1)Book Analysis: Fantastic Mr. Fox was written in 1974 by British author Roald Dahl. The children’s story follows the exploits of a fox and his efforts to feed his family. In the story, Mr. Fox, in order to prevent his family from starving, steals livestock from the neighboring farms which earns him their wrath. The farmers then assault the family at their home beneath a tree and attempt to dig them out, but to no avail. The story ends with the Fox family along with other animals such as Mr. Badger, continuing to steal from the farmers as they (the farmers) wait for Mr. Fox to emerge from his home. Themes explored in Dahl’s story include imprisonment, as the Fox’s are forced to remain in their home because of the farmers’ ire, and rebellion as Mr. Fox, despite his predicament, still stands up to his family’s oppressors and continues to do so for their (his family’s) sake.
2) Film Analysis: In 2009, Roald Dahl’s original Fantastic Mr. Fox was adapted into a stop-film animation movie by director Wes Anderson and draws upon the voice talents of notable actors including George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray. The themes remain mostly the same in the film (and incarceration/imprisonment and rebellion) but the story itself is far more complex than Dahl’s original story which was directed toward children of a very young age. The set-pieces used utilize a broad color-palette as well as the animals’ costumes which, in an effort to add even more personification, are reminiscent of an American family living in the 21st century. The soundtrack contains a mix between whimsical musical scores composed by Alexandre Desplat, and other songs from various artists including the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones.
3) Adaptation Analysis: In adapting Roald Dahl’s story into a watchable medium, it is no surprise that Wes Anderson was forced to take some liberties in the narrative. Although the over-arching plot remains the same, there is much more character development between the Fox’s and their neighbors; an element which is likely heavily demanded by the movie-going masses. Anderson also did well to add a great but subtle degree of humor that can be seen in instances involving the animals’ very “PG” variation of swearing. As a whole, the narrative and plot of Dahl’s story remain largely the same with minor variations that only the most passionate of Dahl purists would turn their noses up at. Anderson succeeded in making a simple children’s story into a tale that is able to entertain its original audience and a new, more mature one simultaneously.
4) Online Sources
“Stop-Motion Animation Appears Labor Intensive”
- This short video narrated by Jason Schwartzman shows how much work it took to create the film Mr. Fantastic Fox.
“A Look at The Fantastic Sets of Mr. Fox”
- This article presents some background on the inspiration behind Wes Anderson’s sets and animation techniques in Fantastic Mr. Fox. This article is important because it explains how Anderson went to Great Missenden (where Dahl wrote many of his children’s stories). Many of the sets are inspired by Dahl himself, whether it was his writings, the set-up of his home, or the illustrations and descriptions of his characters.
- This page lists various adaptations written by fans of the the novel and film.
5) Critical Argument
“Is the film nasty in its depiction of humans, particularly adults? Or does it reflect the way a child would view the situation (war against animals)?”
As if through the eyes of a child, the film depicts a simplified understanding of the tensions between animals and humans. Children are less likely to examine the complexity of the situation between the animals and the farmers(who are losing their livelihood), and will take the tension at face value. At face value you have a group of old angry humans attacking a cute fox(and other animals) who just want to survive. The film does not attempt to overtly address the complexity of the tension because it would overcomplicate the presentation of the story. That said, it is highly unlikely that even with a child’s black and white understanding of the situation that the movie will move them to see all adults in a negative light. The film is not nasty in its depiction; humanity has done far worse to animals in reality.