Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mr. Fox Digs Deep

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a stop-motion delight that will appeal to students and teachers alike. Students who see this movie might be inspired to try stop-motion animation themselves. They will be intrigued by the handmade special effects, such as cotton smoke and plastic water. Teachers will relate to a recurring theme of the film: efforts to become civilized versus the wildness in us all.

English teachers can use this film as an example of witty writing and characters that are three dimensional (in more ways than one). The title character, voiced by George Clooney, and his wife, voiced by Meryl Streep, have a relationship richer than seen in most Hollywood films. Mr. Fox has buckets of confidence. Mrs. Fox has a temperament reflected in her off-beat hobby: painting landscapes dominated by natural disasters. Their  divergent personalities result in marital bumps and clashing parenting styles.

The stop-motion animation is ambitious and energetic without becoming an unwatchable frenzy as some animated features can. The detail in the backgrounds is too much to absorb in one viewing; this film should be seen twice just to pick up the clever signage, book titles and product names scattered throughout.

Watch for visual puns like the appearance of a model train within this movie that's brought to life via model-making. And listen for songs performed by Burl Ives, a tip-of-the-hat to the classic Rudolph stop-motion Christmas special. Music teachers will love the entire soundtrack which veers from 'The Ballad of Davy Crockett" to the Rolling Stones.

Students can see classic stop-motion techniques put to good use throughout the movie. To make characters appear larger as they approach the camera, "Fantastic Mr. Fox" employs forced perspective. Hear director Wes Anderson describe the technique.

And here's a terrific interview between Terry Gross and the director.

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