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Peter T Chattaway

Wall-E

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Instead, we get trim, fit, intellectual, and talented filmmakers poking fun at the very people whose appetites their movies are designed to sate.

Well, you've really got the filmmakers both ways here.

If they are fit and intellectual, then they are snobs. If they are not, they are hypocrites. In either case, the criticism has been neatly walled off through an ad hominem non-response so that it doesn't actually need to be addressed. Well done!

Edited by bowen

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I just saw the film, and am a little tempted to totally ignore the controversy over the film's "political" inclinations in my review, just because it's such a ridiculous non-issue, but anything that's generated this much discussion probably needs to be mentioned, however briefly.

Anyway:

This is the fearless filmmaking. It's pure, hard sci-fi; it's as sophisticated and subtle as any Pixar movie yet; and it's very light on human dialogue. But Pixar's magic is this: It's also every bit a crowd-pleaser, it's totally accessible, and I suspect it'll do big business in the long haul (like Ratatouille did).

Also, I haven't talked to Jeffrey about it, but I suspect that I agree with him completely.

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In the interest of cultivating better criticism, especially in the U.S., I *do* care that the methods of the Academy show some integrity, so that we see great films honored more often. I wouldn't want an undeserving film to win, but the Academy seems to have created a new category just so they can make their token gesture to animation while still not considering those films worthwhile to be compared with other kinds of films. So it's an interest of mine, and I know there's been growing disgruntlement among animation fans that the form isn't taken seriously enough. I'm not just a film critic. I'm a critic of criticism. Boy, I *am* a snob! ;)

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I have to admit the discussion here had brought my expectations down to earth quite a bit. I was particularly disheartened by Dirty Harry's 2.5 star review, only because he specifically praised the first 45 minutes or so as "magical." That made me question whether the excerpts I had seen at Comic-Con represented this "magical" first act and the movie went downhill from there.

I also have to admit there were times in the beginning of the second act when I began to fear that this would indeed prove correct.

But WALL-E more than won me over completely. I'm over the moon about it, and not because I don't have any second thoughts. I do, though they have nothing to do with the ridiculously shallow objections of the political wiseacres. If ever there were a misguided reaction to a film, that would be it.

But WALL-E is such a monumental and glorious achievement that I can only gaze in wonder and appreciation, while bracketing my second thoughts for another time. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, you appreciate its vision for what it is and how it is realized, even if you have issues with the vision itself.

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Hmmm. If I said that one of the reasons I have trepidations about this film is because I keep thinking of Explorers, the Ethan Hawke-River Phoenix flick about boys who discover/build a mode of space transport and then go into space themselves, what would you say to that? Because I haven't seen that film in 23 years, but the way I remember it, I was VERY interested in the story up until the point where the boys go into space, and then suddenly the movie shifted gears and completely lost me. (And as it happens, the last section of the film largely consisted of an alien critiquing our culture, based on what he had seen on our TV shows. Similar to the spaceborne couch-potato criticism of WALL*E?) So when I hear things like "the first 45 minutes are magical, but then the movie goes downhill", I get flashbacks to that little Joe Dante film from 1985.

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Instead, we get trim, fit, intellectual, and talented filmmakers poking fun at the very people whose appetites their movies are designed to sate.

Well, you've really got the filmmakers both ways here.

Oh, please. I'm talking about real people, a real film, a real situation. This isn't some hypothetical debate. And I don't even bring up the issue of snobbery, so please don't project that onto me. My statement is a statement of fact.

The filmmakers are in fact trim, fit, intellectual, and talented. Boy howdy. Those are all good things, admirable. I didn't include a sneer emoticon, so please pay attention to the words themselves.

The film in fact pokes fun at the very people whose appetites their movies are designed to sate. And that strikes me in an offensive manner -- and prevents the experience from being the five-star-ish deal it might have been for me. (This is the only place I do the "stars" thing, btw, and I've contributed mine; so you can deduce from the numbers that I didn't give a one... or a two.. or a...) So gosh; deal with what I've actually said -- my, yes, opinion -- and not the words of some ghost in the room or Harry somebody from Website X.

