Since it is school vacation for many of us, I thought it would appropriate to feature a family movie. For those of you without kids, don’t turn the channel – you’ll like it too! Every once in a while a film comes along that totally surprises me. Fantastic Mr. Fox was one of them. This quirky Wes Anderson movie is a total delight in every way. It appeals to children with its whimsical colorful characters and entertaining story line but adults will love its intelligent witty humor and incredible visual attention to detail.
Mr. Fox with his director Wes Anderson, courtesy of Vanity Fair
Based on the book by Roald Dahl, one of my favorite authors, it features the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon and Owen Wilson. This tale of a naughty thieving fox is told in effective stop action animation that is a bit off-putting at first but as it progresses seems perfectly suited to the action and story line. The movie has a very handmade feel to it, enhanced by the puppets’ fur and the rough yet charming quality of the animation. I am normally not a huge fan of animated features but this is a much more artistic variety and like many of Anderson’s films, has a personal “auteur” feel to it, focussing on personalities and family problems. Even though this is a family film and animated, many of Anderson’s themes still come home to roost here as well: dysfunctional families with fathers who won’t grow up, mothers holding it all together etc.
I was blown away by the visual effects in this film. Anderson is known for his meticulous moviemaking and it shows here in spades. This tonal shot is a perfect example of how visually attuned he is. And wait til you see the characters’ clothing – Anderson even used his own jacket for that of Mr. Fox to get just the right effect. Here is a video described the painstaking work involved in creating the animation.
Bill Murray here is reaching into the set to fiddle with Badger, his character
Some of the puppets were built at five different scales to create the illusion of depth.
All of these carefully crafted characters had duplicates in case of accidents on set.
this and three previous photos by Greg Williams
Aren’t they adorable?! Don’t forget – they are puppets so all these miniature pyjamas had to actually be made!
The story is appealing to both children and adults and like the best family pictures can be appreciated on several levels. Some of the more philosophical issues will go right over the kids’ heads as will much of the more sophisticated humor. But there is plenty for them to enjoy including Fox’s hairbrained schemes and the basic animal vs. human battle. I asked my daughter what she remembered liking best about this film and she replied she loved the fact that they made a whole film from such a short book and how they managed to expand the characters with such distinct personalities. I read once that Anderson’s stories are based on adults who act like children and children who act like adults and this was never more evident than in this film.
For those of you who have found Wes Anderson too out there for you in the past, give this a try. It has all the wonderful signature Anderson touches you’ll like – obsessive design details in fashion, decor, sets and graphics and a great soundtrack without the human sturm and drang. Watching the trailer make me chuckle yet again!!