Fantastic Mr. Fox: Wes Anderson, Roald Dahl and the Stop-Motion
Posted on 30/04/2010 in Specials
The relationship through Roald Dahl and cinema is quite strange. Despite his books for children were among the all time bestsellers since the Forties, the first adaptation from Dahl is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, released in 1971 and written by Dahl himself.
Movies’ adaptations from Dahl’s books begin to proliferate after his death, in the Nineties, and they are quite good movies: The Witches (1990) by Nicholas Roeg, Matilda (1996) by Danny De Vito, James and the Giant Peach (1996) by Henry Selick, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, (2005) by Tim Burton, and the unsuccessful cartoon The BFG by Brian Cosgrove.
The most recent adaptation from Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox by Wes Anderson, which has released in the Italian theaters on April 16, is a high budget cartoon and marks the exciting meeting between two strong personalities, with very different careers and artistic paths.
Anderson (The Royal Tenembaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) is one of the most original contemporary directors, famous for his set designs full of objects and for his complex storyboards, and with this movie, for the first time, he works on a story created by another author than himself. He adapted the book inserting all the thematic and visual trademarks coming from his previous works.
Fantastic Mr. Fox tells the story of a family of foxes, guided by Mr. Fox, a former chicken’s thief who gave up stealing after a promise to his wife. But Mr. Fox is tempted and enacts an elaborate plan to rob simultaneosly three big farms. As consequence, the evil farm owners menace to destroy the entire animals’ community. So, Mr Fox has to elaborate a new plan to save his friends and family.
The movie adaptation focuses only on the central part of Dahl’s book, so Anderson could deepen the characters and focus on details, as the set design of the house of Mr. Fox, full of pictures and objects just like the house of Mr Tenenbaum.
Anderson previously worked with stop-motion animation only on a few sequences of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, so he committed the technical aspects to the producer Allison Abbate, a major guest of Future Film Festival in January 2010. Abbate is specialized in production of animated feature films, as Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, The Iron Giant, and the great Mickey Mouse’s comeback , the short Runaway Brain.
At FFF, Allison told that Anderson was very scrupolous on the set, and obsessed by details, choosing personally every object or dress on scene.
So, in this case Anderson’s job is not a traditional direction, but a sort of demiurgical artistic supervision, which permits director to express his personal vision, even if he’s not keen on animation.
Watching the official making of, here, you can see Anderson at work: starting from very detailed storyboards and movieboards, the director performs the scenes with the puppets in his hands and he studies the maquettes of the set looking forward to choose how to develop the action. Above all, Anderson asks his troupe for a meticulous preliminary work, necessary for tailoring clothes and painting detailed flowers and plants.
The most amazing part of the making of is the final shot, in which George Clooney, dubber of the main character, is recording his lines in an open countryside, running, leaping and throwing balls of hay.
In another featurette, here, Anderson and Bill Murray, dubber of Badger, comment on the characters and puppets of the movie. Puppets of each charachter are shown in their different sizes; in fact, it’s necessary to shoot some sequence with a lot of long shots, requiring very small puppets (for example the baseball match).
Here, a very complex long shot shows the life in a restaurant, with a lot of characters and contemporary actions.
Here, at last, the animated speech of thanks by Wes Anderson during the Special Filmmaking Achievement Award ceremony.