The renowned English children’s author, Roald Dahl, has had the majority of his novels and stories adapted from page to screen, resulting in Nicolas Roeg’s The Withes, Henry Selick’s James and the Giant Peach and Danny DeVito’s Matilda, as well as Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the alternatively titled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Mel Stuart in 1971.
Dahl’s works have this distinctive air of offbeat whimsy and substance that haven’t quite been matched on screen by a filmmaker with the same posture and lifework characteristics as Wes Anderson – although Tim Burton would certainly qualify, as well, his film was a remake of Mel Stuart’s 1971 classic. With The Fantastic Mr. Fox, cult flag-bearer and Criterion wonder-boy Wes Anderson has adapted the story of a thievish family fox, his many talented friends, and his neighboring farmers who disapprove of their survival techniques, which involve stealing chickens from their farms.
Anderson made it big in 1996 and 1998, with arguably his best works, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, where the director established his style of dark, dry humor mixed in with genuine emotion and sensationalized, yet relatable characters – often played by Wes Anderson mainstays Owen and Luke Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray. This culminated with The Royal Tenenbaums in 2001, which brought all of the director’s fashionable and identifiable idiosyncrasies into a comparatively big-budgeted, all-star production that put all other dysfunctional families to shame with its bleak, yet once again, relatable family portrait. Now, he brings his old family (Schwartzman, Wilson, Murray lend their voices) in with the new (George Clooney as Mr. Fox, Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox) and ventures into the realm of stop-motion animation for the first time in his career.
Anderson signed on as director after the film rights were bought for Roald Dahl’s novel in 2004, but two years later, Henry Selick (the animation director at the time) had to leave the project to focus on his adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline” – released earlier this year. Like any live-action Anderson film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox will not appear as traditional stop-motion animation, but since the majority of shooting was done in this tradition, it is classified as such. Voicework, hardly within the confines and comforts of a cozy studio, was recorded pretty much anywhere, according to Anderson. “Well, for this film we recorded all the voices on locations. We went out in a forest, we went in an attic, we went in a stable. We went underground for some things. There was a great spontaneity in the recordings because of that, I think.”**
The script, which was written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding) looks to have all of the deadpan witty bantering that Anderson fans have come to expect and marks the first time the two writer/directors have collaborated since 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The PG-animated film premiered at the London Film Festival on October 14th to warm reactions and begins its platform release on November 13th with a New York, Los Angeles debut.
**quote from RT article