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Obnoxious Product Placement: Wall-E Falls in Love With an iPod


Film's heroine a dead ringer for Apple MP3 player.

When it comes down to it, Wall-E's just a love story. With robots. It's a robot love story. Someone get out the Valvoline.

Critics and audiences gave the film rave reviews, but chief among the enthusiasts had to be Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs.

Because Eve, the object of Wall-E's affection, is a sleek, white, futuristic robot that looks just like a floating iPod. And for 98 minutes, Eve whirls around the screen screaming, "I am the future of technology!"

Eve isn't exactly product placement. She's more like product personification. Jobs is renowned for demanding anthropomorphical design - that is, giving his gizmos human-like qualities. It's the secret ingredient that not only keeps Apple's products engaging, but also weirdly lovable. Eve's transformation in the film from a cold, emotionless robot to Wall-E's spirited, human-like lover is the stuff dreams are made of.

obnoxious A little background: When Wall-E director Andrew Stanton first envisioned Eve, he had a very clear picture in his head of what she should look like: "I wanted Eve to be high-end technology - no expense spared - and I wanted it to be seamless and for the technology to be sort of hidden and subcutaneous," he told Fortune. "The more I started describing it, the more I realized I was pretty much describing the Apple playbook for design."

That's when Jonathan Ive showed up. Ive is Apple's senior vice president of Industrial Design. He's credited with being the visionary behind the iMac, PowerBook G4, MacBook Pro, iPod and iPhone.

Stanton and Ive met only briefly, but the result of their mind-meld couldn't be clearer: From her elegant white exterior to her iPod-blue eyes, Eve became the sexiest robot in the galaxy. Men robots wanted her. Women robots wanted to be her.

A lot of people have referred to Wall-E as Apple's most successful commercial. After all, the film grossed $23.1 million in its opening day. As of October 2008, the film has brought in over $470 million worldwide. That's a lot of eyeballs on Apple's Eve.

Pixar, who produced the film, is owned by Disney (DIS). Jobs is currently its largest shareholder.

Eve wasn't Apple's only shout-out in the film. In one memorable scene, Wall-E is shown listening to his own iPod which, amazingly, has survived 700 years of post-apocalyptic disintegration. We can only surmise that the MP3 player's longevity is a testament to the AppleCare Protection Plan.

However, as Apple knows best, exciting design can change on a dime. Already Eve's uncanny resemblance to iPod feels dated, thanks to the new iPod Touch, a model Wall-E would have loved. And new reports show that even iPod sales aren't what they used to be.

In October, Apple reported that only 14% of its total revenue for the fourth quarter came from the iPod.

In other words, Eve's already old-school.
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