11 Sly Facts About ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’

Leave it to Wes Anderson to make such a whimsical animated film. Based on Roald Dahl’s beloved book of the same name, Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, released in 2009, brings to life the story of a sly fox (voiced by George Clooney) who sneaks in at night and steals food from three mean, money-grabbing farmers. Fed up, the farmers—Boggis, Bunce, and Bean—plot their revenge, only to be thwarted by Mr. Fox and his witty crew of animal friends. Get to know more about the Oscar-nominated family flick with these 11 delightful facts.

To complete his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel, Anderson immersed himself in the author’s whimsical world. He stayed at Dahl’s home in Buckinghamshire, England, and wrote much of the script there. “You can see his hand at work at this house,” Anderson told Collider. “There’s a gypsy caravan in the back that he bought from a family of gypsies that were traveling through there … We in fact modeled some bunk beds in the movie on this gypsy caravan. The room where he wrote is kind of carefully modified just how he wanted it. He wrote not on a desk but [on] a roll of cardboard that’s taped up that went across his lap with a board with pool table felt on it … and an electric heater that’s mounted on two kind of untwisted coat hangers that he could slide forward and back to control the level of heat … There’s a real personality there.”

Fox Searchlight Pictures

If it crossed your mind that one of the farmers bears a resemblance to the author, you’re right. The author’s presence in the movie is widespread. “[Noah Baumbach and I] didn’t just look to the book as our inspiration. We also looked to Roald Dahl himself,” Anderson told Collider. “Dahl is a kind of incredible figure but complicated. There are definitely layers to this guy’s personality. He’s sort of a fascinating person and we tried to weave in different aspects of him … We also modeled one of the characters’ faces partly on Dahl. Then also just some aspects of his personality that we were aware of that I don’t know how they worked their way in, but we felt like they were getting into it.” 

Theo’s Little Bot, Wikimedia Commons

To keep the movie family-friendly, Anderson and Baumbach replaced actual cuss words with the word “cuss.” “The cuss thing was as simple as it’s a PG,” Anderson recalled to Collider. “At the very beginning of talking about writing this, we were [here in Los Angeles] and kind of came up with that thing and it was probably that we had some line that we couldn’t say. We said, ‘How can we? This is funny this way. How can we do this?’ Then it just started to expand from there. At a certain point in the process, there was probably twice as much cussing in it as there is in the end.”

From Los Angeles to the UK to Connecticut, Anderson basically made this film all around the world. When it came time to record with his prestigious cast, Anderson found himself at a kind of fairytale, pseudo-summer camp. “We recorded on a farm in Connecticut and it was through friends of [Clooney’s] who are also friends with my brother, they have [a] mutual family of family friends who have this farm in Connecticut,” Anderson told Collider. “That’s where we went and did all our initial recordings and it was like going to camp with George Clooney and Bill Murray and all these characters.” 

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Wes Anderson was so dedicated to making Mr. Fox come alive that the director even lent the character his own suit material. He told Rotten Tomatoes, “The reason I used the material from my suit was that I really liked it, and I thought he’d probably like it too. I just thought corduroy might be good for Mr. Fox!”

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Making the film was a dream come true for Anderson, who cites Fantastic Mr. Fox as the first Dahl book he ever owned. Thus, it must’ve been a real treat for the director to get his hands on the original manuscript, which he used to help craft the film. “We were interested in the idea that we wouldn’t just base it on the book,” Anderson told Rotten Tomatoes. “In fact, we had the manuscript for Fantastic Mr. Fox, which had a different ending which we used in the movie. That’s a great luxury—to be able to say, ‘Here’s an idea we can use—it’s not in the book, but it’s from [Roald Dahl].’”

Fox Searchlight Pictures

From the character of Petey being modeled after Jarvis Cocker to Dahl’s all-encompassing influence, Fantastic Mr. Fox borrowed plenty of elements from the outside world. That includes the helicopter seen early on in the movie. “We needed a good helicopter, and I think this is a memorable one, and it seemed—well, anyway, nobody told us we couldn’t use it,” Anderson said in the film’s DVD commentary.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

According to the film’s DVD commentary, not only did the animators cut the characters in half in a scene where the puppets were soaking in water (since said water was actually glass), but the running water in the film was made of plastic wrap. Just check out the waterfalls.

Touchstone Pictures

One can never predict where Anderson’s inspiration will come from. Hence, how the Mel Gibson-starrer Signs worked its way into the film. “I don’t know if I should reveal my sources. In the Night Shyamalan … movie, where Mel Gibson—what is it called, the one with the invasion and you gotta throw water on the aliens? Signs. Anyway, Mel Gibson sort of plays that same scene with each of his children at one point,” Anderson said in the DVD commentary. 

The traditional French composer fully embraced the film’s “folksy and rootsy Americana” vibes, and experimented with sounds he’d never used before. “I suggested to Wes that we do a sort of puppet orchestra. I wanted to make everything sound like they were playing. I wanted little things—the mandolin, the banjo, the whistle, the recorder, and all these little families of instruments. They weren’t toys but kind of toy-ish instruments,” Desplat told the Los Angeles Times.

Just browse through the credits and it’ll change the way you watch—and hear—the film. In addition to stars George Clooney, Meryl Streep (Mrs. Fox), Jason Schwartzman (Ash), Bill Murray (Badger), Willem Dafoe (Rat), Michael Gambon (Bean), and Owen Wilson (Coach Skip), Anderson himself voiced Weasel, Adrien Brody voiced Rickity the Field Mouse, and Mario Batali made a cameo as Mr. Rabbit. It was the celebrity chef’s feature film debut.

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