch movies on a small CRT screen through a rectangular Fresnel lens.

WALL路E awakes from robotic sleep on day two of the movie, low on power and dynamism. The fact that his head is a big pair of binoculars gives a great opportunity for a visual gag, as we see him literally bleary-eyed before activating the zoom lock on first his left eye, then his right, to reveal an eye-test chart in the opposing rack.

From his bleary beginnings鈥
鈥ALL路E focuses first his left eye鈥
鈥nd then his right, locking in on an eye test chart in the distance.

WALL路E鈥檚 binocular form is mimicked in the shape of his heads-up display (or HUD), which has the classic 鈥渢wo circles鈥 shape used in many movies to indicate that we are looking from a character鈥檚 viewpoint through a pair of binoculars. This HUD raises an interesting question, however. Why does WALL路E have a heads-up display, with information overlaid on a video stream? A heads-up display really makes sense only if you are a human who has eyes; for a robot, any video input is combined with additional metadata from environmental sensors (such as direction, zoom, and power), and fed directly into the robot鈥檚 processor. Overlaying environmental information on a video stream implies that the robot has cameras that look at the world, and then more cameras that look at the augmented output of those cameras, which doesn鈥檛 make sense at all.

The answer, of course, is that WALL路E has a HUD because movie robots have HUDs, and movie robots have HUDs because they enable the viewer to visualize what the robots are thinking, even if it makes zero sense in technical reality. This trope began in 1973鈥檚 Westworld, whose final act shows us the world from the vantage point of Yul Brynner鈥檚 gun-slinging robot. Although Brynner鈥檚 HUD is not augmented with data, it is nonetheless the first use of computer-generated imagery in a feature film. Director Michael Crichton cuts several times from a real-world scene to the robot鈥檚 pixelated version of the same, including a thermal image when Brynner chases his prey in the movie鈥檚 final act.

A canyon in Westworld鈥
鈥nd Yul Brynner鈥檚 pixellated view of the same.
Yul Brynner鈥檚 gunslinging robot tracks its prey with a thermal imaging interpretation of its video input.

Westworld鈥檚 鈥渞obot viewpoint鈥 trope was codified by 1984鈥檚 The Terminator and 1987鈥檚 RoboCop, both of which augmented their HUDs with additional data and text. Following these two movies, a heads-up display pretty much became the de facto expectation for any on-screen robot whose motives need to be understood.

A HUD screen from the T-800 Terminator, in 1984鈥檚 The Terminator. Here, the T-800 is determining an appropriate auditory response to a question from its apartment鈥檚 superintendent.
A HUD screen from the OCP Crime Prevention Unit 001, in 1987鈥檚 RoboCop. Here, RoboCop鈥檚 visual tracking system is being put through its paces by detecting the location of a pen. (Note that RoboCop鈥檚 HUD has highly visible scan lines, to make sure we know we are watching a live video stream in a movie.)

Pixar鈥檚 robot HUDs tend to include the shape of the robot鈥檚 eye(s) within the heads-up display, to help us associate the HUD with the character it represents. The Incredibles鈥 Omnidroid predates WALL路E鈥檚 binoculars in this regard. Other WALL路E robots鈥擬-O, SECUR-T, and EVE鈥攁lso follow suit.

The Incredibles鈥 Omnidroid has a HUD that makes the droid鈥檚 desire for self-preservation clear via some on-screen Eurostile Oblique. It also demonstrates the Pixar trend (continued in WALL路E) for HUDs to match the shapes of their robots鈥 eye(s).
The SECUR-T sentry robot鈥檚 eye in WALL路E is explicitly a camera, as reinforced by a SLR (single-lens-reflex)-camera-like HUD when taking a CAUTION photo of WALL路E鈥檚 rogue robots.
EVE鈥檚 curved, lined HUD mirrors the curved, lined styling of her eyes and face.
M-O鈥檚 wide, flat eye-panel shape is mirrored in his wide, flat on-screen HUD display. This shape, of course, requires his HUD to use a certain wide, flat typeface for its informative text.

Pixar鈥檚 neatest variation on the robot HUD trope occurs all the way back in 1999鈥檚 Toy Story 2, where a plastic toy鈥檚 marketing gimmick (plus some clever camera framing) enables us to literally see through the eyes of the movie鈥檚 robotic bad guy.

Evil Emperor Zurg, arch-enemy of Buzz Lightyear, in 1999鈥檚 Toy Story 2.
As Buzz runs away from Zurg, a camera move brilliantly subverts the robot HUD trope鈥
鈥urning a plastic toy鈥檚 鈥淟OOK HERE鈥 scope鈥
鈥nto the bad guy鈥檚 evil robot HUD鈥
鈥omplete with ZURG VISION logo in Eurostile Bold Oblique.

