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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #87
April 22, 2009

Hot Ideas for a Cool Planet

Wall-E + Green Ideas from Cool Globes

Wall-E, the 2009 Oscar-winner for Best Animated Feature, deserves its golden statue.  We cued it up for Earth Day, and were sucked into the orbit of what we can only define as a new genre;  part silent-film, part romantic drama, and part ecological apocalypse all wrapped-up in beautiful Pixar animation.  When we first meet Wall-E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter- Earth class), a rusty, trash-compacting robot, he spends his solitary days creating skyscraper bricks out of the trash left behind by the humans.  One day, a space ship lands, and a sleek droid named Eve (short for Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) buzzes around Earth, looking for signs of plant life.  Lonely Wall-E falls for Eve, and finds a seedling to woo her with, rare and beautiful.  Eve's programmed to take any plant life home, and Wall-E chases after her, where they are both delivered to Axiom, the mother ship where humans are living, obese, video-crazed, and utterly complacent.  By this time, our kids were thrilled to go along with the rest of the ride, as Wall-E, Eve and a fiesty Captain work together to bring humans back to Earth, ready to clean up their act and their planet.

Since they were inspired by the film to take better care of their planet, getting our kids to visit a traveling art project that calls attention to global warning was a breeze. Each of the 60 larger-than life globes in the spectacular Cool Globes exhibit was created by an artist and carries its own message about saving our planet. We had as much fun as our kids guessing the story each globe had to tell: from adjusting the thermostat and harnessing wind power, to planting trees and buying local, to riding bikes and thinking about solar energy. One globe is collectively decorated with pictures by children from around the world, and another that showcases alternative transportation depicts a polar bear on a bicycle. We loved a globe decorated entirely by seeds and food items, not just because it's one of the most lovely orbs but because it was created by a barista at Starbucks who won a local contest to decorate a globe. Ultimately, the message of these orbs is that we can all do our part, a little bit at a time, to reverse global warning. Our current KOTC list of how to help is listed in City Savvy below.

Film Title: WALL-E
Directed By: Andrew Stanton
2008, Rated G, 98 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about Wall-E:

  • Why It's Worth It:  Wall-E film feels like a classic, given it's universal messages about love and ecology and it's impeccable animation. The first half-hour, which doesn't have dialogue, is lyrical and moving. Once Wall-E and Eve get to Axiom, the dreadful planet where humans have retreated after destroying Earth, the clanging ugliness of that alternative world makes us yearn for a restored Earth. The film is probably good for any one over 5; it's too subtle for tweens and teens but most adults appreciate the animation and message of this film.
  • Red Flags:  This film is smart, and woos with subtlety.  Kids expecting adorable animated animals may take longer than usual to tune into Wall-E and Eve, as there is not much that is funny about the sobering state of Planet Earth.  With a little patience, though, kids will fall in love with Wall-E and Eve, root for them to win, and come home to Earth.  No profanity, violence, or mature content (though Wall-E does find a bra while scavenging, which he promptly uses as sunglasses!).
  • Green Films:  Wall-E is one among many great films out there that bring home the message about the fragility of our planet and how it is our duty to protect Planet Earth for the next generation. In past adventures, we have reviewed Arctic Tale, Ice AgeIce Age: The Meltdown, and Fly Away Home.  Tweens and up will appreciate Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Also debuting on Earth Day is Disneynature's, Earth, which we have not yet had the opportunity to review; although rated G, does contain some material about animals dying that could upset younger kids. Click here for the trailer.

Our Tips for Talking to Kids about Wall-E:

  • Symbol Savvy:  In Wall-E, the tireless robot rescues interesting items of trash before he compacts.  He brings his treasure home, where his collection includes a Rubiks Cube, a Hello Dolly video, and a light bulb and Christmas lights.  Ask your kids what objects they have that would represent what life is like in 2009.   We took the next step, and asked our kids to choose 10 items that would represent them -- our son's collection included a golf ball, soccer cleat, a song from his favorite band, and sweet child that he is, a family photo!
  • Personification Savvy:  Ask your kids what makes Wall-E so lovable, and how the animators were able to convey his emotions.  Wall-E barely speaks, but his binocular eyes, and human-like gestures, go a long way.  Ask kids to compare Wall-E to other characters -- our kids chose silent star Charlie Chaplin, as well as Nemo and some of the Disney Dwarfs.
  • Silent Film Savvy:  This film tells little with language, and more with gestures and intonation.  Show your kids old Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin films, the original silent stars, and have them compare! 


