Wes Anderson Covers New Ground With 'Mr. Fox' Director Wes Anderson has worked on a lot of film projects, but with his latest film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, he ventured into new territory: animation. Anderson says that making a stop-motion picture is the most involved filmmaking he's ever done, but he also says that the process has "a sort of magic."

Wes Anderson Covers New Ground With 'Mr. Fox'

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. One of the films opening for Thanksgiving is "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which was directed and co-written by my guest, Wes Anderson. He also made the films "Rushmore," "The Royal Tennenbaums" and "The Darjeeling Limited." "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is Anderson's first animated film. It uses miniature animal puppets and miniature sets, animated through stop-motion photography to create a visually amazing world.

The story is adapted from a children's book by Roald Dahl, but the movie adds new characters and storylines. At the beginning of the story, Mr. Fox moves his wife and son to a new home near three evil farmers. Mr. Fox has promised Mrs. Fox that he'll never steal chickens again because as a father, he couldn't risk being captured, but he succumbs to his animal instincts and steals some of the farmers' chickens. After that, the farmers are on the warpath against Mr. Fox and his family.

Wes Anderson, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Congratulations on the film. Now, I never read Roald Dahl. I never read "Fantastic Mr. Fox," but I got a copy after seeing your film. What did the book mean to you, and why did you want to adapt it into a film?

Mr. WES ANDERSON (Director, "Fantastic Mr. Fox"): Well, it was the first Roald Dahl book that I ever read as a child, and I became a huge fan of Dahl, and he was a big part of my childhood. For some reason, this book was the one I always kept with me.

Wherever I lived, when I went to college, I always had this book on my shelves. It's not a very - it's a slim book, and it's really kind of - I think it's for young children, but something about it always stuck with me. And I think the character of Mr. Fox is a very Dahl kind of figure, and he's the one who rescues everybody, but he's also the cause of all of their problems, and his personality gets them into these problems in the first place. And I think something about that grabbed me.

And at a certain point, I started thinking I would like to do a stop-motion film, and a stop-motion film with puppets with fur. And this really, you know, it was a good opportunity for that. This connected with that.

GROSS: You've added a lot of adult themes to this children's story, and by adult, I don't mean sexual. I mean more existential.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And, like, Mr. and Mrs. Fox used to steal chickens, but after getting trapped and nearly getting killed or losing their freedom in a cage, he swears he's going to give up stealing chickens, and he becomes a newspaper columnist instead. But he still has the hunger for chickens and for the adventure, and he has an existential crisis. You know, who is he? Is he a fox?

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah. I think he likes the word existentialism more than anything else.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I want to play a clip in which he decides to go back to stealing chickens again, and he enlists his not-very-bright possum friend to be his accomplice. So this is Mr. Fox with his friend, the possum, Kylie.

(Soundbite of film, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. GEORGE CLOONEY (Actor): (As Mr. Fox) Who am I, Kylie?

Mr. WALLACE WOLODARSKY (Actor): (As Kylie) Who, how, what now?

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Mr. Fox) Why a fox? Why not a horse or a beetle or a bald eagle? I'm saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I, and how can a fox ever be happy without a - you'll forgive the expression - a chicken in its teeth?

Mr. WOLODARSKY: (As Kylie) I don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds illegal.

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Mr. Fox) Here, put this bandit hat on. Maybe you're a medium. Take it off for a minute, don't wear it around the house.

GROSS: I really love that. So what does it mean to be a fox? I love the idea that these animals are - that this animal in particular is having an identity crisis about whether he should be overcoming his fox instincts or not.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, he's a bit obsessed with the idea of being a wild animal.

GROSS: And, you know, the creatures in the film, you know, like, they're all dressed as humans with, like, you know, suits and ties and dresses, but - and - you know, they have, like, kitchens and living rooms and furniture, but underneath it all, I mean, they're animals.

So, like, there's this wonderful scene at the kitchen table where Mr. Fox is reading a newspaper, and Mrs. Fox brings out the pancakes for the family. But once they start eating, they just like�

(Soundbite of snorting)

GROSS: �like, you know, like animals because that's what they are, and it's so funny.


