Fantastic Mr. Fox

1. Analysis of the book

Fantastic Mr. Fox is Roald Dahl’s third book for children and it’s a very short, illustrated story, but with a poignant message for his young readers. The book focuses on Mr. Fox and his battle against three mean farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Mr. Fox grows accustomed to a life of luxury, stealing poultry with ease, however, the farmers soon develop a plan to end their fox problem once and for all. The themes of this story are centered on the farmers, who are depicted as clowns and clueless figures of fun. It’s also possible to glean from the book that stealing, or a misdeed, is okay as long as it’s done to curtail evil and evil people. This is a bold message for kids and whether or not Dahl is telling them that it’s okay to steal, it’s certainly a message on morals and actions that is worth reading.

2. Analysis of the film

Wes Anderson, indie movie extraordinaire, wrote and directed the film adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009 on a budget of approximately $40 million dollars. The stop-motion animation is visually stunning and seems to click with the story, while also representing Anderson’s quirky filming methods and techniques. In the film, essentially the only distinction between characters is that some are animals and some are humans. The animals talk and act like the humans, but they steal from the humans, the tyrants. On the discussion board for this movie, I asked a question about the most noticeable theme to me, which is the role of masculinity in the film. One of the prevailing themes is fatherhood and Ash is always trying to win his father’s admiration, as Kristofferson overshadows him in anything physical. Ash feels the need to prove in sport or thievery that he’s worthy of being the son of such a noble fox. In addition, the male characters are largely expression-less throughout the film and the voice of George Clooney as Mr. Fox seems to reinforce this notion of masculinity.

3. Analysis of the adaptation

Perhaps the most glaring difference from the book to the film is that the film expands upon Dahl’s story, which ends when the animals burrow into the farmers’ storehouses. According to lecture, Anderson invents a hostage and hostage rescue plot, involving Kristofferson and the rapidly coming-of-age fox, Ash. It’s hard to get mad at Anderson for this ending, as it would be nearly impossible to make a feature-length film on Fantastic Mr. Fox, stopping production after the last sentence. In his feature-length film, Anderson is able to incorporate themes from the book and end the film in a manner that relates to the book. Ultimately, the animals have the last say, as they follow through and succeed in an epic attempt to rescue Kristofferson and the farmers are left empty-handed, a result of their head-hunting and evil disposition. Overall, Anderson and his quirks were the perfect match for Dahl’s story.

4. Online research on the film

This paper, titled, “Fidelity, Felicity, and Playing Around in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox” by Adrienne Kertzer, looks at the discourse of fidelity in the production and marketing of Anderson’s film and argues that Anderson plays around with the notion of fidelity.

This paper, titled, “Wes Anderson: a ‘smart’ director of the new sincerity?” by Warren Buckland, identifies elements in Anderson’s adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox that make it a smart film.

This website, the official website of Anderson’s film contains a plethora of information to further one’s understanding of the film. I found the behind-the-scenes video section to be the most useful information on the website.

5. Critical analysis paragraph

Is the film nasty in its depiction of humans, particularly adults? Or does it reflect the way a child would view the situation (war against animals)? 

The film, much like the book, has a realistic portrayal of humans. Naturally, a threat to a farmer’s crops is taken very seriously and in real life, animals are exterminated if they come in the way of crop growing and distribution. There’s a need to defend when faced with a threat to someone’s way of life. For the farmers in the film, the only way to save their poultry from being plucked is to exterminate the animals. For children, they might not understand the complexity in this and instead see a ruthless attempt by the people to kill the animals. The child is more likely to resonate with the animals and see matters from their point of view, as they are small animals against large humans and are largely defenseless.

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