Andrew Stanton and the Pixar team watched every single Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton movie (the short films and the features) every day during lunch for about a year and a half. This was to inspire the possibilities of pure visual storytelling.
All robots in WALL·E follow the Three Laws of Robotics, originally conceived by sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov (A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; a robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws). Several bad bots have dilemmas in following those laws.
According to Andrew Stanton's director's commentary, the names and (caricatured) likenesses of past Axiom captains are from Pixar writing team members. The years listed for each captain seems to be term of service, not lifespan, as there is no overlap of years. The average term of service is 135 years. The years add up to 666. Within the portraits, Auto develops from a small light and becomes brighter with each succeeding captain. The obesity of the captains grows at the same rate, showing a correlation between reliance on autopilot versus actively moving.
The sound of insect clicks was made locking handcuffs. The cockroach chirps were sped-up raccoon sounds. The wind sounds were a bag being dragged along carpet. The sound of EVE's laser blasts are partly created by tapping a slinky spring.
AUTO's secret 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 previews for the movie, and at the end of the DVD, the Pixar intro features WALL-E fixing the broken lightbulb in the bouncing Lamp. He replaces the older-style round incandescent bulb with a newer energy-friendly spiral tube fluorescent light bulb.
Director Andrew Stanton explained why he used excerpts from Hello, Dolly! (1969) in an interview: "When I got to 'Hello, Dolly!' and I played 'Put on Your Sunday Clothes', and that first phrase 'Out there...' came out, it just fit musically... I finally realized, 'You know what, this song is about two guys that are just so naive, they've never left a small town, and they just wanna go out in the big city for one night and kiss a girl. That's my main character.' And then my co-writer, Jim Reardon, said, 'You know what, he could actually discover an old tape in the trash, and that's how he got inspired by it, and it's a great way to show that he's got a romantic slant.' So we started looking at the movie, and when I found the other song, 'It Only Takes a Moment', and saw the two lovers holding hands, I realized, 'That's a perfect way for my main character to express the phrase 'I love you' without being able to say it.'" The vacuuming robot that follows WALL-E and EVE has a robotic version of the song "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" (from the "Hello, Dolly!" It's the first two lines of the song's chorus in electronic form. Stanton came up with the idea of using 'Put on Your Sunday Clothes' from "Hello, Dolly!" as he had portrayed Barnaby Tucker in a 1980 high school production. Hello, Dolly! (1969) composer Jerry Herman allowed his songs to be used in the film without fully realizing how or why. When he saw how they worked in the film, he claimed it was "genius".
Within the first 5 minutes there is a monologue via the holographic billboards. The first dialogue between WALL·E and EVE begins 22 minutes into the movie. The first human dialogue begins 39 minutes into the movie.
The film contains numerous references to Apple computers: -when WALL-E is fully charged by the sun, he makes the same "boot up" sound that most of Apple's Macintosh computers have made since circa 1996. -WALL-E watches his favorite movie every night on the screen of an iPod -The villainous Autopilot's voice is provided by Apple's text-to-speech system, MacinTalk -EVE's sleek design as an evolution of WALL-E's parallels the sleek iMac design having evolved from the boxy, beige Apple IIe. Steve Jobs, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Apple Computer, was CEO of Pixar until its acquisition by Disney in 2005, and as a shareholder and member of the Disney Board of Directors he was still actively involved with the company until his death in 2011.
Most of the robots are voiced by Ben Burtt through mechanical sounds of his creation. He recorded 2500 different sounds for the film, twice the average of a Star Wars movie, and also the most that Burtt had ever recorded for one feature film. His involvement with the film lasted for two years. When Andrew Stanton met with Burtt to pitch the idea of him working on the film, he told him, "I need you to be 80% of my cast!"
The concept artists studied images of Chernobyl, Ukraine and the city of Sofia, Bulgaria for ideas for the ruined world. Art director Anthony Christov is actually from Bulgaria and knew only too well the problems its capital had in storing its garbage.
WALL.E collects numerous objects from the 1960s-1980s including a Rubik's Cube, and even an Atari 2600 with the game Pong (1972). Despite the film taking place over 800 years after these objects were created, all the objects are still in working condition.
As described in a special feature on the film's DVD and Blu-ray releases, the inhabitants of the Axiom were originally going to be aliens led by a royal family with a penchant for mistreating its robots. Andrew Stanton eventually scrapped the alien idea. One of the early concepts for the evolution of humans in space for 700+ years based on this was that they would be some sort of devolved, gelatinous, boneless, legless, see-through, green creatures that resemble Jell-O. The design of the Axiom's passengers changed from gelatinous green blobs to more-solid gray blobs to the final "big baby" concept.
One of the items in the junkyard is Red from Red's Dream (1987); another is a bottle labeled Leak Less, the brand a race car from Cars (2006) was sponsoring while a scooter seen was Skinner's from Ratatouille (2007). Among WALL-E's trinkets is a Rex and a Hamn piggy bank from Toy Story (1995) and a doll based on Mike from Monsters, Inc. (2001).
WALL-E's eyes were inspired by a pair of binoculars that was given to Andrew Stanton when he was watching an Oakland Athletics v Boston Red Sox game. Seemingly, Stanton missed the entire first inning because he was so distracted by the binoculars.
