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FANTASTIC MR. FOX

Animation Process
Principal photography on FANTASTIC MR. FOX began on June 9, 2008 at Three Mills Studios in East London, a week later than planned after an unexploded Second World War bomb was discovered in a nearby river, forcing the studio and surrounding properties to be evacuated for several days. 

Once all the puppets were completed, they were turned over to an international crew of 30 animators who then spent the next year making these puppets act, under the close guidance of Anderson, animation director Mark Gustafson and animation supervisor Mark Waring. 

For the animators working on FANTASTIC MR. FOX, many of them veterans of CORPSE BRIDE and CORALINE, the biggest challenge was the material that covered the majority of the puppets. "It's a furry film,” says director of photography Tristan Oliver with only a modicum of understatement. "That gives a whole new range of problems because fur doesn't really behave itself in stop-frame — it flutters and jitters.” 

That jittery movement is referred to as the "boil” by animators. But rather than try to eradicate the effect — which would have been time-consuming and difficult, although not impossible — Anderson was keen to embrace the imperfection. Yet another influence of stop-motion animated films such as PETER AND THE WOLF, LE ROMAN DE RENARD and the original KING KONG, the latter a particular favorite of the filmmaker's. "I remember loving the original KING KONG and seeing the way the fur moves,” Anderson insists. "The fur just kind of ripples along all of them, and I always liked that, I don't know why.” 

Working out the best way for the fur to "boil”, but not so much that it became distracting, was trial and error. "We found if you didn't move the fur, it froze and looked a bit odd,” reveals animation supervisor Waring. In the end, trying not to move the fur was the key. "By being careful, and using cocktail sticks and sculpting tools and very minimal contact with the fur, [that] gave enough movement to it. Or else you'd blow on it or just touch it slightly, every now and again. The puppet department also put hair products into the fur, gels and hairspray, to try and stabilize it, so you could style it and tease it to get the look you wanted.”

Anderson's desire for a rougher, choppier style of animation was somewhat easier to achieve. "You can animate a character 24 times to get a second's worth of animation but if you do it 12 times and do each frame twice, it'll only be 12 movements rather than 24,” explains Waring of the process known as "twos” which was used for certain scenes. "It gives a slightly different style. It's not that noticeable, but it's slightly choppier.”

In terms of animating Mr. Fox himself, Waring says character was key to his movements – that and thinking of him as human. "Mr. Fox is a bit of an antihero,” explains Waring. "He's quite sly. He's not a good parent. He doesn't look after his son very well. Also he lies to his wife. When you come to animate, you have to have that in your mind, to try and express that inner emotion. You're trying to make the audience believe he's shifty, so he moves quickly. And when he's eating his breakfast there's the element of the wild animal still in him, so he goes crazy while eating. But most of it is played out as if they're humans rather than an animal look. That came through in the other characters as well, they became more human-based.”

Another major challenge faced by the animators was Anderson's insistence that the puppets shouldn't blink, a decision that, at first, caused some anxiety. "For keeping a puppet alive, the eyes are a fantastic thing,” says Gent. "You can have a puppet stand still but if its eyes blink every now and then, that's a very good way of keeping everybody glued to it. Not blinking changes that dynamic for obvious reasons but we were able to do special sets of<

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