There is one further question raised by WALL路E鈥檚 binocular HUD. How does his directional compass鈥攕een at the top center of his HUD鈥攃ontinue to work when he is aboard the Axiom? Lots of planets may have a north, but the same is not true of spacecraft鈥攏orth, south, east, and west make sense only when you鈥檙e on the surface of a sphere.

A detail from WALL路E鈥檚 binoculars when onboard the Axiom. This compass direction indicator, from the top of the viewport, updates as he rotates, despite the notable absence of a planet.

Day two (and act two) of WALL路E see a Buy n Large scout ship arrive on Earth, disrupting WALL路E鈥檚 routine. Most importantly, it introduces us to EVE, who is everything WALL路E is not. EVE鈥檚 shiny white design is technologically advanced; she鈥檚 the curvy iMac G4 to WALL路E鈥檚 boxy Mac 128K. Her design evokes sleek Apple products of the 2000s, with her head, in particular, highly reminiscent of a 2002 iMac G4鈥檚 base. Even her reboot sound is a futuristic take on Apple鈥檚 famous startup chime, whereas WALL路E鈥檚 post-charge chime is the version Apple introduced in 1998 and removed altogether in 2016.

WALL路E sees EVE for the first time, as she is released from her transporter pod to begin scanning Earth.
Side view of an iMac G4,
released in 2002, with an EVE-head-like base.
An Apple Macintosh 128k, released in 1984, with a WALL路E-like beige body.聽Photograph by Ian Muttoo, CC BY-SA 2.0.

EVE鈥檚 evocation of Apple product design is not entirely coincidental. In a 2008 interview with Fortune magazine, director Andrew Stanton stated: 鈥淚 wanted EVE to be high-end technology鈥攏o expense spared鈥攁nd I wanted it to be seamless and for the technology to be sort of hidden and subcutaneous. The more I started describing it, the more I realized I was pretty much describing the Apple playbook for design.鈥 This led to a 2005 call to Steve Jobs鈥攁t that time, both owner of Pixar and CEO of Apple鈥攚hich in turn led to Apple design head Jony Ive spending a day at the Pixar headquarters in Emeryville, consulting on the EVE prototype. (It is surely entirely coincidental that EVE鈥檚 wireless arms and hands are reminiscent of Apple鈥檚 wireless Magic Mouse, released the year after WALL路E.)

Eve鈥檚 wirelessly-connected fingers and hands, as seen in 2008鈥檚 WALL路E.
Apple鈥檚 wireless Magic Mouse, released in 2009.聽Photograph by Yutaka Tsutano, CC BY 2.0.

During a dust storm, WALL路E takes EVE back to the safety of his home, where he presents her with a small multicolored cube. In the three seconds the camera pans away for WALL路E to retrieve Hello, Dolly!, EVE solves the Rubik鈥檚 Cube and returns it to her astonished host.

WALL路E presents EVE with a Rubik鈥檚 Cube from his trash collection.

EVE鈥檚 cube-solving time would be impressive for a human; the current world record is 4.22 seconds, set by Feliks Zemdegs in May 2018. Sadly, because of the camera pan, we鈥檒l never know if EVE broke the world record for a robot, which currently stands at a mind-boggling 0.637 seconds. This record was set in November 2016 by Sub1 Reloaded, a cube-solving robot built by German engineer Albert Beer. Six high-performance stepper motors turned the cube twenty-one times to complete the task, averaging just 0.03 seconds per rotation.

Sub1 Reloaded, the world-record-holding Rubik鈥檚 Cube robot, in November 2016.

Spare a thought, then, for poor WALL路E. His surprise at EVE鈥檚 accomplishment is understandable鈥攈e lacks color vision and has only three digits on each hand, which means that Rubik鈥檚 Cubes are really not his specialty. (There鈥檚 a reason Guinness doesn鈥檛 have a 鈥渇astest dog鈥 Rubik鈥檚 Cube category.)

One other point of note: This scene is the only time the color green appears in WALL路E in a scene unrelated to a plant. While this breaks the movie鈥檚 careful color scripting, it鈥檚 worth it for a good gag.

All seems to be going well with WALL路E and EVE鈥檚 introductions, until they are rudely interrupted by EVE鈥檚 spotting a plant that WALL路E has excavated from the trash. She subsumes the plant, as per her 鈥渄irective,鈥 and enters hibernation mode. WALL路E鈥檚 attempts to wake her invariably end in comedic pain, though one of them does reveal EVE鈥檚 serial number, 051682, set in Handel Gothic. (I can鈥檛 help but wonder whether someone in Pixar鈥檚 art department was born on May 16, 1982.)

