Wes Anderson chose to have the actors record their dialogue outside of a studio and on-location to increase the naturalness: "We went out in a forest, went in an attic, went in a stable... we went underground for some things. There was a great spontaneity in the recordings because of that."
The original story was written at a dark time in Roald Dahl's life. He had already lost one of his five children to measles and witnessed another one suffer from water on the brain as the result of a car accident. It was only natural that he would be spurred on to write a tale portraying the father as a protector of the family.
The color scheme of the movie is primarily autumnal (yellows, oranges, and browns) with virtually no green and blue. However, Kristofferson's (Eric Chase Anderson's) blue-colored wardrobe was intentional, as it emphasized his being a visiting outsider.
During one of the outdoor dialogue recording sessions, a best take was almost ruined by the sound of a nearby boat. Open to the randomness, Writer and Director Wes Anderson modified the scene in the film to include an airplane flying through the shot. Anderson said, "I think it was better with the airplane than without... a flaw in the recording gave us a new idea."
Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" was the first book Writer and Director Wes Anderson owned. His mother, Texas Ann Burroughs, bought it for him at the St. Francis book fair in Austin, Texas when he was about seven years old. Anderson has kept this same copy on his bookshelf ever since.
Altogether, five hundred thirty-five puppets were made for the film. Mr. Fox had seventeen different styles alone, and each of Mr. Fox's styles had to be done in six different sizes. He has one hundred two puppets alone.
Shot digitally using a Nikon D3, which offers a significantly higher resolution than even that of full High Definition. It was also shot at a frame rate of twelve frames per second, rather than the more fluid twenty-four, so that viewers would notice the medium of stop-motion itself.
When Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky) are in Fox's study going over the plans for the first heist, Fox is sitting in a large armchair with a board on the armrests that he is using as a table for his microphone. This is exactly how Roald Dahl used to write his stories based on old photographs.
Writer and Director Wes Anderson wanted to use real animal hair for all of the animal puppets, even though it meant that the hair would appear to ripple unnaturally in the film due to the puppeteers handling the models between frames. This rippling was apparently intentional.
The look of the film was inspired by Great Missenden, a village in Buckinghamshire, England, where Roald Dahl lived and worked. The tree where the Fox family lives is based on a prominent beech tree on Dahl's property, and Mr. Fox's study recreates in minute detail the interior of the famous garden hut in which Dahl did most of his writing.
Throughout the film, the word "cuss" is used in place of actual cursing. When asked about its origin in a radio interview on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross, Wes Anderson said, "I don't even remember. I think it was just to use the concept of profanity as a replacement for profanity itself. It turned out to be very versatile." In keeping with this theme, one of the buildings seen in the film bears "CUSS" written as spray-painted graffiti.
The film was critically acclaimed and even had a held-over run from Thanksgiving all the way through the 2009 holiday season, but was not a huge hit financially, and not all that popular with general audiences.
In the original book, humans and animals never directly interact with one other, so it is never clear if they can understand each other. Here, they clearly can, when Mr. Fox (George Clooney) asks Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon) if he brought the boy, Bean replies, and clearly understands him.
The characters seem to break the fourth wall by being able to read the title cards for each scene, Ash (Jason Schwartzman) seems to know what Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky) are up to from reading the title card for the scene, and Nathan Bunce (Hugo Guinness) seems to be reading the time card that says how long Mr. Fox and his friends and family have gone without food or water, prompting to ask how long they can go without any.
When Ash (Jason Schwartzman) is talking to Agnes (Juman Malouf) at the Whackbat field, there is a plane in the background announcing the grand opening of the Boggis, Bunce, and Bean Supermarket, in which we later see them towards the end of the film.
In the months preceding the opening of the film, controversy arose concerning the little time that Writer and Director Wes Anderson actually spent on-set, choosing to direct the animation via e-mail from his flat in Paris. In an October 2009 Los Angeles Times article, Cinematographer Tristan Oliver was quoted as saying, "I think he's a little O.C.D. Contact with people disturbs him. This way, he can spend an entire day locked inside an empty room with a computer. He's a bit like The Wizard of Oz (1939). Behind the curtain." Informed of Oliver's discontent, Anderson said, "I would say that kind of crosses the line for what's appropriate for the Director of Photography to say behind the Director's back while he's working on the movie. So I don't even want to respond to it." On the Wes Anderson fan website "The Rushmore Academy" (named after Anderson's film Rushmore (1998),) Oliver criticized the article's tone, stating that it made him out to be a villain: "Yes, working with Wes can be frustrating, but that is true of any director, and I've worked with a hundred who were more irritating and less motivated than Wes. So let's just lay to rest the ghost of this particular myth and oh, it would be nice if the death threats stopped too. Thanks."
