With all the fanfare and controversy surrounding Spike Jonze's recent adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's story Where the Wild Things Are, fellow wunderkind director Wes Anderson's own foray into children's literature, Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox, might be flying in slightly under the radar. But the stop-motion story of a fox and his family, as they match wits with a trio of unpleasant farmers who will stop at nothing to thwart the mammalian bandits, is fairly spectacular. For his part, Anderson, 40, had been mulling this story's cinematic possibilities for many years, and the result is a funny adventure that bears the stamp of both the corduroy-clad director and the British-spy-cum-children's-novelist.
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The film opens with the Davy Crockett theme song from the old Disney show. That ditty really brought back a few things.
I know. I had that idea to use Davy Crockett, but I hadn't heard that music in so long. And I kind of liked his hat. His hat is like our main character.
Davy, who killed a bear when he was only three, was a precocious youth, much like Kristofferson in your film. I understand he's voiced by your little brother.
Yes, that's right. He did a good job. He actually mentioned to me that he thought the dynamic between Ash [voiced by Jason Schwartzman] and Kristofferson was the exact re-creation of the dynamic between me and my older brother, which had never occurred to me. But I think he may have been playing our older brother. When he said it, I realized that it's exactly who it is modeled on.
Mr. Fox isn't the first bushy-tailed animated hero. Does your protagonist owe anything to the Robin Hood cartoon of yesteryear? How do they differ?
Well, ours has real fur. [Laughs] Made from a goat, I think. To use fur, you've got to follow a lot of careful rules. But anyway, stop-motion just has its own feel to it that's not like anything else, I guess.
I had never really thought about where the term foxhole came from before watching this. Who would you want to be in one with if you were surrounded by a group of homicidal farmers?
That's a good question. You know, this is where I relate it to Dahl. I think he would have been a very valuable person to have in any kind of crisis like that. Because he is the kind of person that would come up with the kind of idea that Mr. Fox has. When his son had life-threatening meningitis, Dahl understood the medical issue, but the doctors had no way to solve it. He hired a guy—he had an idea for a sort of valve—he hired a guy and they worked on a design and manufactured it, and then the doctors actually used it, saved his son's life, and it went into common usage. That's a rare thing to have an author father who will approach an issue like that.
Mr. Fox's son just wants to impress his thieving dad and earn his bandit hat. Have you earned yours yet?
I didn't receive one. In fact, I meant to get a set of puppets at the end of the thing, so I will have six bandit hats at that point. But I haven't gotten those yet.
In the movie, the kid wears a tube sock on his head.
We've actually been doing translations for Germany and Italy and Spain, and tube sock is not an easy thing to translate. They don't really do that in a lot of countries. And the other thing is, in the scene where he puts on the tube sock, you can see it has a heel. So it isn't really a tube sock at all.
I don't know if I realized they lacked heels, but that makes sense.
Yeah, they don't have any shape at all. They are the worst sock you can get. But I think in Germany, it will be a tennis sock.
Fantastic Mr. Fox opens Nov 25.