Life From Clay – Part II

Words by Benjamin Pinsent

Another Auteur would be Jan Švankmajer; using a mix of live actors and puppets he created the mastifle Alice (1988) a reimagining of Alice in Wonderland using things found in the attic to create a very different wonderland to that of Disney.

Nick Park, the creator of Wallace and Gromit as well as Creature Comforts and head of Aardman studios, is probably the most well know purveyor of stop motion animation.

So, to conclude, although stopmotion animation is only used rarely, there have been some major releases and talents attached to these projects over the last few years. Tim Burton released Corpse Bride (2005) as a sort of follow up to his collaboration with Henry Selik (director of Coraline) on Nightmare before Christmas.

Wes Anderson, king of the left of the dial films, adapted Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) using animations kryptonite, fur, creating a very charming and stylised world where Bill Murrey as Badger fights George Clooney’s Fox.

September 14th was the date Laika released their next project to the UK, ParaNorman. Based around a outsider, ParaNorman has been gaining a buzz around it partly due to the studio attached but now due to the positive reviews that it has been gaining since release.

Tim Burton, not to be outdone, will retort in 2013 with an adaptation of his classic short, Frankenweenie, the tale of a young boy so distraught with the death of his dog he decides to bring it back to life.

And Finally Charlie Kaufman will be releasing a short film Anomalisa having collaborated with Starburn Industries sometime in the future (the people behind adult swim shows like Moral Oral and Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole).

This art form does not deserve to have been cast aside as it has, though CGI animation is easier and less time consuming, most films lack that hand made quality that studio’s like Laika and Aardman have. The charm of these movies is that sometimes the animation is not as smooth as you would like it to be and that you can see thumb prints on Wallace’s face at times. It shows that people took the time to make a piece of art, the effort is what makes these films special.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Words by Naomi Jeffreys

This film is utter brilliance. This film was produced by Regency Enterprises along with Indian Paintbrush and released in the autumn of 2009. The film features the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray. For director Wes Anderson, it was his first animated film and first film adaptation.

Wes Anderson’s film adaptation follows an urban that fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers’ retaliation.

The film has many independent qualities, it follows one character and his journey to become a better, more ‘fantastic’ fox. The animation is astounding, similar to Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman’s Peter and the Wolf stop motion animation TV film for Channel 4. For me, this type of animation is uniquely British, it is rough at the edges, puppet-like and is not as smooth and as heavily influenced by the bosses of the production companies, like Disney.

What is more, the film is divided in to sections, much like the book: ‘An Emergency Meeting’, ‘One Fox Hour Later’ often these titles are played to non-diegetic music composed by Alexandre Desplat (who has won awards for his brilliant composition), the music is added to create pace, time and urgency to the action.

The cinematography of this film is excellent with Anderson favouring three shots; the wide shot and then a sudden close up of the piercing blue eyes of Mr.Fox (expertly voiced by the dishy Mr George Clooney). This distance that Anderson has from the animals could perhaps be the human’s view of the wild British animals such as Foxes. Thirdly there are also point of view shots, the animals are often talking to camera. This film is entirely unique.

Throughout the film there are moments which are repeated, ‘hooks’. Such as Mr.Fox’s click and whistle, the repetition of the word ‘cuss’ and the use of varying cinematic shots. In addition, the animals are uniquely human for the entirety of the film, Mr.Fox was a chicken crook but then changed to ‘working in newspapers’, he wants to move up in the world from living in a hole to living in an Oak tree. Then, Anderson surprises the audience by having uniquely animalistic moments, growls, the way Mr.Fox devours his breakfast, the vicious, unforgiving nature of animals is as important as the human element.

Anderson had a £40,000,000 budget and was a box office success of $46,471,023, which isn’t great, but the film was a success with critics. Phillip French from the Observer wrote on 25th October 2009 “he introduces these themes into a more complicated, and sentimentalised version of Fox’s life.”. Peter Bradshaw from the Guardian wrote on 22nd October 2009: “Anderson’s movie takes the original story in wacky new directions…”

If you fancy watching something uniquely British, brilliantly voiced by Hollywood stars, which is filled with wit, laughter and cinematography brilliance. Then I urge you to watch this.