Phil Caimbridge: Someone back East was having an 'Ed Wood Day' and were going to show his films, and when he got that letter, he was just... thrilled. I mean, he brought it into work, and he read it to me twice, and said, 'You read it!' I read it. He said, 'Isn't that nice that somebody remembers me, and that someone thinks of me.' And Ed Wood, to me, had always been this old drunk who wrote porn.
The friendship between Ed and Bela. To paraphrase the man himself, nobody gave two fucks for Bela. Then he just happens to bump into one of his few remaining fans, Ed. By chance, Ed is itching to get into movie making, and once he does, he casts Bela in his films and gives him the first work he has had in years in an attempt to revive his career. Becomes a Tear Jerker because obviously, he failed.
The fictional meeting between Ed Wood and Orson Welles. It may come across as a cliche Meet Your Hero pep talk moment, but it's a little deeper. Wood is considered to be the worst director in history, Welles one of the best, and here they are discussing the troubles of their careers and getting along like they'd make good friends.
Ed: Mr. Welles...is it all worth it?
Orson: It is when it works. ... Ed, visions are worth fighting for. Why spend your life making someone else's dreams?
Plus, Welles completely ignores that Ed is wearing a dress. Through the whole film he's been very anxious about people discovering his habit, and then his hero doesn't seem to even notice.note The bar is next to the studio lot. Welles probably assumes Ed is an actor still in costume.
The making of Plan 9 from Outer Space. Ed sees his cinematic vision come to life and it is an experience enjoyed by all. Then the premiere. Ed runs down the aisle to a massive applause and gets to see his creation on the big screen, finally feeling what it's like to be the big shot director he's always dreamed of being. It almost makes you forget that the film we're talking about is Plan 9 from Outer Space.
The fact that Burton avoids showing the poor reception of the film and instead ends the moment on Ed Wood, realizing that this will be the film he be remembered for. And for now, that's all that mattered.
After the disastrous screening, Bela spends his final onscreen time delivering a speech to some onlookers and enjoying the attention, even graciously giving an autograph to an eager fan. He did enjoy a resurgence in fame after all.
The entire film is arguably one for Tim Burton. He takes a man whose very name is considered shorthand for bad filmmaking and treats him with the utmost respect. At no point are we meant to laugh at Wood or view him as a pathetic figure but we are encouraged to admire his determination and utter joy for filmmaking.
The heartwarming thing is that there's quite a few parallels between Wood and Burton; Burton naturally has more talent, but you can see his similarities to Ed in the scene with Welles. Wood was someone compelled to make his dreams, with his cast - his favorite star, but he lacked the talent and money to properly put these things across. It really puts Burton, his use of Johnny Depp, and his approach to filmmaking in perspective.
This is especially poignant considering Burton's early career - he worked at Disney as an animator (and actually worked in films like The Fox and the Hound before splitting from the company) and he absolutely despised it, as he had to draw in a very specific style and any additional creativity from them wasn't allowed. For a long time, he had the talent and vision, but no way of expressing it.
Kathy's instant acceptance of Ed's cross-dressing.
Ed believing that Bela would have loved the idea of rising from the grave and this gains new meaning when Bela does in some ways receive new recognition long after his death.
Years after his death, Ed Wood finally achieving his dream of being a famous director and having people get joy from his films. Maybe not in the ways he'd originally planned, but one doubts the man would care just so long as the people enjoyed them.
The final scene in the movie cements this. His joy is sensing that people will remember him for this, not that he genuinely made a good-quality classic. And maybe that's all that really mattered to him.
The epilogue also notes Bela Lugosi's memorabilia became far more valuable than Boris Karloff's. Like Wood, his star shown bright after his death, too.