Wall-E merchandising

I liked Wall-E a lot, but I was thrown for a loop when the kids and I walked into the theater and were offered one of these:

The merchandising associated with a movie about consumerism seems to have been lost on some. Harry Knowles rhapsodized in April:

2008’s Winner for Genius, Box Office, Merchandize and old fashioned heart goes to Andrew Stanton and WALL*E. That’s just how in love I am with every iota of everything that I’ve seen from this film.

In fairness, maybe he didn’t know what the movie was about at the time.

But with the launch of the movie, a jeremiad against a consumer culture that turns Planet Earth into an giant uninhabitable waste dump, some folks are calling out the movie for the hypocrisy of a merchandising campaign at odds with its message. I found Devin Faraci at CHUD to be particularly thoughtful on this:

I couldn’t help but mull over the irony of this huge, branding-obsessed, merchandise-spewing corporation releasing a movie where consumers are shown to be giant fat babies essentially taking orders from advertising (with this being portrayed as a negative thing. I’m sure Bob Iger sees most of his customers like that and loves it). When I got to the Four Seasons hotel the next day, the site of the junket for the film, and saw an entire room dedicated to showing off the marketing tie-ins, I lost the sense of irony and began to think what I was seeing was flat out hypocrisy.

there will be no Happy Meal tie-ins for this film that decries lazy living and junk food eating. But that doesn’t change the fact that the film, which opens on a post-apocalyptic Earth submerged in its own garbage, will itself generate enough junky toys to build a couple of the trash skyscrapers that Wall-E himself constructs while vainly trying to clean up the planet.

I’ve had people on the message boards tell me that this doesn’t matter, that the message is all that matters. But just saying something is pointless – which is actually another theme of the film. The movie ends up with the idea that sometimes you have to make hard decisions, sacrifice comfort and easy living to do the right thing, to make things better. To, quite literally, save the Earth. This is an inspiring message… that is immediately undercut by walking out of a movie theater into a world crammed full of landfill-choking plastic Wall-E crapola. It’s amazing to think that this summer children will get the following message:

Hey kids! The Earth is important, and we should protect it. Remember this by buying lots of bad for the environment Wall-E plastic objects! Also, it’s bad to sit around and eat poorly – you should enjoy the world around you! You can remember this by buying the Wall-E video game, or any of the Wall-E action figures! And also, following advertising is for suckers, and you should have an independent mind. Prove how independent you are with your new Wall-E clothes!

The truth is that Wall-E feels like a really well-made stop smoking ad starring Joe Camel.

As always, feel free to check out our take on Green kids media:


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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    patrick said,

    Wall-E totally looks like the robot from “Short Circuit”… minus the cheesy 80’s style of course


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