I have another part-time job that nobody knows about. It doesn’t pay very well because … well, technically my “boss” doesn’t actually know I hired myself to do the job. But whenever he decides he needs me, I’m certainly ready and waiting. You see, when it comes to the aesthetics of Wes Anderson movies, ol’ Wes and I are like two peas in a pod. It’s almost as if we have an unspoken connection. In fact, I received a message the other day from an MNC reader who had spotted Mr. Anderson in Vienna at the Kunsthistorisches Museum observing at a Brueghel wintry scene. My source revealed that she’d overheard Mr. Anderson say he was researching for his next film. Hmmm … sounds to me like my pal Wes could use a hand. How convenient that I keep a compendium of Anderson-esque movie locations on file just for the occasion. Here are my top 20…
Her bio: “Brianna Ashby is the hired pen and art director of the digital film magazine Bright Wall/Dark Room, where she helps to put a new lens on film one doodle at a time. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2004 with a BFA in Illustration, and a concentration in advanced costume party studies. When she’s not in the studio covered in ink and coffee, she is most likely in the kitchen covered in flour and coffee.”
Matt Zoller Seitz, author of The Wes Anderson Collection sat down for an interview with us on the new series he’s been working on. “Space Rabbit” is currently raising funding on Indiegogo for a pilot episode, hoping a production company will fund the rest of the season once they see the eccentric cast of characters come to life.
Among the perks of the Indiegogo Matt’s team has set up are a book from Matt’s library along with a personal note from the Pulitzer Prize nominated author, a review by him on any movie or television program, and actual puppets from the show. If you’re short of ideas but not cash, we wouldn’t mind seeing him review Leprechaun 3, or perhaps the universally acclaimed Dirty Grandpa.
Could you sum up the premise of the series in a few sentences?
Space Rabbit is an anti-fascist fable that’s basically Animal Farm by way of Looney Tunes, with a happy ending. It’s set on the far side of the galaxy, on an all-animal planet called Planimus, which has been governed for generations by a republic called the Democratic Republic of Animal Territories, or D.R.A.T. Then this fascist squirrel rises to power and becomes a dictator, and all the animals who believe in the ideals of democracy have to band together and take their planet back. There’s a swashbuckling cat, a cat senator, an alcoholic lion, a praying mantis who’s the only honest reporter on the planet, and an old turtle who has incredible fighting skills and can use his shell as a shield. A lot of the characters play jazz to unwind.
Which films or TV shows would you say influenced this one? With actors moving the puppets instead of stop motion, the Muppets seems an obvious comparison to make. What’s similar and what’s different?
The Muppets are obviously a huge, huge influence. I co-wrote it with my old friend Steven Santos, who also edited the footage. The creatures in this thing are mainly Muppet-type characters, although we also have rod puppets, marionettes, and special fighting puppets for the scene where they have karate fights, sword fights, gunfights and stuff. The Coen brothers, Steven Spielberg and Billy Wilder are also really important in terms of tone, because they are able to move freely between very broad comedy and intense drama and back again and it doesn’t feel like you’re getting emotional whiplash. Fargo, the show on FX based on the Coens, is also very good at that. It’ll be really silly one minute, and then it’ll break your heart.
And also maybe Game of Thrones or House of Cards, too, because a lot of the action is about people in government and the military forming alliances and then selling each other out and stabbing each other in the back, sometimes literally. Except instead of Kevin Spacey doing it, it’s a squirrel.
My old friend Wes Anderson is also an influence. It was by studying the way he puts a movie together while writing The Wes Anderson Collection and the Grand Budapest Hotel book that I realized I could do this myself, relatively cheaply. I’ve directed stuff with actors but always in real-world locations, available locations. I never did live action fantasy because I figured it was beyond my reach, budget-wise. Well, Wes makes his films very economically and they look a lot bigger than they are, so I took a close look at how he does it and I learned a lot. Wes basically pre-directs his movies using animatics, which are basically storyboards strung together to make a facsimile of the finished movie.
I did this with my storyboards for Space Rabbit and it allowed me to figure out exactly how long a shot would be, almost down to the second, and then I could have the crew build sets that were exactly to the size and shape of what the camera is seeing, so that we don’t waste time or money building anything the audience will never actually see. There’s a lot less on screen than you think, it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. The sets are all plywood and cardboard that’s been painted to look like concrete or steel, that kind of thing. We bought nearly everything we needed at a hardware store.