And Nate -- who said this was working its way into review? This is a forum. I'm talking. I'm expressing an opinion, based on my own observations. I'm not even scheduled to run a review anywhere.

And no, Jeffrey, I wasn't intending to quote you directly, or convey the impression that I was. I was engaging in hyperbole.

But it doesn't surprise me at all that you and SDG loved the film; it's lovable... and you guys were already predisposed to love it. I'm also glad you enjoyed it as much as you did.

But there's the rub: why were you predisposed? Why should you be? Why should track record, past snubs, or a marketing event at Comicon matter a hill of beans before the film is released? I expect that stuff to matter a lot for the average filmgoer, who has to depend on that kind of thing in order to decide which money-sponge to invest in.

I don't expect any of that to matter to critics, though; and it chafes me when critics sweet talk films in public forums before they've even seen the film. "You really ought to consider checking out this film" is a bit different than "I have confidence this film will deserve a Best Picture nomination." (Besides; who needs to be advised to see WALL-E?)

It's a weakness. Sorry!

But I really feel that if one can't afford to anticipate EVERY film one reviews, one shouldn't allow one's self to anticipate ANY of them. Fair is fair. (Yes, of course -- critics should always anticipate the movie-going experience; but that's not the same thing as anticipating a great experience from a particular film.)

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Oh, please. I'm talking about real people, a real film, a real situation. This isn't some hypothetical debate. And I don't even bring up the issue of snobbery, so please don't project that onto me. My statement is a statement of fact.

Lacking access to their health records, or even photographs, I have no way of knowing whether they are in fact fit. I wouldn't assume that people whose jobs involve long hours of sedentary desk work are necessarily fit. John Lasseter is certainly not a man I would be inclined to describe that way. As for intellectual, some of them probably are and some of them probably aren't. Not all artists are intellectual or close to it, which has been a source of complaint by intellectuals going back as far as Plato. (The dialogue "Ion" makes interesting reading in this context.) So, whether your comments are a statement of fact is not something I would assume to be true. I will certainly, however, grant that they are talented.

But what is the point of bringing it up except as a way of negating the force of their criticism without answering it directly? You say that their criticism is offensive. Is it because they are fit (assuming they are) that their criticism becomes offensive? Would it not be offensive if they were not fit? Would you applaud their criticism if you found that they were not fit? What is the argument you are trying to make? What is the connection between their supposed fitness and the content of their film? I cannot see that there is anything going on except an attempt to turn our attention from the criticism to the critics.

The film's backstory is a cautionary tale. It takes faults we possess as a society to some degree and magnifies them in order to make us see them; without such magnification, we have a hard time seeing them because they are such a familiar part of our lives. Such a tale is not going to be flattering and cannot be made so. I do not think that we need more flattering. I am quite sure we get flattered entirely too much as it is. The purpose of a cautionary tale is not to make us feel bad about the faults being criticized, it is to alert us to them and motivate us to do something about them. The filmmakers do not suppose that mankind HAS to be as they are shown in their movie; the faults shown are not presented as invincible. I think it rather brave of the filmmakers to attempt what they are attempting and I wish them well. Giving us another shower of flattery would have been much safer, as your response demonstrates.

Edited by bowen

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You've completely missed my point, bowen. I'm not suggesting they should have softened the satire; I'm suggesting they should have been really brave and made it a little self-critical. Or, on the back end, admit it was pointed satire, and not dodge it as secondary and irrelevant. Or be really bold and cancel merchandising plans. But as it is, the fingers are all being pointed elsewhere.

So... I was there. I see the filmmakers in front of me. I see that (with the notable exception of Jeff Garlin) they don't resemble the humans in the movie at all. I sure do know people who resemble WALL-E's humans, though; and they love to plop down in with their cokes and popcorn and watch PIXAR films. Just like I do.

Given the problems of bone density in prolonged space travel, it's not a necessary extrapolation that loss of bone density = corpulent obesity. This was a filmmaker's choice -- and I think Stanton's original idea (the jello blobs) was actually stronger and bolder.

