Those who go see the new Pixar/Disney film "WALL-E" will notice several subtle references to Apple Inc. products old, new and imagined.
While the primary connection between Pixar and Apple is well known – Steve Jobs was CEO of both companies simultaneously until he sold Pixar to the Walt Disney Company in 2006 – the studio's films had never made much of it.
Some things to watch for if you go see the movie:
The WALL-E robot recharges himself every morning using solar power. As soon as he's fully charged, he emits the Mac's familiar startup chime.
WALL-E runs his old VHS tape player through a video iPod, which he views through a large, flat flexible magnifying lens like those used to help people read small type.
WALL-E's love interest, EVE, looks like the sort of robot Apple would build if Apple built robots, and with good reason. When the film's director, Andrew Stanton, knew he wanted EVE to look as sleek and beautiful as possible, he called Steve Jobs. Jobs sent Apple Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive over to Pixar for a day of consultation.
Ive, of course, is the design mastermind behind most of Apple's products from the first iMac in 1998 to the iPod in 2001 to the iPhone last year. According to an article in May's Fortune magazine, Ive said little but nodded his approval when presented with ideas he liked.
EVE exudes Apple sensibilities. Her skin is the same shiny white plastic of a MacBook. Her egg-shaped body is smooth and curvy. She has no visible buttons; indicator lights glow on her chest under her skin. Her arms lock seamlessly into the indentations on the side of her body – so seamlessly that in one scene poor WALL-E has trouble locating EVE's hand.
Then there is the voice of Auto, the computer autopilot that flies the ship full of the descendants of those Earth-dwellers that left the planet 700 years earlier. Credited as "MacinTalk," the voice derives from the Mac's built-in speech generation software.
I don't believe Auto's voice is included in the current Mac OS, Leopard; Apple hasn't used the term "MacinTalk" to describe its speech recognition software in years. I suspect the voice was generated on an old PowerPC Mac running Mac OS 9 or earlier. I'm not even sure which voice it is (anybody know?).
One more thing: Though not directly related to Apple, the acclaimed songwriter Peter Gabriel collaborated with WALL-E's creators on the concluding song, "Down to Earth." Gabriel developed to multimedia CDs back in the 1990s, Xplora 1 and, coincidentally enough, "Eve" – both Mac compatible, which was unusual for that era. In fact, Xplora 1 was created for the Mac first and ported to Windows. More recently Gabriel backed something called The Filter, software for helping people discover music using their iTunes collection.
(Read Mike Sragow's review of WALL-E here.)