Beyond The Ordinar-E

An adventure of stellar stuff: Meridian Parks & Rec offers Pixar’s “WALL•E” for 2022's first free Outdoor Movie Night at the John A. Lomax Amphitheatre Jan. 22

MERIDIAN – With the focus on drawing the entire family to the park, the Meridian Parks and Recreation decided to deliver some “out-of-this-world” entertainment that offers a little something for everyone – boys and girls, young and old.

Kicking off a 12-film schedule planned for 2022, the Meridian Parks & Rec invites everybody to its monthly FREE Outdoor Movie Night in the Park for the charming 2008 Pixar animated film, WALL•E on Saturday, Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. at the John A. Lomax Amphitheater in Meridian Park.

From the Pixar humans who brought us The Incredibles, Cars, Finding Nemo and Ratatouille, WALL•E is a heartwarming love story, set in a dystopian world of Earth turned Trash Planet in the far distant future.

After 700 years of managing what he was built and programmed to do, WALL•E discovers there’s more to existing that a job. The classic animated film becomes a charming love story between a metallic square robot and an exquisite oval, surrounding a satire on the excesses of consumer culture.

The essential concept behind the character of WALL·E is "what if mankind had to leave Earth, and somebody forgot to turn off the last robot?"

Entering its second full year of offering free outdoor movies in the park, the Meridian Parks & Rec decided to plan the 2022 schedule with children and teenagers in mind -- presenting five animated movies and three live-action family films, as well as the baseball classic Field of Dreams, a John Wayne western Cahill: United States Marshall, and the modern original Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downing, Jr.

"We decided we wanted to make it all about the kids," said Meridian Parks & Rec director of activities and events Brett Voss, who is also the founding president of the Bosque Film Society, the non-profit organization that serves as "friends of The Cliftex Theatre," Texas' longest continually operating movie house in Clifton. "We originally wanted to mix it up by playing to the kids, but also offering some classic films older adults might like to see. But now, we have decided to leave that to The Cliftex and cater entirely to the kids."

Plan to bundle up as it might be a chilly evening with a high of 50 degrees anticipated for Saturday dropping to 32 overnight – bring a blankie, hand warmers and your favorite outdoor chair. If the weather turns colder or rain develops in the forecast, the movie presentation will be moved inside across the street at the Meridian Civic Center.

Entertainment will begin at 5 p.m. with pre-movie music played over the state-of-the-art sound system, followed by a classic cartoon short and preview of upcoming movies prior to the featured film. As always, the Meridian Parks & Rec will be providing free hot dogs, popcorn, water and various other treats while supplies last.

In the first 20 minutes of this charming and captivating animated movie, we learn about WALL•E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth-Class) as the last robot left on Earth going through his daily routine – programmed to clean up the planet, one trash cube at a time. As he does so, he saves the most some interesting objects like a Rubik's cube, a Twinkie, rubber duckies, a light bulb, extra binoculars should he need replacement eyes.

However, after 700 years, he’s developed one little glitch – a personality. He’s extremely curious, highly inquisitive, and a little lonely – his only companion is an indestructible cockroach and a video tape of the 1969 musical Hello Dolly.

This solitary life ends with the arrival of EVE (Extra-Terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) – a sleek, state-of-the-art probe-droid. She’s fast, she flies and she’s equipped with a laser gun. Also called Probe One by the captain of the Axiom – the enormous luxury mother ship which houses thousands of displaced humans – EVE is one of a fleet of similar robots sent to Earth to find signs of vegetable life.

EVE’s mission is fulfilled when WALL•E offers her a plant he has found. In pursuing EVE, WALL•E inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind. And the adventure on board the Axiom takes off.

“You'd have to be a machine for your heart not to melt,” Newsweek’s film critic David Ansen said.

Director and screenwriter Andrew Stanton claimed that the film's central theme was that irrational love can defeat everything, including programming. Stanton, who is a Christian, named EVE after the Biblical figure because WALL•E 's loneliness reminded him of Adam, before God created his wife. During writing, a Pixar employee noted to Reardon that EVE was reminiscent of the dove with the olive branch from the Noah's Ark story. This led to reworking the story with EVE finding a plant to return humanity from its voyage. WALL•E himself has been compared to Prometheus, Sisyphus and Butades.

The 2008 G-rated movie from Stanton and co-written by Pete Docter and the screenplay by Jim Reardon has virtually no dialogue in the first 20 minutes of the one hour and 37-minute film, with every beep and clank means something.

