You've got to give the Pixar people credit for not resting on their cushy laurels. They could be on "Toy Story 8," and their adoring fans wouldn't even blink.
Instead, they make "Wall-E," a risky film with very little dialogue that not only seems to charm the kiddies but gets mommy and daddy thinking about the planet. It takes guts. It pushes the envelope. And it works -- again.
Wall-E is the last of the service robots left behind on Planet Earth to clean up the mess humans left behind. The human race took off on a luxury cruise liner 700 years ago and generations have known nothing but eating and watching a monitor placed on each of their comfy recliners.
They have become obese from inactivity, but they don't seem to care since every need is provided.
Wall-E, on the other hand, has been dutifully going about his job of picking up trash, compacting it and placing it in neat piles all around what's left of a major city.
He also has developed a curiosity over these many years and has been collecting odd little trinkets. He stores them in an old cooler that he takes back to his dilapidated recharging facility at the end of each day.
Wall-E has a pet cockroach that seems impervious to any harm. The little robot has also developed an affection for an old Broadway musical ("Hello, Dolly!") that he found on VHS. He watches it constantly and you begin to realize he is quite lonely and, in fact, wants to be in love, too.
It's the first hint that this is not your typical yuck-yuck Pixar movie, as a sadness creeps in over his complete isolation.
That is, until a huge rocket ship drops off a sleek new probe, which seems to be searching for something on the planet's surface. Wall-E is immediately smitten with this lady robot who calls herself Eve. He follows her around but has no idea why she's there.
He will soon find out, but not willing to let her go he grabs onto the returning rocket ship and off he goes into space to possibly fulfill his own small destiny.
This is such a poignant movie, but it never forgets to entertain at the same time. The most amazing aspect is at first you'll be thoroughly entranced and then the next day, while pondering its plot, you'll realize it just slipped in a very powerful message right alongside the fun.
That makes this a bold statement from a cartoon company not known for stepping up for a cause. Will this hurt or help? It remains to be seen if audiences will feel manipulated or appreciative.
For me it was the latter, and it proves once again that Pixar continues to make good, courageous choices in its animated film projects. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.
Steve Salles can be reached at email@example.com.