Wes Anderson Talks Fantastic Mr. Fox - RT Interview

The director on moving into stop-motion.

by | October 21, 2009 | Comments

RT Interview: Director Wes Anderson on Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson, arguably the godfather of the quirky American indie thanks to the likes of Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, takes his first steps into the world of stop-motion animation this week with the release of Fantastic Mr. Fox. Based on Roald Dahl‘s classic children’s book, it’s the tale of a wily fox and his adventures thieving food from three of the meanest farmers around; Boggis, Bunce and Bean.

With a stellar voice cast including George Clooney, Bill Murray and Meryl Streep, the film received its world premiere last week at the London Film Festival. On the eve of its global rollout, RT sat down with Anderson to learn more about his passion for Dahl and making the switch to stop-motion.


Fantastic Mr. Fox

[tomatometer]MuzeID=1197696[/tomatometer]

Why did you want to do this book, particularly?

Wes Anderson: It was the first [Roald Dahl book] I ever owned and I particularly thought the digging was something nice for movies. I loved the drawings that were in the book I had. And I do love this character. Beyond that it was just one that hadn’t been done, and it seemed like a great chance. I love stop-motion where the puppets have fur, and with all the animals I thought this would be a good opportunity to explore that.

You spent some time while you were writing in Roald Dahl’s hometown, what was that like?

WA: The place where we went is called Gypsy House, which he bought later in his life, but it’s where he wrote many of his best-known books. Mr. Fox was written there, certainly. We were interested in the idea that we wouldn’t just base it on the book; we’d base it on him. He’d written memoirs for children — which is an odd thing, not many people have written autobiographies meant for children — so from that point of view we were always very aware of him and aware that kids reading his books didn’t just know the books, they knew him. We tried to get as much of his personality into the character, and we also had his manuscripts. In fact, we had the manuscript for Fantastic Mr. Fox, which had a different ending which we used in the movie. That’s a great luxury — to be able to say, “Here’s an idea we can use — it’s not in the book, but it’s from him.”

We came to set in April and we noticed you’d donated some of your suit fabric for Fox’s costume — did you identify with that character specifically?

WA: Not particularly. The reason I used the material from my suit was that I really liked it, and I thought he’d probably like it too. I just thought Corduroy might be good for Mr. Fox!

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Rep_Caption_03_String

You’ve blended your style of filmmaking with Dahl’s style of storytelling — did you find it was a comfortable fit?

WA: Yes, but for me I didn’t, in advance, have an idea of how I expected it to turn out. I knew I wanted to do it in stop-motion and I knew I wanted the animals to have fur — to not be Plasticine or something like that. I wanted it to be autumnal and originally I thought I wanted there to be mud everywhere and it wouldn’t be very colourful. That stayed — not the mud, but there’s almost nothing blue or green in the movie. I thought it would be nice with this sort of handmade feeling. What it really ends up like is the result of a thousand little decisions rather than one overarching thing.

Me and the production designer, Nelson Lowry, tried to design things one way or another but what we figured out was that the more realistic we could make things the happier we were with them. If I was travelling I might see a building or something and I’d take a picture on my phone, send it to Nelson and we might change something about it but we tried to base it as much as we could on research and photos and things. The style is set by how authentic can we get it. How realistic can we get it to look with our resources in miniature, and that’s the look of the movie, basically. Given that the grass is going to be made of towelling and the smoke will be cotton wool, that’s the range, I guess, that we’re working in.

Continue onto page two as Anderson discusses his use of back-to-basics animation techniques and the challenge of working in animation.

RT Interview: Director Wes Anderson on Fantastic Mr. Fox


Fantastic Mr. Fox

[tomatometer]MuzeID=1197696[/tomatometer]

The animation is really pared back to basics; you’ve embraced the “invisible wind” effect of animators’ fingers on the puppets’ fur.

WA: Yeah, animators always think that’s a bad thing, like it’s bad form. But I think they really got into it on this one. They became comfortable with it because there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Also, the stop motion I’ve loved was always a bit primitive — King Kong and the Brothers Quay — you see these objects that you recognise and you’re very aware it’s handmade. The other thing was that, to me, it was more important that the animation have energy and personality and be funny. I wanted it to be fun and upbeat rather than perfect. This kind of animation is particularly suited to that — we can work more quickly if that’s our goal and we can focus on it and make it our priority. I don’t think we could have made the movie if it had been a Coraline level of precision and smoothness. It would have been a $100m movie rather than the $30m we ended up spending.

Did you enjoy exploring the world of animation and figuring out those particular challenges?

WA: It was great. What’s nice is there’s a chance to invent. Everything there is an opportunity, because you can’t just say, “Oh we’ll use a table that we find.” You have to make one. Everything is manufactured, so everything is a chance to see, is there a way to make that funny, to connect it to a character or to find some sort of motif. Also, because it moves so slowly, every aspect is in slow motion, so things kind-of develop.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Rep_Caption_03_String

Presumably you don’t have the luxury to go back and make changes after a certain point in that process because of the time involved in animating shots. Do you have to make all of those decisions ahead of time?

