I’ve been captivated by Roald Dahl for as long as I can remember. I read all of his books as a child, and discovered his racier and rather more macabre short stories for adults when I was twenty years old or so. If you loved Dahl as a child — I heartily recommend his adult fare as well. Dahl has a penchant for the gruesome, surprising plot twist and shocking resolution. Seriously, his stories give me the best kind of shivers. So when I heard that Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums etc.) was directing a version of Dahl’s story The Fantastic Mr. Fox and it was going to be animated!, I almost blew a gasket.
Not only is The Fantastic Mr. Fox animated, it’s animated in the meticulous and fascinating stop motion style of Rankin/Bass classics like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Most of Rankin/Bass animation in the 60s, known as animagic, was produced in Japan (of course!) with stop motion animator Tadahito Mochinaga.
One of my favorite aspects of Anderson’s work is his scrupulous attention to detail in constructing environments for his characters. Practically every shot is a quirky and brilliant masterpiece of composition and content. From incidental and unnecessary details like the stacks of games in a closet to custom wallpaper and choice of typeface on the spine of a book — every moment is visualized and executed in a particularly Andersonian way.
Nowhere does his personality shine so brilliantly, as in The Fantastic Mr. Fox. One of my favorite subjects when doodling (ask any coworker) is animals (and particularly foxes) wearing clothes. I attribute this to these two facts 1) that I taught myself to read using the tiny books illustrated and written by Victorian naturalist and mycologist, Beatrix Potter, and 2) my mother always read to me from the Tales of Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris, in which are featured prominent illustrations of both Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit — wearing suits of clothes and smoking pipes etcetera. To make a long story even longer — the Fantastic Mr. Fox is filled with animals walking, talking, having families, eating, stealing chickens, and wearing clothes. Awesome. The voice acting is charming, the color palette is exquisite and the entire experience is pure delight. Mr. Fox has a radio! that he listens to Davy Crockett on while doing calisthenics! It is completely apparent that the people who worked on this movie had a wonderful time, and they’ve given us something to treasure.
I only own two movies: 1) a Chinese bootleg of My Neighbor Totoro, sent to me by a friend living in Naning and 2) Grizzly Man, in which Timothy Treadwell befriends Timmy the fox and is eaten by bears. I will soon own three, a legitimate, legal copy of the Fantastic Mr. Fox will be the third. Go see it. And cuss everyone who doesn’t love it.