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FANTASTIC MR. FOX

Production Design: Sets and Costumes
When it comes to the look of his films, Wes Anderson takes a complete hands-on approach to art direction and design; the result is amazing, inimitable confections of meticulously crafted nostalgia and intricate set dressing. FANTASTIC MR. FOX is no exception.

"The thing about Wes, he is a visionary and has a very clear and precise vision,” says Abbate. "He's very detail orientated. He has input into every character design, every prop design. Everything in the movie has his mark on it.”

Inspiration, it seems, can strike Anderson anywhere, anytime. The look of one background farm worker was based on a 17th century oil painting Anderson saw in a restaurant in Germany. "We were on the way to Prague and Wes saw a painting in the back,” Dawson recalls. "We took pictures and that was the inspiration for the design of Earl Malloy.”

"He likes to curate elements out of his experience, and has a mind that's really good at doing that,” continues Dawson who says the design of Mrs. Bean's kitchen was inspired by the tiles in a Parisian bakery near Anderson's home, as well as the dining room at St. John's restaurant in Smithfield, London. "Anything that catches his eye he wants to use.” 

"Wes is very reference-based,” notes production designer Nelson Lowry whose stop-motion credits include CORPSE BRIDE and who found Anderson's method a refreshing change of pace. "He likes to draw from everyday reference and that's really a bit of a departure for stop-frame because in stop-frame you can do anything. You don't often draw from real-life reference. You make stuff up. We all draw upon our environment. It's just Wes is more aware and purposeful when he does it. He scans over his world and picks a seemingly random pattern of influences that when you pull them together are very Wes Anderson.” 

While working with a director with such a specific vision might have fazed some designers, Lowry says he found it rather liberating. "It's the opposite of what you're usually faced with, a director who doesn't know what they want. Wes knows what he wants. He knows what spoon he wants. Or if he doesn't, he knows what spoon he doesn't want.”

Lowry began work on FANTASTIC MR. FOX by studying all of Anderson's previous films, looking for points of similarity, design-wise. "The Wes code is pretty tough to crack,” he reveals. "I went through every film he made, took stills of them, put them up on my office walls, hundreds of them, and I started to look for things that are common, aside from the framing which is terribly important. I started noticing color combinations, textures and patterns that were in similar places in the frame. Once I started to understand that, I could look for similar items or references based on those. It took a good three, four months to see that pattern emerge. But it was fun. It was like a puzzle to solve.” 

With a team of around a dozen illustrators, some working exclusively on character designs, others on sets, Lowry began to build the world of FANTASTIC MR. FOX, starting with Mr. Fox himself. "The environments really had to follow the lead of the character design because they have to meld so completely,” Lowry explains, "so we really didn't do too much until we had a good idea of what Mr. Fox looked like. And what the farmers looked like.” 

Anderson wanted his animal characters to be more human than animal. He wanted them to walk upright, wear tailored clothes and have human-like proportions. 

"He was thinking about human actors, basically,” Lowry says. "You could tell he was always trying to drive the design into what he saw was a human actor, so they are very anthropomorphised. Mr. Fox's proportions went from being very animal-like to having square shoulders, human-like proportions.” 

"Initially when he was sculpted and designed

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