Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

5. Ben Burtt as WALL-E in WALL-E

The lonely robo-boy of Andrew Stanton's fabulous fantasy doesn't say much ("WALL-E," "Eva," "Ta-DA!"), but there's a future-world of humor and emotion in each syllable. Those intonations, and nearly every other sound in the movie — the machines, the weapons, the whole aural environment — are the amazing achievement of Ben Burtt, who for 28 years soundscaped George Lucas films (the light saber in Star Wars, the whipcrack in Raiders of the Lost Ark) before coming to Pixar. WALL-E's voice is Burtt's own, which he stretched, distorted and metallicized on his computer keyboard; he also voiced Mo, the neat-freak droid on the spaceship WALL-E and EVE visit. Hal the cockroach, WALL-E's sole companion on Earth, gets his chirps from "a raccoon, speeded up," and his clicks from the rattling of a cop's handcuffs. (The liquid loveliness of EVE's voice comes from Pixar staffer Elissa Knight.) All these could have been purely computer-generated, but, says Burtt, "The problem with real synthetic voices is that they lack character. You don't get the sense of a soul behind the voice." You do get that with WALL-E, which makes Burtt the Soul Man of 2008.