So I agree with Stanton that he softened the satire; and I find that the satire, as it stands, takes potshots at easy targets -- without offering any cognizance of his own company's complicity in the problem.

Please point to something I've said somewhere that indicates that I don't think the basic cultural critique is on the mark.

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I'm suggesting they should have been really brave and made it a little self-critical.

Self-criticism has never been a prerequisite for successful social commentary. The filmmaker's own record doesn't need to be spotless in order to make a statement. He could live a life of complete hypocrisy and it wouldn't matter. I choose look at the film itself

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Hmmm. If I said that one of the reasons I have trepidations about this film is because I keep thinking of Explorers, the Ethan Hawke-River Phoenix flick about boys who discover/build a mode of space transport and then go into space themselves, what would you say to that?

I would say they are legitimate concerns -- they were precisely my concerns going in, and there were moments in the transition to the second act when I was concerned that they would turn out to be founded. However, the film's achievement more than won me over.

But it doesn't surprise me at all that you and SDG loved the film; it's lovable... and you guys were already predisposed to love it. I'm also glad you enjoyed it as much as you did.

But there's the rub: why were you predisposed? Why should you be? Why should track record, past snubs, or a marketing event at Comicon matter a hill of beans before the film is released? I expect that stuff to matter a lot for the average filmgoer, who has to depend on that kind of thing in order to decide which money-sponge to invest in.

I don't expect any of that to matter to critics, though; and it chafes me when critics sweet talk films in public forums before they've even seen the film. "You really ought to consider checking out this film" is a bit different than "I have confidence this film will deserve a Best Picture nomination." (Besides; who needs to be advised to see WALL-E?)

It's a weakness. Sorry!

But I really feel that if one can't afford to anticipate EVERY film one reviews, one shouldn't allow one's self to anticipate ANY of them. Fair is fair. (Yes, of course -- critics should always anticipate the movie-going experience; but that's not the same thing as anticipating a great experience from a particular film.)

Don't apologize! Your brief is well worth making. Stick to your guns.

BTW, in case there's any need for clarity on this point, it was other people -- not you -- I was thinking of with my remarks about "political wiseacres."

OTOH, since your allusion to Comic-con was evidently directed either at me or at least at those heartened by my comments, I have to admit I'm puzzled here.

What got me (provisionally) excited about the film was what I saw of the actual film. Limited excerpts to be sure, which is why I tried to keep my hopes and expectations in check -- and why part of me was actually glad going in about the subsequent (provisional) deflating of my (provisional) excitement by critical comments (yours included).

Still, it was a response to what was available to me of the film itself -- which was a lot more of a movie than you would get from a trailer, or from three trailers.

If it's your position that critics should never watch trailers for movies they're going to review -- or that, if they do watch them, they shouldn't inhale -- well, I'd probably reply that that's not a critical ethic I would subscribe to. Here I would repair to Ebert's quotation of Robert Warshow: "A man goes to the movies. The critic must be honest enough to admit that he is that man." He is also that man watching trailers or advance footage at Comic-con.

I don't know how or what it means to "not allow oneself to anticipate" a movie. In fact, since (unlike many critics) I personally pick a majority of the movies I see to review, I don't know how or on what basis I would choose which movies to review or not review without learning enough about the film to know whether or not I would want to see it.

Note that I don't say that the movies I want to see are the ones I review -- only that, in the course of learning enough about them to be able to decide whether or not to review them, I also learn enough to experience anticipation, or not.

At any rate, it seems to me more to the point to be excited by 10 or 15 minutes of footage from the actual film than to have reservations about the film based on ancillary merchandising and licensing business. Not that you are that man. As you say, "This is a forum. I'm talking." But hey, so was I (though I wasn't talking much). I hadn't seen the film. I saw 10 or 15 minutes of it. I was excited.

Who needs to be advised to see WALL*E? We'll see. Once again, as with Ratatouille, Pixar has decidedly not made the most commercially audience-friendly, focus-groupy picture they could have -- by a long shot. This is not Kung Fu Panda, or even Cars. Pixar has made a hugely artful film that makes real demands on its audience.

