The wee cube of a hero at the heart of WALL-E has military binoculars for eyes, tank treads for feet and metallic hands he interlocks in a pantomime of what it might be like to grasp another's hand.
It's a gesture that came to him as he watched a loop of an old movie in which two lovers sing It Only Takes a Moment.
WALL-E, a robot with a fondness for Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly, is the child of the brainiacs at Pixar. In particular: Andrew Stanton.
In 2003, audiences, and later the Oscars, reacted swimmingly to the writer-director's fish tale, Finding Nemo.
Today, Stanton returns as a director and co-writer.
And what a difference five years make. Rather, what a difference 800 years into the future make.
Instead of undulating ocean, WALL-E opens onto a desolate, beige Earthscape of trash piled as high as skyscrapers. This weird new world isn't teeming with clown fish, turtles and sharks trying to turn over new dorsal fins. Instead, it's occupied by one lone Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class and his pal Hal, a cockroach.
A kids' movie dystopian Philip K. Dick might give a thumbs-up to.
"It's one of those things that when you think about it, you could convince yourself not to go there," says Stanton. "But the reason he's so charming is because he's the last robot on Earth. You can't have that and separate out the dystopian. You can lessen it or soften it. But you can't get rid of it. That's part of why you like him. It was very intentional to push the envelope."
Turns out the evocation of cult-fave author Dick isn't such a reach. Dick wrote the story that became Blade Runner, one of the movies that influenced Stanton's interest in science fiction. Add to the list: Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, as well as more fan fare such as 1972's Silent Running.
DIRECTED BY: Andrew Stanton
STARRING: Ben Burtt (WALL-E), Elissa Knight (EVE), Jeff Garlin (Captain), Fred Willard
(Shelby Forthright, BnL CEO), MacInTalk (AUTO), John Ratzenberger (John), Kathy Najimy (Mary), Sigourney Weaver (Ship’s computer)
RUNNING TIME: 98 MINUTES
TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY
"Those were my formative movie-going years, 1962 to 82," says Stanton, who was born and raised in the small town of Rockport, Massachusetts.
"What a lift. You almost got to the point where you believed you were guaranteed something like that every year. I don't know if I got older or it really changed, but by the late 80s going into the 90s, they were few and far between, movies in the sci-fi genre packed with that kind of wonder and awe."
Hence the homages like the name of WALL-E's companion. HAL was the computer in Stanley Kubrick's 2001. (Stanton's next project is John Carter of Mars.)
Stanton lets out a guffaw when asked if Pixar is on a mission to make the world right for pests with movies like his and last summer's rodent-infested Ratatouille.
"I don't think that's an agenda. But definitely as an animator, you're always wondering, 'Can I make you like this?' People always say, 'Oh, you modeled him so cute.' And we say, 'No, actually, we modeled him to look like a real cockroach.' I think it's because of how WALL-E sees him as a pet and how we animate him, how he moves."
A greater nod to those halcyon sci-fi flick years came when Stanton and company brought in Ben Burtt to create the sounds of WALL-E. The Academy Award-winning sound designer famously gave voice - or the 'bot equivalent - to R2D2 of Star Wars.
"What I discovered on Star Wars with R2D2 was you want to create the illusion that a machine is talking, that it has a personality," says Burtt.
"The conflict is always, how much of this character is going to be made from a human input and how much of it is going to be a result of some electrical process, some synthesis, something only a machine could do?" he adds.