Wall-e and Eves love story has quite the emotional arc we are so accustomed to from Pixar films. What i am going to talk about is the scene at the end, where Wall-e has been damaged and is removed from emotive performance and becomes his physiology - a robot.
Eve starts as the robot looking for life forms to bring humans back to earth. Wall-e falls in love with her and cares for her during an unfortunate event (I am cutting a huge chunk of the story out here, because if your reading this, or this blog and you have not seen it yet, im very concerned!) anyway, eve realises that wall-e cared for her and falls for him. While back in space, Wall-e gets damaged and eve returns them both to earth to repair him. Once back at Wall-e's storage unit Eve applies a new circuit board etc. The result is that Wall-e goes into what i describe as auto-pilot mode. He is un-aware of who eve is, what they've been through and their connection. They are eventually re-united and there love resolved in quite a charming way.
So, how does this work? Wall-e's gesture and movement throughout the film is like that of a nervous turtle, constantly moving his arms and legs back in constantly. However he is a curious guy, and always move to things that attract his interest. (also note the character design - Wall-e is squared off at every opportunity to show brawn and eve is curved like that of a ladies hips). With this consistency in movement and action it allows a juxtaposition to be formed when his memory is removed. Once repaired, his eyes are static, his body movement rigid, his gestures are not cautious; they are systematic. His eyes do not subdue at their far sides and peer in - which he does a lot to eve throughout the film. Basically, he loses his emotion, we lose his empathy and in doing so we gain eves. This transition in very important. Eve trys on last time 'to bring him back' but giving up, she leans in, a spark transfers between them (it happened earlier in the film the first time they both 'connected') and she turns away softly, head down, as if she has lost all hope. As her hand drifts from his, his tense stopping her - his gestures are again un-rigid, it really is a nice storytelling moment.
The change in the gestures movement is what carries the narrative. By becoming completely rigid the audience physically see the change in him. His body language is no longer responsive to his relationships; he is cold and systematic. His eyes do not acknowledge Eve, there is no increased tension, this removes any communication of thought and emotion. However, we still accept he is real. At no point do the audience believe he isn't. This also allows us to empathize with eve. We feel her experience loss, the lower of the head, the shape of her eyes cutting in from the top corners. At that peak moment when she leans in, just before she turns away, her head almost touches his and the electricity transfers through and the result is that her love brings him out of his coma.
After reading more of Ed Hooks he lists 7 acting principles (which im going to talk more about in a separate post) but this moment covers the first two he lists -
1) Thinking tends to lead to conclusion and emotion tends to lead to action.
2) We humans empathize only with emotion.
I've struggled to find a source online with the clip in. I have found that there are many 'FanVidz' online and are just awful. Please watch this video from 3.18 whilst on mute. You've been warned: your ears will suffer.
Below is one example of a fan vid that has been animated externally as an afterthought. I'm posting the link as it has the same two characters break the two principles listed above and shows the difference between a skilled animator and a not so skilled one...