In the scene where Wall-E encounters the robot 'pecking' on the keyboard slowly, the only keys shown are '1' and '0', repeated many times on the keyboard. In computer terms this means 'on' and 'off.' These are the only characters used in the common computer code known as binary.
To achieve the filmic look, the Pixar animators brought in some vintage 1970s Panavision cameras - similar to the ones used to shoot the original "Star Wars" (1977) - and shot some imagery to get an idea of what it should look like.
EASTER EGG: On the 'Main Menu' screen, scroll down to 'BONUS FEATURES'. Once there, press LEFT on your remote, and then press UP. This should highlight the BnL logo at the top of the screen. Press OK to watch a short Documentary title 'Geek-o-Rama' about the people and robots that they had working on this film. In the Blu-Ray edition, the 'Geek-O-Rama' short is accessed from the main menu by starting in the 'PLAY MOVIE' position, and pressing UP on the remote. In the WALL-E logo in the top left corner, the red circle around the E disappears, and the RUNTIME text near the top center disappears; press OK.
The actual year the movie takes place is not specifically mentioned in the movie itself, but in the animated short movie Burn-E (2008) (about another robot and takes place at the same time as the events of this movie) which was included as a DVD extra, it mentions that this movie takes place in A.D. 2805.
Director Andrew Stanton went to great lengths to create a "filmed" look by simulating various lens artifacts. One example is a "focus-pulling" error in the supermarket scene when WALL·E is crushed by shopping carts; the image goes out of focus momentarily as the lens is zoomed in on WALL·E at the doors. There are also lens flares and numerous focus shifts between foreground and background subjects.
The production had to cheat on the shot from Hello, Dolly! (1969) which features the lovers holding hands. In the 1969 film, there is no close-up of this hand-holding, so Pixar were luckily allowed to take the original film element and go in a little tighter on it.
The makers consulted with a live-action director of photography, Roger Deakins, to learn how Deakins would light and shoot a scene if it were a live-action movie. Much of the film's first half bears an atmospheric, sepia-hued look that characterizes much of Deakins' film work.
When EVE tries to send WALL-E back to Earth on one of the Life Pods, the deck that she goes to is L912, which can also be viewed as l912, or 1912. The British White Star liner, RMS Titanic sank in April of 1912 and 1,500 passengers lost their lives because there weren't enough lifeboats aboard.
WALL-E only pronounces EVE's name correctly twice throughout the entire film. The first time is when EVE is in the Diagnostic Lab and WALL-E is in a waiting pen waiting for her. The second time is out in space when WALL-E tells EVE to stay where she is and he propels himself to her with the fire extinguisher.
This is technically the third time Sigourney Weaver has supplied the voice for a spaceship's computer. The first was in Galaxy Quest (1999) where her only job is to repeat what the ship's computer had just said. The second is in the Futurama episode Futurama: Love and Rocket (2002).
Jim Reardon left his position as supervising director of The Simpsons (1989) television series to do animation on this film. On the DVD audio commentary for The Simpsons: Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo (1999), Reardon finally confirmed the title of the film he was working on - prior to that he would only say that it was due in 2008. In the film, the name of the first captain of the Axiom is Reardon, who piloted the ship from 2105 to 2248.
EASTER EGG: On the 'Main Menu' screen, scroll down to 'SET UP'. Once there press RIGHT on your remote control, and then press UP once. This should highlight a circle at the top of the screen with a W inside of it. Press OK to watch the first 'Title Animation Test' for the original 'WALL-E'. In the Blu-Ray edition, from 'SET UP', press LEFT; a small orange circle appears below the menu, press OK.
When the Captain first appears on the bridge of the "Axiom", 45 minutes into the movie, Johann Strauss's "The Blue Danube" can be heard on the soundtrack. This is a parallel to "2001: A Space Odyssey". The song accompanies a famous space-docking scene in that movie, and over-reliance on computers in extended space flight is a major plot element in both films.
The original script had EVE being kidnapped by little green aliens, motivating WALL-E to give chase and rescue her. This idea was withdrawn when it failed to win support from anyone who saw it, forcing the animators to - literally - return to the drawing boards.
Producer Jim Morris invited leading special effects artist Dennis Muren and cinematographer Roger Deakins to advise on lighting and atmosphere. Muren actually ended up spending several months working at Pixar, while Deakins - who was only supposed to host one talk - ended up staying for two weeks.
According to the DVD extras, the Axiom is a "General Dynamics Type Three Hull configuration" which is similar in name and shape to the "General Products Number Three Hull" featured in the classic science fiction novel, "Ringworld", by Larry Niven.
The computer in the space ship named 'AUTO' is inspired by the computer in the movie '2001: A Space Odyssey' named 'HAL 9000'. Both have red eye and they both are negative characters of their respective movie.
The end-credit montage traces artwork from the past, in historical order, starting with cave paintings, then progressing through Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Renaissance, then mimicking certain Impressionists (such as Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, and Auguste Renoir ). It finishes with depictions of the main robots in the style of early computer games.
The end credits song "Down to Earth" (sung by Peter Gabriel) is meant to reflect how the Earth in the film changes. At the beginning of the song, the music is very electronic-sounding and only Gabriel is singing. As the song progresses, however, the music becomes more natural-sounding with additional voices and almost all acoustic instruments. At the beginning of the film, the Earth has little to no life on it and Wall-e (a robot) is the only 'real' character. But over the course of the film, more characters are introduced and the Earth eventually becomes more natural.