Watching the Change and Getting the Message – Why Wall-E Matters.
For those of you who don’t have a youngster in the house, aren’t a fan of cutting-edge animation, or just don’t get out much, you may be interested to learn that the movie WALL-E is perhaps the greatest environmental film of all time. I write this not as a steadfast environmentalist (which I am) or a shill for the Disney Company (which I am not), but as a student of mass communication , in general, and message framing and mass opinion, in particular.
Released to near universal critical acclaim for its animation, story and general creativity, the film was produced by Pixar/Disney for $180 million with a global marketing budget estimated at 20-30% of that number. The movie’s made $130 million since its release June 27th (10 days ago). Industry estimates are that the film will gross a minimum of ½ a billion dollars globally, and may well bring in close to twice that much by the end of its theatrical run.
Whether it will or not I can’t say, but what’s fascinating is that we are now at a time, globally, where we can see the world as a whole engaging in the act of mass opinion change; in this case, with regard to moving from how we have historically powered our lives to a new, cleaner, more earth-centric system.
The movie does more in its 97 minute running time for the concepts of renewable energy, conservation, recycling, and consumer awareness than any 97 minutes of anything I can think of. I would challenge anyone to come up with an article, speech, ad or lobbying effort of the last 30 years that does as much for spreading globally and to a wide swath of the human demographic the awesomeness of solar power than does the 10 second bit that takes place in the first 30 minutes of this film.
There aren’t many times in life where you can look behind you to see what was, and forward to see what will be, but that’s exactly what’s happening at this time in history, as is evidenced by the production, release and embrace of a movie ”ostensibly made for children and about two little robots in love ”that tells its story using the backdrop of a dark, dystopian future of an earth rendered nearly uninhabitable by lack of environmental care, and that calls out to you to consider where you stand in the midst of the change occurring around you. Are you a part of the problem, or a part of the solution? Are you an apologist for the oil and gas industry? Are you a lobbyist at Bracewell and Giuliani, paid to discredit climate scientists? Are you a political appointee, dragging your feet on global warming, air quality, progressive energy policies and true energy security?
While our matinee showing was heavily populated by kids of all ages, my wife and I were surrounded by 5 and 8 year olds; people who will, perhaps ”if everything goes well– never drive a vehicle that runs predominantly on polluting fossil fuels, and may actually drive to Prom in a plug-in electric biofuel hydrogen fuel cell solar charged number made by a company that actually gets it . (A discussion as to whether that company will be either of the current Detroit-based crew is best saved for another day).
I won’t give away the plot or ending, but I will tell you that the film is both aggressively green and elegantly not. It’s for the viewer to decide. It’s sometimes uncomfortable to watch, with its themes of consumerism gone amok, the melding of corporations and government, and idea that humans lack appreciation for the difficult and natural in favor of that which is easy and packaged. But don’t get me wrong, it’s also a joy to watch and experience this little gem of an American film, so don’t think you have it figured out before you even go see it.
That said, it’s possible that those people existing at the edges of the political spectrum will find things to dislike and diminish about the film. I’m relatively certain that the defenders of our historically brown system will find much to pooh pooh about a silly cartoon with the temerity to suggest the current system isn’t working just fine, thank you very much. But If that’s the case, then I don’t think they really understand the meaning of a movie like WALL E.
WALL E means that the world has changed. That if you’re still fighting on Capitol Hill to keep CAFE standards low, you just don’t get it. If you’re trying to get a coal plant sited, you’re on the backside of the curve, dude. If you’ve been running a car company where people call your main product The Extinction , or The Bummer , then you’re about to be extinct yourself, my friend. And, if you think it’s OK to spew filth into the air, make money without regard for the only planet we have, and work to blur any intelligent dialogue about the need for us to move to a new system as fast as we possibly can, then you are, quite frankly, old, and WALL E just ain’t for you. But that doesn’t matter anyway.
WALL E is for those kids born after 2000, who someday will ask what you were doing when the world changed. They’ll ask what it was like burning black rocks and liquids to heat your house and get to the supermarket. They’ll ask what a gas station was, and wasn’t it a drag to have to go to one all the time. They’ll ask why so many people had asthma and what acid rain was and to explain the Exxon Valdez; and why the people you chose to be in charge didn’t do more to clean things up and change things more quickly.
And they’ll ask, to gauge whether or not you’re really with it, whether you’ve ever seen the best environmental film of all time.Tags: Disney, Environmentalism, Wall-E