In this month’s issue of Interview (June 2009, Björk on the cover), Wes Anderson interviews (more of a discussion between close friends than an interview) Fantastic Mr. Fox collaborator Jarvis Cocker. Be sure to pick up a copy at your local newsstand!
Jarvis: I wanted to ask you something, actually. It’s an obvious question, I suppose, but on the film that you’re making now, Fantastic Mr. Fox, you’re using old puppets — well, do you call them puppets? What do you call them?
Wes: I think puppets more or less covers it.
Jarvis: So you’re used to working with live actors. How have you found the experience of working with things that will do exactly what you tell them to do?
Wes: Well, as it happens, they won’t. As you know, the voices are recorded before it’s animated, and that process is more familiar to me — working with actors in that way. So when we’re recording the voices, there can be the same sort of excitement that working with actors normally has — there can be the same surprises and spontaneity. But then when it comes time to animate it, I’m working with people who each bring their own interpretations to it, even if we have very carefully determined what is going to happen in the scene. Sometimes I will do a video version of myself doing what I think the puppet ought to do, and then I’ll discuss it with the animator — and there are many different animators working on different stages all at once. But in the process of going one frame at a time to bring the puppet to life, the animator will sort of sculpt things out, and they have somehow trained their brains to sync in this ultra slow-motion so there’s a performance that they’re giving. And so you can find in that process that you’re going very slowly being pleasantly surprised over the course of several days or weeks and saying, “Oh, look at what’s happening here…” Or you can slowly see the shot falling apart before your eyes and see that it’s not working. So there’s no real corollary in live-action movies, but it’s interesting anyway — and fun.
Jarvis: So the animators are kind of the nearest thing you get to actors in that process, basically.
Wes: They’re the nearest thing you get to working with actors in a sense, yeah.
Wes: … We have something like 29 units going on at once, so we have a large number of animators working on all those sets, and they’re each bringing something different.
Jarvis: You wouldn’t get that with CGI, would you?
Wes: No, you couldn’t. But maybe you’d get some special computer programmers… I don’t know. I almost doubt it.
Jarvis: I guess the way you’re doing that film with the stop-motion is kind of something that’s not done so much anymore.
Wes: No, it’s not.
Jarvis: I suppose the way that we recorded this album is somewhat similar to that… So, basically, we’re both working on outmoded, archaic forms.
Wes: Yes, we’re leftovers. Dinosaurs — but youngish for dinosaurs.
Jarvis: Happy dinosaurs. Very happy.
For the entire interview, pick up this month’s Interview.