WA: You certainly try to. If something is going really wrong during a shot, then we’ll stop. Sometimes you can find a place — you can go back a bit and say, “OK, let’s take it from frame 63,” and they’ll rearrange everything and try and make it match and sometimes there’ll be a little bump when you see it, which is OK, it’s not the end of the world. But to go back three seconds may mean to go back two days, depending on how many puppets they’re moving around. It’s a big deal and definitely something you want to avoid. Also there are other solutions a lot of the time. It could be adding another shot or ending a shot early, or we can try something with sound or add some elements we can composite into the shot. There are always different possibilities.

Fantastic Mr. Fox arrives in UK cinemas on Friday. It has a limited release in the US on 13th November and comes to Australia on 7th January 2010.

Tag Cloud

Pop USA Network social media Set visit The Purge Emmys disaster award winner Extras Vudu CMT DC streaming service CBS robots BBC adventure Countdown festivals latino casting discovery Ellie Kemper renewed TV shows comic nature TCA 2017 spanish language Song of Ice and Fire medical drama screenings Shudder Tarantino TCM Music theme song Disney streaming service Lucasfilm joker tv talk Masterpiece Sci-Fi series WGN Hallmark Christmas movies ghosts GIFs travel Infographic Peacock Disney+ Disney Plus 21st Century Fox TIFF Interview Netflix Christmas movies south america richard e. Grant A&E National Geographic Lifetime Christmas movies binge finale TV renewals Grammys X-Men christmas movies spy thriller Chernobyl Awards Tour Rocky Star Trek Holidays boxoffice docudrama E! green book technology cinemax independent Awards comiccon Amazon Prime Crunchyroll biography hispanic zombies natural history The CW justice league Acorn TV facebook 24 frames Action crossover Apple TV Plus Thanksgiving streaming Tumblr PaleyFest harry potter Musicals President YouTube Red Fox News Best and Worst Binge Guide halloween RT21 Trailer Musical Adult Swim Christmas spider-man Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Summer Apple TV+ batman cars TruTV FXX dragons witnail teaser Emmy Nominations singing competition MSNBC what to watch First Reviews cancelled TV series Creative Arts Emmys Hulu Certified Fresh GLAAD diversity SDCC sitcom cancelled vampires sequel Amazon Prime Video HBO children's TV zero dark thirty romantic comedy 2016 based on movie cooking TCA Toys A24 crime Disney Plus cancelled television Comic Book Animation book Pet Sematary The Walking Dead LGBTQ Drama See It Skip It anthology unscripted Stephen King mockumentary NYCC Amazon ITV jamie lee curtis toy story Superheroe Crackle 2019 historical drama Showtime Elton John video Winners Brie Larson Mary poppins MCU MTV Watching Series IFC 20th Century Fox VICE San Diego Comic-Con RT History Turner Marvel New York Comic Con 2020 game show WarnerMedia 2015 dceu Writers Guild of America CW Seed Star Wars SundanceTV OWN HBO Max Lifetime Rocketman Paramount Network NBC true crime GoT Opinion Spring TV spinoff Chilling Adventures of Sabrina YA El Rey Kids & Family Spectrum Originals transformers elevated horror PBS dc Oscars Television Academy Super Bowl Polls and Games CBS All Access comics Britbox canceled TV shows Columbia Pictures golden globes Captain marvel aliens Turner Classic Movies Comics on TV Freeform Ghostbusters Quiz miniseries sports CNN Lionsgate DirecTV Dark Horse Comics LGBT Nickelodeon Women's History Month free movies Film supernatural stand-up comedy Sundance Photos Country Comedy Central space Food Network History Esquire Marvel Studios cults Black Mirror Sneak Peek animated Year in Review E3 kids Cannes Reality cancelled TV shows psycho canceled thriller Tomatazos Superheroes cats Red Carpet Heroines Mudbound dramedy political drama romance crime drama Paramount crime thriller movies ratings Winter TV Bravo blaxploitation rotten movies we love Fall TV Starz Netflix Pride Month Election Hallmark The Arrangement slashers Cosplay talk show hist anime war Spike Reality Competition Mary Tyler Moore Schedule television BBC America cartoon police drama DGA science fiction cops Pixar Epix ABC VH1 Disney Channel psychological thriller composers Marathons TNT Rom-Com Family Syfy TV zombie blockbuster IFC Films DC Universe 007 spain ABC Family adaptation Video Games YouTube 2018 Warner Bros. Nominations Ovation American Society of Cinematographers Sony Pictures BET doctor who DC Comics Comedy AMC Pirates breaking bad versus Biopics quibi foreign Premiere Dates First Look Valentine's Day TLC FX serial killer YouTube Premium Apple Universal Walt Disney Pictures Marvel Television Trophy Talk Anna Paquin Mary Poppins Returns Horror 71st Emmy Awards The Witch revenge USA Trivia Shondaland SXSW Arrowverse 2017 Podcast Holiday mutant Mindy Kaling TBS TV Land indie Disney Mystery ESPN APB Sundance Now FOX Cartoon Network 45 Western Film Festival game of thrones strong female leads Martial Arts Classic Film Fantasy Teen werewolf Calendar Nat Geo Box Office politics Rock Logo period drama Character Guide