The Long Shot: Dissecting Wall-E

      20 Comments on The Long Shot: Dissecting Wall-E
All images © 2008 Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures.

This is the second post of the series ‘The Shot Tells the Story’ using the movie Wall-E as my lesson plan. You can find the whole list of shots in the introduction post.

In the post about extreme wide shots, I said those shots answer the question “where are we?” for the audience. This time I’m talking about the long shot.

What’s the difference between the extreme wide shot and a long shot?

It’s closer.

Wow, right?

“Gee Karen, never woulda figured that one out.”

OK, so I’m not really blowing your socks off here. But I’m not trying to. I’m just pointing out the differences and help you pick your shots. Remember, it’s all about shot choice.

So if the extreme wide shot answers the question, “where are we?”, what does the long shot do?

While the long shot can answer that question too, I feel it’s making more of a statement. That statement being:

“Oh, there they are.”

If you look at the last post, Wall-E is in some of those shots. And when you watch the movie you can see him (my pictures are pretty tiny).

But those shots aren’t really establishing Wall-E himself. They are showing us the big picture.

With the long shot, you’re not establishing the ‘world’ so much as establishing the character(s) in that world. So the audience finds themselves saying, “Oh, there they are.”

This is a good thing. The audience always wants to know where everything and everybody is.

“Hey, there’s Wall-E in his house. Look at all the stuff he has.”

“Oh look, there he is at the base of the spaceship.”

“There’s Eve stretching out her arms and flying around.”

“Whoa! Eve just shot at Wall-E!!”

“There’s Eve searching and searching.”

“Oh, there’s Wall-E watching Eve through the tire.”

Now I did mention in the last post about it all being ‘relative’. What may be a long shot for one element may be an extreme wide shot for another.

Like this one.

Is this an extreme wide shot of Eve? Or a long shot of the ship exploding?

I choose ship exploding. This shot is no longer about Eve, it’s about the ship. So this is a long shot of the ship.

This one too. Is this a close-up of the shelf? Or a long shot of the cockroach inside the Twinkie? In Wall-E’s world, it’s a close-up, but in the cockroach’s, it’s a long shot.

I choose long shot for this one because at this moment, it’s all about the little cockroach.

“There he is, inside the Twinkie!”

And so on.

“Look, Wall-E has brought the ‘sleeping Eve’ outside.”

“Aww, Wall-E is protecting ‘sleeping Eve’ from the rain.”

“And he’s taken her on a sludgy boat ride. Isn’t that sweet?”

“Oh look, he’s brought her to that bench to watch the sunset.”

Yes, all my little quotes are super-obvious.

After the fact.

But when you’re faced with the blank page, this is what you need to say to yourself. Then show that to the audience with the appropriate shot.

If we need to see the big picture, the world where it’s taking place, we’ll go extreme wide shot. When we need to see the characters and what they are doing, the long shot works great.

Too wide and we can’t see the ‘who‘. Too close and we can’t see the ‘where‘.

The long shot gives us both.

“Oh, there they are.”

Read the Storyboard Blog by RSS Feed or by email for the next post in this series; ‘full shots’.

20 thoughts on “The Long Shot: Dissecting Wall-E

  1. Pingback: The Shot Tells the Story: Dissecting Wall-E | Karen J Lloyd's Storyboard Blog

  2. Ratul Sarna

    Haha! Super cool!!
    Laughed a lot while reading this post,,but the last line made me understand the quotes,,
    “But when you’re faced with the blank page, this is what you need to say to yourself”
    It seems obvious when watching the movie but,,blank page is scary,,
    Thanx for the post,,looking forward to more!!

  3. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Thanks Ratul.

    Yup, it’s that blank page that people forget about. It’s easy to sit back and look at this stuff and say “of course they used that shot.” But when you’re faced with the blank page, it’s a whole other story.

    For artists *and* for writers. 🙂

  4. Dave E.

    Funny how one takes these things for granted when the story is unfolding in front of your eyes!
    But your explanation of the concise thought process involved makes it apparent how well and WHY these decisions work for the story…and audience! Which I guess is the point, eh?
    Thanks for another highly informative post!

  5. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Dave – You’re very welcome! Yeah, it’s a whole other thing to create it, than watch it. Every shot choice has a reason.

