Friday, July 31, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox Fail?

I just saw the trailer at Cartoon Brew for the Fantastic Mr. Fox movie Wes Andersen is doing. I've barely heard anything about it so far, so was very curious to see the trailer. And unfortunately I'm feeling extremely underwhelmed by it.

Roald Dahl was one of my favorite authors growing up - "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" of course, but also "James and the Giant Peach" and the lesser-known "BFG" were favorites. "Fantastic Mr. Fox" was one of those I read but didn't leave a huge impression. So it's not like I've got childhood fantasies to live up to. But after "Coraline", I do have big expectations for the level stop motion filmmaking should be at. Not only that, but I've enjoyed Wes Andersen movies in the past, and the cast he's recruited is very high-level. And maybe that's part of the problem.

One of the things I loved about Coraline was that, even with Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, and John Hodgman, you never felt like you should be seeing the actors' faces instead of the characters they were portraying. They gave interesting and believable voice performances that added so much to the movie. So why do I feel like, when I watch the "Fantastic Mr. Fox" trailer, that I should be seeing George Clooney, Bill Murray, Meryl Streep, and all the other A-list actors voicing characters in this movie - instead of their furry characters. I think it's probably more to do with the animation than the voice acting. It's great that so many respected actors are getting behind stop motion, but it would be a shame if the genre suffered because of one highly-hyped and then disappointing film from a director who's not used to working in this genre.

Check out the trailer for yourself and see what you think. The animation feels extremely stilted, stiff, and expressionless to me. I'm not looking for realistic here. I just want to feel drawn into that world, those characters, and feel like they're really living the story. I didn't get that from the trailer at all. The lip syncing also looks overdone in the "Family Guy" style where every syllable is a movement, instead of the phrasing, which is how we really move our mouths when we talk. So then I end up focusing on how odd the mouths look, which is not good when there are so many tight shots when the characters are speaking, and there's very little body movement.

The comments on the Cartoon Brew page are an interesting read as well. I don't want to get down on the movie before I've seen it for myself, but my anticipation level for this movie just dropped dramatically. I'd love to hear what you all think.


vivzan said...

I see what you mean. I watched it and they seemed expressionless and their bodies were stiff, which was something that stood out immediately.

What first came to mind was if the problem was the shape of a fox's head, with the angles and pointy snout, but I imagine you could create believable expression with that, right?

George Clooney's voice was very distracting. Even if I hadn't read your post first, I would have noticed that right away. It's like the character is disembodied. Example: Edie Murphy can do donkey, but I don't ever for a moment when watching Shrek think about him. I think "donkey."

That said, I did not notice the "Family Guy" style of mouth movement. I know what you're talking about because Seth McFarland mentions it in the DVD commentary on season 1, but I can't spot it here! :)

I'll check out cartoon brew. Curious what you experts think.

That said, I never read this story and now I'm intrigued.

vivzan said...

Couple of comments on that site that resonated:

- taxidermy
- illusion of life not coming through
- The characters are too aware that they’re on camera -(YES, and hilariously weird that this feeling is coming across via animation)

I'll still see it, hope it's good! Can't wait to hear your assessment afterwards!


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