Exclusive: The Storyboards of WALL-E
Story Artist Derek Thompson on the process of prep.
How do you make hand signals and body language that conveys, "I like you," or, "Let's go over here," or, "Don't go into that red barn!"? There were all these little hurdles and pitfalls that would emerge. How do we wrap our heads around that? A very small team of us worked for years, sequence by sequence, fleshing out all of these story points.
Typically a Pixar film will have between 50 and 75,000 storyboards generated for the entire production. WALL-E was north of 125,000 drawings. That's a phenomenal amount of drawings for a team of about six most of the time. We'd swell to 8 to 10 for a push, for a few weeks, and then for the last few months we were probably down to about three or four.
It's really remarkable working with Andrew, who could have great sequences that really worked but he would know how to step out of himself and be objective enough to know what he had to lose to make the story work. The movie changed quite a few times in the years I've been here. It's strange, having seen it from so many different standpoints, but hopefully everything feels purposeful, intentional, and designed with emotional and quality storytelling in mind.
And lots of moments remained unchanged from very early on. The sequence you can see in these boards was as it is now even before I started working on the film three years ago. In fact, a good chunk of the first act was already pretty-well realised in storyboards when I started and most of what changed was the second and third acts of the film, which went through numerous iterations.
One of the things that I've been surprised and delighted to see is that you can really see all the work we did in the finished shots, even though there's a lot of artful stuff that's embellishing and bringing things to another level. That's one of the mixed bags about storyboarding - it's not a glamour job where you get to see your finished thing up on screen - it's very skeletal.
Andrew likened it to a paleontological dig, where at a certain point you know you have a dinosaur but you don't really know what kind of dinosaur you have yet. Finding out what kind of dinosaur we're building is part of what making these things come to life is all about. I love that discovery process.
WALL-E Week on RT and IGN