The Fantastic Mr. Fox, as you may have heard, is Wes Anderson's best film in years, a meticulously detailed and deadpan movie that, for once, doesn't feel self-absorbed or overly ironic. It's a total delight.
And perhaps because everyone in the room loved the movie, the roundtable interview with Anderson earlier this week was a total delight as well. He was self-deprecating and forthright, looking everyone in the eye when they asked a question and admitting, in one instance, that there was a bit of overkill in the movie. Yeah, I know, it surprised us too. Read below for snippets from the interview, including his explanation of the movie's ever-present word "cuss."
What was the biggest misconception you had about animation before you made this film?
I thought I would make the script, cast it and record it, we'd draw all the shots, then I'd work with the production designer and the people who make the puppets, get it everything all sorted out, then hand it over to a team of animators who would animate it. I thought during that period they were animating, I'd be able to direct another film. It wasn't like that. Instead, it's much more time-consuming in every way than a live-action movie. There's so many decisions to be made. For two years that was every second of my life. We had to figure out a system, I had to find a way that I could be as involved as I eventually realized I wanted to be and still feel inspired and enjoy it. Once we had the system really working, I actually loved it. It was kind of maddening for people around me, but for me it was great. I don't want my next movie to be animated, but I would like to do another animated film.
For a lot of the voice recording, you went up and shot it as if you were doing a movie without a camera, is that right?
That's right. We went up to a farm in Connecticut.
Were there people telling you not to do it?
We didn't really have anybody to say it. Probably if there was some boss around, they would have said, 'Not so sure if this is the way to do it.' But there wasn't, so we just did that. It was actually very fun. I think the important thing we got out of it was everybody being together. It was a good way to launch it.
Why did you want the deliberate herky-jerky look for the animation?
Part of my idea to do the movie in the first place was not just to do stop motion, but to do stop motion with fur. I wanted textures like that. Some of the Harryhausen stop-motion is that kind of thing. If you see King Kong, his fur is bristling through all his appearances in the movie. I wanted that real tactile feeling. In a movie like Corpse Bride, for instance, every frame is animated. Our style, generally two frames are the same.
Did you want that because of the themes of the movie, or was it more of an aesthetic choice?
I think it was because I like the feeling, the magic of stop motion, the charm of it for me, is in sensing that somebody's hands are doing something, that it's handmade. The illusion is intact, but you have an awareness of how the illusion is being created. Something about that is what interested me in stop motion to begin with.
It's fun to me. In 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. But when you make them you have complete freedom to decide everything, and every single thing that has to be made is an opportunity to add something to the movie. I just don't concern myself with whether it's too much or whether it's overkill. I just put everything I can think of that I feel like makes it better. On a live action movie you have a different kind of thing, where the accidents come from different places. The accidents are there in this kind of movie, but it's a very different kind of thing.
Why did you decide to use the word "cuss" the way you do in the film?
That is a case where I felt it was overkill at a certain point. At one moment we had probably three times as many cusses in the movie. I started the movie as a children's film, based on a children's book, and it's talking animals. When were writing it, we never paid any attention to that fact. We just wrote what we thought seemed funny. Once we were into the story, we were never saying 'Will this work for children?' We just sort of did it. Cuss, however-- it was just a way of keeping it PG. I guess that's pretty obvious. It was just something we thought of early on, and we were enjoying it, so we thought other people might too. In England, I don't even know if they have the word cuss in the dictionary. It's maybe more for Americans.
How did you decide to make the humans British?
We intended the movie to be more or less set in England. But our dialogue was very American, so we felt like we can be funnier and more interesting writing American dialogue. It'd be hard to argue that it's the wrong accent for British animals. So we just decided we'd take this license with the animals. I had people in mind who I wanted to cast at that point.