GROSS: And there's another scene like that I want to play, just to give our listeners a sense of the story. And this is a scene where Mr. Fox, played by George Clooney, is talking to his lawyer, a badger played by Bill Murray. And the lawyer is advising him not to move into a house right near the really mean farmers, who would probably like to kill a fox. So here's that scene.

(Soundbite of film, "Fantastic Mr. Fox")

Mr. BILL MURRAY (Actor): (As Badger) In summation, I think you just got to not do it, man, that's all.

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Mr. Fox) I understand what you're saying, and your comments are valuable, but I'm going to ignore your advice.

Mr. MURRAY: (As Badger) The cuss you are.

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Mr. Fox) The cuss am I? Are you cussing with me?

Mr. MURRAY: (As Badger) No, are you cussing with me?

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Mr. Fox) Don't cuss and point at me.

Mr. MURRAY: (As Badger) You're going to cuss with someone, you're not going to cuss with me, you little cuss.

(Soundbite of snarling)

(Soundbite of bell)

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Mr. Fox) Just buy the tree.

Mr. MURRAY: (As Badger) Okay.

GROSS: I love that, the way they actually, like, become animals.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, it kicks in.

GROSS: Yeah, and you use the word cuss through the movie instead of the F-word. How did you decide cuss would be your substitute?

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, I don't even remember. I think it was just to use the - to try to use the concept of profanity as a replacement for the profanity itself. It turns out to be very versatile.

GROSS: Yes. You do use it very versatilely. So, I just loved watching the movie because it's all done in miniatures. Like, there's, like, miniature puppets that are moved around very slowly for the stop-motion photography, which I'll have you explain in a moment. But the animals in the film, particularly the foxes, reminded me of these old photos that I used to love as a kid - I used to see them as postcards, of cats dressed as people, wearing, like, flower dresses and suits and ties and doing things that only people do, sitting at picnic tables or dining room tables and being very, you know, very civilized and proper.

And there's just always something that fascinated me, and it was all very detailed, like intricate little flowers on the dresses that the, you know, female cat would wear. Did you know those cards?

Mr. ANDERSON: They - it sounds familiar. I think there's a sort of diorama quality of some of this because we wanted to make - we wanted the animals and the settings to be pretty realistic, given the fact that they're going to be wearing corduroy and, you know, that they're going to talk and stand on their hind legs. We wanted - you know, we wanted eyes and fur and textures that were naturalistic.

GROSS: So describe how you designed them. Like, as the director and co-writer of the film, did you actually create the miniature animals?

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes. You know, a movie like this - the process - I didn't know what it was going to be like to make this movie when we started out. I had a - I sort of had this thought that we were going to - that I was going to make the script and work on the sets and then sort of prepare the shots and have this plan and then hand it over to a team of animators, and they were going to hand me back a film a year later or something. I was going to put an order for one "Fantastic Mr. Fox," according to these specifications, and they would send it back.

That was not what happened. It ends up being the most involving kind of filmmaking that I've ever had anything to do with and very fun. But the thing you quickly realize is that everything that is going to go on camera has to be manufactured from scratch. Everything has to be designed, and that means every little prop and every little moment is going to have a lot of thought go into it. And it's an opportunity, but it's not going to take care of itself. Nothing's going to just be discovered, like stumbling across a location.

GROSS: You have to create the bodies of the animals, the clothes they wear, the houses they live in, the street they live on, the sunrise, the sunset, you know, the ground beneath their feet. You have to create absolutely everything.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, it actually was quite - you know, it's rare that you get the chance to say, I have an idea for a cloud that I want to do. It's going to be, you know�

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: And you know, the leaves and trees and everything.

GROSS: You know, there's something really special, and I can't explain exactly why I find it so appealing, about miniatures. I mean, there's something so just fascinating about miniatures, whether it's, you know, like miniature animals or, you know, miniature trains, or you know the whole�

Mr. ANDERSON: I agree.

GROSS: Why is that? What is so wonderful about miniatures?

