Animating for Wes Anderson Just As Annoying As You'd Think It Would Be

October 13, 2009

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Director Wes Anderson is known for his attention to detail (like I claim to be known for in job interviews) and eccentric, extremely particular production design. I think it's safe to say that working as a subordinate to him (being forced to construct specially modified Adidas sneakers, painting spots on mice, scouring vintage stores for green velvet suits, brushing his flowing hair, etc.) would be at least arduous if not nightmarish.

For his most recent film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson upped the frustration ante by giving his ultra-specific direction remotely from Paris, leading to some key crew members, speaking to the LA Times, venting about how much they hated the guy. The LA Times, being a news source, published those vents:

"It's not in the least bit normal," director of photography Tristan Oliver observed at the production's East London set last spring, when production on "Mr. Fox" was about three-quarters complete. "I've never worked on a picture where the director has been anywhere other than the studio floor!"

"Honestly? Yeah. He has made our lives miserable," the film's director of animation, Mark Gustafson, said during a break in shooting. He gave a weary chuckle. "I probably shouldn't say that."

"I think he's a little sociopathic," cinematographer Oliver said. "I think he's a little O.C.D. Contact with people disturbs him. This way, he can spend an entire day locked inside an empty room with a computer. He's a bit like the Wizard of Oz. Behind the curtain."

Yikes! Those are the kind of comments that sassy recitals of "oh no you didn't" were built for. But Anderson, not being sassy, instead said this:

Informed of Oliver's discontent, Anderson said: "I would say that kind of crosses the line for what's appropriate for the director of photography to say behind the director's back while he's working on the movie. So I don't even want to respond to it."

"It's not the most pleasant thing to force somebody to do it the way they don't want to do it," Anderson said. "In Tristan's case, what I was telling him was, 'You can't use the techniques that you've learned to use. I'm going to make your life more difficult by demanding a certain approach.'

"The simple reality is," Anderson continued, "the movie would not be the way I wanted it if I just did it the way people were accustomed to doing it. I realized this is an opportunity to do something nobody's ever seen before. I want to see it. I don't want afterward to say, 'I could have gone further with this.' "

And Fox producer Allison Abbate added:

"Tim wasn't here that much during 'Corpse Bride,' " Abbate said at Three Mills Studio last spring. "He doesn't need to be. Making stop-motion is like watching paint dry."

I think I have to side with Wes Anderson on this one. Who wants to spend years sitting around a studio watching people slightly move around detailed little figurines? No one. That's why we invented Warhammer 40k: so that we could finally get out of the studio and watch people move around detailed little figurines in a more competitive environment.

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