Critically acclaimed 2008 computer-animated film Wall-E is known for its silent storytelling and brilliant use of music. Set in a futuristic and dystopian Earth, Wall-E is a riveting tale of what could possibly happen to humans if everything goes downhill. Thomas Newman produced all the sounds in WALL-E, and it isn’t his first time doing this for a Pixar film as he was able to do an outstanding job as well when it comes to Finding Nemo.
With a runtime of 62:07, Wall-E’s soundtrack sure is packed, and one of the reasons why music is strongly emphasized in this film is because there are fewer dialogues involved. Everything that the filmmakers want to share with the audience happens through great animation and also sound design.
Newman’s approach to sound production is different from the other famous ones in the industry. He focuses a lot on instrumentation and assigning distinct sounds to each character, and this is highly emphasized on Wall-E.
For instance, Newman wants to incorporate “innocence” with the main character, and thus, we can see how he used an oboe on tracks that are for the main character. “Wall-E” and “Typing Bot” are two good examples of this point.
Despite being repetitive in his ways, it’s a good thing that certain character themes aren’t repeated a lot of times when they are re-introduced or are in focus. Much like Newman wants to incorporate music into characters, he knows when to die it down and let the moment flourish by itself. A piece of great evidence for this claim is how Newman modified “Define Dancing” into something different as it is derived from an earlier sound in the film, entitled “EVE,” which is the theme for EVE, Wall-E’s romantic interest in the film.
Modifying a certain sound to match an event perfectly is what Newman is after, and through this, he was able to retain character sounds without making things boring and repetitive.
Aside from being character central, Newman’s music is also greatly timed. One great example is “2815 A.D.,” where Wall-E’s job is introduced and how his day goes by. It is also an important piece of music for such a dark and depressing scene. Here, the story reveals that Wall-E is the last of the robots that are left on Earth for garbage organization. “2815 A.D.” melody and instrumentation shifts are honestly captivating and chilling.
“Eve Retrieve” and “The Axiom” are two good pieces of music as well. They share the same style and appeal, incorporated with a bombastic tone and high-pitched melodies. Perhaps Newman’s attempt here is to separate Wall-E from the rest of the characters and objects in the film, assigning a specific sound to newly produced objects or something that isn’t from the Earth anymore.
This motif can again be noticed on two soundtracks, “Degrees and Sunny” and “March of the Gels.” Instead of newer objects and technologies, it is owed to humans.
Instrumentation is a thing that most Hollywood music producers are fond of expanding throughout their careers. There would be some times where audiences would already know who’s in charge of sound design just after some minutes into a film. You can call it a signature, something that separates one sound producer from another. For Newman, his instrumentation isn’t that deep, but it is very important.
Most of his work in Wall-E has orchestral hits and even strings, but he also took advantage of several electronic instruments. This includes guitars, basses, and even harps. There are also some instances where he decides to blend orchestra with electronically produced music, and the results were outstanding, as you can hear in “Foreign Contaminant.”
Wall-E’s soundtrack is packed, and with Newman as the head sound-producer, these pieces will surely go down in history. It’s safe to say that much of Wall-E’s success and popularity is all thanks to the brilliant music that is accompanying it. Even without dialogue, Wall-E was able to tell such an engrossing tale, and the best thing is that it is something that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.