Shelby Forthright was the CEO of the megacorporation Buy n Large in the early 22nd century. Under his leadership, he pushed his company to expand its efforts in making humanity's world easier, more comfortable and pleasant and the company gained global leadership. However, with its advancements in technology, the corporation caused garbage problems on the planet to amass due to consumerism facilitating the corporation. In 2105, Forthright came up with a plan to evacuate Earth, as it was too choked with trash. He also proposed Operation Recolonize, in which trash compactor robots and mobile Incinerators would clean up the Earth while humanity stayed aboard starships like the Axiom. However, after a few years, an exhausted and disappointed Forthright was convinced that the operation had failed. He estimated that the air was too toxic to supply life on Earth, so he decided to cancel the operation and left mankind to move on in space forever.
He ordered all planet-bound machines turned off (though one was missed), and secretly sent Directive A-113 to all AUTO units without informing the other BnL pilots. After the evacuation of Earth, Forthright's fate is left unknown, though it is implied that he left aboard a ship to join the citizens in space, since he is heard saying, "Let's get out of here!" when he puts on an oxygen anti-toxic mask before walking off and died many years later.
It turned out that Forthright's conclusion that life on Earth was no longer sustainable was incorrect; nearly 700 years after his final message was sent out, a single sprout was discovered by the last remaining WALL-E and brought onboard the Axiom, leading to the ship's return to the planet and its passengers rebuilding of civilization.
Forthright is dead by the time WALL-E began, as it had been 700 years since he had ordered the pilots to stay in space.
He is the first (and so far, only) live-action character to appear in any Pixar production. Director Andrew Stanton shot Fred Willard's scenes personally and described Forthright as "[a] lovable car salesman."
His name is a play on the phrase "shall be forthright".
Him standing at a mike podium in a front of a blue curtain with the Buy "N' Large logo on it is a parody of how the United States President does news conferences.
In fact, in a deleted scene, AUTO sees some Shelby Forthright messages, where they show up as a descriptive step where the dates they show us are 2050, 2060 and 2070 meaning that the evacuation occurred in 2050 or 2049. Although it could be that those were the initial dates of where they evacuated only in what year the movie, that could be shown at the beginning of the year 2080 would be shown; perhaps the initial dates of the post-production phase of the movie.