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, you know, I always - I used to take the train, in fact I just did. I don't know I said - I did, actually, my girlfriend and I took the train a week and a half ago from Los Angeles to New York. When you do that, you end up in Chicago for about five hours. And every time I would go across, I would go to the basement of the Chicago Art Institute, where they have this thing called the Thorne Collection of Miniatures - Miniature Rooms.

And it's rooms throughout history in different kinds of houses and apartment buildings, and they're just empty - they're rooms, and there are no people, there are just rooms filled with furniture that sort of demonstrates styles of different eras. And it's always jammed down there. It's filled with people. This is not a - you know, this is not the new exhibition for the season. This is the thing that's been there for the last 85 years or something, and people are just staring through the glass at these little rooms, and they are very fascinating.

And I have always felt the same way. I always want to go back and look at these tiny rooms that I'm already familiar with. There's something about things being miniaturized that makes them - that gives them a special kind of charm. And I think with stop-motion, it's the combination of miniature with the idea that someone is taking these - you sort of sense that someone is taking these and moving them around and bringing them to life through some sort of handmade process that's just like a sort of magic. It's like toys.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Wes Anderson. We're talking about the new movie that he directed and co-wrote, "Fantastic Mr. Fox." It's all done in miniature and in stop-motion photography. And Wes Anderson also wrote and directed "Rushmore," "The Royal Tennenbaums" and "Darjeeling Limited." Let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more about "Fantastic Mr. Fox." This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Wes Anderson, and he directed and wrote the movies "Rushmore," "The Royal Tennenbaums," "Darjeeling Limited." His new film is "Fantastic Mr. Fox." It's an adaptation of the Roald Dahl children's book, except this is kind of revised, and it's - there's lots of adult, as well as children's stuff in it, and it's all done through stop-motion photography and miniature puppets.

Why don't you describe how stop-motion photography works.

Mr. ANDERSON: Sure, yes. Stop-motion is - it's that technique where you - I'll describe it, particularly in relation to our movie. It's puppets, and in our case, these puppets have metal skeletons inside them. So if you move them a little bit, they stay in position.

So the animator moves the puppets one frame at a time, and each time he moves it, it's - so to complete an action, he poses it many, many times and takes a picture each time he re-poses it, and then those are played back quickly, and it appears to move around. And that's really the basic technique of the whole movie, this old-fashioned style of animation.

GROSS: So do you need to have a little bit of OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, to work in stop-time animation because everything has to be handmade, and then you have to move each puppet, like, a fraction of an inch for each frame that you're shooting?

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, well, it's, you know, the people who actually do the physical process of animating, they have to be experts. They have to be very experienced, and they have to be supremely talented to do this. And there aren't that many people that do it. So it's a special personality type, it's special talents.

And, you know, when you prepare a shot for a stop-motion film, when you prepare the shot, you draw what you want, you know, what you want the shot to be. You've recorded the voices already, and you work with the animator to make a plan of what's going to happen in time. The animator has a sheet that's prepared that shows what happens on each frame. So when you study this sheet, you'll see on frame 220, a character is beginning to lift his arm and pronouncing a sh-sound. You know, it's down to the syllables. You know, there's four frames where he's pronouncing sh, and then he's moving to the next thing.

It's the most-detailed preparation you could possibly have for a shot, and yet, each animator will surprise you with how he interprets this incredibly precise plan. And that's sort of the part that you just can't understand. Something happens, you know, they work in this very, very gradual process, but they're doing something that it just - that really is like magic. And it isn't just moving the puppet around, it's making it seem like it's alive.

GROSS: Right, and now I want you to just, like, describe in detail one of the puppets, maybe Mr. Fox.

Mr. ANDERSON: Okay. Mr. Fox, that puppet is, let's say he's maybe 13 inches tall, the main puppet, which the main puppet - I'll explain what I mean. There are different scales. So a full-scale, what we call a full-scale Mr. Fox puppet is about 13 inches tall. It has this steel or titanium skeleton that has joints in it and even joints in the fingers and many bones in the face, and it has fur over it. It has eyes that move around separately, and you can move them with a little pin, and his costume.

GROSS: Describe the costume.

