Ok, I'm done. I'm hereby declaring that there should be a moratorium on any more Short Circuit/Johnny 5 comparisons to Wall-E.
At the WonderCon panel, someone brought the question up to Andrew Stanton, who wrote the script for the new Pixar movie, won and Academy Award for his work on Finding Nemo, and has been involved with writing pretty much ever Pixar movie that's come out.
His demeanor indicated that he'd already heard the question ad nauseum, and here's what he had to say:
The inspiration for the character came from two places:
1. The original Pixar Luxo Lamp used in their logo.
No, Wall-E doesn't look anything like the lamp, what Stanton went on to say is that he wanted the character to be a machine first and a character second, much like the famous lamp. The lamp doesn't look even remotely human or animal yet its personality comes across brilliantly:
"I wanted to believe that a robot is really there. I wanted to believe he is really a robot and not just a human in a robot shell."
The initial design concept was that of a robot that was low to the ground so it would have a low center of gravity, a method of locomotion that could get it over any terrain or obstacle, and a way to compact trash efficiently, hence the cube shape.
2. A pair of binoculars at a baseball game.
Yes, folks: binoculars. He said he was at a stadium watching a game when he asked someone to pass their binoculars to him. He started playing with them and seeing how they could be used to express emotion.
He did go on to say that he'd only seen the movie Short Circuit once, and he supposes it could have influenced him on some subconscious level. Really, I thought that statement was just throwing a bone to those who claim he ripped off the design, which is a ludicrous idea IMHO.
The Johnny 5 robot is tall and slender with a thin body elevated high above the treads, with long arms coming off the "shoulders." While Wall-E is short and stubby, with a cube-shaped body which squats directly on the treads and short little arms that come off the body itself. Maybe while folks are at it they can accuse James Cameron of ripping off Short Circuit for the design of the HK Tank from Terminator 2 (shown here).
Anyway... that's enough of a rant. To end on a happy note, here's the latest poster for Wall-E. :-)
Wall-E opens on June 27, 2008.