Before the Disney/Pixar film WALL-E premiered in
2008, replicas of its robot star were already showing up on the internet. That’s because at least one
replica builders’ group had a head start.
Scot Washburn explains: “I found an early trailer
for WALL-E and posted it to the R2-D2 Builders
Club around the end of September 2007. There was
such a positive response that ... on October 8th,
I created the WALL-E Builders Club.”
The club has grown to nearly 700 passionate bot
replica builders who mainly exchange information
online, but sometimes meet at nerdy conventions.
So, what inspires grown men (almost exclusively)
to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of
dollars to replicate a cartoon robot?
“He’s a very sympathetic character,” says club
member Guy Vardaman, a web developer from
Burbank, Calif. “He’s innocent-looking — yeah,
those large eyes. But he also looks somewhat
rugged, with his tank-tread drive and all of those
scrapes and dents on his body. He looks realistic,
too; like you can believe he’d actually work.”
Maybe that’s what launched a thousand WALL-Es:
he looks easy to make, at least as a static replica.
Articulated WALL-Es, with a working drive, sound
effects, and radio control, are harder to come by.
“My WALL-E will be radio controlled, so he’ll move
around on his treads,” says William Miyamoto, 42,
a stay-at-home dad and actor from Los Angeles.
“I plan on articulating his head and arms. He will
also have a sound system so he’ll say things and
play sounds on command.”
The club is collaborating to design a track drive
that members can replicate. Members point out a
myriad of benefits to working in a group, such as the
pooling of talent, expertise, and purchasing power,
plus the trading and sharing of parts.
But there are also the more human aspects. As
one member put it: “When you’re building something that takes months or years to finish, you can
run out of steam. The encouragement of the group
can make all the difference.” —Gareth Branwyn
>> WALL-E Builders Club: makezine.com/go/wall-e
Photograph by Cory Pacion
20 Make: Volume 20