EVE鈥檚 serial number, seen on the inside of the door above, is 051682.

WALL路E gives up on reviving EVE and disconsolately returns to his trash-crushing routine. Shortly afterward, the Axiom鈥檚 scout ship returns to Earth and collects EVE to take her home. Desperate not to lose his new friend, WALL路E hitches a ride on the outside of the scout, causing him grief when the ship blasts through Earth鈥檚 surrounding satellite trash. As the satellites fall away, we see that WALL路E has a Soviet-era Sputnik 1 satellite on his head. This is impressive, especially given that Sputnik 1鈥攖he first man-made object to orbit Earth鈥攂urned up on reentry to Earth鈥檚 atmosphere in 1958.

As the Axiom scout ship breaks through Earth鈥檚 satellites鈥
鈥ALL路E is briefly left with Sputnik 1 on his head.
A replica of the Sputnik 1 satellite, showing its 58cm-diameter aluminum sphere and four spindly antennas

We see Sputnik 1 again later in the movie, as a model in Captain McCrea鈥檚 display cabinet. This model is accompanied by a NASA space shuttle launch/entry helmet, as worn by space shuttle astronauts between 1982 and 1986 during launch and return from space.

A space shuttle launch/entry helmet and a Sputnik model in Captain McCrea鈥檚 display case.
Payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe is briefed on the space shuttle鈥檚 launch/entry helmet during training for the January 1986 launch of flight STS-51L.

This 鈥渞etro space tech鈥 theme can also be seen on Earth during EVE鈥檚 scan for plant life. After scanning a Toy Story Pizza Planet truck and a portable lavatory, EVE checks a rusting Apollo command module before slamming the door shut in disgust at its absence of plant-based life.

A BnL-branded Apollo-style command module in a pile of trash on Earth.
The Apollo 14 command module, nicknamed 鈥淜itty Hawk,鈥 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.聽Photograph by gordonplant, CC BY 2.0.

Showing recent space technology as trash or as museum pieces positions our personal experiences of space as archaic and quaint in comparison to the Axiom鈥檚 futuristic styling. This further reinforces WALL路E鈥檚 own obsolescence as a discarded piece of technology, and sets us up neatly for a transition to the shiny futurism of the Axiom.

The Axiom paints a vision of the future where every menial task, no matter how small, has a dedicated robot created expressly for the purpose. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey鈥檚 HAL and Alien鈥檚 MU/TH/UR, all these robots have cute acronyms to make them human-friendly.

SAUT-A (chefbot).
Microbe Obliterator, or M路O.
VAQ-M (vacuumbot), BUF-4 (bufferbot), and SPR-A (spraybot).
HAN-S (massagebot), and PR-T (beauticianbot).
SR-V (tennisbot).
BIRD-E (golfbot).
SECUR-T (stewardbot).
BURN-E (maintenancebot), shortly after being locked out of the Axiom by WALL路E and EVE.
GO-4 (gopherbot).
Waste Allocation Load Lifter 路 Axiom Class, or WALL路A.
NAN-E (nannybot).

Of particular note is VN-GO, the painterbot, whose acronym perpetuates a common yet incorrect pronunciation of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh鈥檚 surname. (According to the BBC Pronunciation Unit, it is 鈥渧an Gokh,鈥 with the kh pronounced like the ch in the Scottish word loch.)

VN-GO (paintbot).

EVE鈥檚 acronym, sadly, is even worse. Her denomination as Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator could not be more inaccurate, given that her entire reason for existing is to evaluate vegetation on the planet Terra (as Earth is known in Latin). Presumably, her moniker was chosen for cuteness rather than linguistic accuracy鈥攁fter all, this movie is about WALL路E and EVE, not WALL路E and TVE.

Also of note is TYP-E, a typingbot who is designed solely to press keys when someone approaches the elevator shaft to the captain鈥檚 quarters. TYP-E provides an excuse for one of the movie鈥檚 best visual gags鈥攁s a robot, he has a keyboard made entirely, of course, from ones and zeroes.

TYP-E (typingbot).
In a brief over-the-shoulder shot, we see that TYP-E鈥檚 keyboard is made entirely from keys labeled 1 and 0.

M-O鈥檚 cleaning colleagues (VAQ-M, SPR-A, and BUF-4) may bring back memories for fans of 1997鈥檚 The Fifth Element. In Luc Besson鈥檚 over-the-top vision of the future, evil industrialist Zorg demonstrates his own array of task-specific robots by dropping a glass tumbler on the floor to trigger their 鈥渓ovely ballet.鈥 As two sentrybots stand guard, a sweeperbot, a spraybot, and a bufferbot clean up his mess before returning to a nearby storage station.