Mr. ANDERSON: The costume is a sort of rust-colored corduroy suit with a terrycloth shirt with yellow zigzags on it. And he has - you know, one of the things - you know, I saw one of our people making something one day. I was, like, what are you working on? It was - he has little stalks of wheat in his pocket, like cigars or something. And this - one of our, one of the people who works in the props department was making wheat. And to see somebody make tiny, tiny miniature wheat is just - you know, you know you're dealing with a whole other realm than you've ever experienced.

GROSS: Stop-motion photography was developed, I think, for the movie "King Kong," used again in "Mighty Joe Young" and other adventure films. Were you a big fan of "King Kong" when you were growing up or when you became an adult?

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah, I loved "King Kong." You know, when I grew up, I think when I became aware of stop-motion was - I can't remember the name of the guy, Willis(ph), maybe is - something like Willis is the guy who did the stop-motion on "King Kong," and his prot�g� was Ray Harryhausen, who's sort of the most famous stop-motion guy ever. And he did a number - and the ones that I saw were the ones that are sort of Greek mythology, this "Seventh Voyage of Sinbad," "Jason and the Argonauts," there's another Sinbad movie also, things like the "Clash of the Titans."

Those movies all have a big stop-motion element to them, and I really loved them as a kid. And also there were these TV - the holiday specials that the Rankin/Bass Company did, the "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and there was one about - there's one that's sort of the story of how Santa Claus came to be. Those were ones that I - we were - my brothers and I were really taken with.

GROSS: What did you love about the look of those films?

Mr. ANDERSON: I think it's that - I think there's actually something slightly primitive about the way it's accomplished. I mean, you know, it's a difficult and painstaking, careful thing to do, stop-motion, but you sense that somebody is doing this with their hands. You're a bit aware of how the illusion, which is a very effective illusion, but you're a bit aware of how the illusion is being created.

In our movie, we, for instance, used cotton balls to make smoke and the water is made from Saran Wrap, really, just manipulating Saran Wrap frame by frame. And fire is made with - you know that kind of orange, translucent soap that you can - that sort of gelatin-type soap? We carve it and light through it, and you know, and use different pieces, and that's how fire is made.

So they're all kind of things where if you just look at a frame, you can see exactly what it is, but when it moves, it - you - it represents something else in a kind of wonderful way.

GROSS: Now, the colors in "Fantastic Mr. Fox" are wonderful. The palette is mostly very, like, autumnal, particularly at the beginning. It's just kind of like glowing with yellows and golds and oranges. How did you choose the palette for the film?

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, you know, for some reason - actually, what happened was I went to visit Dahl's house, Gipsy House, it's called, in Great Missenden, in England, and it was autumn, and it was muddy. And I left the - and when I went there, you know, that's where he had written the book. It's also where it's set.

I left there feeling like, well, this is the setting of the movie and also feeling like maybe it's not going to be a very colorful place. Maybe it's not rolling green hills. And then once - but the thing is with a movie like this, once you - if you make a decision like that, if you say, well, we're not going to have any green, we're not even going to even have a blue sky, we're going to have the skies be pink, because you have so much control, it really - you can - you know, I mean, there's literally nothing that's green. There's nothing that's blue.

You know, there's a character who's a kind of foreign character who comes in, and he has some different things. But, you know, the grass is made of yellow towels, essentially. So suddenly, it's really - it kind of does take a jump from reality. But I think at the beginning of the movie, you sort of sense that it's the same all the way through the movie, but you quickly sort of adjust to it. And, you know, your eye just accepts this as the sort of palette of the world.

GROSS: Wes Anderson will be back in the second half of the show. He directed and co-write "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which opens Wednesday. Here's a funny song from the film, with lyrics by Anderson and his co-screenwriter, Noah Baumbach, and music by Jarvis Cocker, who also sings the song and plays a character in the film. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Wes Anderson.

