Bill Murray has become as much a staple of the films of Wes Anderson as pastel colors and pretentious characters. At this point, it’s about a forgone conclusion that if Anderson has a film, Murray will be part of it in some way. The actor recently confirmed that he will be joining the director’s next film, but in voice only, as the project will be Anderson’s second stop-motion animation feature. This time Murray will voice a dog.
Bill Murray has been in every one of Wes Anderson’s features since 1998’s Rushmore, and the next one will be no different. According to Indiewire, Murray confirmed his participation as part of a press conference during the Marrakech International Film Festival, where he is receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award. Murray didn’t give us much detail, beyond his character and the inspiration for the story.
I'm playing a dog. He's doing another, like a stop-motion animated kind of comedy sort of like Fantastic Mr. Fox. And it's a Japanese story, and I'm playing a dog. I'm very excited.
We had heard previously that Wes Anderson might return to the stop motion style of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, although, at the time, the information was that he would be using an Italian neorealist style in the art direction. While this doesn’t dispute that, the idea of using a very Western art style with an Eastern based story would make for a fairly odd combination. If anybody can make the two ideas work together it’s Anderson.
Murray will reportedly be joined by other Wes Anderson alumni Jeff Goldblum and Edward Norton, as well as Bryan Cranston, who will be new to the Anderson film world. Murray also appeared in Anderson’s previous stop-motion feature as the voice of Badger. The Fantastic Mr. Fox was based on a novel by Roald Dahl. The fact that the story is "Japanese" here is more than a little vague. It could be based on another novel by a children’s author, or it could be based on a more traditional tale, as dogs are a large part of Japanese mythology and have been used as inspiration for popular media before.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox was a far and away hit with both critics and audiences, with a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes, but the actual audience that went to see it was fairly small as it was only slightly profitable on its comparatively modest budget of $40 million. Still, profit is profit, and Wes Anderson has built enough of a reputation at this point that he has a certain amount of freedom to make what he wants. Anderson has entertained a number of potential projects for the future including, possibly, a Christmas movie that we'd love to see.