Pixar’s WALL-E & Hello, Dolly (1969): Worlds Apart yet Connected at Heart

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.

wall-e (2008)

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
The opening credits to WALL-E (2008)

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.
WALL-E and Eve watching the scene of the lovers in Hello, Dolly (1969) holding hands

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.

Michael Crawford & Danny Lockin

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!

Love & War: Marriage in Gone With the Wind (1939)

Image: amc.com

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell’s epic of the Old South, is one of the best selling books of all time. When made into a film in 1939, it became an international phenomenon that has intrigued the public like no other. To this day, Gone With the Wind is still the most succesful movie ever made.

Ripe with complex characters, wonderful performances, and non-stop action, the film thrills in every way possible. In the midst of this sprawling epic are three couples with varying dynamics in their marital relationships. I would like to focus on these in particular: Gerald and Ellen O’Hara, Scarlett’s parents; Ashley and Melanie Wilkes; and of course, Rhett and Scarlett.

Gerald & Ellen O’Hara

Image: Pinterest

Gerald (Thomas Mitchell) and Ellen O’Hara (Barbara O’Neill) are the owners of the Tara plantation. Their pride and joy is wrapped up in every fiber of the land.

Image: gonewiththewindfandom.com

Ellen devotes herself to being the mistress of Tara and is a very capable one. A responsive mother to the emotional needs of her daughters, and a midwife to the women in town, she is highly respected in their community.

The relationship between Gerald and Ellen is platonic and respectful. Coming from the book, theirs was an arranged marriage and while Gerald was wild about Ellen, she did not feel the same about him. Ellen was in love with another man whom she could not marry due to her family’s disapproval. Gerald was always of the opinion that his wife was as happy as he was in their marriage, and I’m sure it would have broken his heart if he knew the truth.

When Ellen passes on, Gerald cannot function without her and sadly, loses his mind. His strength seemed to come from Ellen even before she passed, but it was most definitely buried with her when she died.

Ashley & Melanie Wilkes

Image: lanternhollow.wordpress.com

Our next couple, Ashley (Leslie Howard) and Melanie Wilkes (Olivia de Havilland), are second cousins. In the film Ashley says, “She [Melanie] is part of my blood and we understand each other.” That pretty much summarizes their relationship – it is built upon understanding and familiarity. In the book, Ashley and Melanie share the same interests: reading, culture, and the arts. While this is not spoken of in the film, it is clear that they are cut from the same cloth. They both are peace loving people with not an aggressive bone in their bodies.

Image: directexpose.com

Although Ashley strings Scarlett along with hopes of romance, his heart belongs to Melanie. While he is drawn to Scarlett’s fire and passionate nature, he knows that a relationship between them would not be a successful one. Melanie is much better suited to him. She understands his nature and idolizes him, while he leans on and admires her quiet, gentle strength.

When Melanie passes, Ashley takes on a similar behavior that Gerald exhibited at Ellen’s passing. He then confesses to Scarlett that he cannot live without Melanie. “She’s the only dream I’ve had that didn’t die in the face of reality.” Like Gerald, Ashley’s strength comes from his wife, and it is at that moment Scarlett realizes how her affections have been misplaced for so long.

Rhett & Scarlett

Image: abcnews.go.com

It is love at first sight when Rhett (Clark Gable) first lays eyes on Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). He’s drawn to her beauty, her strength, and to the fact that she is just like him. Rhett admits to Scarlett that they are alike and meant to be together.”Bad lots – both of us. We are able to look things in the eye and call them by their real names.”

Scarlett has a disrespect for Rhett in the sense that he is not a genteel Southern gentleman whom she was raised to admire. He is a self made man who takes advantage of the war by making his own fortune off of it. He has no nostalgia for the Old South nor respects its ways. Rhett is a man of action, ready for whatever life throws at him. He is not the type of man Scarlett has been dreaming of marrying since she was a little girl. That place belongs to someone like Ashley.

Rhett proves himself a capable and trustworthy man despite his scandalous reputation. Although Scarlett doesn’t admit to loving him until the end of the movie, she does come to lean on him in times of need. That’s not something she could say for many of the other men in her life.

Image: Pinterest

You could say Scarlett uses marriage as a tool – sometimes as a weapon, other times as a shield. When she marries her first husband, it is out of spite to hurt Ashley. Not only that, she strategically marries into Ashley’s family, forever being tied to him. When she marries her second husband, it is to save Tara from being taken away from her. When she marries Rhett, it is for the security of never being poor. Unlike most women, Scarlett does not marry for love.

Rhett and Scarlett’s marriage is volatile, tempestuous, and passionate. The times we see them happy together are few, and the tension between them mounts as the film goes on.

Rhett seethes with jealousy as he observes Scarlett in her constant pursuit of Ashley and is deeply hurt by Scarlett’s rejection of him, while Scarlett believes that Rhett is in love with Belle, not with her at all.

Image: Pinterest

Their marriage is characterized by misunderstanding fostered by miscommunication. Neither of them can admit their true feelings to each other. The few times one of them comes close to having a transparent conversation, the other throws a jab and then they’re back to square one – arguing and bickering without coming to a resolution.

Rhett and Scarlett were both strong willed individuals and meant for each other, but Scarlett failed to see the cold, hard facts until it was too late.

Rhett and Scarlett rank right up there with literature and lore’s most famous lovers: Antony and Cleopatra; and Lancelot and Guinevere. However, unlike the aforementioned couples, Rhett and Scarlett did make it to the marriage altar – for better or worse.

This post is my contribution to The Wedding Bells Blogathon hosted by Annette of Hometowns to Hollywood. Click here to read the rest of the blissful entries.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!