The Fifth Element pre-empts WALL路E鈥檚 cleaning robots with its own sweeperbot鈥
鈥nd bufferbot.

The Axiom鈥檚 robots travel around the ship via their own dedicated corridors, separate from the craft鈥檚 passenger areas. These passenger areas are split into three classes鈥攅conomy, coach, and elite鈥攅ach of which has a distinct architectural style. The classes themselves do not play a functional role in the movie鈥檚 plot, but one has to wonder what they mean for the Axiom鈥檚 society. Are children born into the classes their ancestors originally purchased, as if into some kind of futuristic caste system? Would the Axiom have its own Titanic moment if a passenger from economy bumped hover chairs with someone from elite? One thing鈥檚 certain: The styling of each class is extremely useful for helping viewers orient themselves within the ship鈥檚 overall structure as the action moves back and forth along its length.

Our introduction to the passenger area starts with the economy deck, which is compact, angular, and concrete in texture and color. Its palette is deliberately sparse, rarely moving outside the Buy n Large blue, red, and white, and making extensive use of the corporation鈥檚 Futura Extra Bold Oblique.

The economy deck, as seen by WALL路E shortly after his arrival on the Axiom. Apart from a few hints of yellow, it follows the BnL corporate color scheme exclusively, with plenty of Futura Extra Bold Oblique.
The economy deck, as seen when Captain McCrea announces the Axiom鈥檚 700-year anniversary.

The deck鈥檚 design is highly reminiscent of the interior of the Contemporary Tower at Walt Disney World Contemporary Resort, whose A-frame concrete-and-steel structure was so futuristic when it opened in 1971 that it even had a monorail running through the middle. (As anyone who has stayed at the Contemporary can attest, however, its rates can hardly be considered 鈥渆conomy.鈥)

Interior of the Contemporary Tower at Walt Disney World Contemporary Resort, as it looked in 2011. The blue raised platform on the right is a monorail station with a green-line monorail currently boarding.聽Photograph by Sam Howzit, CC BY 2.0.

The coach deck, unlike the economy deck, is curved, eclectic, and spacious, with brightly colored holo-ads scattered everywhere. It mimics Las Vegas鈥檚 Strip in gaudiness and style, with artificial neon colors used extensively and every sign encouraging Axiom passengers to spend more money. (How the ship鈥檚 financial economy continues to function after a seven-hundred-year flight continues to remain a mystery.)

The central mall area of the Axiom鈥檚 coach deck, with garish, over-saturated holographic ads and signs.
Las Vegas Strip at night
A section of the Las Vegas Strip at night, showing a similar palette of over-saturated cyan, purple, pink, and yellow hues, combined with omnipresent ads encouraging consumption.聽Photograph by rabbit75_ist.

The ceiling of the coach deck is a gigantic animated screen that can switch between day and night, complete with a BnL-branded sun or moon. The ceiling鈥檚 relationship to actual time is somewhat tenuous, as we see when Captain McCrea winds the sky back from 12:30 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. in order to make his morning announcements. In this regard, the ceiling is essentially an amalgam of two Las Vegas landmarks: the painted cloud ceilings of the Forum indoor arcade at Caesars Palace, whose lighting ebbs and changes without ever making it nighttime enough for you to want to stop buying things, and the four-block-long overhead screen of the Fremont Street Experience鈥攖he world鈥檚 largest video screen鈥攚hose 12.5 million LEDs illuminate Vegas partygoers every night. The result is an entirely fake sky for the Axiom鈥檚 population, allowing finely tuned control over their artificial environment.

The coach deck鈥檚 sky dome ceiling, transitioning from midday to early morning.
The painted, vaulted ceiling of the Forum Shops arcade at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.聽Photograph by anokarina, CC BY-SA 2.0.
The four-block-long LED ceiling of the Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas.聽Photograph by dconvertini, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The coach deck leads to the elite deck, whose styling resembles that of a high-class lido or spa. Despite their very different palettes, the coach and elite decks share a curved, futuristic environmental styling that unifies their overall architecture. According to production designer Ralph Eggleston, the architecture of this shared area is inspired by the work of architect Santiago Calatrava, whose signature curved supports and arches can be seen throughout both decks鈥 central concourse.

