Hello, all! I’m coming at you from a very different angle today. My friend over at Movies Meet Their Match is hosting a blogathon this week celebrating Pixar films. Since Hello, Dolly is such an important element in the Pixar film WALL-E as well as a fun, exuberant movie, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to talk about the connection between these two award winning films.
Now, looking at the two photos above you probably think I’ve lost my mind; but remember, looks can be deceiving.
Andrew Stanton, one of the many creative geniuses behind WALL-E, directed and co-wrote the film with Pete Docter, the current chief creative officer of Pixar. Stanton and Docter came up with the idea of a robot who was left on earth after humankind had left due to the overabundance of trash. Tasked with cleaning up the earth, WALL-E lives a life of monotony and loneliness. One day he sees another robot and falls in love. WALL-E goes after her, taking off on an exciting adventure, and brings positive change to those around him.
Stanton had always loved the classic film aesthetic, and for this film he knew he wanted to juxtapose sci-fi with retro. Having been involved in musical theatre in high school he knew he wanted a show tune for the opening of his film. While searching for the right fit he heard Michael Crawford sing the words “Out there” from Hello, Dolly. Stanton knew it was the one.
"I knew it was the weirdest idea I’d ever had, so I kept it to myself for a while until I felt I could better justify its use. Then I realized the song is about these two naïve guys, who’ve never left their small town, and just want to venture to the big city for one night and kiss a girl. That’s my main character!" - Andrew Stanton
Stanton was intrigued with the idea of making an animated film in a different way than had been done at Pixar – without dialogue. While the whole film could not be presented as such, the first thirty minutes is just that. Stanton knew this approach would require additional story telling techniques. Again, he turned to Dolly for help.
I started exploring the other songs in the play, and when I found ”It Only Takes a Moment,” it just became this godsend because I was always looking for ways to tell the story without the need to use conventional dialogue. This song became a great device for showing WALL-E’s interest in what love is, and it gave him a way to convey his love for EVE. I happened to have read somewhere that holding hands is the most intimate public display of affection, which led to the idea of WALL-E learning that action by watching the movie. Suddenly I was desperate: ”I’ve gotta get a copy of Hello, Dolly! Please, please, please let them show these two lovers holding hands!” And they were! I took that as a sign that it was meant to be to have these songs in the film because Hello, Dolly! was suddenly helping me tell the story. - A.S.
Hello, dolly (1969)
Hello, Dolly (1969) is a film adaptation of the successful Broadway production of the same name. Based on Thornton Wilder’s play The Matchmaker, the story concerns a widow (Barbra Streisand) who tries to content herself with being the village matchmaker but soon realizes that she is lonely and needs more out of life. Dolly schemes to get Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau), the “well known unmarried half-a-millionaire,” for her own and sets up Vandergelder’s shop clerks (Michael Crawford and Danny Lockin) with his love interest and her shop assistant.
20th Century Fox, hoping for another Sound of Music (1965), poured SO much money into the production and it shows. The visuals are stunning – filmed on location in the beautiful Hudson Valley area of New York with costumes by the amazing Irene Sharaff. Sadly, the film did not recoup it’s production costs, a staggering $25 million! Nonetheless, this film deserves to be viewed and appreciated for its scope and heart. The creative team is top notch: screenplay by Ernest Lehman; directed by Gene Kelly; and cinematography by Harry Stradling. Jerry Herman wrote the score and Michael Kidd choreographed the dances. The talented cast sparkles throughout the film with contagious energy and each of the production numbers are pure joy to behold.
Both of these films are love stories, just with very different packaging. For Dolly, her loneliness and pursuit of love pushes the story forward, bringing a whole cast of characters together, making the town a happier and better place. For WALL-E, it is the same. He desires to be loved and his pursuit of Eve leads him to go on a life (and world) changing adventure.
I’ll leave you with this wonderful story Michael Crawford relayed to Andrew Stanton:
“[Crawford] said when he had to punch the very beginning of the song with the orchestra and say the phrase ‘out there,’ he was never getting it right, and finally [director] Gene Kelly had to come out of the booth and come over to him,” “[Kelly] said, ‘Kid, you gotta sing this like it means more than the world. This is bigger than the universe, just think of the stars.’ And the take that they used was the one where he was thinking of the stars when he sang ‘out there.’ So when he saw the opening of WALL-E and it was just this field of stars, it just blew his mind.”
This post is my contribution to The Pixar Blogathon hosted by Movies Meet Their Match. Thanks for letting me participate, MC. This was so fun! Click here to check out the rest of the entries.
Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!