It’s surprising that it took five live action films before Wes Anderson tried his hand at animation; the hand-made, stop motion animation that enables this Roald Dahl adaptation is a perfect match for the gentle, whimsical nature of the director’s films. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a Wes Anderson film through-and-through, whether it’s the wistful, pastoral look, the cast (which features regular collaborators Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, alongside George Clooney and Meryl Streep, each doing excellent work) or the characters themselves, who approach the world with a studied nonchalance that almost hides the deep-seated insecurities and fears at the core of their being.
Fantastic Mr. Fox tells a simple tale of a charming and, yes, fantastic fox whose predilection for thievery lands himself, his family and ultimately his entire community in significant strife as three dastardly farmers seek revenge after one theft too many. But Fox is one of my favourite Anderson films because it’s really about more than that. It’s about accepting that your flaws define who are as much as your talents. It’s about recognising that compromise is not always a failure; even if that compromise requires moving your entire community to the confines of a labyrinthine sewer.
12 thoughts on “Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)”
Love, love, love this film. I think Wes Anderson’s style is much better suited to animation.
I agree! He’s so about style and colour that it seems like the perfect medium for him, allowing him to control the look of the film so effectively.
My only real qualm about his use of animation is that it limits the effectiveness of his close-ups occasionally: there’s a couple times in FMF where it cuts to a close-up of someone to emphasize their emotions at the time, and the puppets aren’t quite up to the task of conveying those emotions as successfully as the voice actors. A very minor complaint!
Thanks for the comment!
Love this film! Always been a Roald Dahl fan, Fantastic Mr Fox being one of my favourite books. I could not wait to see this film as I also have a soft spot for traditional stop motion animation. I am a bit ashamed to say it, but this was actually my first Wes Anderson film, so I didn’t realise the director had already established this quirky and lovely style. Nevertheless I plan to see a few more Wes Anderson films, and I can’t wait.
You’re also right about the effectiveness of the close up, I agree, but I guess that’s always been a problem with all types of animation, including CGI. Subtle facial expressions are the bane of most animators haha!
I was always a big Roald Dahl fan as a kid (and I delved into his less kid-friendly stuff as a teenager), though I admit that I’ve never actually read Fantastic Mr. Fox! You should definitely expand upon your Wes Anderson knowledge – he’s an excellent and utterly unique director. I’d recommend The Royal Tenenbaums as a good place to start; it’s the first film of his I saw and it’s both one of his best and a great doorway to his filmography.
The close-up might be a little nit-picky. I think it tends to work well with simple animation, where a couple well-placed strokes of a pen can convey emotion surprisingly well, but it’s hard to get a puppet (or whatever they use in stop motion) to really capture to full gamut of human feelings. Thanks for the comment. 🙂
Oh! My older sister read Dahl’s more adult/teenager books, I think if I remember correctly there was a TV series based on his collection of short stories which I used to watch. Never read the books though. The Royal Tenenbaums? Thanks for the suggestion, I will have a look into that!
You are correct, I agree, I think it probably does work better for simpler animation, particularly because it’s either exaggerated or we don’t expect there to be subtle expression so we are more forgiving and fill in the gaps. There was this wonderful video (it escapes my mind to where I saw it) which it explained how the closer an object/drawing is to portraying/resembling an actual human the more we expect it to do ‘human things’ which is why it looks odd/creepy when they don’t quite live up to our expectations. No problem. 🙂
Yes, “the uncanny valley” is how I’ve heard that described! You see a lot in video games where they’ve almost got the characters to look human-like, but it’s both not good enough and too good, so it’s just …creepy.
It took me more than one watch to fully appreciate Anderson’s choices here. I appreciated it when I first visited it in theaters, but it became richer in repeat views on DVD. That being said, “Moonrise Kingdom” is probably my favorite Wes film, although I haven’t seen “The Royal Tenenbaums” in a number of years, so I should give that a fresh look. Anderson is a unique talent. ML
I’ve actually only seen this film twice, so I look forward to growing in appreciation of it in future viewings. I’m very much uncertain when it comes to my Anderson film-rankings; my top 3 is the same as yours, but I oscillate between Tenenbaums’ deep cast of characters and surprise poignancy and Fox‘s impressive, unique world. I loved Moonrise Kingdom but I think I’d put it under those two after only one viewing … might reconsider when I re-watch it on the Blu-Ray I just picked up!
This movie is so good that I recently accidentally purchased it twice. Admittedly, I am a bit biased when it comes to Wes Anderson films. I love that crazy kook.
Haha, I may have to buy this twice as well! The DVD I bought didn’t get “unlocked” (where they use the magnetic thing to make sure the case actually opens) when I purchased it, so rather than doing the rational thing and take it back to the store from which I bought it, I smashed the case open with a hammer…
I loved this movie! Wes Anderson is a director I actually don’t know too well, but I’ll definitely be checking more out after this
Definitely worth exploring his filmography (if that’s even a word). He’s a very definite auteur, so if you like one of his films you should at least appreciate the others. I actually just ordered Matt Zoller Seitz’s awesome-sounding book on Wes Anderson (http://www.avclub.com/articles/matt-zoller-seitz-the-wes-anderson-collection,104125/) so I’m looking forward to that!