Close-up of the arched supports in the central coach deck plaza.
Transitional area between the coach and elite decks, showing arched supports around the central transportation line.
Caf茅 Calatrava, Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, completed in 2001.聽Photograph by Peter Alfred Hess, CC BY 2.0.
Concourse and roof supports, Lyon鈥揝aint-Exup茅ry Airport Railway Station, Colombier-Saugnieu, France. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, completed in 1994.聽Photograph by Ingolf, CC BY-SA 2.0.
An arched glass half-dome in the coach deck鈥檚 food court.
Close-up of the base of the captain鈥檚 control tower, showing its arched, glass-fronted entrance.
Exterior detail, Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, completed in 2001.聽Photograph by joevare, CC BY-ND 2.0.
Arched exterior of the Ad谩n Mart铆n Auditorio de Tenerife, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, completed in 2003.聽Photograph by Rick Ligthelm, CC BY 2.0.

The other main influence for the Axiom鈥檚 architecture is the design of the Tomorrowland area of Disneyland, in California. According to production designer Ralph Eggleston, during the movie鈥檚 production WALL路E鈥檚 design team visited an exhibition of Tomorrowland concept art and took inspiration from the designs therein.聽Perhaps the most obvious of these influences is the presence of a PeopleMover transportation system running through the middle of the club and elite decks, in a style very similar to the PeopleMover at Tomorrowland. (Do check out DaveLandWeb’s fantastic PeopleMover photo page for some great examples of the original in action.)

The club deck鈥檚 circular PeopleMover loading area.
Raised PeopleMover tracks running along the length of the club deck.

The evolution of Disney鈥檚 PeopleMover concept began with the 1964鈥65 New York World鈥檚 Fair, for which the Ford Motor Company asked Disney to design an attraction to compete with General Motors鈥 Futurama II exhibit. The resulting Magic Skyway gave fairgoers an opportunity to ride in a driverless Ford convertible鈥攊ncluding the just-launched Ford Mustang鈥攖hrough a diorama that transported them from prehistoric times to a futuristic space city.

Following its success at the World鈥檚 Fair, the traction system behind Magic Skyway was adapted into a new feature for Tomorrowland鈥檚 1967 relaunch. The new attraction, known as the WEDway PeopleMover, enabled Walter Elias Disney to follow Axel Lennart Wenner-Gren (of ALWEG monorail fame) in naming a futuristic transportation mechanism with his initials. It also provided an ideal inspiration for the Axiom鈥檚 central transport system.

The Axiom鈥檚 PeopleMover has much in common with its WEDway counterpart. Both are focused on a main circular loading area in the heart of a central plaza, with a long, straight stretch of track extending away from the loading deck. Both give passengers a tantalizing view of surrounding attractions as they are transported from one area to another. Indeed, I am sure Walt Disney would have been delighted to see his dream of future transportation integrated into the Axiom鈥檚 space-age environment, especially given that Disneyland鈥檚 PeopleMover was a prototype for Walt鈥檚 grander vision of futuristic living. Walt planned to build a larger PeopleMover installation as part of his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT鈥攁 new and futuristic city to be created from scratch at his planned Disney World Resort in Florida.

In October 1966, Walt recorded a short film pitching his 鈥淔lorida Project鈥 to industrialists and legislators, including a detailed description of EPCOT鈥檚 transportation system. In this new city, cars and trucks were to be pushed underground, with the community鈥檚 twenty thousand residents instead traveling by WEDway and monorail to work, play, and socialize. The concept images below from Walt鈥檚 EPCOT film give an idea of just how much imagination the creative brains at WED Enterprises applied, under Walt鈥檚 careful guidance, to everyday living challenges.

EPCOT鈥檚 transportation was planned on a radial system, as this schematic from Walt鈥檚 EPCOT film demonstrates. City residents use a series of PeopleMover systems (shown here as light blue spokes) to travel from their homes on the outskirts of the city to the central transport hub. Should they need to travel to other parts of Disney World, they then transfer to a high-speed monorail system (shown here in red).
Concept art showing one half of EPCOT鈥檚 main transportation lobby. The longer-distance monorail service (right) runs through the center of the lobby, with shorter-distance WEDway PeopleMover services departing from the edges of the lobby (left). Cars and trucks are pushed underground into lower levels of the city鈥檚 transportation network (bottom).
Concept art from the EPCOT film, showing a PeopleMover and Monorail passing through the city鈥檚 central shopping district.
In Walt鈥檚 EPCOT proposal, the city鈥檚 WEDway PeopleMovers (shown here as light blue spokes) transport residents through the city鈥檚 greenbelt, past sports facilities and schools鈥
鈥o residential areas in the city鈥檚 suburban districts, complete with footpaths and children鈥檚 play areas.

