In recent years, Disney's Pixar division, with their monopoly over animation, has churned out some of the biggest, funniest, most emotional material to hit theaters in the last ten years. By this point, the public knows their aggressive marketing campaign and knows it well. Adult humor and themes geared not only toward the kids, but the parent's as well. The mass appeal? Mom and dad can now take their eight year old to the local multiplex and fork over the steep price of admission without wasting it on a two hour long power nap. Last quarter's CGI constructed Pixar extravaganza "Up" captured audiences' hearts, imaginations and pocket books, raking in a less than modest 292 mil at the box office, making it one of the highest grossing animated films of all time. Along comes "Fantastic Mr. Fox", helmed by auteur Wes Anderson, a crack team at Twentieth-Century Fox (Yes, I said Fox) and Indian Paintbrush, one of Wes' collaborators on his predecessor "The Darjeeling Limited". If there's one thing that's detrimental to the Trump-like successes of the Disney powerhouse, it's a new found competition
let the games begin.
"Fantastic Mr. Fox" is a pure delight. A feast for the eyes. From frame one, it takes no time at all to draw you into its beautiful visuals of vast countryside's, running streams and falling foliage, all in marvelous stop motion. That's right I said it, stop motion. From the course hair on Fox's face to the cotton ball chimney smoke of Boggis, Bunce and Beans warehouse smoke stacks, everything's been designed from scratch, much of which involves simple household items. After just a few minutes in Wes Andersons world inspired by written cues from the mind of the British children's author Roald Dahl (inspired by Dahl's own hometown) you're dragged out of the theater and immersed in a faraway land for the entirety of its modest and to the point one hour and twenty minute runtime. The real treat lies in the notion of how long it actually must have taken these top notch art designers to bring everything to life. There are forces at play here that give one a clear sense of the fact that stepping away from a computer screen and getting things done the hard way pays off when witnessing the final product. Production value is staggeringly noticeable and truly memorable. I for one am still transfixed by the universe of Mr. Fox.
Among one of the droves of Wes Anderson fans, I had high expectations going into the film. Anderson is one of those rare writer/directors that manage to separate themselves from the societal norm, branch out and go their own way. With Fantastic Mr. Fox, he effortlessly supersedes his reputation as one of the most unique Directors of this century. You may be asking yourself how you direct a bunch of puppets, but Andersons 'puppets' are among some of the most realistic and complex that you're likely to meet. With human emotions, expressions and actions, it is clear that Mr. Anderson took great time and preparation during the film's production and pre-production to make sure everything came off as smoothly and impactful as possible. Look out for a particularly funny scene during one of the nightly stake outs portrayed wholly through images on security camera monitors. Very, very well thought out and clever.
Fox, for being aimed at children, is probably one of the most adult animated films I've seen to date. Think Pixar Redux. There's smoking, 'cussing' and above all some extremely heavy handed adult humor and themes. In Wes Andersons sharp, funny, unbelievably witty script, he keeps all of that classic dry comedy that's become synonymous with his trademark, the only exception being that it's coming from the mouths of the animals he's intricately created. Parts had me gasping for air; others had me rolling in the aisles. It's clear to me that by now Wes has really honed in on his craft and gets marginally better with each new picture.
Wes Anderson, with his creative brain that can only be compared to an Einstein of the medium, lays all his cards on the table and ups the ante for Pixar Studios. When asked if he wanted to continue to make animated films he commented by saying, "I would certainly love to make other animated films in the future." Could this be his new calling? Truly focusing on the niche market of animated movies tipping the scale more in favor of adult audiences? One would love to think so (of course without turning into another Robert Zemeckis and taking a permanent vacation from live action). Fantastic Mr. Fox is something to be experienced. Children will love its adorable characters while adults will marvel in its ability to connect with them. After all, each of us was a kid at one time or another and because of that there has never been a better excuse to pretend again.