Fantastic Mr. Fox is a tale that was written in 1974 by British author Roald Dahl that follows the exploits of a fox and his efforts to feed his family. In the story, Mr. Fox, in order to prevent his family from starving, steals livestock from the neighboring farms which earns him their wrath. The farmers then assault the family at their home beneath a tree and attempt to dig them out, but to no avail. The story ends with the Fox family along with other animals such as Mr. Badger, continuing to steal from the farmers as they (the farmers) wait for Mr. Fox to emerge from his home. Themes explored in Dahl’s story include imprisonment, as the Fox’s are forced to remain in their home because of the farmers’ ire, and rebellion as Mr. Fox, despite his predicament, still stands up to his family’s oppressors and continues to do so for their (his family’s) sake.
In 2009, Roald Dahl’s original Fantastic Mr. Fox was adapted into a stop-film animation movie by director Wes Anderson and draws upon the voice talents of notable actors including George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray. The themes remain mostly the same in the film (and incarceration/imprisonment and rebellion) but the story itself is far more complex than Dahl’s original story which was directed toward children of a very young age. The set-pieces used utilize a broad color-palette as well as the animals’ costumes which, in an effort to add even more personification, are reminiscent of an American family living in the 21st century. The soundtrack contains a mix between whimsical musical scores composed by Alexandre Desplat, and other songs from various artists including the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones.
In adapting Roald Dahl’s story into a watchable medium, it is no surprise that Wes Anderson was forced to take some liberties in the narrative. Although the over-arching plot remains the same, there is much more character development between the Fox’s and their neighbors; an element which is likely heavily demanded by the movie-going masses. Anderson also did well to add a great but subtle degree of humor that can be seen in instances involving the animals’ very “PG” variation of swearing. As a whole, the narrative and plot of Dahl’s story remain largely the same with minor variations that only the most passionate of Dahl purists would turn their noses up at. Anderson succeeded in making a simple children’s story into a tale that is able to entertain its original audience and a new, more mature one simultaneously.
3rd Party Sources
A six-piece analysis of the film written by Oswald Iten that explores the thematic elements and their effectiveness in Anderson’s adaptation.
A scene-by-scene critique of the filming angles used for each as described in tandem with a description of the scene itself.
An article by John Young posted on Entertainment Weekly’s site that describes his appreciation for the seldom-used stop-motion animation style.
c. Being that stop-motion animation is becoming a rather lost art in today’s age of CGI-enhanced filming, I have a tremendous amount of empathy for anyone who pines for its return. John Young, as a fellow stop-motion enthusiast, did well to emphasize just how effective it was for the adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox. In his critique, he mentions how despite the fact that the animation-style lacks a certain fluidity as seen in certain CGI films, what it lacks there it makes up for it in tangible reality. He touches on the fact that stop-motion, with all of its imperfections, adds a human touch to the viewing experience, saying “It’s strangely comforting to see the hairs of Mr. Fox’s face bristle as he moves, as if we were deliberately being reminded that human hands were involved in manipulating these one-foot-tall characters”. In sum, gaining Young’s insight for this film can only enhance one’s viewing experience of Anderson’s film as each scene obtains a great deal more detail from his perspective.
The film begins by quoting a song that ends Dahl’s book, and then shows a picture of Dahl’s book. Why would the film-makers do this? Why not just start the story without evoking the literary source for the film? Why is it important to establish the Dahl brand?
The very beginning of the film involves the quotation of the song about the three farmers that Dahl’s book had ended with which, although not essential to the story, was a wise move in embracing a broad audience. The movie itself takes many liberties in its story and heavily western influences (e.g. the soundtrack & American VA’s) so it could technically have stood on its own without at all acknowledging Roald Dahl’s original tale aside from sharing a name. However, this would have alienated an entire demographic of movie-goers who, being that the book was published in the 1970’s, could have been nostalgic adults wishing to revisit a story from their respective childhoods. There are certain concessions every film must make, even if it is based from a well-established (or well-known) narrative and Fantastic Mr. Fox stands as no exception to this. However, by establishing early on that this story is indeed a variation of the original tale, the film-makers made sure to include a wider audience without detracting any of Dahl’s many faithful readers.