On Sunday afternoon, April 24, a full house enjoyed a screening of the animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox. In attendance were many kids from Castle Heights Elementary on a school outing. After the screening there was an interview and Q&A with Wally Wolodarsky, the voice of Mr. Fox’s dim-witted sidekick Kylie.
Fox was created and directed by Wes Anderson and was easily identifiable as one of his films, with his signature style and precise detail. Wolodarsky shared that to make the film, Anderson took the cast to a farm in Connecticut to capture their voices prior to the animation. He added that he and his co-stars, which included George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray, playfully followed Anderson’s direction on the farm. Anderson set up readings and physical enactments of the animated scenes by having them loosely acting out and voicing the different scenes - including digging holes and chasing each other around the farm - all while the sound crew closely followed them around. (You can watch a bit of this process here.) Anderson, he said, writes dialogue and scene direction very precisely, but also allows for silliness and improvisation where appropriate.
Wolodarsky is a successful writer and producer, best known for being a co-writer of The Simpsons during its first four seasons. He said that many past and present writers have experience acting in smaller parts in film and animation. Working with actors like Clooney and Streep on Mr. Fox made it clear to him that he was not as much an actor, but rather just good at reading lines and closely following direction. The best part of voice-over roles, he said, is that the lines don’t need to be memorized.
Asked about The Simpsons, he shared that in the beginning they were surprised by how big the series had become so quickly and that after four years the writing seemed repetitive and recurring episodes unchallenging. Wolodarsky continues to be surprised the longevity of the animated series (26 years), given the same unaging characters and repeated themes, but he clarified with a smile that he was not complaining.
Fantastic Mr. Fox and the good-humored interview/Q&A session afterwards was obviously enjoyed by both children and adults alike, both groups apparently happy to have attended this family friendly Sunday matinee at the Aero.
Fans of stop-motion animation shouldn't miss Coraline in 3-D next month at the Aero!