Art and Entertainment

fantastic mr fox, mr fox, wes anderson fantastic mr fox
Carlo Allegri/AP Photo
The characters used in the making of the stop motion animation film ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ are seen
at the premiere in New York Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009.

Wes Anderson Reemerges With “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

November 23, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
Director Wes Anderson has garnered a cult-like following of fans taken with his unusual characters and storylines. But adapting Roald Dahl’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” presented Anderson with the challenge of infusing, while not overwhelming, a beloved book with his own artistic sensibilities.

An Introduction to “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

Anderson’s film adaptation of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” Roald Dahl’s book about a rebellious and restless fox, features the venerable voices of George Clooney and Meryl Streep. Owen Wilson and Bill Murray also voice characters in the film, which opens on Nov. 25.

Watch a video about the making of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” on Wired, which offers insight into the intricate animation process, and interviews with the talented team behind the scenes.

Get acquainted with the film’s furry characters, view a photo gallery of images from the movie, or download character icons on the “Fantastic Mr. Fox” movie site.

Wes Anderson’s Unique Approach

If you’re new to the work of Wes Anderson, the poster boy for self-conscious quirkiness, visit The Rushmore Academy. The site has the scoop on all of Anderson’s films, blog entries on his work and an archive of articles written about him and his famous films, such as “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Rushmore.”

In a conversation with Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel, Anderson discussed his mindset going into the film. “My approach to this material was always, ‘How do we get Roald Dahl?’ And ‘How might Roald Dahl have done it?’” At the same time, says Anderson, fans will recognize his unique filmmaking style.

“There’s freedom we got from working this way,” he told The New York Times for an “Anatomy of a Scene” feature. While a clip of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” plays out, Anderson explains his use of puppets of “many different scales.” The technique is something that isn’t possible with live action films, but can be done with stop action films like “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

Reviews of “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

The Museum of Modern Art has named “Fantastic Mr. Fox” one of “The Contenders” for 2009. Every year, MoMa selects “influential, innovative films made in the last twelve months that we believe will stand the test of time.”

In his review of  “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” A.O. Scott of The New York Times writes, “Once you adjust to its stop-and-start rhythms and its scruffy looks, you can appreciate its wit, its beauty and the sly gravity of its emotional undercurrents.” Scott also calls the soundtrack of pop songs “both eccentric and just right.”

But what is the ultimate takeaway from the film? To Scott, Anderson’s “point” is always to express the idea “that truth and beauty reside in the odd, the mismatched, the idiosyncratic.” In “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” the oddity of a human-like family of foxes combines with a distinctly Dahl mood of displacement and restlessness to create a memorably beautiful tale.

In her review of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” for Time Magazine, Mary Pols discusses Anderson’s recent films, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” and “The Darjeeling Limited,” considered by some fans to have been less successful than 1998’s “Rushmore” and 2001’s “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

In recent years, Anderson’s “self-indulgence had swollen to the point where the hole was too claustrophobic for any but his most devoted fans to bear,” Pols writes. But with “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” Anderson has hit the mark once again. The stop-motion film “is both a delightful amusement and a distillation of the filmmaker’s essential playfulness,” according to Pols.

An Interview With Anderson and Jason Schwartzman

In an interview with Abbey Goodman of Rolling Stone, Anderson and Jason Schwartzman, who provides the voice of a character in the film, discuss what appealed to them about “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and why kids are such an interesting audience.

Anderson says “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was the first book he owned, and he liked that “the character is not only the hero and rescues everyone, but is also the one that gets them into the trouble in the first place.” Furthermore, Anderson explained, Mr. Fox “has a sort of flair in the way he talks and he’s inventive, which is a very Dahl-like idea.”

The director also reveals that he and cowriter Noah Baumbach worked on the film’s screenplay at the “Gipsy House” on Dahl’s property, and said elements of the landscape there figured into the film. Voices weren’t recorded “in a really fancy recording studio,” but rather were captured wherever seemed most fitting. “[I]f a scene needed to be shot outside, we’d go outside,” Anderson said. “If there were birds outside, then there were birds animated in the scene.”

The team hoped to express an adventurous spirit in the film, which is what draws kids to Dahl’s book. “[T]here’s that element of danger,” Schwartzman explained. “Dahl’s books and this movie has that.”

Most Recent Features