We Heart Robots

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Like so many, I'm sure, R2 was my first robot. As a kid (and even now!), I loved his adorable bleeps and bloops, his calm blue lights, and the funny burbles he made when displeased. I think the only other robot that caught my eye was more of a machine than a robot — the crayon-making machine featured on one episode of Sesame Street*. It made crayons! What could be cuter? Now that I think about it, I also sort of felt like Doozers were robots, too. My sister and I had wind-up ones, which may be part of the reason. Anyway, I was a little confused about what a robot was, and maybe that's because I didn't have the wealth of examples kids — and adults — have these days. Today's robot is WALL-E, star of the popular new Pixar film. The Boston Globe's Matthew Battles gets to the bottom of what makes this robot — and others — so darn huggable!

*Side note — the crayon song is amazing! Has anyone remixed it? I'm sort of surprised it hasn't turned up in a Wes Anderson film...

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My son and I (56 and 75) were struck by the resemblance of Wall-E to Woody Allen - the eyes, the hands held awkwardly over his torso - come on,
admit he is the true source of this imaginary soul!

Sent by Ellie Siskind | 3:36 PM | 7-7-2008

Don't forget the 1972 film, "Silent Running", with three (?) boxy, but expressive, robots much like Wall-E. These, however, were "real"--physical puppets (?).

Sent by Tony Zinicola, Jr. | 3:54 PM | 7-7-2008

There's the three robots in the 1972 movie "Silent Running" that Bruce Dern's character named Huey, Dewey and Louie. In one scene the robot is swept away in a meteor storm and essentially killed. Very moving scene for the death of an iPod with appendages.

Sent by Mike | 3:56 PM | 7-7-2008

I wrote an Ode to the Trashcan and the The Mighty Warrior of trash collection about five years ago, published in our local paper. It made me laugh to think someone has made a robot movie along these lines. I'll have to make sure I see that movie.

Sent by Barbara G Sanchez | 4:05 PM | 7-7-2008

I'm glad someone mentioned "Silent Running!" The movie's over 30 years old, but it still kills me at the closing scene as the final robot (I think it was Huey) is dutifully carrying out Bruce Dern's instructions to keep the plants alive whilst all alone.

Sent by Elian Gonalez | 4:06 PM | 7-7-2008

Mr. Incredible is my favorite. What a parable for modern fatherhood?
Always feeling responsible for everything.
Often feeling utterly dis-empowered
In conflict by default with those closest to him.
Wanting to protect them but unable to.
Always looking back wistfully to the good old days when we were gods, could do many things and did so, always in the best of causes.

If only I were a Super, then maybe I could fulfill some of the dreams I share with my overweight-father animated counterpart.

Sent by Arthur Klassen | 6:41 PM | 7-7-2008

1) Yeah, you'd be remiss without mentioning Huey in "Silent Running!". Glad to see others agree.
2) I found Iron Giant endearing, even though he was large.
3) I liked the animation in "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" very much. It's a great movie.

Sent by Allen Halsey | 3:07 PM | 7-10-2008