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Fantastic Mr. Fox and the Rebound

When a former thief has to settle down and give up danger for the stability of family life, he finds himself returning to his old habits. Fantastic Mr. Fox’s story may be for children, but as all excellent works for the young and learning behave, it doesn’t sacrifice depth for accessibility.

The tale is about one fox’s pursuit of excellence and the cost of talent, both natural and cultivated. It’s an unflinching look at life and society without the over complicated details that bog us down in our later stages of learning, where we start falling for the illusion that we know what the hell we’re doing.

It’s a tactile and whimsical experience about what it means to be human through the eyes of wild animals running amok through civilized society – suspiciously similar to mankind’s simultaneous self-domestication and hunger for freedom.

The film almost feels like a play as it unfolds across all the stages and various meticulously-arranged locations. It genuinely mimics the experience of turning a page and being presented with a sprawling world in a little painting.

As they recorded the voices, director Wes Anderson insisted that voice recording be done outside of a studio and in congruence with the locations of the scenes being filmed. With this additional layer of sensory “honesty,” the experience of watching this film becomes something like an animated pop-up book, almost teasing you to reach out and touch each frame.

Stop motion always has a quaint feeling. The slight imperfections and choppiness makes it look like the movie is being made before our very eyes, and the addition of the warring rough textures against the soft fur bombards us with enough information that we can’t help but be tricked. Children will be engaged in the wild story, but adults seeking extra substance won’t be missing something to chew on.

Mr. Fox is constantly at odds with the society around him. He just wants to eat chickens and be sly, but on the other side of every door stands a gatekeeper, ready to make sure nothing goes awry. The rebellion of change is something every former child and future adult will be at odds with, and the demonstration of the wild animals attempting to fulfill their true nature while adapting to desires of the unit presents complex ideas.

There’s a wild animal in all of us that refuses to submit to false authority, and denies the comfort of fulfillment in order to constantly leap forward. While there’s a cost of the selfish need to consume, every bite we take is a bite someone else can’t enjoy. However, we can’t feed our children without having resources to expend. We can’t elevate everyone around us without rising ourselves. So there lies a balance between achieving individual excellence, becoming so fantastic that there can never be a question of your greatness and a team effort.

The charming Mr. Fox doesn’t just desire being fantastic, he lives it with every ounce of energy. When the cost of ignoring everyone around him catches up with him, he uses his own rising tide to lift everyone away from drowning, and in the process, gets to experience what a crew of excellence can accomplish. The weakness and strength of his desires is never censored.

The great Roald Dahl’s wisdom is preserved by Wes Anderson, who refuses to kill thought in the preservation of comfort. The guns, knives, gangsters and rabid animals are never substituted for a more comfortable embodiment of antagonism. This allows an innocent child to reach into their mind and access all of their faculties, foster mental growth, and exercise their ability to sort good from bad instead of being stuffed into a bubble and told to grow.

Fantastic Mr. Fox puts on a show and won’t let you dip into the realm of feeling out some empty beauty. Wes Anderson preserves much of his filming technique, yet adapts to a story already styled by a master storyteller. Combined with the punchy yet whimsical humor and expert performances, the universal journey through the lens of wild animals tethered together by society leaves you with an experience you’ll be delighted to share with children or even just enjoy alone, soaking in the brilliance.

Featured Image by FAN THE FIRE Magazine on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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