He directed and co-wrote the new animated film �Fantastic Mr. Fox,� which is adapted from the Roald Dahl children's book. It uses miniature animal puppets and miniature sets, animated through stop-motion photography. The lead voices are George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray. Anderson also directed �Rushmore,� �The Royal Tenenbaums� and �Darjeeling Limited.�

Now, so many films, there's a message for children that it's okay to be different. And there's a wonderful moment in the film where Mrs. Fox tells her son, who has been very frustrated - she says to him, I know what it's like to be different. And he says, but I'm not different, am I?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I thought that was really funny. Can you just, like, talk about that moment and�


GROSS: �that character of the son.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes. This is the character who, you know, in the book there are four children or cubs, I guess, you know, anyway four little foxes that are the offspring of the main characters. And we sort of consolidated that into one son. And we gave him a visiting cousin that he is sort of overshadowed by. And Jason Schwartzman plays that character and he is a misfit and he is somebody who - his father doesn't quite - he doesn't quite register in the father's eyes. The father is - you know, he likes him but he is not particularly impressed with him. And he's got a real kind of anger and tension trying to prove himself.

GROSS: When the cousin comes over - the cousin is just kind of perfect. The cousin excels in everything. He does perfect dives, karate, yoga. So there's this dynamic between the son who feels like he's not measuring up and the cousin who just seems like perfect. Was there a dynamic like that in your childhood?

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, it's funny, I didn't think, you know, I - when we were writing it, I sort of - I was a bit inspired by something I'd seen on an after-school TV special when I was a child. But my younger brother who actually plays the visiting cousin, who's called Kristofferson, my younger brother told somebody, who then relayed to me that he felt the relation between the brother and the cousin in the movie was based entirely on the relationship between me and our older brother, who is and always was very talented. And he is very polite but he is just very accomplished and, you know, played piano by ear when he was five years old and always had great grades and was great at every sports. And there's this aspect of his personality - and when I heard that I thought, well, of course, that's exactly what it is. But it never would have occurred to me if, you know, if Eric hadn't told me.

GROSS: How much older is he than you?

Mr. ANDERSON: He is 15 months.

GROSS: Oh, that's really close.

Mr. ANDERSON: To be precise, yeah.

GROSS: So, did you feel competitive with him?

Mr. ANDERSON: I didn't feel competitive. I felt inferior.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: Simply inferior.

GROSS: And resigned to it?

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes. Because the thing is, he was also very protective of me. So it wasn't really, you know, there was no chance to feel competitive. It was just something you accept and, you know, live with. And the other thing is, he did - he gave us an example which we, you know, tried to live up to.

GROSS: And I guess you did?

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, I - he is a doctor. I've done something so different from what he does. But he - you know, he is a very good writer. He was always a good writer. So, yeah, he did - he inspired Eric and I both because our younger brother is also a writer.

GROSS: Hmm. Now there's a sport that's played in �Fantastic Mr. Fox.� And I think this is a sport that you made up, that's not in the book.


GROSS: And it's called Whackbat. I want to play a short scene in which the rules of the game are explained. These are like wonderful rules. And Owen Wilson, who is in a lot of your movies, he plays the coach. And in the scene, what we're going to hear is the coach explaining the rules of Whackbat to the perfect cousin, Kristofferson, because he is going to put Kristofferson in as a replacement for Ash. So, the coach is played by Owen Wilson, who is in a lot of your films. Ash is played by Jason Schwartzman and the cousin is played by your brother, Eric Anderson.

(Soundbite of movie, �Fantastic Mr. Fox�)

Mr. OWEN WILSON (Actor): (As Coach Skip) Basically, there's three grabbers, three taggers, five twig runners, and the player at Whackbat. Center tagger lights a pine cone and chucks it over the basket and the whack-batter tries to hit the cedar stick off the cross rock. Then the twig runners dash back and forth until the pine cone burns out and the umpire calls hotbox. Finally, at the end, you count up however many score-downs it adds up to and divide that by nine.

Mr. ERIC ANDERSON (Actor): (As Kristofferson) Got it.

(Soundbite of whistle)

Mr. WILSON: (As Coach Skip) Go in for Ash. Substitution. Ash come out. You need a breather.

Mr. JASON SCHWARTZMAN (Actor): (As Ash) What? Come out? Why? I still feel good coach. Let me finish this eighth.

