Define Dancing

“Dancing: a series of movements involving two partners where speed and rhythm match harmoniously with music.”

One of the many joys of watching a Pixar film is the elegance of the animation. While other animated films, especially those that are computer-generated, come across as flat and two-dimensional, the artists at Pixar have a unique talent for making truly breathtaking, cinematic images. One of those magical moments is the “dancing” scene from WALL-E (2008).

According to director Andrew Stanton’s DVD commentary, originally the sequence was staged to a Bing Crosby recording of “Stardust,” then later by an Ella Fitzgerald song. “But Tom Newman really wanted to score something here.  And when we really looked at the film we thought…it really would make more sense that whatever theme you play when [WALL-E] first sees EVE fly on the planet that you would reprise it in some way when the two of them fly around the Axiom because he’s kind of getting to join her now and that would give you a little bit of an advancement in their relationship, just emotionally and musically.”

Harps, gentle bass and percussion lines, and swelling strings echo in space as WALL-E and EVE perform their intergalactic pas de deux against the backdrop of a magenta nebula, trailing blue neon rings and a tail of crystallized gas from a fire extinguisher. Thomas Newman’s elegant score carries them weightless in space, borne aloft on the power of their new-found love.

Astute listeners will recognize the melody from the end credit song, “Down To Earth,” co-written with Peter Gabriel. Newman loved the song so much that he went back and rescored the scene to provide an even fuller version of the song’s tune, which was first heard earlier in the film as Eve flew on the planet. As Stanton said, the tune provides “a nice synergy to the whole film, a nice arc playing through the whole thing.” Newman and Gabriel won a 2009 Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement for the track.

For me, “Define Dancing” defined great film music in 2008.

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