Tragically, Walt Disney died less than two months after his EPCOT introduction was filmed, passing away before the pitch was screened and before New Tomorrowland opened to the public. His ambitious vision of a prototype community did not become a reality, but its name lives on in the Epcot theme park (formerly 鈥淓PCOT Center鈥) at Walt Disney World in Florida鈥攁lthough the eventual EPCOT park became more of a permanent World鈥檚 Fair than a real-life city of the future. The WEDway PeopleMover did not realize its potential, either: The Disneyland attraction closed in 1995, to be replaced by the faster (but short-lived) Rocket Rods ride, which itself closed in 2001.

Disneyland park-goers can still see the PeopleMover鈥檚 abandoned tracks snaking through Tomorrowland, displaying curved, arched supports that Santiago Calatrava would surely approve of. (Thankfully, a PeopleMover can still be experienced at the Magic Kingdom park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, where the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover continues to provide a leisurely tour of nearby attractions.)

An overhead section of the now-disused PeopleMover track in Tomorrowland, seen in 2009.聽Photograph by Loren Javier, CC BY-ND 2.0.

Of course, the PeopleMover also lives on via the Axiom, whose reimagining of the concept is almost a microcosm of Walt鈥檚 vision for EPCOT. Aboard the Axiom, it鈥檚 a PeopleMover (not a monorail) that fulfills the role of high-speed arterial transport, with individual BnL hover chairs completing the 鈥渇inal mile鈥 of the journey via preset illuminated paths (blue for humans, white for robots, red for stewardbots). It may not match the scale of Disney鈥檚 EPCOT dream, but it鈥檚 nonetheless fitting that Walt鈥檚 vision of a transportational future made the trip into space.

Illuminated paths provide hover-chair routes throughout the Axiom
鈥efining a 鈥渇inal mile鈥 pathway to each passenger鈥檚 room. Here, the normally blue 鈥渉uman鈥 pathways have turned bright green to indicate that plant life has been found and the Axiom is preparing to return to Earth.

During WALL路E鈥檚 tour of the passenger decks, we discover that the Axiom鈥檚 computer is voiced by none other than Alien鈥檚 Ellen Ripley. Casting Sigourney Weaver as the disembodied voice of a space-based computer is clearly ironic, especially given her experience with such voices in Alien and Aliens. WALL路E ups the irony by having Weaver narrate not one but two scenes that would feel all too familiar to her xenomorph-hunting counterpart, triggering bonus space-peril associations for Alien fans. (Weaver also plays a disembodied voice in Andrew Stanton鈥檚 Finding Dory, aping her narration of nature documentaries.)

鈥淭wenty seconds to self-destruct,鈥 says Ripley, as WALL路E tries in vain to stop his LifePod鈥檚 self-destruct sequence.
Ripley knows what she鈥檚 talking about鈥攕he was counted down to self-destruction herself in Alien.
鈥淎ctivating airlock disposal,鈥 says Ripley, as EVE and WALL路E try to avoid being sucked out of an industrial-sized airlock鈥
鈥ith spinning red lights around the sides.
Ripley knows what she鈥檚 talking about鈥攕he narrowly avoided airlock doom herself in Aliens.

Alien and Aliens are not the only sci-fi movies to get a nod from WALL路E. On the Axiom bridge, we meet AUTO, the ship鈥檚 autopilot robot. It might be hard to believe just by looking at him, but AUTO is actually an Evil Space-Based Computer. His design is clearly influenced by a certain other ESBC鈥攖hat central red eye is a direct reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey鈥檚 HAL, giving an immediate signal that this robot is not to be trusted.

AUTO, the Axiom autopilot. Aspects of his design may be familiar to those of you who have read the 2001 article.
HAL, the Discovery One autopilot. Aspects of his design may be familiar to those of you who are reading this WALL路E article.

AUTO鈥檚 physical similarity to HAL gives him a practical similarity, too. On the rare occasions we see the world from AUTO鈥檚 vantage point, we get an extreme fish-eye view of the surrounding area, just as we did for HAL in 2001. WALL路E combines HAL鈥檚 fish-eye view with The Terminator鈥檚 red HUD hue, making AUTO鈥檚 evil intent doubly clear to any discerning fan of sci-fi.

AUTO鈥檚 fish-eye view, from WALL路E.
HAL鈥檚 fish-eye view, from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

AUTO and HAL belong to a long-standing tradition of sci-fi automata whose glowing red eye(s) give away their evil nature. They really are everywhere in sci-fi movies鈥攆rom the Model 101 in The Terminator, via the replicants in Blade Runner, to the evil wriggly thing inserted into Neo鈥檚 belly button in The Matrix.

After having all of its skin burnt off in a fire, The Terminator鈥檚 T-800 displays some impressive evil red eyes.
The evil wriggly thing that works its way into Neo鈥檚 belly in The Matrix has a trademark evil red eye.
The sentinels in The Matrix take evil red eyes to a whole new level.

