In Uncategorized on 2008-06-28 by Kyle Maxwell

Classic stories appeal to all of us; they work on different levels and across themes. Shakespeare was the greatest writer of the English language because what he wrote resonates even now; the settings and specific language aren’t as important as his understanding of characters, plot, and how to tell a story.

In creating Star Wars, George Lucas consciously tried to imitate myth-making, reaching for archetypes and progressions based in large part on the work of Joseph Campbell. And indeed, where those films work best is when we consider the larger themes they consider, rather than when he got too focused on the superficialities in the later movies.

But this approach isn’t really what drives most popular fiction today. Setting is more important than theme, looks more important than character development, and action or laughs more important than plot. We despair for something with substance, something that will work now and thirty years from now. The truly classic Disney works, from the earliest animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through Cinderella, understood this. We can watch these movies today, as grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the first viewers, and feel just as moved to laughter and tears as they did. Then they forgot this for a while, instead going for the easy, cheap thrills of references to popular culture of the moment. Aladdin was perhaps the lowest point here; so many of Genie’s jokes only make sense in the context of the time when the movie was released.

But they’ve learned from this. This is the same company that gave us The Lion King, a fine retelling of Hamlet. And with the absorption of Pixar, the circle is complete and they have remembered how to tell a story.

WALL-E is the culmination of this trend. Not content to be classified as a “children’s movie” or a “computer animation movie”, it’s not even just a “science fiction movie”. It’s much more than that; it’s a classic story that we’ll remember for years to come. And it works on so many levels that this viewer couldn’t help but see it through many lenses at once.


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