Get a Little Greener for Earth Day by Learning about CoolGlobes

Time Allotment: from now on

Age Recommendation:  Everyone

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom on Little Ways You can Help:

  • COOL GLOBES: Click here to visit the Cool Globes online gallery to learn more about how your family can help change.
  • IN THE KITCHEN: Locally grown fruits and veggies travel fewer miles to get to you, which cuts down on greenhouse emissions and helps reduce global warming. Have one plant-based meal each day and eat locally when possible.  Shop at farmer's markets. If you're planning a remodel, keep your refrigerator away from heat sources like ovens and dishwashers, which uses less energy and keeps energy costs down. And, kids -- Don't pile your plate. "When's dinner?" you want to know. You're starving after a long day at school! Even so, restrain yourself and take only what you know you'll really be able to eat. Enough edible food to feed 49 million people ends up in landfills in the United States each year.
  • CLEANING: Use cold water to wash your clothes whenever possible. Only run your dishwasher when it is full.  Line dry your clothes this spring and summer - they smell better and you're saving energy by not running the dryer! 
  • CRAFTS: We love the Future Craft Collective website that will help you make art projects more sustainably.
  • HOUSEHOLD: Use an online service to cancel delivery of catalogs that you don't need or want anymore to save the environment and help keep clutter out of your home.  Sun is the most inexpensive and energy efficient heat source, so when it's out, open up blinds and window's to let it in and increase room temperature by a few degrees. Reuse packaging rather than throwing it away. Decorating a room with plants is both an attractive and environmentally conscious way to refresh a room.  Plants are natural filters which help to clean the air of benzene and carbon monoxide.The next time you have the impulse to buy a new book to read, borrow it from the library or a friend instead of buying a new copy. Sharing books is a great way to reduce waste and reuse materials.
  • BUGS ARE GOOD: Don't kill that spider! There are an estimated 40,000 species of spiders, and they all eat insects. They're an important part of the food web and provide natural pest control.
  • WATER CAUTION: Ban all drips. If you have a dripping faucet in the house, replace the washer inside it. If you stop a faucet from leaking one drop each second, you can save 2,700 gallons of water a year.

Our City Editors' tips for celebrating Earth Day around the USA:

  • Anywhere: Google your city + Earth Day.  Also check your local park and rec web sites for activities.
  • Boston: On April 25 more than 2000 volunteers are expected for the 10th Annual Earth Day Clean-up along the 80 miles of the Charles River. To learn more about volunteering check the website- Charles River Watershed Association. If you'd like to celebrate with animals head to the Franklin Park Zoo. April 20-24 is Conservation week. Each day families will find educational activities and learn about preserving the planet. April 26 is the Earth Day celebration. The day is filled with animal encounters and environmentally friendly exhibitors.
  • New York: Celebrate Earth Day 2009 in New York City and learn how to protect the planet with these great events featuring music and fun in the great outdoors. The annual New York City EarthFair will be held inside Grand Central Terminal in Vanderbilt Hall and outside of Grand Central Terminal on April 24 and 25, 2009. Organized by the nonprofit organization Earth Day New York, the event will feature dozens of exhibits and free live music for kids and adults. Exhibitors will include Clean Air New York, Farm Sanctuary, the Rainforest Alliance, and many others. Musical entertainment will be provided by local NYC bands. On the weekend celebrate Earth Day in Central Park on Sunday, April 26th from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Pack a picnic and enjoy live performances, planting and mulching projects, tree care and composting demonstrations, environmental education, and crafts with recycled materials. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, please call 212-360-1461.
  • Washington, D.C.: This year the Alexandria Earth Day celebration is all about alternative transportation. The day is filled with music, puppet shows and lots of exhibitors. There is a free shuttle from the King Street metro station to Ben Brenman.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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