Viewers are expected to deal with long, long stretches of visual and aural storytelling with little or no dialogue. They are expected to deal with bleak, oppressive surroundings, the

Axiom

no less than the

earth

, with

minimal feel-good, redemptive payoff at the end in this regard

.

They are expected to deal with a story without familiar parent-child and other domestic relationship dynamics (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles), without child characters (Monsters, Inc., the Toy Story movies, The Incredibles), without fuzzy protagonists (Ratatouille, Monsters, Inc.), without familiar lessons about believing in yourself, etc. (Ratatouille).

As much as anything, I admire the unconventionality, the demandingness of the picture. What is the last movie anyone sitting in the theater watching WALL*E will have seen that was anything like WALL*E? For that matter, what is the last movie anyone sitting in the theater watching WALL*E will have seen that was as little like any other movie they had seen as WALL*E is?

You say the film "pokes fun at the very people whose appetites their movies are designed to sate." I'm reminded of what I wrote about Over the Hedge: "Over the Hedge doesn

Edited by SDG

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Condoms?

CONDOMS!?!?

I don't know if I want that to be a real tie-in product or not. I assume it's an exaggeration. But... but... wow, that would be weird.

Ha! Yes, that was an exaggeration. But thanks for noticing!

My crass comments aside, it has been very thought-provoking and challenging reading through this thread. Good stuff!

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You've completely missed my point, bowen. I'm not suggesting they should have softened the satire; I'm suggesting they should have been really brave and made it a little self-critical. Or, on the back end, admit it was pointed satire, and not dodge it as secondary and irrelevant. Or be really bold and cancel merchandising plans. But as it is, the fingers are all being pointed elsewhere.

Unless the filmmakers are advocating asceticism, which I'm pretty sure they aren't, I don't see anything wrong with making products that tie-in with the movie. Obviously, as filmmakers, they themselves want an audience, which means that they are at once encouraging passive consumption – of their movie at least – while they are critiquing it. Fortunately for them, their critique is not so extreme that ALL consumption is bad.

With regard to their bravery, frankly they may already have been more brave than wise. Unless we decide the entire history of the movie is a lie, the backstory is a later addition to the concept. Their possible lack of wisdom is in putting in a backstory that threatens to upstage their foreground story and thematically derail the movie. As is common with Pixar films, the movie is trying to get at the nature of the good life and the two halves of the movie work together on that theme. Wall•E and the other robots live to work; they are defined by work in a way that recalls the origin of the word Robot as the Czech word for "serf labor" or "drudgery". On the other hand, you have humanity, who don't work at all, but only consume. The good life, however, lies in neither one of these, nor even some point in between because what is missing in both is connection with others; what the people in the movie and Wall•E have in common is their isolation, and the good life requires breaking that isolation by loving and caring about others.

The backstory, however, threatens to run away with the movie and the filmmakers are clearly aware of that. If you fix your attention first on the backstory, then the tendency will be to re-interpret the entire movie in terms of it and neglect the foreground story and the thematic content of the movie as a whole. Similarly, the lack of dialogue also threatens to derail the movie and fix your attention solely on that element. Putting both in the same movie is a real high-wire act where disaster is always just a step away. It isn't clear at this point whether they've succeeded or not in terms of how audiences will respond. One thing for sure, though, and that is that they're going to be sensitive in interviews to signs that indicate that the questioner has an unbalanced perspective on the movie, and their answers will be an attempt to re-direct attention on the movie as a whole and not just the backstory.

Edited by bowen

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One thing for sure, though, and that is that they're going to be sensitive in interviews to signs that indicate that the questioner has an unbalanced perspective on the movie, and their answers will be an attempt to re-direct attention on the movie as a whole and not just the backstory.

Oh, yes, certainly -- and there was no question that Stanton had been pressed on such issues prior to the junket press conference. Ben Burtt explicitly said that such questions had come up regularly at test screenings. So Stanton was sensitive to skewing and biases, and was definitely in spin-control mode.