Mr. WILSON: (As Coach Skip) No, no, come on, step out. Step out. Let's go.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: (As Ash) Am I getting better, coach?

Mr. WILSON: (As Coach Skip) Well, you're sure as cuss not getting any worse.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: (As Ash) Really? You mean, you think I can end up being as good as my dad if I keep practicing?

Mr. WILSON: (As Coach Skip) Your dad? Your dad was probably the best Whackbat player we ever had in this school. No, you don't want to have to compare yourself to that.

GROSS: That's another scene from �Fantastic Mr. Fox.� I love the description of rules of Whackbat. And if you're not an athlete and don't follow sports closely, that's how a lot of sports rules�

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: �sound to you.


GROSS: So, what about you? Do you follow sports carefully or do they all sound as ridiculous as Whackbat?

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, you know, I used to follow certain sports so much more carefully, like the 1975 baseball season. I know every single - every detail of it. But I know absolutely nothing about it right now. And I used to follow tennis very closely. But cricket, for instance, is incomprehensible to me. You know, we made the movie in England and trying to - and I hadn't really watched a cricket match before. In fact, I had seen couple in India. But I've never been able to grasp the first thing about how this - how that operates. It doesn't really seem to make any sense but this game has especially complicated rules.

GROSS: My guest is Wes Anderson. He directed and co-wrote the new film �Fantastic Mr. Fox.� More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Wes Anderson. We're talking about his new film �Fantastic Mr. Fox,� which is adapted from the Roald Dahl children's book. He also wrote and directed �Rushmore,� �The Royal Tennenbaums,� and �Darjeeling Limited.� Your new film, �Fantastic Mr. Fox,� is almost like a musical in the sense that there's so much underscoring through the film and then there's some records used through the film. And so, I want to talk a little about the music. Let's start with why there is so much of it in the movie.

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, you know, with most animated films it's sort of wall to wall music and I didn't really expect to do that. But I guess what usually happens with me is I sort of put in as much music as the movie feels like it's willing to accommodate. I like music in movies. In the case of this one, I had a couple of ideas at the beginning.

One, was that I thought the score could have a kind of �Peter and the Wolf� element where we would assign certain instruments to different characters. And it ended up being that, you know, Mr. Fox sort of has this banjo that goes with him and the farmers have different horns and, you know, there's a rat that has sort of whistling in a Spanish style, a kind of flamenco guitar. But the main score is written by Alexandre Desplat, who sort of took a lot of different influences and ideas that we had and pulled them all together and invented his own version of all that.

GROSS: The very first song that we hear though is this�

(Soundbite of song, �The Ballad of Davy Crockett�)

THE WELLINGTONS (Band): (Singing) Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free. Raised in the woods, so's he knew every tree, killed him a bear when he was only three. Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.

GROSS: So, what is �The Ballad of Davy Crockett� from the Walt Disney TV show doing in your movie?

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, I, somewhere along the way I started thinking, you know, often I don't really know exactly why I suddenly say - have an idea like this. And in this case I almost felt like his hat may have a relationship to our main character but�

GROSS: Because of the tail - because of the tail on the costume hat?

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah, just because, you know, he looked like he'd be wearing Mr. Fox on his head. But at a certain point I started sort of thinking that I would like to use music from children's films and children's entertainment, anyway. And we ended up with - we have Davy Crockett, that's at the beginning of the movie, and we have three different songs that are by Burl Ives, who was actually in some of the - when I referred to the Rankin-Bass holiday specials, he's involved in at least one of them. And we have music from the Disney �Robin Hood.� And so it sort of became the part of the whole - you know, there's - we have lots of - we also have the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones.

GROSS: And I want to play some more music. When Mr. Fox goes to steal very highly alcoholic apple cider from the cellar of one of the very mean and greedy farmers, he comes face to face with the cellar guard, which is a psychotic, crazy rat armed with a knife. You want to describe what he looks like?

