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"Fantastic Mr. Fox:" Looking at Sets and Directing via E-Mail

by on October 15, 2009

The BBC has taken a look at the detailed sets constructed for the stop-motion animated movie The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which opened the London Film Festival on October 14, 2009, with a wide theatrical release in the UK on October 23, a limited US release on November 13, and a wide US release on November 25. The article notes how director/co-writer Wes Anderson wrote some of the script at author Roald Dahl’s family home, and how Mr. Fox’s study was modeled after the shed where Dahl wrote his books like The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

However, the Los Angeles Times notes how Anderson directed the movie via e-mail, living in an apartment in Paris for most of the year of principal photography at London’s Three Mills Studios and communicating with the animators electronically, while simultaneously making exacting demands that made shooting the film significantly harder. To achieve the look he wanted, Anderson forbade the use of green-screen or CGI techniques, stipulated that the animal puppets use real fur (eschewed by most stop-motion animators for “the material’s discontinuous, blown-by-the-wind look on film”), and required that everything be shot “in camera” rather than added digitally afterwards.

Producer Allison Abbate stated that many directors are absent on set in stop-motion, noting that “Tim [Burton] wasn’t here that much during Corpse Bride.” Director of animation Mark Gustafson stated that Anderson’s requirements “made our lives miserable” and that “There’s lots of things I lobbied against in this movie,” while also admitting that Anderson also challenged him in a positive way in making the film. In contrast, director of photography Tristan Oliver stated that Anderson’s directing of the film was “not in the least bit normal,” and went on to describe Anderson as “a little sociopathic,” continuing, “I think he’s a little O.C.D. Contact with people disturbs him. This way, he can spend an entire day locked inside an empty room with a computer. He’s a bit like the Wizard of Oz. Behind the curtain.”

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