    But if it’s done right, you *should* be taking it for granted and not ‘thinking’ about it, you know? That’s when you know you have a good movie…when you get lost in it. 🙂

    @ Fernando – So glad you’re enjoying them. Gotta learn some Spanish so I can read more of your blog. 🙂

  6. Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome

    I’m amazed at how well this post and the last translate beyond animation. If we can look at their lives the same way, we can see what’s the important piece of information we need to take in at any moment. Life isn’t always a close-up with only our viewpoint. Sometimes it’s wider and sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with us at all!

  7. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hey Alex.

    That’s a very interesting way of looking things! Love that.

    Yes, sometimes we all need to ‘widen our lens’ a little bit and take a look around. Which is the very theme of ‘Wall-E’ (as far as the humans go).

    Thanks for that. 🙂

  8. t.sterling

    This is getting good and it’s only the 2nd part! It’s just pointing out more reasons why I love this movie and it feels weird because they shots you are pointing out seem so simple, yet I never would’ve thought about it unless it was pointed out to me. If that makes any sense. Either way, I’m aware of it now and will seriously take it into consideration with my writing.

    Unrelated question, well, sorta related, the wee cockaroach… was he eating the Twinkie or just sleeping in it? This became a debate between my family. I couldn’t make up my mind about it, but since you had the picture, it reminded me and I thought I’d ask. And I love that bit. And the spork bit.

  9. Friar

    I like the way the first part of the movie had no dialogue. But you still knew what was going on.

    Because the dialogue was in the long-shots. It’s like these scenes played the part of the ‘Actors”, communicating to the audience without using any words.

    (Ohh…now doesn’t that sound DEEP…!?)

    I’ll be quiet now, because I’ve just sprained my brain and can’t think of anything else intelligent to say. 😉

  10. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ T – Glad you’re liking them! I love this kind of stuff. And the fact that you haven’t thought of it before is a *good* thing.

    When I watched it the first time, this wasn’t where my head was. I was just enjoying it and thinking just how they were doing everything so right. I was looking forward to looking back on it to see why it was so right.

    As far as the cockroach, I think he’s eating the filling and sleeping in there. They probably throw away the Twinkie part when it’s done. I mean the filling is the best part! (And Twinkies are the only food that would last 700 years). 🙂

    @ Friar – Oh, you are *such* a tortured intellectual, aren’t you? Always spraining that wonderful brain of yours… 😀

  11. Friar

    Well, all this talk about Wall-E, now I want to go it Wall-E again!

    (I actually saw it last summer at a Drive-In of the few remaining ones left in the area…a throw-back to the 1950’s.). That’s how movies SHOULD be seen.

  12. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Yeah, lucky you for seeing it in at a drive-in! Those are so rare these days, it’s a shame. I’ve been to a few in my time and it’s *so* much fun.

    We sound like a couple of old fogies here… 😀

  13. t. sterling

    That makes sense… and I completely forgot about Twinkies lasting forever. That alone brings mroe joy to my day laughing at that little joke. Those who laugh last, thinks slowest.

    Anyway, I miss drive-ins too, and I am definately not an old fogie. I probably should be because of my taste of movies and music, but still… The only movies I can remember seeing drive-in-style: Beauty and the Beast and Men in Black (while trying to sneak a peek of Face/Off which was playing behind us). Good times indeed.

  14. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    That’s why they chose Twinkies. All that will be left in the world is cockroaches and Twinkies! Lucky cockroaches.

    Cool that you’ve been to drive-ins too! They were a little more scarce in Canada (but we have/had them). My family would go to Vermont every summer and go to the drive-in. I saw quite a few movies at that one. Lots of summer memories. 🙂

    It’s a shame some kids are watching great movies for the first time on an iPod for goodness sakes! *sigh*

  15. Pingback: The Full Shot: Dissecting Wall-E | Karen J Lloyd's Storyboard Blog

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  17. Fatima

    THANK YOU! Now I know the difference between wide shots and long shots! Every other web site I came across told me they were the same thing.

  18. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi Fatima! You’re welcome.

    And yeah, most books and websites *will* say that because in a way, they are. This was MY take on things because I think there SHOULD be a difference between the two. So I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else would disagree with me on it.

    But it’s my own way of differentiating between them, because it’s my blog and I can do what I want. Ha! I kind of made up “full shot” too. 🙂

    I just want to warn you that if you label them as such, someone else still may tell you they are the same thing. That’s why I called the widest one “extreme”. So be prepared.

    But I’m really glad this helped!

  19. Pingback: Storyboard: “C?nh xa: Phân tích Wall-E” « Truong's blog

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