Mr. ANDERSON: He's sort of a beatnik. He's a very tall, skinny - I mean, stands on his hind legs, rat with red eyes, stripped - red and white stripped sweater, which actually had to be - was knitted by hand. If you saw this rat sweater, when it was sent to us finished, you know, this woman had been knitting for six weeks, this little rat sweater. And switchblade and his movements are sort of �West Side Story.� We used Bob Fosse footage as a reference sometimes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Oh, that's great. So, you mentioned you wanted the characters to have �Peter and the Wolf� type music, where each have an identifying theme. I want to play the rat's theme. And this sounds to me as if Ennio Morricone was writing for Road Runner cartoons instead of brutal Westerns.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So, here's the theme music composed by Alexandre Desplat, the theme music for the rat.

(Soundbite of theme music, �Just Another Dead Rat in a Garbage Pail�)

GROSS: What did you tell Alexandre Desplat, the composer - am I saying his name right, by the way?

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, that's about right. Alexandre Desplat.

GROSS: Okay. Desplat. Okay, what did you tell him you wanted for the rat's theme?

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, I, you know, I had put in some Ennio Morricone music at a certain point. So, that was part of our conversation. You know, he is very inventive and, you know, he is enormously talented. He made the score for the movie �Birth,� which is one of my favorite film scores and also the �Queen.� And I, you know, I had the greatest time with him because he just is always - he works very quickly. His ideas come very rapidly. And in the case of this piece, he also does the whistling. He's a very good whistler.

GROSS: Oh, that's great, I love that kind of whistling.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah, I know.

GROSS: �very few people can do that.

Mr. ANDERSON: He can do it. We also had, you know, we recorded it all at Abbey Road in London and he had - he has a whole, you know, group of musicians that he's worked with many times there. There was a guy named Paul Clarvis(ph), is his name, who plays every possible kind of percussion. And he plays the Jew's Harp on that track and he just was like a virtuoso Jew's Harp player, with these Mongolians Jew's Harps that he had brought in.

GROSS: Are you kind of exhausted? This film, �Fantastic Mr. Fox,� must have taken so much work because it's so detailed between the puppets and stop-motion photography.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yeah, with a live action movie, your day is one shot after - you have the shots that you want to get done in that day. And you do them consecutively. You finish one, you move quickly on to the next one. And at the end of the day, the sun goes down or something happens - you finish the number of hours, whatever it is that's going to end your day.

With a stop-motion film, we would usually have over 20, let's say, we might have 25 shots being animated simultaneously each on a different little unit. And simultaneously there are other units that are being -where the sets are being built and they're being dressed and constructed. And the puppets department is preparing puppets that may not have been introduced yet into the cast. And, you know, there's a whole editorial thing with storyboard artists. And my job, in the course of this film, is bouncing back and forth from different questions among all this whole group of people as they slowly, slowly, slowly make their way forward and at the end of the day nothing is really finished.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Right. That must be fulfilling.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: But the interesting thing is even though it's so slow and requires this very careful attention, you know, it's - there are so many things happening at once that there's excitement and, you know, it does feel like a lots happening.

GROSS: Did you show all the actors what the puppet versions of themselves would look like so that they'd know what the body would be that their voice would be inside of?

Mr. ANDERSON: To some degree, most of the initial recordings were all done before any of these puppets existed. We've recorded much of the cast at a farm in Connecticut. And, we sort of, made a documentary recording of the dialogue for the movie.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ANDERSON: The puppets were all works in progress but we has some drawings and things. So, I showed them drawings and I don't know the degree to which they even thought about those things. I know Meryl Streep - I feel like - Meryl Streep, she told me that she had a moment just before we started recording this where she saw a fox on her doorstep in England. And the fox looked up and saw her and they just stared at each other for five minutes. And she sort of had this mesmerizing moment with this animal. And she says she just sort of thought about that.

GROSS: Wes Anderson, thank you so much for talking with us and congratulations on the film.

Mr. ANDERSON: Thank you, Terry. Thank you for having me.

GROSS: Wes Anderson directed and co-wrote the new movie, "Fantastic Mr. Fox." It opens Wednesday. Here's more of Alexandre Desplat's music from the film.

(Soundbite of music)


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