Oscar-nominated filmmaker Wes Anderson burst onto the film scene in the mid-'90s with the boldly eccentric 'Bottle Rocket' and 'Rushmore,' captivating moviegoers with his oddball characters, vintage flare and unique take on dysfunctional family, all set to great tunes.


Next up: bringing Roald Dahl's cherished children's book 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' to life. Utilizing stop-motion animation, Anderson captures the picaresque misadventures of the wily, chicken-thieving Mr. Fox, voiced by a boisterous George Clooney.

With his first wholly animated film, we caught up with Anderson to discuss the difficulties of crafting a stop-motion feature and his love of Dahl's stories.

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Wes Anderson burst onto the film scene in the mid-'90s with the boldly eccentric 'Bottle Rocket' and 'Rushmore,' captivating moviegoers with his oddball characters, vintage flare and unique take on dysfunctional family, all set to great tunes.


Next up: bringing Roald Dahl's cherished children's book 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' to life. Utilizing stop-motion animation, Anderson captures the picaresque misadventures of the wily, chicken-thieving Mr. Fox, voiced by a boisterous George Clooney.

With his first wholly animated film, we caught up with Anderson to discuss the difficulties of crafting a stop-motion feature and his love of Dahl's stories.

What were some of the obstacles and challenges you faced while directing a purely animated film?
The big challenge for me was, [a process] that is so slow and painstaking and is happening simultaneously on many [production] units-as many as 30 units are slowly unfolding-how can I manage [the individual teams] to the degree that I want to? It's hard to keep your focus on all those [elements]. But we figured out some systems to [coordinate with all the production units], and, in particular, a system where we had computer software where I could look through each of the 30 production units through the camera, live. Or [the crew] could send me a picture, and I would talk to them on the phone or on email [while I was in Paris]. That's how I spent my days, bouncing among the production units and simultaneously working with my production designer, with my editor, with the storyboard artist, and with the department that is in charge of the puppets.

How did you wrestle with the fact that, as a director, you couldn't be as hands-on as one might be working on a live-action film?
The people that are hands-on are just the animators, and that's a team of 15-20 men and women. They are really the actors at that point. I can't do what they do. I can't even fully understand what they do. All we could do is work together to plan it out very precisely and discuss it. When we launch the shot, any particular animator is going to bring back a shot different from another animator. Their individual personalities come into it, and their strengths and taste as animators come into it. And in the same way, on set, you're handing it over to actors and you say action, and you wait and see what happens. That's [similarly] what happens with an animator; it just happens on a very slow pace.

What references helped shape the look of the film?
I [visited] a town called Bath [in England], and I knew I had a climatic showdown scene that we were going to have on the streets. Well, when I was in Bath, I saw how the streets are laid out, and thought this was a perfect arrangement: 'the manhole is here; the farmers are there.' Then [the animators] built Bath. That was sort of the process for the whole movie. Everything is modeled on something, and we're trying to make it as realistic as it can be in the context of a movie where the grass is made of yellow terrycloth, and it has unreality, as well.


How would you compare the animation process in 'The Life Aquatic' with 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'?
Doing a feature film [like 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'], there are sets and a whole world that needs to be made. With ['The Life Aquatic'], Henry Selick was animating in Portland or San Francisco, and I would just be sent a take of a shot, and then we would discuss it. With ['Fantastic Mr. Fox'], it was more like, minute by minute, I was involved with the film. It is such a gradual process, you really have time to add to it and shape it, and bring in every idea that you can think of.


You've mentioned in previous interviews that you enjoyed Roald Dahl's books growing up. What was it about his writing that stuck with you all these years?
['Fantastic Mr. Fox'] was the first Dahl book I read. There's something in Dahl where there's not a deep respect for authority, but there is an interest in ingenuity. The fathers in these stories tend to be people who get everybody in trouble but they also come up with some brilliant solution. Also, [Dahl's books] are wonderfully described stories with great characters. He has a very special imagination, and he expresses it so perfectly.


What is one of your favorite adaptations of a Roald Dahl book?
I always loved Gene Wilder in [Mel Stuart's 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory']. 'The Witches' is great, too. Angelica Huston is great [in the film]. Nicolas Roeg is a great director. And there were some of [Dahl's superb short stores] that were adapted into [the television series] 'Twilight Zone' and 'Alfred Hitchcock presents'.





What animated films do you respond to?
Well, let's see, one of my big favorites is Hayao Miyazaki. The Miyazaki films are great. There is one called "Porco Rosso" that I love. Also, there is "Princess Mononoke", that's a great one, too. [Miyazaki's films] are equally meant for adults and children. They're just for everybody; they don't really favor one or the other.

Music is such an integral part of your films. Do you have certain songs in mind while writing a script?
[Music] sort of comes in every step of the way, during the writing and sometimes before the writing, and then all the way through until the sound mix. At the last moment you end up saying: 'I have something else.' It becomes part of every step. 'Rushmore', I would say is the movie, more than any other movie I've done, that was done with the songs planned before we shot the movie. Almost every song was planned before we shot the movie but the score was made after.


Do you think a film like 'Bottle Rocket' could be made in this rocky economic climate for independent films?
Well, I don't think it could be made in that climate [in the '90s]. The fact that that movie occurred was [remarkable], because that movie was made by Columbia Pictures. ['Bottle Rocket'] is not a Columbia movie by any means. It was championed by James L. Brooks, and he could say 'we're doing this,' and it's very unusual for somebody in his position [to greenlight a small film like 'Bottle Rocket']. In general, the way a movie like that gets made is somehow people manage to scrape up $375,000, and they do it. [Owen Wilson and I] never managed to scrape up 375,000 dollars; we just somehow got [the script] into the hands of [James L. Brooks]. Nobody else wanted to have anything to do with it.


What are you working on at the moment?
I have a script I just started on; it's so early, not even describable. I'm not sure what shape it's going to take in the end.