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Pixar’s next feature film is titled Wall*E — but how many of you know what the “*” in the film’s title stands for?
The story is long and interesting, but in the interest of my not having to type so much, I’ll just give you the boring details.

In 2001, the folks at Pixar decided that they should do a movie about robots. They did a lot of brainstorming about plot and design, but mostly they just discussed the robot’s name — what should it be? Obviously, it should be something robot like, and since people were so used to seeing a lowercase “i” in the names of computer equipment (iPod, iTunes, iGlasses), something with one of those might be nice. They also wanted the robot’s name to reflect the fact that it lived on a planet where insurmountable walls of garbage had made the place unlivable.

Hence the name iWall was formed.

But that name didn’t last long. Common wisdom was that the name sounded too much like the name of a country (I-ran, I-raq, I-reland). Well, what if they put the “i” at the end of the name? “Wall-i” — hmmm.

Wall-i sounded good, and it fit with the fact that the robot was supposed to have a lazy eye. But it never caught on. People started referring to the robot as “Wall-a,” “Wall-o,” “Wall-u,” and sometimes “Wall-y,” which was actually close to a real name. The idea of a name that sounded like a real name was appealing, so to appease the it-needs-to-have-a-vowel folks the robot was rechristened “Wall-e”.

So far so good. But wasn’t a hyphenated name passé? And might it not make people think that “Wall-e” was a hyphenated last name and robot’s parents were Mr. Wall and Ms. e? So other forms of punctuation were tried:

Wall/e
Wall?e
Wall@e
Wall^e
Wall[e
Wall:e
Www.all.e
Wall_e
Wall Wall:-)e

And, finally, Wall*e.

But why an asterisk when some of the other bits of punctuation look much better? The answer is simple — there’s a footnote in the middle of Wall*e’s name. In the film, if you happen to catch a glimpse of the bottom of the tread on the robot’s foot, you may see the text of the footnote: “*Formerly Wall-i.”

Neat, eh?

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