Fur your information, Fantastic Mr. Fox is Fantastic!


Will Eaton, Writer

Both Roald Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel Fantastic Mr. Fox and its 2009 film adaptation by Wes Anderson are brilliant. The stories differ, but the premise stays the same. Mr. Fox is an anthropomorphic and cunning fox who steals from the three feeble-minded local farmers, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, to feed his family. The trio, exhausted from being outsmarted by Mr. Fox, devises a plot to ambush and dig him and his family out of their home. But Mr. Fox has other plans for the vile farmers.  

Dahl’s original story balances a nostalgic setting of warm autumnal days with simple yet beautiful symbolism. Not only does he create some dynamic characters and an uncomfortably familiar world, Dahl also includes some important moral dilemmas. Likewise, Dahl’s use of comedic dialogue makes for a cuss of a time. Despite my praise for the novel, the film is one of the few times where it is greater than the book.  

The book is imaginative and creative and is accessible for all ages. The first-grade reading level makes for a quick and easy read in a high school study hall. Quentin Blake’s classic illustrations add so much charm and life to the pages. Although the film is not a faithful adaptation of its 96 pages of source material, it takes the work of the novel and makes it into something entirely bigger than itself.  

Anderson’s meticulous attention to detail such as the wrinkles in the tablecloth or the scratches in the home’s armchair reflect how much he cares about the viewing experience, both visually and narratively. The film’s soundtrack also does not disappoint with the likes of The Beach Boys, The Bobby Fuller Four and Rolling Stones. The voice actors include Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray, and each actor perfectly fits their unconventional characters. My favorite visual part though is a scene after Mr. Fox has let his family down, his wife comes and talks with him as they both stand and watch the rain not saying much. The whole scene is handsome and delicate. 

Another key point of the film is that it was stop motion animation. All the characters were puppets filmed by moving the objects in increments while filming a frame per increment. With the key expertise of Ian MacKinnon and Peter Saunders, they were able to bring the director’s unmistakably precise vision to life. But, in Anderson’s case, he wanted to embrace the film work and encourage viewers to appreciate and admire stop-motion animation as a medium in and of itself. Just one example of the crew’s meticulous work was figuring out the character’s fur. The animals’ coats were made up of a mix of artificial fur pulled from toys and genuine goat’s hair colored using supermarket hair dyes. To get each character’s hair color correct they had to individually have specific dye procedures. Meanwhile, the hair for the human characters was taken from the scalps of studio personnel. If I haven’t intrigued you enough yet, it’s also a multiple award-winning film.  

It was nominated for the 2010 Critics Choice Awards and the 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. The Acadamy Awards also recognized the picture’s off-beat beauty and nominated it both for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93% based on 243 reviews and an average rating of 7.90/10. The film also became the second highest-rated animated film in 2009 on the site, behind Up.  

This cinematic jewel is one that will go down as a classic of our generation. If you are looking for the perfect movie for the final days of fall, give Mr. Fox a try. You will not be disappointed.