But that sort of confirms that there's something problematic really there, and not just imagined -- doesn't it? If you're regularly getting questioned about what seems like corporate hypocrisy, isn't it time to start talking about the film you actually made rather than the film you intended to make?

fwiw, though, I didn't get the impression from the press conference that anyone in the press corps was operating from an unbalanced perspective. Everyone seemed to have seen the same film; reactions just varied in matters of degrees.

Perhaps a satire that was not just softened but nuanced might have been better.

Perhaps the reduction of humanity to blobby consumerist couch potatos might not be complete; perhaps there might be signs of discontent, individuality and creativity already before Wall-E's arrival, etc.

WDYT?

Excellent question, Mr. G (among others... but worth answering first, I think).

First, I'll just reiterate that I don't really have any complaints about the movie as it is -- other than that the way humans were presented prevented me from actually enjoying the film. But I don't require a film to please me in order to be a good... There are lots of Great Films that I don't much enjoy. So:

Yeah: I think if things had worked out a little different on the Axiom, I actually would have been able to enjoy that part of the storyline.

Say, for instance, if WALL-E had teamed up with some reject humans in addition to or instead of the defective robots. Or if, and the very least, there was some measure of variability to the bulk and level of inactivity to the Axiom's residents. Or if, having been bumped out of their routine, John and his wife had taken some active role in saying, "Hey, people! Wake up! There's a world in here!" instead of being complete incapable of human volition.

As it is, though, the film struck me as being in the Mac vs. PC commercial mold: there's the enlightened and the superior, and there's the inferior, and never the twain shall meet... oh, and by the way, this is what the inferior look like.

So to other questions: No, I don't think critics should avoid seeing trailers. I do think objectivity, to whatever extent it can be imperfectly achieved, is a goal. And whatever a critic can do to do a better job in that regard is commendable. Given that we all have different weak spots, personal strategies would differ. (For me, not seeing trailers isn't even a strategy. I rarely watch TV, and I rarely see commercial screening of movies, so the only way I would get to see trailers is to seek them out... and that's not how I elect to spend me online time. But I've found it does help tremendously.)

One of my weak spots, though, is speculative argumentation -- as anyone who knows me well could easily guess. So one specific strategy I have is avoid A&F threads on specific movies until I've actually seen the movie.

No, I'm "not that man" when it comes to merchandising. I think I'm actually more in tune with the business considerations of filmmaking than the vast majority of people I know, and I'm also a realist. So I can't recall the specter of merchandising ever having affected my impression of a film. Unless, possibly, it was Bratz. (But I didn't have to write the review on that one. Whew!)

I do, however, remember remarking to another critic at the junket (can't recall who) that having been at the Kit Kittredge junket the previous week affected my response to WALL-E. So in this case (as in most), I'm definitely an exponent of Warshow-via-Ebert!

As Nate can attest, also, the allegory that is Presto also affected my reading of WALL-E. And I'm not sure that's entirely valid, objectively speaking -- even though PIXAR elected to pair those up.

All good points on the challenging nature of the film. No quibble there; full agreement, in fact.

Would an inaccessible $120 million animated art film be effective? No, not at all. It wouldn't have gotten made.

But for the social message conveyed by WALL-E, I'd say... not worth including, unless you really want to talk about it (which Stanton doesn't) or unless you want to back it up corporately (which Disney/PIXAR is not). (If PIXAR is having a positive impact on Disney culture, as Stanton mentioned to JO, that's great -- but I doubt the film itself is doing that.)

No, that really challenging art film about commodification and waste management has already been made; it's Manufactured Landscapes. And it would be a great pairing with WALL-E.

Oh -- another note: I knew I wouldn't be writing a review of WALL-E, so I wasn't guarding my objectivity as much I would have had I been reviewing the film.

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One thing for sure, though, and that is that they're going to be sensitive in interviews to signs that indicate that the questioner has an unbalanced perspective on the movie, and their answers will be an attempt to re-direct attention on the movie as a whole and not just the backstory.

Oh, yes, certainly -- and there was no question that Stanton had been pressed on such issues prior to the junket press conference. Ben Burtt explicitly said that such questions had come up regularly at test screenings. So Stanton was sensitive to skewing and biases, and was definitely in spin-control mode.

