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PopEntertainment.com > Oscar Nominees > Feature Interviews - Directors and Screenwriters > Feature Interviews A to E > Wes Anderson

 

Wes Anderson

Auteur Brings The Fantastic Mr. Fox to Life

by Brad Balfour

 
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 5, 2010.

Making quirky films seems like second nature to director Wes Anderson so when word went out that he was going to do the stop motion-animated Fantastic Mr. Fox, expectations were high. And given that it was based on the late macabre children's author Roald Dahl's book made it all the more a film to look forward to. Well, Anderson didn't disappoint and he's garnered several awards and accolades – such as a 2010 Oscar nomination for Best Animated Picture – as a result. Anderson has already won an Annie Award for Writing in a Feature Production shared with director/screenwriter Noah Baumbach.

Between his dry sense of humor and his odd stance towards dialogue and relationships, Anderson and co-writer Baumbach have made this much more than a kid's animated film. Being the auteur he's described as, this former Texan not only features the voices of such stars as George Clooney (Mr. Fox), Meryl Streep (Mrs. Fox), Jason Schwartzman (son Ash), Bill Murray (cohort Badger) and several others but gave them a freedom to incorporate their own ideas into the personality of their animated characters. Known for working with many of the same actors and crew on varying projects, Anderson has turned that familiarity to great advantage on such a demanding project as this stop-motion film. 

Shortly before the film was being released, Anderson did a couple of roundtable interviews from which this Q&A comes.

What was it like writing and collaborating on the screenplay with Baumbach, who you worked with before as the writer for Life Aquatic and as a producer on his film The Squid and the Whale?

We had discussed it a bit in America and then we met over at Gipsy House [where Dahl had lived with his family in Buckinghamshire, England]. I knew that we were going to add a section to the front of it because the book’s not that long and so we got set to work there and we quickly realized that where the book ends it was going to need to keep going after that. We needed to expand the cast a bit. In the book, Mr. Fox has four children and they don’t have names, no identities so we reduced that to one and the visiting cousin. Then we started to come up with things like that.

What was the biggest misconception you had about animation before you made this film?

I thought I would make the script, record the actors, draw the shots, and then I would work with the production designer and make puppets – get everything sorted out – and then hand it over to a team of animators who would animate it. I thought that during the period they were animating it, I might be able to direct another film and then, when they finished it, I would get this stuff back, work with a composer and finish it. It wasn’t like that. It’s much more time-consuming in every way than a live-action movie. There are so many decisions to be made and for two years [it took up] just every second of my life… But I loved it. I don’t want my next movie to be animated, but I would love to do another animated film [some time].

Do you now prefer stop-motion films or live-action?

It’s fun to me, making a movie like this. Everything’s in miniature, so you’re not going to find a location. You’re not going to find props; you’ve got to build them. When you make them, you really do have complete freedom to decide everything and every single that has to be made is kind of an opportunity to add something to the movie. I just don’t concern myself on whether it is too much, whether its overkill. So for me it was really fun. I think in a live-action movie, you have different [kinds of things,] where the accidents come from different places and your location scout and you say “You know what? We’re not going to this, we’re changing everything.”

In this animated film, you’re able to see the fur move and that’s intentional. Why did you choose to do it that way?

Part of my idea to do the movie in the first place was not just to do stop-motion. I wanted textures like that. I wanted that real tactile feeling. A movie like [Tim Burton's] Corpse Bride for instance, every frame is animated. Our style, it doesn’t move on every frame. If you add the fur motions, it gives you kind of a rougher… to me a more noticeable stop-motion feeling.

You didn’t do the voices in the traditional manner using sound booths; you actually went outside and shot it live.

Yeah, we went to a farm in Connecticut. It was actually very fun, and in the end, we got nice sounds – of the wind blowing through the trees and things like that. Those can be added – we have the technology – so really, the important thing we got out of it was [that of] everybody being together. It was a good way to launch it.

Why did you decide to pepper the word cuss” throughout the film? Where did that idea come from?

At one moment we had probably three times as many cusses in the movie. It was a case of when I felt that it was overkill in the film. I started the movie as a children’s film. It’s based on a children’s book and has talking animals. But when we were writing it, we never paid any attention to that fact.
We just wrote what we thought seemed funny. It wasn’t something like we were ever saying, “Will this work for children?” or “At what age will they understand this, or not understand this?” However, we knew it’s a PG movie and there were certain things we started to think of.Cuss...” It was just a way of keeping it PG and… I guess it's pretty obvious. It was just something that we had thought of earlier on and we were enjoying it so we thought some other people might too.

Despite the film being based on Englishman Dahl's book, the film has a very American feel.

It’s a British film by an author who lived there and we made the film there, so for us it was meant to be a British film. But our dialogue was very American. We felt like we could be funnier and more interesting writing American dialogue and it’d be hard to argue that it’s the wrong accent for British animals. So we just decided that we would make the humans British, but the animals [not]. Also, we had people in mind that I wanted to cast and at that point, it meant that I could use a lot of people that I wanted to use.

What was your visit to the late Roald Dahl's house like?

Yes, it was a long time ago, maybe ten years ago. I had met Lizzie Dahl, Dahl’s wife, in New York and she invited me to come to Gipsy House. I knew about the place from… Dahl has this unusual thing of being someone who has written all these children’s books, and is famous among children, but has also written about himself. He has written a couple of memoirs so it was very emotional for me, very inspiring. Also, he not only wrote the book there, it’s set there. At that point I was caught up in the book, so it was a great place to start and that’s why we ending up writing there, because it was so inspiring. You really feel his personality in the place.

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#1 © 2009 Brad Balfour. All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 5, 2010. 

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Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 5, 2010.