After 18 years with Pixar, he knew from his experiences with the studio's trademark animated Luxo Jr. lamp that a nonspeaking character could work if done right.
"I didn't want him silent; that wasn't interesting to me. What was interesting to me was that he just had his own way of speaking. And I just kept using the term ‘R2D2,' ‘like R2D2,' ‘like R2D2,'” Stanton said, laughing.
"And finally, my producer, Jim Morris, said, ‘Why don't we just call Ben Burtt, who did R2D2.' And I went, ‘Oh, can we do that? Wow, that's nice. OK, well, let's call him.'”
The legendary sound effects designer spent two years on the film, basically becoming two-thirds of the cast, since so many of the characters are robots. Each has its own identity and way of speaking consistent with its form and function.
"I really don't think I could have solved this movie (without him),” Stanton said. "He just brought so much knowledge to the table.”
The movie's limited dialogue helped push the ever-advancing studio into new territory, from making its cameras more accurate to incorporating live-action footage for the first time.
"I wasn't going to be able to rely on conventional dialogue and so ... everything else in the picture was going to have to rise to the occasion to carry the storytelling — the music, the way the camera was staged, and on a very subtle level, the way the lenses worked on the camera,” he said.
The story involves Wall-E watching the movie "Hello Dolly!” and through the song "It Only Takes a Moment,” learning about and yearning for love.
"That's live-action footage. So that sort of sets a precedent now that anytime you look at old footage, it's gotta be real humans. ... So I realized I was going to have to shoot live-action, which was fun.”
While change is the only constant at Pixar, Stanton said the company stays focused on turning good ideas into the best possible movies.
"We have a lot of lunches,” he said with a laugh. "I'm surrounded by so many talented, smart people, that I think there's a million ideas that are as worthy as the films that we've made that are just getting thrown around.”
Travel and accommodations were provided by Disney Pixar.