That red glow has its benefits, however. You can always tell when an evil robot has been finally defeated from the fact that its red eye(s) slowly fade to black. The Terminator鈥檚 T-800, The Matrix鈥檚 wriggly thing, and WALL路E鈥檚 AUTO all follow this trope when deactivated.

As The Terminator鈥檚 T-800 is squished beneath the sheets of an industrial steel press,聽its evil red eye fades slowly to black.
After removing the wriggly thing from Neo鈥檚 belly, Trinity discards it in the rain,聽where its evil red eye fades slowly to black.
After switching the Axiom from autopilot to manual control,聽AUTO鈥檚 evil red eye fades slowly to black.

AUTO may look like the movie鈥檚 bad guy, but his actions are simply an example of artificial intelligence following its programming too literally. To understand his motives, we must remember that BnL鈥檚 original plan was for its star liners to return to Earth as soon as an EVE probe found proof that life was once more sustainable. Five years after their departure, however, BnL autopilots were sent a directive by CEO Shelby Forthright telling them to keep their craft in space indefinitely, because the cleanup process on Earth was not going to succeed. Six hundred and ninety-five years later, with no subsequent instructions to the contrary, AUTO is simply following this command to the letter, blocking any and all attempts to return to Earth.

In this regard, AUTO is eerily similar to 2001鈥檚 HAL, whose murderous tendencies aboard the Discovery were similarly driven by an inability to reconcile a contradiction in his programming. In the movie鈥檚 sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, we learn that the basic purpose of HAL鈥檚 design was 鈥渢he accurate processing of information without distortion or concealment.鈥 We also discover that HAL was instructed (via Directive NSD 342/23) to lie to Dave and Frank about the real reason for the Discovery鈥檚 mission. After lip-reading that they planned to disconnect him, HAL determined that the only logical way for him to both keep processing and avoid lying was for Dave and Frank to die.

AUTO鈥檚 own instruction is Directive A113, whose numbering may sound familiar to Pixar fans. 鈥A113鈥 appears in every Pixar film, from a family license plate in Toy Story to an underwater camera model in Finding Nemo. (Indeed, it鈥檚 even in Brave, where the roman numerals ACXIII appear carved just above the front door of a witch鈥檚 hut.) The reason for its repeated inclusion is that room A1-13 was the classroom for the Character Animation Program at the California Institute of the Arts, where Pixar alumni John Lasseter, Pete Docter, and Andrew Stanton studied. (This explains why it鈥檚 also the number on the door of Riley鈥檚 classroom in Inside Out, and on the Scaring 101 classroom door in Monsters University.) WALL路E may be its highest-profile outing, but it鈥檚 there in every Pixar movie if you keep your eyes peeled.

AUTO triggers Directive A113.

The majority of WALL路E鈥檚 robots are voiced by Ben Burtt, the Academy Award-winning sound designer and creator of R2D2鈥檚 bleeps. AUTO鈥檚 voice, however, is provided by MacInTalk, a speech synthesis technology first used to announce the Apple Macintosh computer in January 1984. (You may also recognize MacInTalk as the lead vocalist on Radiohead鈥檚 鈥淔itter Happier,鈥 from 1997鈥檚 OK Computer album.)

MacInTalk鈥檚 inclusion in WALL路E makes it one of only two Apple voice synthesis technologies to star in a feature film; the other is Siri, who provides the voice for 鈥橮uter, Batman鈥檚 high-tech assistant in The LEGO Batman Movie.

鈥溾楶uter鈥, Batman鈥檚 Siri-based computer assistant, from The LEGO Batman Movie. (The Batmobile鈥檚 interfaces are, perhaps inevitably, set in Eurostile Bold.)

Despite the technology鈥檚 age, I鈥檓 happy to report that MacInTalk voices still ship with macOS today. If you鈥檇 like to turn your Mac into an Evil Space-Based Computer, simply open the System Preferences application, select Accessibility and then Speech, and enable the 鈥淩alph鈥 system voice.

In addition to AUTO, there are two more nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey in WALL路E, both of which take advantage of preexisting associations for dramatic or comedic effect. The first is WALL路E鈥檚 brief escapade in a LifePod, the design of which seems clearly inspired by 2001鈥檚 EVA pods. That iconic ball-like shape immediately triggers an association with interstellar peril, which WALL路E soon discovers is entirely justified.

One of the Discovery鈥檚 EVA pods is activated in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
One of the Axiom鈥檚 LifePods is activated in WALL路E.
The pod design in 2001 has many similarities with its WALL路E counterpart鈥
鈥hough it does not (as far as we know) include an optional satellite dish, parachute, flare set, or inflatable life raft.

