February 2010

Tête-à-Tête Wes Anderson

Plus, Nneka, Voxhaul Broadcast, Maata Haari and more

Wes Anderson, turn it up Illustration by Anita Kunz

If Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox shows one thing, it’s that sound storytelling is the baseline for success. That the director, an indie auteur of quirky movies such as The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore and The Darjeeling Limited, chose to go analog with stop-motion animation in a world of avatars and iPhones is beside the point. It’s the story, stupid. And Anderson retains his indie aesthetic. A favorite of critics, the film is primed for the 2010 awards season..

Nic Harcourt: What inspired you to make this particular Roald Dahl book into a movie?
Wes Anderson: It was the first Dahl book I ever owned as a child. I loved the tunneling and the whole underground aspect. Mr. Fox has to rescue his family even though he got them into trouble in the first place. That appealed to me—as did Roald Dahl’s imagination.

A lot of your work centers around family dysfunction. How did you work that into this story?
In the book, Mr. Fox has four cubs, but they don’t really have individual personalities or names, so there’s a degree to which we added in the dysfunction. The book is very short, so we used Dahl as an inspiration—not just his book but the whole body of his work.

When you were casting, did you immediately think of George Clooney for the lead?
More or less, right off the bat. I realized we had set out to make a British film, but very early on, it was clear we’d written American voices. Then we decided to make the animals American and the humans British, because it’s not particularly a violation of reality to have animals without British accents. And once we kind of settled on that, George was the first person that came to mind—but I wasn’t thinking of his voice. It was only when we got back into the editing room and I was listening to his voice that I realized how much it brings to every performance. I think the animators were very inspired by it.

Stop-motion is such a lengthy process. How much time did the film take to animate?
It was a year of full-time prepping and designing, followed by a year of shooting. We were designing sets throughout the whole process, but it was a year of principal photography.

You’re involved in every aspect of your movies—cinematography, lighting, music. Did you get to move the figures for the stop-motion photography?
Not particularly. You know, when you work with an animator, it’s very much like working with an actor—in a stop-motion movie, the instructions for a shot are extremely detailed, down to each frame. But each animator interprets those instructions very differently, and their personality and strengths make themselves known to you as you go along. It’s a certain kind of collaboration I just never experienced before.

You use a lot of music from the ’60s and ’70s in your films. Are there any current artists that you like?
Yes, definitely. I like Arcade Fire, the Strokes and Vampire Weekend.

  • Nneka
  • Voxhaul Broadcast
  • Maata Haari
  • The Raveonettes
  • Amusement Parks
on Fire

Concrete Jungle

This Nigerian/German hip-hop artist sings about subjects most “pop” artists avoid like the plague—politics, poverty and war. A hit in Europe this past fall, “Heartbeat” looks set to repeat that success here in the U.S.


Voxhaul Broadcast
“Fact or Fiction”
Fact, Fiction & Turquoise EP

Yet another great Southern California band set to make waves. Already getting airplay in the U.K. (why is it the Brits “get” our bands before we do?), they mix up classic soulsinger influences with catchy guitar rock.


Maata Haari
“Walk Right”
Maata Haari EP

Now entering their second decade and best known for earlier trip-hop electronica, this L.A. band featuring Ry Cooder’s son Joachim adds a little eclectic soul pop with this track on its self-titled EP.


The Raveonettes
“Breaking into Cars”
In & Out of Control

Danish duo Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo have established themselves as purveyors of classic reverb-laden retro pop and fuzzedout guitars, and they stick with the formula on this gem from their recent fourth album.


Amusement Parks on Fire
“In Our Eyes”
Young Fight EP

This five-piece led by Michael Feerick from Nottingham in the British Midlands recorded their upcoming album right here in Los Angeles. For now, check out this new EP, which showcases their majestic noise pop.


What films are you watching now?
I just watched Michael Haneke’s film The White Ribbon. I liked Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces. And The Princess and the Frog feels like a Disney movie from 1955. It’s carefully done and has beautiful settings and backgrounds and a good story.

You spend a time lot of time in Europe. Is there anything about being across the pond that finds its way into your movies? Like a European perspective?
Well, I made a short film in Paris I think was very much informed by spending time there. I feel inspired by working in Europe—for me, it’s kind of an adventure to be abroad. I’m from Texas, so it’s such a giant cultural change for me there.

What might you do if you weren’t a filmmaker?
Good question. Before making movies, I wanted to be an architect. I’ve dabbled with that—don’t know if it’s something I would be good at, though.