Fantastic Mr. Fox Goes to London
Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox (which opens Nov. 13 from Fox Searchlight) took London by storm this week, as it kicked off the 53rd Times BFI London Film Festival Wednesday night with a gala screening at the Odeon Cinema - Leicester Square and reception at the Saatchi Gallery. And it's clear that the late Roald Dahl remains a cultural institution, which was evident during Wednesday's press conference and a Tuesday visit to the elegant 19th century family estate in the village of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire.
Dressed in the same corduroy outfit as his Mr. Fox puppet, the soft-spoken Anderson explained at the conference that the Dahl book was the first one that he owned as a child and it has gripped him ever since. He was determined to make a stop-motion feature from the children's book about a domesticated Fox that resorts to his wily, chicken thieving ways behind his wife's back, and the destruction it causes for his family and friends.
However, given the controversial Los Angeles Times article last Sunday by Chris Lee, most wanted to know why Anderson chose to stay in Paris while animation took place at Three Mills Studios in East London (where Corpse Bride was filmed and with a lot of the same crew).
"Stop-motion animation is a very slow, painstaking process," Anderson conceded at the press conference before explaining that he needed to find a procedure that would allow him to oversee every detail of the movie in Paris while 30 crews were shooting at Three Mills. Call it expedient multi-tasking, as the animators emailed him files twice a day while the director had a direct feed to view every set in realtime.
As one insider noted, "I think his fascination with the fine detail of clothing is fascinating -- the correct position of a button hole in an animated character's jacket, his interest in keeping the 'imperfections' of traditional stop-motion, his lack of interest in polished finish."
Producer Allison Abbate (who will soon embark on Tim Burton's Frankenweenie in London -- maybe in black and white and maybe in 3-D) explained that Lee visited the set while they were still tweaking the process when some of the frustration was observable. But she said it is not uncommon for a stop-motion director to work remotely with advances in technology, and noted that Tim Burton was not on set every day during Corpse Bride either. He was simultaneously making Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Not surprisingly, Anderson admitted that his biggest inspiration was Le Roman De Renard (The Tale of the Fox) by Russian stop-motion pioneer Ladislas Starevich, particularly for its use of multi-scaled puppets, including minis. There were 535 puppets made by the famed crew of Mackinnon &Saunders, and they predominantly utilized four scales.