As it turns out, so much can be said with very few words, thanks to eyes, eyebrows, body position and such. To explore the possibilities of pure visual storytelling, Stanton and the Pixar team watched every single Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton movies every day during lunch for about 18 months.

“Not since Chaplin's Little Tramp has so much story – so much emotion – been conveyed without words,” the American Film Institute stated after naming named WALL•E one of the best films of 2008. “When hope arrives in the form of a seedling, the film blossoms into one of the great screen romances as two robots remind audiences of the beating heart in all of us that yearns for humanity – and love – in the darkest of landscapes.”

As Pixar's ninth feature film, WALL•E proved to be the ninth highest grossing film of 2008 – grossing $521.3 million worldwide over a $180 million budget. The film was critically praised for its animation, story, voice acting, characters, visuals, score, use of minimal dialogue, and scenes of romance.

Becoming the first Pixar film to be nominated for six Academy Awards, WALL•E won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year. It also won the year’s Golden Globe for Best Animated Film and a Grammy for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman. Stanton is a big Gabriel fan, and in turn, Gabriel was very enthused to write the song "Down to Earth" because he loved Pixar’s 2003 Finding Nemo.

Throughout the movie, there are items from other Pixar movies to watch for. For example in the opening scenes, an item in the junkyard is Red from the 1987 Red's Dream. Another is a bottle labeled Leak Less, the brand sponsoring the number 52 race car from the 2006 Cars. A scooter is Colette's from the 2007 Ratatouille. Among WALL•E 's trinkets is a Rex and a Hamn piggy bank from the 1995 Toy Story and a doll based on Mike from the 2001 Monsters, Inc. One of the trucks that EVE searches is the Pizza Planet delivery truck also from Toy Story – it appears in most Pixar movies.

WALL•E collects numerous objects from the 1960s-1980s including a Rubik's Cube, and even an Atari 2600 with the game 1972 Pong. Despite the film taking place over 700 years after these objects were created, all the objects are miraculously still in working condition. The last piece of debris that clears away from WALL•E as he leaves Earth's atmosphere is the Russian satellite Sputnik I, which in 1957 was the first man-made object to be placed in Earth orbit.

The names of the characters are also something to watch out for. M-O is short for "Microbe Obliterator." AUTO (Otto) is, of course, short for "Autopilot." Other robots whose names seem to be clever plays on words, but may not be acronyms or abbreviations include BURN-E (Bernie, a welding robot), VAQ-M (a vacuum cleaner), VN-GO (Van Gogh, a painting bot), PR-T (Pretty, a beautician bot), HAN-S (Hands, a masseuse bot), D-FIB (a defibrillator), L-T (Light, a desk lamp), and B-RLA (an umbrella).

There are also references to Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, such as the use of Richard Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra" and the appearance and personality of AUTO. WALL•E 's pet cockroach was nicknamed Hal by the Pixar artists, in reference to silent film producer Hal Roach and HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Interestingly, Ben Burtt is WALL•E voice, as well as M-O, Elissa Knight who voiced EVE is not an actress but a Pixar employee, and Jeff Garlin is Captain B. McCrea, the Axiom’s commanding officer.

MacInTalk, the text-to-speech program for the Apple Macintosh computers, was used for the voice of AUTO, the artificial intelligence that serves as the Axiom's robotic steering wheel and autopilot, and handles all true command functions of the ship. AUTO is loyal only to Directive A113, to the point of preventing even the captain from deviating from it.

Fun fact: Directive A113 is an ongoing in-joke in animation. Room A113 was a classroom at Cal Arts where many Disney and Pixar animators learned their craft. The number A113 appears in all of Pixar's animated films, and in many Disney animated films as well. This is the first Pixar film in which A113 is relevant to the plot.

In 2021, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Along with its first free film presentation of 2022, the Meridian Parks and Recreation announced its 12-film schedule, which includes: Feb. 19 – The Neverending Story (1984), March 26 – The Jungle Book (1967), April 23 – Field of Dreams (1989), May 21 – Toy Story (1995), June 25 – Cahill: US Marshall (1973), July 23 – The Incredibles (2004), Aug. 20 – Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), Sept. 24 – Beauty & The Beast (1991), Oct. 22 – Sherlock Holmes (2009), Nov. 19 – Hook (1991), and Dec. 17 – How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000).


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