Starring: (voices of) Ben Burtt, Sigourney Weaver, John Ratzenberger
Directed by: Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo”)
Written by: Andrew Stanton (“Monsters Inc.”)

Every time you think Pixar Animations couldn’t possibly top themselves, they find a way to astonish in the most creative and heartwarming ways.

While the animation company hasn’t turned everything it has touched into gold (there’s a couple of solid bronze medals in the bunch), there’s no denying they’re leading the pack in making the most imaginative animated films since Disney’s days of “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.”

In “WALL-E,” Pixar’s newest venture into the great beyond, we journey to the 28th century where humans no longer inhabit the Earth and small robots are left to clean up the mess that now covers the globe. Over the years, these small robots known as Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class (WALL-E for short) haven’t been maintained and only one has lasted this long to gather up all the debris he can during the day. WALL-E goes about his day working to stack trash into small, neat cubes and spends the rest of his time exploring in the rubble with his little cockroach friend and stockpiling treasures he finds in for her personal collection (think how curious Ariel was in “The Little Mermaid” when she found dinglehoppers. That’s how WALL-E becomes when he discovers something he never knew existed). He becomes especially intrigued when he uncovers a tiny plant growing amongst the garbage, so he scoops it up in an old boot, and adds it to his possessions.

The life he has always led changes, however, when a spaceship lands on Earth and a sophisticated robot known as a probe (she introduces herself to WALL-E as Eve) is sent to the planet to survey the grounds. Swept off his rusty tracks by Eve, WALL-E wants nothing more than to be with her and show her everything he has found while working for the past 500 years. He also wants to know what it is like to hold someone’s hand, something he has always wondered about since he watched a copy of “Hello Dolly” he found in the landfill.

The adventure blasts off into space when WALL-E stows away on Eve’s ship after she find his plant and is programmed to store it away, go into lock down, and return home. Her home is on the Axiom, a mothership where a community of chubby, lazy humans lives and awaits a time when they can re-colonize Earth once it is habitable.

A beautiful love story between two robots, “WALL-E” is as charming as it is a groundbreaking animated feature. Minimalistic in its delivery of dialogue (before the humans enter the picture, the most you can expect is a few blips and bleeps) and awe-inspiring in its technique, it’s the best animated film of the year. It won’t be surprising if it stays that way for the second half of the year.

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