Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Walt Disney’s crass and culturally clueless attempts to persuade Mrs. PL Travers, the very English (but actually Australian) author of Mary Poppins, to turn her book into a Disney film. Now Missiz (that’s an inside joke) was a woman who was notoriously close to her subject, and a lot of the humour of the piece comes from the culture clash between the Yanks and the Brits, as the studio kak-handedly attempts to (unsuccessfully) charm Mrs Travers – as well as her cracking put-downs in response. It’s not necessarily an easy watch though, because it veers towards maudlin as the making of the movie brings back sad memories from the author’s own past. Anyway, Emma Thompson is just so good, you kind of want her to be happy and get her own redemption from the film.
A lot of the movie is spent on the gorgeous Disney lot in Burbank, where I spent a fairly miserable summer with AFCI and the PGA’s Produced By Conference. It’s lovely to see those leafy, immaculate lanes again (even though I hated every minute when I was actually there.) In fact the whole movie is beautifully styled and you can almost smell the sixties. Chlorine and sweat, apparently. Chlorine and sweat.
It was back in the eighties, watching Educating Rita for the first time, that I knew I wanted to be in the film business. There’s a small scene where Michael Caine, the drunken professor, is clearing out the bookshelves of his office, and behind every batch of books there’s an empty booze bottle. Bam! That it was someone’s job to put each bottle there, someone’s job to creatively engage the audience with detail and depth – well that was just amazing. I only recount this because you may otherwise find it strange that a blog that deals with film locations and location filming, this time deals with an animated movie with no real-life locations at all. What Wall-e, the latest bit of digital magic from Pixar, does have though, is a great big heart and a wallop of delightful imagination.
Set 700 years after mankind’s evacuation of an irredeemably polluted Earth, a solar powered Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth class robot (WALL-E – geddit?) is still getting up each morning to pack and stack the world’s garbage. But centuries of prolonged activation and isolation have caused him to develop a personality. He’s become a collector of the interesting items that he finds among the refuse, and he’s got a pet cockroach. He constantly watches a videotape of the 1969 movie Hello, Dolly! and from this he has learned about love. When he meets EVE -an Extra Terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator – whose mission is to find plant life on Earth, he follows her back to mankind’s spaceship amongst the stars, where seven hundred years of weightlessness and robotic pampering have made mankind as fat and helpless as babies -but where the robots have an equally sinister mission…..
Wall-e is sweet and simple, and unlike many post-Apocalyptic movies (remember Silent Running?) it’s optimistic. But it’s the sheer attention to detail of the filmmakers that overwhelms. From the Pixar-referenced trash that Wall-e collects, to the magnificent, multi-layered devastation of the planet, to the remarkable, witty, automated city-in-the sky, Wall-e needs to be seen to be believed. And heard too; for a movie that spends the first half hour with no clear dialogue, it’s a veritable sound fest.
So, location or no, Wall-e is simply one of the best imagined pictures ever, and an absolute must-see.