The second 2001 reference is a knowing usage of Richard Strauss鈥檚 Also sprach Zarathustra, when Captain McCrea becomes the first human to stand up and walk in possibly hundreds of years. It鈥檚 an appropriate enough use of the music鈥2001鈥檚 monoliths oversee (and supposedly trigger) several leaps in mankind鈥檚 evolution, so it鈥檚 entirely valid to hear those famous chords when the captain makes his first steps (even though this is technically a regression, not an evolution).

Determined to tackle the mutinous AUTO, Captain McCrea steadies himself鈥
鈥nd drags himself to his feet, to the tune of Also sprach Zarathustra.

Of course, WALL路E is not alone in riffing on Strauss鈥檚 classic melody. It is similarly parodied in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (as a 2001 monolith turns into a bar of chocolate) and Zoolander (as Hansel considers smashing Mugatu鈥檚 iMac with a nearby bone). If that鈥檚 not enough, it鈥檚 also in Pixar鈥檚 Toy Story 2 and Cars 3, plus other animated movies including Kung Fu Panda 3, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, and The Simpsons Movie. On the live-action front, it鈥檚 in Man on the Moon, Catch-22, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Clueless, Turner & Hooch, and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, to mention just a few.

In 2005鈥檚 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka transports a bar of chocolate via television to the tune of Also sprach Zarathustra
鈥ransforming 2001鈥檚 famous monolith into a bar of Wonka Nutty Crunch Surprise.
In 2001鈥檚 Zoolander, non-evolved male models Derek Zoolander and Hansel smack an iMac chimpanzee-style to the tune of Also sprach Zarathustra
鈥efore Hansel grabs a handy bone to use as a tool.

Despite AUTO鈥檚 best efforts, McCrea manages to switch him to MANUAL and sets the Axiom on a hyperjump trajectory back to Earth. The hyperjump looks exactly like you鈥檇 expect, which is exactly like the USS Enterprise engaging warp drive in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The Axiom makes a hyperjump toward Earth in WALL路E.
The Enterprise engages warp drive toward 鈥渢hataway鈥 in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Once again, WALL路E is sneakily using prior sci-fi art as a shortcut, re-creating familiar effects so that the Axiom鈥檚 quick journey home can be explained without exposition. (It might also account for why everyone aboard the Axiom experiences a brief stint of The Motion Picture鈥檚 wormhole effect during the jump.)

The Enterprise bridge goes all 鈥渨ormhole effect鈥 when it engages warp speed while still within the solar system.
EVE and WALL路E go all 鈥渨ormhole effect鈥 when the Axiom hyperjumps back to Earth.

As these homages show, WALL路E is not afraid to borrow from its predecessors to gain some free sci-fi association. Indeed, such references are celebrated and elevated, drawing on the production team鈥檚 clear fondness for vintage sci-fi to create a movie that is both a love letter to the classics and a worthy addition to the list. WALL路E capitalizes on our existing associations with the future to communicate complex plot points and motives with minimal dialogue and text. It is, to my mind, Pixar鈥檚 most realistic vision of an internally consistent world, despite the polar opposites of its Earth- and space-based environments. It鈥檚 political and satirical, representing utopia and dystopia with enough humor to poke fun at the downsides of both. In short, WALL路E envisages a future that could so easily be bleak and pessimistic鈥攂ut is instead inspired by the na茂vet茅 of its inhuman heroes to re-create the optimism that took man into space in the first place.

Wow! That was good, wasn’t it? What an amazing article! So amazing, in fact, that you probably want to impulse-buy the Typeset in the Future book it comes from, right this very second. Here are some convenient links to buy it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or you can head down to your local bookstore (which it is much harder for me to link to) when the book is released on December 11 2018.

The book also includes an interview with Pixar designers Ralph Eggleston and Craig Foster about the making of WALL路E, plus six more equally amazing movie studies, alongside interviews with Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall) and Mike Okuda (Star Trek). You can read more about it here if for some reason you’re still not convinced.

Dave Addey

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9 days ago
holy heck, it's been 2.5 years since the last Typeset in the Future and I think they spent it putting this one together. Favourite factoid: Jony Ive helped design Eve
Waterloo, Canada
9 days ago
this is glorious
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5 days ago
This is such a good blog
New York City

Don鈥檛 worry. There鈥檒l still be sexy stuff like this on my Tumblr...

2 Comments and 3 Shares

Don鈥檛 worry. There鈥檒l still be sexy stuff like this on my Tumblr after the 17th.

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11 days ago
yeah baby
Waterloo, Canada
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11 days ago
That's hot.
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth
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