We have a direct shout-out to Wes in our first clip. The alcoholic lion gets arrested and made a fall guy for assassinating the president of the planet, who’s an old goat, and when they put the lion in jail, he’s wearing Owen Wilson’s yellow jumpsuit from the end of Bottle Rocket.
A sci-fi movie with puppets is certainly an original idea, how did you come up with it?
I’ve been playing with puppets and stuffed animals ever since I was a little kid. I started out creating characters for my little brother from the stuffed animals in his menagerie, then I did the same thing as a grownup when I had kids. These were never cute, harmless characters, though. They were always kind of neurotic and complicated. That’s the Jim Henson influence. Miss Piggy, Fozzie and Kermit are interesting but they’re not always happy-go-lucky, you know what I mean? They have dark nights of the soul, they get jealous, they make mistakes.
Who’s the intended audience? Is this a show for kids, is it just for adults?
Ideally this is the sort of project that parents tell very young children they can’t see, not because of any specific content—there is slapstick violence but no profanity or sex—but because of the political satire aspect, which is very much informed by what’s happening in the country right now. And then they’ll sneak over to some other kid’s house and watch it anyway.
If you want to help Matt make his series, you can support the project on Indiegogo for another month. We don’t yet know the exact release date, but it’ll be exciting to see if Wes beats Matt to the next big animation, or the reverse.
Deadline reported today, that Isle of Dogs will be distributed by Fox Searchlight. A movie getting a distributor a day after being announced sounds like a world record. Deadline also reported, that the film will take place in Japan, and tells the story of a boy in search of a dog.
Set in Japan, Isle Of Dogs centers on a boy’s odyssey in search of his pup. The voice cast includes F. Murray Abraham, Bob Balaban, Bud Cort, Bryan Cranston, Greta Gerwig, Jeff Goldblum, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Kunichi Nomura, Edward Norton, Yoko Ono, Koyu Rankin, Liev Schreiber, Tilda Swinton, Akira Takayama and Frank Wood.
The real Isle of Dogs, or Inujima is a small Japanese island with a population of 72. The island which gets its name from a rock resembling a sitting dog isn’t exactly a popular tourist destination, but it does house art projects. Wes Anderson has been known to come up with eccentric locations to base his films in, but this is the first time his world has collided with Japan.
Not only can you get a role in Isle of Dogs, the production company behind the next big Anderson film is also looking to fill a wide variety of positions, so if you’re a UK based artist with stop motion experience, this might be your chance. We’ve heard rumours of speeches by Wes himself every morning!
OD Productions, based in East London, is currently shooting a very exciting Stop Motion Feature Film and we are looking to fill a variety of roles in our Puppets Department.
If you have the skills below, please get in touch!
– Miniature Sculptors
– Ideally have stop motion experience
– Talent in miniatures and duplication essential
– Ability to do realistic portrait skills
– Prop Makers
– Ability to make/work with miniature props
– Ability to work to a high level of detail
– Computer literacy in Photoshop and Illustrator essential
– Ability to operate machinery i.e. lathe
Wes Anderson finally revealed his project to the world in a video posted yesterday. The new movie will be called Isle of Dogs, and will include voices from well known actors like Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, and interestingly a new addition: Scarlett Johansson!
The video was posted as an advertisement for a crowd funding campaign running alongside the production, which aims to raise money for the Film Foundation, a non-profit founded by Martin Scorsese, which aims to protect and preserve motion picture history. Prizes include limited edition t-shirts, concept art and a trip to London and a voice-over role in the film!
So far not much of the plot has been revealed, but the cast and concept art hint of a new location for Wes, Japan.
Edited 7th of January 2017: Fixed broken Vimeo link.
Though Wes Anderson has previously made multiple commercials featuring big name actors (Brad Pitt, Lea Seydoux, Roman Coppola), this is the longest one to date. In addition to the camera pans and set design very directly borrowed from both Darjeeling Limited and The Grand Budapest Hotel, the advert stars Adrien Brody!
Don’t get your hopes up, there isn’t a pink hotel with funicular going up to it hidden anywhere in the Alps. But there is an old department store in a small town on the German-Polish border, which looks strikingly similar to the one depicted in the movie. It looks similar because that’s where the movie was filmed.
Back in the summer of 2015, I went there. The drive was long, about 1,500 km (950 miles), but it was absolutely worth it. Here are some pictures
The department store is called Kaufhaus Görlitz, and isn’t open to the public at the moment. But it’s currently undergoing renovations, and is set to open at some point in 2017.