This week in the research log, we’re clocking the cuss out of Wes Anderson’s whimsical stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's FANTASTIC MR. FOX, in honor of the upcoming ISLE OF DOGS. We watched the film and used the Storyclock Notebook to clock out story beats and analyze the structure. I’m Ryan Polly and I’ll be your guest host for the evening– now throw on your bandit hats and let’s get down to business.
Let's Break It Down
- Opening Image: Mr. Fox leans against a tree by himself. Mrs. Fox is pregnant. She's glowing. He's smiling. They're trapped.
- Normalcy: Mr. Fox lives in a hole with Mrs. Fox and his son Ash. He doesn’t want to feel poor anymore… he wants to live above ground.
- Normalcy Disrupted: Mr. Fox looks at a tree and buys it. The Foxes move in. The tree is right next to the farms of Boggis, Bunce, & Bean. The sight of the farms ignite the wild animal inside of Mr. Fox as he dreams of thievery.
- Break Into Act 2: “And so it begins...” – Mr. Fox and his trusty sidekick Kylie steal some food from Boggis, Bunce, & Bean.
- B Story Begins: Boggis, Bunce, & Bean meet to talk about their fox problem. Talk about a “B” story! Because alliteration.
- Trailer Moments/Promise of the Premise: The Fox family tree is attacked by BBB. The animals dig underground. The heist montage as animals steal all of BBB’s food.
- Midpoint: Mr. Fox and the rest of the animals are on top of the world, feasting on the labors of their heist. Chickens, ducks, and cider for all!
- Things Get Worse: Boggis, Bunce, & Bean flush the animals down to the sewers with cider.
- Game Over: There’s only one way out of the sewer, and Kristofferson is taken hostage.
- Breakthrough and Rebirth/Break Into Act 3: Mr. Fox has a self-realization: he is a wild animal. He apologizes to Ash for being a bad dad and makes a selfless act for the first time in the story by surrendering himself in exchange for Kristofferson.
- Hero Gains Upper Hand: Mr. Fox comes back to save Ash from Rat. Rat is defeated and gives up Kristofferson’s location as a final act of redemption. Mr. Fox makes epic speech tying in the “wild animal” theme to bring the team together for one last job.
- Shadow's Final Push: Boggis, Bunce, & Bean set up an ambush.
- Ultimate Breakthrough: Animals have a counter attack. Pinecone molotov cocktails. Fox, Ash, and Kylie save Kristofferson, wreak havoc on Bean’s farm with the help of a rabid beagle, and escape on a motorcycle with a sidecar. This is one of the greatest sentences I have ever typed.
- New Normalcy: The animals adjust to their new underground home, with a new sense of togetherness and community.
- Final Image: Mr. Fox dances in a supermarket with his family and friends. Mrs. Fox is pregnant again. But this time they're both glowing. No traps in sight.
Stuff That Stood Out To Me
- Guys this movie is straight up delightful. It never gets old.
- One big thing that stands out me in FANTASTIC MR. FOX is the language of the characters. Anderson and Baumbach immediately establish that these talking animals have a very specific way of talking– it’s got Anderson’s signature deadpan banter but also a silly whimsy to it. It’s something completely unique to the genre.
- This film follows the standard Wes Anderson trope of “bad dads”. Rushmore. Royal Tenenbaums. The Life Aquatic. Every movie, really.
- Symmetrical moments: Mr. and Mrs. Fox steal some squab and reveal pregnancy news + They steal from a whole supermarket and reveal pregnancy news. They start in their natural environment and end as urban creatures. The first time, Mr. Fox here's the pregnancy news and tells Mrs. Fox she's glowing. At the end, they're both glowing. Character growth.
- Symmetrical moments: Kristofferson arrives and Ash hates him + Ash arrives to rescue Kristofferson
- Symmetrical moments: We meet Willem Dafoe Rat + Willem Dafoe Rat dies.
- Lately I’ve been working on a feature script for a heist-comedy, and have done so much reading and research on heist clichés and tropes. The whole time watching through FANTASTIC MR. FOX this time around (probably my 5 or 6th time watching) I couldn’t get the idea of the “one last job” out of my head. It’s the classic story: the criminal promises to do one last job so he can retire to a happy life, a problem occurs on the job, the criminal tries to solve the problem. I love the way that Anderson and Baumbach incorporated that idea into the story and adapting to Fox’s more family centered story. The “one last job” isn’t prompted by an external force or your typical “criminal organization” -- it's more personal. Mr. Fox wants to live a full and rich life and he believes stealing from BBB will do that. It’s textbook from there.
What inspires me about the film is that Wes Anderson’s writing and visual style ooze out of it even though it’s a completely different medium than his previous work. FANTASTIC MR. FOX fits perfectly beside his live action films and is one of my favorite animated films of all time. I cussing love it.
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