But that sort of confirms that there's something problematic really there, and not just imagined -- doesn't it?

Well, yes. That's why I said they may have been more brave than wise. If there is imbalance in the film, if the backstory really does overwhelm the foreground story, then the imbalance is there because the filmmakers put it there, and that would be an error. Because different people will respond differently, one person's reactions doesn't necessarily demonstrate that the problem is serious. But it certainly might be serious.

While you call on the filmmakers to force Disney to address Disney's own behavior, I have grave doubts that corporate behavior in this regard is something that corporations themselves CAN address. They are institutionally mandated to pursue profits; an executive who sacrifices profits to what he believes to be the public interest is violating his fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders. In The Incredibles, when Gilbert Huph reprimands Bob Parr for neglecting Insuricare's bottom line, Gilbert is being true to his job and is demanding that Bob be true to his. And so we come to the makers of Wall

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What a thread! Nice to see that Jeffrey and Steven are in the "very pro" camp. This film screened Monday night but I was at the hospital with my wife. It screens tonight, but with my mother-in-law up and a 2-day-old baby, I don't think I'll ask permission to attend the screening. :) I'll catch up with the film eventually.

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Greg and bowen: Reading your exchanges, I keep going back to Jeffrey Wells's comment about how Disney/Pixar are trying to spin this film away from the political stuff to keep the movie appealing to "American Jabbas". Based on what we have seen in the trailer, and on what people have said about the film, it certainly looks like the film DEPICTS those "American Jabbas" in a none-too-flattering light. This, to me, seems potentially more mean-spirited than the cheeky, good-natured tweaking of, say, Over the Hedge. (Hi, SDG, I'm reading your comments too!) But I can only say "potentially" at this point because I won't get to see the film until after it opens.

Nathaniel wrote:

: Self-criticism has never been a prerequisite for successful social commentary.

Doesn't that depend to some degree on whether the critic sees himself as a part of the society that he is commenting on?

I love Koyaanisqatsi and I always have, but there have been times when, while watching that film, I have found myself thinking that its critical view of the relationship between nature and technology is kind of ironic, at best, because film ITSELF is a profoundly technological artform. And then, the film introduces a hyped-up, super-accelerated image of people sitting in a theatre and watching some off-screen screen. And at that point, the movie moves from mere criticism to self-criticism. It recognizes that no movie can be truly ANTI-technology, not without being profoundly hypocritical. However, movies CAN ask us to REFLECT on technology, by demonstrating that they are capable of reflecting upon themselves, among other things. So Koyaanisqatsi ultimately pursues its line of critique in good faith, I think.

Likewise, there has to be some self-criticism when a mass-media franchise purports to critique mass-media and tie-in product consumption.

: I choose look at the film itself

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one person's reactions doesn't necessarily demonstrate that the problem is serious. But it certainly might be serious.

Yes. And that remains to be seen, in a commercial sense. My guess is that it won't be a significant factor because the public appetite for PIXAR is so huge. But I don't think it will get the repeat business other PIXAR films have. And who knows how it will affect the general appetite for PIXAR's films?

And as I mentioned to Nate after the screening, I really did expect my reaction to be in the vast minority -- and not because minority opinions are superior. I was very surprised that the press corps the next day was so generally expressive of similar concerns.

While you call on the filmmakers to force Disney to address Disney's own behavior,

Well, I'm not calling on the filmmakers to do anything. I'm talking about what would have made it all go down easier for me.

Good notes on the business elements. But when you remark, "I am quite sure they could not have gone so far as to block the revenue streams of ancillary products as you suggest they should have," I will point out that sometimes foregoing revenue streams can buy you the kind of publicity and shaping of public opinion that such revenue couldn't possibly generate. The very same movie, coupled with a really progressive pro-consumer-consciousness shift within corporate Disney, could have huge downstream economic impact. It would be risky, of course.

