Personally speaking, when I first heard of Fantastic Mr Fox and found out who was a part of it, I knew I was going to see this movie no matter what. After seeing movies such as Rushmore, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Darjeeling Limited, I became a big Wes Anderson fan. The big question for me, though, was this: Is this truly a family movie? Wes Anderson is known to do some pretty grown up stuff, and after Where the Wild Things Are (which was definitely NOT a kids movie) I needed to be sure this would be a movie parents can comfortably take their kids to see. If this is a family movie it has the potential to be one of those wonderful movies that will touch kids and adults equally.
Myself and other family friendly bloggers who had the privilege to be on conference call with Jason Schwartzman (voice of Ash, the son of Mr. Fox) soon got our answer. “This is first and foremost a movie for kids. (This movie is) made for kids with kids in mind.” Jason took care to make that clear from the start. “The response from kids has been amazing. ” He was quick to point out, though, that it is really a movie for everyone. “This is Wes’ most accessible movie for all age groups and all audiences,” he says. “The movies I saw when I was a kid, those are the ones that are still in my head. I feel like this is going to be that for kids now. This is the best movie I’ve been a part of and the one I’m most excited for people to see.”
Jason spoke of how he related to his character Ash, a small twelve-year-old fox who hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet and is living under the shadow of his “Fantastic” father. Jason’s character is a typical adolescent who is still being treated like a child. He also has typical adolescent problems. He likes a girl, but the girl likes Ash’s cousin who’s all the things Ash isn’t. “He’s flexible.” Says Jason. “He does yoga.” He can also do a perfect dive into a swimming pool, while Ash being small can barely muster a belly flop. Jason relates how he, at that age, hadn’t felt like he had grown up yet; he felt little, and he badly wanted his classmates to like him. He wished there was a movie like this when he was a kid to remind him that we’re all OK. “It’s a positive, uplifting, and funny movie,” Jason adds. “(It) will do kids good to see this movie.”
In some ways the Fantastic Mr. Fox is a coming of age movie, but Jason also points out, “This is like a real adventure movie (too), with lots of action, with running and fun freedom — like going down a hill on a bicycle for the whole movie.”
Jason went on to explain how Wes Anderson, while recording the voice work for Fantastic Mr. Fox, had the whole cast stay at a farmhouse. That way if a scene called for the characters to meet around a tree, they did the take around a tree. If they had a scene where they were digging, they would be on their hands and knees digging in the dirt. He related that as a child, he loved to dig in dirt, and this movie reached him on that innocent dirt digging instinct all children have.
But in a world full of 3-D and Computer animation, why be part of a movie with a much more tedious old fashioned stop animation technology? Stop animation is the term for creating animation from an inanimate object by taking a photo of it while moving the object slowly. Each little movement of each character needs to be painstakingly accurate so when the photos are put together the movements appear as smooth as possible. The benefits to it, though, is it creates a movie with a lot of texture and character.
Will viewers accept a movie like this after years of computer animation? “This year has been a good year for stop animation,” says Jason. “I love Pixar and love all animated movies, but I’m really happy to see stop animation coming out in a wide release. It’s a beautiful art form, and it’s good for the brain that this isn’t just computer driven. That it is a movie made by hand with puppets and little micro sweaters that all have been knitted, and little corduroy suits and all the sets are made by hand. I think it’s good for the eye (and) it feels good to watch the movie.”
Fantastic Mr. Fox opened in limited released November 13th and will be playing everywhere starting on Thanksgiving, November 25th.
Gabe Stampone and his family live in Rochester, NY.