Fantastic Mr. Fox/ dir. Wes Anderson/ 2009
For most of 2009, I would head out to movie theaters usually before noontime and watch animated films in a near empty theater, maybe one or two more adults, and possibly a family. I felt content too, the less the better. By myself, I could analyze the animation, the story, the acting, the characters, etc. and after, while the credits roll, I have a moment or two to process what was just presented to me. However, this all changed after watching Fantastic Mr. Fox. Instead of being an early morning loner, I decided to see this movie on a Wednesday night with my friend, Jessica, and wow what a difference. Before the movie, I had someone to dialogue with about expectations for the movie, and at the end, we were able to chat about our thoughts after. Now obviously I have watched movies with other people before (I ain’t that un-social), but it was quite a long time since I saw an animated feature with someone else (the last time being here), so you can imagine how unique this experience felt to me.
Now how does this relate to Fantastic Mr. Fox? (I bet you were wondering…) After a whole year of watching animated features, they all just kind of blended together. What I got from Fantastic Mr. Fox was something different than most animated features that are released. Yeah, there were some animated features this year that were really good, and some not so good, but none were as unique or as fantastic (Oh and a pun!) as Fantastic Mr. Fox…
Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, tells the story of Mr. Fox, once a chicken thief, but because of a new family has now reformed and become a mundane journalist. That is until one day the urge and thrill to become a thief once again takes shape. Mr. Fox decides to steal from Boggis, Bunce and Bean, three mean crooks who own adjacent farms. After a botched theft, Mr. Fox and family are forced to dig underground to get away from the mean crooks. Unfortunately all the other animals of the UnCanny Valley are sucked in to the dire situation as well. This is the backdrop to an animated feature that is part heist, part family drama, part comedy, part coming of age, and anything else you can throw in. The moments I enjoyed most was the dialogue between the various animal characters, more specifically any scene involving Mr. Fox, voiced by George Clooney. The lines were spoken in a clever, fast, and entertaining way, very reminiscent of other Wes Anderson films, or even Ocean’s Eleven. In fact, all the voice actors were splendid in their roles, and they had to be with a movie that was driven by this much dialogue. A special mention has to to go the Jason Shwartzman, who voiced Ash, Mr. Fox’s son, who yearned for his father’s attention, and Eric Anderson, who voiced Kristofferson, the athletic cousin who DID get Mr. Fox’s attention. Most sub-plots of animated movies fall to the wayside, but the dynamic between Ash and Kristofferson had that right mix and tie-in to the core story. And for me, I enjoyed how the less-than-perfect animals organized to combat and pull off a major heist against a trio of greedy, corporate, old white guys. Something that kind of resonates to my personal life and struggle.
I’ve stated many times that stop-motion is a bitch, and I give major props to any animators who work in this medium. While not the best looking stop-motion feature, in fact at times the animation looked almost unfinished, the old school flat environments and camera movements fit perfectly with the mood and style of the of the film. The most impressive part of the animation was the character designs of the animals: real fur, very human-like and complete with clothes and their own society, yet still animals were apart from the “human” world.
Once again the appeal of Fantastic Mr. Fox was it’s uniqueness. This wasn’t a typical animated feature by Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks, etc. As opposed to cute marketable characters, we got ones that were fall-able and heartfelt, instead of an epic save-the-world story, this was a local genuine struggle. This was something different, and I’m glad that Wes Anderson took a chance on this story and used animation as his medium. Maybe if more animation studios and execs took chances on different approaches on animated features then maybe animation would be seen as something more than just stuff for kids and something that can be much more deep and maybe much more empowering.
But then again… maybe I think this way because there was somebody sitting right next to me.