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


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


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


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


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

Starz zombies elevated horror documentary historical drama Crackle renewed TV shows dragons Super Bowl Emmy Nominations Countdown CBS All Access Nickelodeon sag awards rotten miniseries stop motion crime drama halloween tv asian-american The Walking Dead Opinion Pop cars El Rey batman Star Trek Musical Kids & Family 72 Emmy Awards dc revenge toy story Red Carpet ABC Family Watching Series spy thriller Drama Trivia 4/20 ID 20th Century Fox Fox Searchlight Syfy CBS concert The CW Disney sequel DirecTV comic books black romance Amazon Prime based on movie Acorn TV Heroines harry potter discovery Podcast RT21 mutant Endgame Pixar cancelled Creative Arts Emmys Rom-Com films Black History Month cancelled TV shows finale witnail Tarantino Toys Food Network Song of Ice and Fire Binge Guide Christmas Interview green book game show Cartoon Network TruTV sequels Lionsgate President romantic comedy Baby Yoda cooking spanish venice Hulu Disney Plus FXX vampires Fox News Box Office Black Mirror disaster Superheroes Premiere Dates 71st Emmy Awards FX technology Country HBO Go Tumblr christmas movies dceu deadpool rt archives Mary Tyler Moore indie zombie anthology stoner Bravo The Academy TV renewals Marvel Television 45 Tomatazos blockbuster Holidays TLC casting Elton John unscripted Hear Us Out worst superhero FX on Hulu Freeform Dark Horse Comics IFC Films stand-up comedy AMC comic RT History Captain marvel Biopics werewolf Winners Election dark American Society of Cinematographers PBS BBC series spider-man dramedy comiccon Year in Review mission: impossible Musicals BET Awards Trailer Shudder Apple TV+ festival Avengers rotten movies we love halloween doctor who CNN GLAAD YouTube Red Extras HBO Max nbcuniversal PaleyFest Horror cancelled TV series Schedule Peacock Rocketman 24 frames quibi free movies Hallmark WGN travel zero dark thirty Academy Awards Ovation ESPN Spring TV Anna Paquin war Pop TV Pirates Grammys Cannes BBC America serial killer parents Netflix Christmas movies crime Esquire Action Television Academy Set visit Epix Trophy Talk Mary Poppins Returns Disney+ Disney Plus Emmys video Polls and Games Fall TV Sundance Quiz Music book foreign NBC TBS Cosplay chucky movie canceled National Geographic The Arrangement MTV a nightmare on elm street reboot Amazon Ellie Kemper political drama VICE singing competition Teen TNT Martial Arts Star Wars talk show Lifetime crossover MCU Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt south america Pet Sematary toronto X-Men YouTube obituary Infographic PlayStation Masterpiece YA ghosts First Look Sony Pictures BBC One thriller award winner E! LGBTQ Television Critics Association archives IFC hist Film Festival anime teaser spinoff binge DGA game of thrones documentaries ITV Walt Disney Pictures strong female leads mockumentary BAFTA Valentine's Day History Nat Geo Mystery italian fast and furious Comic Book Classic Film Awards Tour universal monsters transformers Warner Bros. Disney streaming service Comics on TV television jamie lee curtis versus A24 TCA Winter 2020 ratings slashers Columbia Pictures Turner Classic Movies TCA 2017 Best and Worst DC Comics richard e. Grant name the review Spectrum Originals Sundance Now Sundance TV cartoon Comedy Central french Writers Guild of America VH1 franchise animated adaptation Calendar A&E LGBT Pride Month Nominations Arrowverse 2016 APB nature DC Universe medical drama Character Guide boxoffice docudrama TV Land spain remakes Amazon Prime Video dogs movies Comedy what to watch OneApp CW Seed all-time 99% theme song BET YouTube Premium Sneak Peek Logo hollywood cinemax video on demand Reality Competition Funimation 2020 ABC TV OWN festivals Winter TV Marvel natural history USA Network emmy awards Netflix golden globes Animation criterion New York Comic Con TCM diversity cancelled television Awards 2017 Travel Channel Reality Disney Channel Alien best Marvel Studios worst movies Photos tv talk Apple TV Plus Summer Discovery Channel Women's History Month Spike GIFs directors SXSW Universal WarnerMedia australia crime thriller children's TV 21st Century Fox GoT HBO cops CMT nfl boxing Britbox See It Skip It First Reviews true crime USA Hallmark Christmas movies canceled TV shows die hard Stephen King Holiday MSNBC Lucasfilm SDCC facebook laika composers Vudu The Purge justice league twilight cults latino Showtime sports E3 Lifetime Christmas movies 2018 VOD Chernobyl Rocky social media Superheroe child's play scorecard space Brie Larson Marathons TCA classics Ghostbusters Video Games DC streaming service Apple joker politics Fantasy Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2019 Crunchyroll police drama satire screenings psycho news indiana jones Paramount cats Mindy Kaling Paramount Network japanese Adult Swim Amazon Studios independent psychological thriller comedies Rock San Diego Comic-Con critics Tubi Sci-Fi period drama breaking bad streaming scary movies biography reviews kids sitcom Turner Western science fiction hispanic Film NYCC Mary poppins Thanksgiving Shondaland james bond football fresh supernatural spanish language Oscars Mudbound Family The Witch screen actors guild comics robots SundanceTV FOX aliens Certified Fresh 2015 007 TIFF blaxploitation TCA Awards adventure