When Ash and Mr. Fox are in the sewer talking, Ash is sitting still staring down the viewer. This is what is commonly known as the "Kubrick stare". A technique developed by Stanley Kubrick, and the director would often use it when a character had to be intimidating or unsettling.
The inspiration for the naming of the character Kristofferson came from singer, songwriter, and actor Kris Kristofferson, not only because Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach are fans of his work, but also because they simply liked the name.
The song Mole plays on the piano is actually Art Tatum's recording of the Cole Porter song "Night and Day". The use of this recording is something of an inside joke, as Tatum was blind and moles are known for having very poor vision.
Portions of the audio version of the book can be heard in the film. The music, to which Nathan Bunce (Hugo Guinness) is listening, when Mr. Fox (George Clooney) first steals from his farm, is the theme music from the audio book.
Mr. Fox's implanting of sleeping powder into blueberries for unsuspecting guard dogs to consume was taken from another Roald Dahl book, "Danny, the Champion of the World", in which raisins were used similarly on unsuspecting pheasants. When the Dahl attorneys learned of this, they wanted it removed. But, because it had already been filmed, Wes Anderson pleaded with them and was able to keep it in the film.
According to Meryl Streep, when she was in London filming Mamma Mia! (2008) in summer 2007, she stayed in an apartment block in central London, and one night she noticed a fox out of her bathroom window. Both Streep and the fox, stone still, stared at each other for twelve minutes. Mesmerized by this experience, she used it as inspiration for her performance.
Film debut of chef Mario Batali, who voices Rabbit. Rabbit wears an orange neckerchief, which echoes Batali's penchant for wearing orange shorts and Crocs. On the Fox Searchlight website for the film, there was even a recipe made available, courtesy of Batali, for Mrs. Bean's Famous Nutmeg Ginger Apple Snaps.
The American Cathedral in Paris' choir were hired to sing the "Boggis, Bunce, and Bean" limerick. They were recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, England, in Studio Two, which is most famous for having been where The Beatles recorded almost all of their music.
The character of Kylie was based on a handyman (named Kylie) who was living in Wes Anderson's New York City apartment when he purchased it from the painter Larry Rivers: "After I bought it, he continued to live there while the place was gutted, but eventually I had to ask him to move out."
One of two films released in 2009 to feature a talking fox. The other was Lars von Trier's controversial Antichrist (2009). Both feature Willem Dafoe, and have been released by the Criterion Collection.
When Rat (Willem Dafoe) is approaching Ash (Jason Schwartzman) with the bag, he is moving his hands from side to side while snapping his fingers. This references West Side Story (1961), when the gang members approach the camera during the Jet Song.
Early versions of the film cast Jarvis Cocker as an on-screen narrator, which baffled test audiences. Cocker said in an interview with the Observer, "I may turn up as a DVD extra in the future." In the theatrical cut, Cocker's spoken (not sung) dialogue is reduced to one line.
Two songs from Disney productions can be heard in the film; one is "Love" from Disney's Robin Hood (1973), a film that also features anthropomorphic animals and specifically main characters that are foxes.
Though the cover of Ash's comic reads "White Cape Vs. Black Dog", there is speculation that he is actually reading Art Spiegelman's Maus. The pages inside are very similar in color and design to Maus, and a picture on the back is a direct image from the book.
The first animated film distributed by Regency Pictures, the first stop-motion animated film for Twentieth Century Fox, and the first animated film for Fox Searchlight Pictures since Waking Life (2001).
Kylie's (Wallace Wolodarsky's) World Traveler Titanium Card [which he lends to Mr. Fox (George Clooney) to open a deadbolt lock] has the number "3737 321345 61008". Valid from 10/06 to 10/10, it also gives his full name as "Kylie Sven Opossum".
