American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
The thing that struck me first of all about "Robots" was its pictorial beauty. I doubt that was the intention of the filmmakers, who've made a slapstick comedy set in a futurist city that seems fresh off the cover of a 1942 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. Towers and skyways and strange architectural constructions look like an Erector set's erotic dreams, and the ideal skyscraper is a space needle ringed by metallic doughnuts.
This world is inhabited by robots who are human in every respect except that they are not human in any respect, if you follow me. They even have babies. As the movie opens, Herb Copperbottom and his wife are unwrapping their new little boy, who has arrived in a shipping crate, some assembly required. This being a PG-rated movie aimed at the whole family, the robots even have the ability to fart, which is a crucial entertainment requirement of younger children.
But look at the design and artistic execution. Each robot is a unique creation, made of nuts and bolts but also expressing an individual personality, and moving in a way that seems physical and mechanical at the same time. And consider the color palate, which seems to have been borrowed from Fiestaware, which was inspired by the cheap table settings that used to be given away as prizes at Saturday matinees and is now collected by those who inexplicably find it beautiful, such as myself. Even the shapes of some of the robots resemble the plump Art Deco lines of a Fiestaware teapot or water pitcher.
Like "Finding Nemo," this is a movie that is a joy to behold entirely apart from what it is about. It looks happy, and, more to the point, it looks harmonious. One of the reasons this entirely impossible world works is because it looks like it belongs together, as if it evolved organically.