The critique of commercialization of art in Ratatouille (the various Gusteau-brand food products) was acted on in the real world by ending the low-grade sequels that Disney was producing. While the filmmakers made the argument that the sequels were bad business (an argument they HAD to make within the logic of the corporate world), there is no question that the real objection was an artistic one. The Gusteau-brand products aren't eliminated in Ratatouille because they don't make money; their profitability is never even considered. They are eliminated because they are corruptions of art.

Good points -- but remember that PIXAR made that film while a completely separate business entity, and while they were moving toward dissolution of their distribution deal with Disney. Disney's response was a competitive one. WALL-E also went into production during that period, and then PIXAR became absorbed into the Object of Critique prior to its release. So it's plausible to wonder, as you note at the end of your post: is the critique now being muzzled, or at least tempered? Instead of being as daring as they might have been, are they pulling back a bit, and shying away from what, three or so years ago, looked like a valid and pointed social critique backstory?

Now, as it happens I think that the larger problems of corporate behavior can only be changed by a political system which is responsive to the public interest and which forces corporations, very much against their will, to conform to it.

Definitely. But how does this happen unless people bring it up? And why not bring it up when the movie itself brings it up? Why shy away from it?

The filmmakers are not obligated to pursue a question because I think it is worth pursuing. Being true to their art only requires them to pursue the questions they think are worth pursuing, and about which they feel they have something to say.

Certainly. But I don't subscribe to the notion (or even myth) that PIXAR is all about art. They're about art AND business. They just know that there's a market for very artistic entertainment also designed for broad appeal. And they happen to be very good at it.

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While you call on the filmmakers to force Disney to address Disney's own behavior, I have grave doubts that corporate behavior in this regard is something that corporations themselves CAN address. They are institutionally mandated to pursue profits; an executive who sacrifices profits to what he believes to be the public interest is violating his fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders.

Only if seen in a short term, quarterly earnings type mindset. But even at that, the fiduiciary duty of the board is to maximize shareholder value in both the long and short term. Merchandizing is a hedging tactic for filmmakers--a way of generating brand revenues and reliable revenue streams for the product (film). Merchandizing is (my guess) not very well forecast--if it were, I'd be able to find a stinking Mater Hot Wheel at Target instead of 500 Ramones. Where Disney (and most ancillary entertainment/toy brands) fail is in accurate demand planning. But I digress. The reason merchandizing comes across as hypocritical in this context (I haven't seen the movie) is that too many of the products are made with non-sustainable materials (whatever they prove out to be) and in too great of quantity for actual market demands. There's a better way (to be invented probably) to merchandize than this inefficient machine currently dominating the ancillaries market.

Ithe logic of the corporate world), there is no question that the real objection was an artistic one. The Gusteau-brand products aren't eliminated in Ratatouille because they don't make money; their profitability is never even considered. They are eliminated because they are corruptions of art.

I disagree. The Gasteau products were eliminated because of the damage they did to the brand equity of Gasteau.

Now, as it happens I think that the larger problems of corporate behavior can only be changed by a political system which is responsive to the public interest and which forces corporations, very much against their will, to conform to it.

Perhaps, but Wal Mart is doing some very cool things on their own initiative that's going to have a big impact on the marketplace in terms of "green".

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Koyaanisqatsi ultimately pursues its line of critique in good faith, I think.

Excellent point, Peter, and apt comparison. I've used Koyaanisqatsi as a teaching tool precisely because of its self-awareness. I'd never think of using WALL-E in the same fashion, precisely because of the lack of self-awareness.

I agree, Nate with your point about the irrelevancy of a filmmaker's hypocrisy -- to a point. But you'll remember, as you were sitting next to me, I had a pretty strong reaction to the film itself. My reaction wasn't shaped by what happened the following day -- which you missed, I'll note, though were actually on the premises earlier in the morning. The filmmakers and the studio had every opportunity in the world to temper negative reactions, or to turn negative reactions to their advantage -- and they failed spectacularly.

My opinion of the film as a film would been the same -- but I could have come away singing a different tune, something like: "The movie itself didn't enthrall me; but I see their point, and it seems they are taking it to heart." Instead, they're just dodging an issue that their film not only brings up incidentally, but makes a major issue -- and one that's very very relevant and on the mark.