At one point in the film, Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) tells Ash (Jason Schwartzman) that he has "twenty-nine minutes to come up with a proper apology" for Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson). In terms of the film's run time, his apology occurs approximately thirty-nine minutes later.
During the battle in the town near the end of the film, we see the signs of several businesses. One sign, "Dutronc Detective", is in the same shape and neon style as a well-known sign in Paris, "Duluc Détective". As Wes Anderson directed much of the film from Paris, it is certainly possible that he saw this distinctive sign and wanted to reference it in the film. The name references Jacques Dutronc, French musician and actor.
Asterisks are a recurring visual throughout the film. They can be seen in the unconscious beagles' eyes, on Kylie's palm around the blueberry note, on the motorcycle ramp, and on Bean's apples, among other places.
The villains seem to be modified from their original personalities in the book. Walter Boggis (Robin Hurlstone) and Nathan Bunce (Hugo Guinness) stay calm and collected through most of the film; Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon) loses his temper and has an outburst only once. There is no mention of Bean being filthy and smelly from never washing or bathing, as it was described in the book. He also seems to have all of his teeth, unlike the book, which hinted at his missing some.
Featured in the film are three songs sung by Burl Ives. Ives voiced Sam the Snowman in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), a stop-motion animated production by Rankin-Bass that influenced the style of this film. Furthermore, all three of the songs featured in the film were first released on Ives' 1960 album "Burl Ives Sings Little White Duck and Other Children's Favorites".
Despite being the secondary and tertiary villains, Boggis (Robin Hurlstone) and Bunce (Hugo Guinness) only say three to four lines each for four scenes, and they have the least lines of the entire main cast.
The original illustrations by Quentin Blake made the farmers (especially Bean) look more like stereotypical "hicks", dressed in grimy overalls and caps, as opposed to the more refined and country-squire designs featured in the film.
It was rumored that Cate Blanchett was originally the voice of Mrs. Fox, but was replaced by Meryl Streep. According to Wes Anderson, however, he had spoken to Blanchett about the part around the time of filming The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), but never got further than that: "I think that was on the Internet before it was really meant to be. For a long time there were versions of the cast out there that were not very accurate."
The gun held by Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon) is an Artillery Luger, which is a rare German 9mm Luger produced in World Wars I and II, that included an eight-inch barrel, a removable stock, and a thirty-two round drum magazine.
At one time, it was rumored that Brad Pitt would make a voice cameo appearance. During the making of the film, Wes Anderson directed Pitt in a thirty-second television advertisement for the Japanese cellphone company Softbank Mobile.
Marks the first appearance of The Beach Boys' music in a Wes Anderson film. Anderson had originally thought of using their recording of "Sloop John B" for the final scene in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), but later changed his mind.
The version of "Ol' Man River" by The Beach Boys used in the film is actually a combination of two versions: the first half is taken from the 2002 rarities compilation "Hawthorne, CA: Birthplace of a Musical Legacy" (which is the version available on the "Fantastic Mr. Fox" soundtrack,) while the second half is taken from a medley entitled "Old Folks At Home/Ol' Man River", available on the "Friends/20/20" two-fer.
Almost all credit card numbers are sixteen digits, typically expressed in four groups of four digits each. Kylie's World Traveler Titanium Card has a fifteen-digit number (3737 321345 61008). Among the major credit cards today, this format is exclusive to American Express. It makes American Express tricky to enter into point-of-sale systems which all seem to prefer the sixteen-digit standard.
Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach worked on the screenplay at Gipsy House, which was Roald Dahl's estate. They added a new beginning and ending, adapting the latter part of the story, (the war scenario), as the main plot. Unsatified with the book's ending, they found that the author's original manuscript contained a different ending, with sketches, taking place in a supermarket. Anderson later said, "That was awfully lucky, because we needed a new ending".
The scene in which Rat and Mr. Fox fight to the death originally included Rat making reference to his wristwatch, stating, "I've still got the watch. She never asked for it back.", referring to Mrs. Fox. The dialogue was inspired by an actual on-stage aside from Keith Richards to Eric Clapton at a rehearsal of a concert staged by Sheryl Crow, which was witnessed by Wes Anderson. However, the scene was ultimately changed for the final film.