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FANTASTIC MR. FOX

Directing
Despite his insistence on old-fashioned techniques for shooting FANTASTIC MR. FOX, it was modern technology that enabled Anderson to direct the film 24 hours a day from any location. "Doing this sort of movie, it's a long, long process and it's very detail-oriented,” he reflects. "There are a million decisions, more than a live-action movie, because everything has to be made. People are making decisions not in a moment-to-moment basis but in a frame-to-frame basis and everything is just more intricate. And so half of the process of making the movie was figuring out how to make the movie, and how to manage all this information and to make sure we get onto the screen what we want to get on there, because there are 29 units going at once. That's insane. I'm accustomed to one and that's usually completely overwhelming. But we had such a great group of people and we figured out a way.”

"We devised a systems of emails and sending frames and even live feeds from the animation stages to wherever he was in the world,” says Abbate, "so that he could really just focus on any given stage and not be distracted by all the other activity going on. It's overwhelming having 29 or 30 ‘first unit' set ups and by distilling the information and getting him any reference he needed, we were able to get focused decisions on every phase of every shot.”

"I would get the dailies, usually sometime between 11pm and midnight, and then I would send my notes on email to the crew in London on the various shots,” Anderson remembers. "Then they would watch the dailies in the morning and review my notes and then they would write me back or call me and tell me what the game plan was. Then they would go to their sets and set to work and when there's a new shot being set up I would get emails with the images of the shots so I could respond, and we would work on the blocking and we would get the lenses right and the shots right. We'd get it all set up and refine it and go back and forth a bit. We also had this software where I could look through any of the cameras on any of the units, and so I could see what the camera was seeing on each unit through a live feed. It was very efficient.”

Every scene was first storyboarded by Anderson in collaboration with a storyboard artist, and then these drawings were made into a moving storyboard known as an animatic. These animatics would then become the basis of each sequence and would allow Anderson, Gustafson and Waring to discuss blocking and framing and performance with the animator who was responsible for each one. 

Additionally, Anderson shot reference videos for every sequence, which the animators would then work from alongside the animatic. The production dubbed these LAVs, for live action videos. "They would have him half-directing, half-acting out the action he would want in the scene,” Abbate explains. "He'd say what he needed from each shot and then he would do it a couple of times so we could cut together a version of the shot with Wes in it. If there were multiple characters there would be multiple versions of him doing all the parts. These would give the animator the timing, basic facial expressions, and even what he wanted them to do with their hands, along with little notes on character motivation and point of view. It was a nice little package for the animators to work from.”

For the animators, these LAVs were invaluable. "Any sort of inflections in a gesture, or a positioning of things, or inflections in the voice, he would act that as well as he could,” says Waring. "Sometimes it was very minimal. He would play it straight to camera and there would be hardly any movement. Sometimes you had to look really hard, you'd think he's not doing anything, but the eyes were moving or there'd be a slight head move, and that was all it needed to make that shot work. The temptation as an animator is to put more gestures and exp

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