So if it's relevant and on the mark, why the backpedaling? Why the shying away? The elephant is in the room, and you put it there. Deal with it.

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I disagree. The Gasteau products were eliminated because of the damage they did to the brand equity of Gasteau.

I see no sign in Ratatouille of economic concerns as a motivating factor in any of the characters' actions. The brand equity damage theory seems to me to come from completely outside the film and is entirely alien to its internal logic.

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The brand equity damage theory seems to me to come from completely outside the film and is entirely alien to its internal logic.

Just think, without discussion, there would never be sentences like this. :)

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So if it's relevant and on the mark, why the backpedaling? Why the shying away? The elephant is in the room, and you put it there. Deal with it.

...

But I don't subscribe to the notion (or even myth) that PIXAR is all about art. They're about art AND business.

Have you seen the buy'n'large website?

http://www.buynlarge.com/

It is there. Pixar put it there, but I can't find a link to it from the Disney website. The people at Pixar are playing a pretty subtle game here on this whole subject. Did they talk about the elephant in the room at the press briefing? No, but they did create the website.

As to whether the people at Pixar are artists or businessmen, I would say that they are artists who are forced to be businessmen by the nature of their art. The filmmakers all come up through art backgrounds, not business school. (The "Creative Executives" with business school backgrounds who controlled the creative process, which were part of Disney animation under Eisner, were given their walking papers after the Pixar acquisition.)

As artists, they are interested in creating popular art that can reach broad numbers of people. It is possible to take a high-art perspective of popular art as an inferior, unworthy, and hopelessly compromised activity, but I don't and the people at Pixar clearly don't either.

The brand equity damage theory seems to me to come from completely outside the film and is entirely alien to its internal logic.

Just think, without discussion, there would never be sentences like this. :)

You can poke fun at me as much as you care to, but I will still always be an admirer of your reviews.

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I disagree. The Gasteau products were eliminated because of the damage they did to the brand equity of Gasteau.

I see no sign in Ratatouille of economic concerns as a motivating factor in any of the characters' actions. The brand equity damage theory seems to me to come from completely outside the film and is entirely alien to its internal logic.

[cracks knuckles] Gasteau's is a business concern, a French restuarant which at one point delivered high quality meals. Gasteau's brand goes beyond his restaurant to his cooking show and his "everyone can cook" cookbook. Gasteau is now a brand (happy fat egalitarian French food). Gasteau dies (too much fat french food perhaps) and his business corcern passes on to his partner (the short angry napoleonic figure) who faced with inadequate competency in managing the brand (Gasteau) in terms of its original concept (happy fat egalitarian French food) expands into several line extensions (happy fattening unpleasant high margin other cuisine food) which while generating new revenue streams dilutes the brand in such a way that the core competency of Gasteaus (happy fat egalitarian French food) is diminished in delivery. Now Gasteau's show is on UHF and his book is out of print and his restuarant is mostly empty save for the odd tourist. The new guy and the rat restore Gasteau's original vision, and in doing so, eliminate the brand diluting line extensions. This brings us back to the importance of giving love to your cash cow brands and expanding into new areas that do not harm the equity of the brand through inferior performance or conceptual mismatch.

In the film, of course, the brand equity is saved by a splendid return to concept (modernized to be happy healthy egalitarian French food) and a concurrent elimination of brand dilution and incompetent management. This, however, is short lived due to the health code violations the principals enact to meet their conceptual return. [/cracks knuckles]

All internal to the film. Economic concerns drive the rebirth of the restaurant and the motivation of the principal characters. The ability to blend the artistic and the commercial are what make Gasteau's a successful restaurant instead of an empty one.

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Gasteau's is a business concern, a French restuarant which at one point delivered high quality meals.

It is not a matter of WHAT it is, it is a matter of WHY it is. For Chef Skinner, it makes food in order to be able to make money. For Remy, it is makes money in order to be able to make food. It is a question of final cause, not formal cause.

Edited by bowen

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You can poke fun at me as much as you care to, but I will still always be an admirer of your reviews.

No no. It's a good thing. (Have you read my sentences???)

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