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

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