The Quintessential Fall Movie

        Directed by Wes Anderson and featuring voice acting done by George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and even Bill Murray, the 2009 stop motion animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox is nothing short of a classic. The soundtrack contains a lot of nostalgic-sounding tracks that draw inspiration from just about everywhere, the characters all feel like something you’d see in American movies of all genres, and despite being a silly stop motion comedy, Fantastic Mr. Fox is filled to the brim with pop culture references in just about every shot. To keep it brief, this paper will focus on the references within the film as well as the characters, but Fantastic Mr. Fox ticks every box and embodies every tenet of pop culture in film.

        Fantastic Mr. Fox’s visual elements are a sight to behold. It contains a lot of color washing akin to The Matrix (1999) or CSI: Miami (2002), with one key difference. The colors in the movie are only saturated more intensely, rather than using a filter. Since it is a stop-motion film, each shot had to have been meticulously placed and ordered to where the colors would pop (See Figure 1), and pop they do. From the real fur used on the animal puppets down to the rich browns and warm colors used in every prop, the movie intentionally creates this warm autumn vibe through its wide array of color, without once straying to a cold tone. This technique is used in many other films to emulate sensation and to convey themes. In this film, it has the added benefit of making it appear similar to the movie’s inspiration, Roald Dahl’s book from 1970, also titled Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Fig. 1 (Buchan)

        Dialogue in children’s movies are created so as to avoid swear words at all costs. Yet, Fantastic Mr. Fox intentionally adds cuss words. Not actual swears, mind you. The characters, instead of swearing, say the word “cuss” i.e. “Are you cussing with me?” or “What the cuss?” (See Figure 2). This references a lot of other children’s movies, which have a habit of alluding to swear words or circumventing them in some way. One version of this was in Shrek (2001). In the scene, as the puppets sing this song: “Don’t make waves, stay in line / And we’ll get along fine / Duloc is a perfect place / Keep your feet off the grass / Shine your shoes, wipe your face” they pause right before saying “face,” making an adult watcher believe that they might rhyme a word with “grass” (Adamson). This same kind of dialogue, where the characters reference something much more adult than the intended audience would comprehend, happens often throughout Fantastic Mr. Fox. A character calls Mr. Fox’s wife “the town tart” and when asked if that was true, he says “Course not. Well, I mean, certainly she lived. We all did. It was a different time.” (Anderson). A child wouldn’t think much of this scene, and an older audience would realize that Mr. Fox is saying that he and his wife were both sexually promiscuous in their early days.

Fig. 2 (Fantastic Mr. Fox Review)

        Several characters in the movie emulate common movie and television tropes. Willem Dafoe’s character, the Rat, has a southern accent, a drinking problem, and is accompanied by his theme song, “Just Another Dead Rat In A Garbage Pail (Behind A Chinese Restaurant)” which has very noticeable Western influences. Mr. Fox plays into a lot of tropes, one of them being the “trademark,” often referenced throughout the film. He whistles and clicks his tongue, calling it a trademark, and refuses to elaborate when questioned about it. In the commentary track, Wes Anderson states that he took the idea from M.A.S.H. (Perez). He also continuously talks about his phobia of wolves, likely referencing Indiana Jones’ phobia of snakes (Characters / Fantastic Mr. Fox).

        Fantastic Mr. Fox displays thousands of pop culture references throughout the movie in a surprisingly self-aware, fourth-wall breaking way. It feels nostalgic without having been seen before. The music, the characters, all right down to the shot composition is all so intentional, you could almost watch it twice in a row to keep up with everything.

Works Cited

Adamson, Andrew, and Vicky Jenson. Shrek. DreamWorks Distribution, 2001.

Anderson, Wes. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Twentieth Century Fox, 2009.

Buchan, Kit. “The film that makes me cry: Fantastic Mr Fox.” The Guardian, The Guardian, 31

Mar. 2015, www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2015/mar/31/the-film-that-makes-me-cry-fantastic-mr-fox.

“Characters / Fantastic Mr. Fox.” tvtropes, tvtropes,

tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Characters/FantasticMrFox.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox Review.” Aminoapps, Amino, 13 Sept. 2016,

aminoapps.com/c/movies-tv/page/blog/fantastic-mr-fox-review/p4cQ_uWaEKJEgBwNb

YXp5MQNkPo8l.

Perez, Rodrigo. “15 Unlikely Influences, Inspirations & Straight Up Lifts From Wes Anderson’s

‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’.” IndieWire, IndieWire, 25 Feb. 2014,

www.indiewire.com/2014/02/15-unlikely-influences-inspirations-straight-up-lifts-from-w

es-andersons-fantastic-mr-fox-88707/.

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