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Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 23, 2014 by  



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“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a wonderful animated film and the Criterion Collection took something that was wonderful and along with its title, released a Blu-ray that is for that most part “fantastic”.   Highly recommended!

© 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700

DURATION: 87 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen: 1:85: 1, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio,  Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Twentieth Century Fox/The Criterion Collection

RATED: PG (Action, Smoking and Slang Humor)

RELEASE DATE: February 18, 2014

Based on the novel by Roald Dahl

Directed by Wes Anderson

Screenplay by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

Executive Producer: Armon Milchan, Sten M. Rales

Producer: Allison Abbate, Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Scott Rudin

Co-Producer: Molly Cooper

Line Producer: Simon Quinn

Music by Alexandre Desplat

Cinematography by Tristan Oliver

Edited by Andrew Weisblum

Production Design by Nelson Lowry

Art Direction by Francesca Berlingieri Maxwell

Featuring the voices of:

George Clooney as Mr. Fox

Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox

Jason Schwartzman as Ash

Eric Chase Anderson as Kristofferson Silverfox

Bill Murray as Badger

Wilem Dafoe as Rat

Owen Wilson as Coach Skip

Adrien Brody as Rickity the Field Mouse

Wallace Wolodarksy as Kylie

Fantastic Mr. Fox is the story of a clever, quick, nimble, and exceptionally well-dressed wild animal. A compulsive chicken thief turned newspaper reporter, Mr. Fox settles down with his family in a new foxhole in a beautiful tree—directly adjacent to three enormous poultry farms owned by three ferociously vicious farmers: Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Mr. Fox simply cannot resist. Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel is a meticulous work of stop-motion animation featuring vibrant performances by George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, and Bill Murray.

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Roald Dahl, a British novelist who introduced us to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “James and the Giant Peach”, “Matilda”, “The Witches” and “The BFG” and many other books that have entertained generations. And in 1970, Dahl wrote the children’s novel “Fantastic Mr. Fox” which would receive an adaptation into a feature animated film co-written and directed by Wes Anderson (“Rushmore”, “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “The Darjeeling Limited”) and co-writer Noah Baumbach (“The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”, “Margot at the Wedding”, “Kicking and Screaming”).

The development for “Fantastic Mr. Fox” began in 2004 and was released in theaters in 2009. What made the film quite unique is that it’s a Wes Anderson animated film and also a film that utilizes stop-motion animation and a first for 20th Century Fox.

The film was released in October 2009 and made over $41 million in the box office and nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Animated Feature” and “Best Original Score”. Back in 2010, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox but now, the film will be re-released by the Criterion Collection, featuring more special features and will be released as a Blu-ray+DVD combo.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a film that begins with Fox (voiced by George Clooney) and his girlfriend Felicity killing and stealing squab. Due to his girlfriend being pregnant and the fact that the two were caught stealing, Fox made a promise that if they were to survive their ordeal, he would quit and find a safer job.

Fast forward two years later, Mr. Fox and Mrs. Fox (voiced by Meryl Streep) have a son named Ash (voiced by Jason Schwartzman). Mr. Fox is now a newspaper columnist and unhappy about his current lifestyle and living in a hole. He wants a better home but Mrs. Fox has no problem where they are living at. As for Mr. Fox’s son, Ash is a son who is not as gifted as his father and can be seen as a little weird as he likes to sport unusual clothing including a cape.

One day, Mr. Fox decides to purchase a home inside a tree, despite warning from his lawyer, Badger (voiced by Bill Murray). Part of the reason why Fox wanted the home is that he could be close to large corporate facilities owned by farmers Walter Boggis (owns a chicken/squaw farm), Nathan Bunce (owns a duck and geese farm) and Franklin Bean (owns a turkey, apples and cider farm).

The whole family packs up and moves to their new home while Mrs. Fox’s nephew Kristofferson (voiced by Eric Chase Anderson) comes to live with them because of his father’s illness. But immediately, Mr. Fox sees how Kristofferson is gifted with athletic ability like himself (and unlike his son) and also Kristofferson becomes quite popular at the school. This causes Ash to become very jealous of his cousin because he does not have the same athletic skills but most importantly, his father seems to have more interest in Kristofferson than him. Thus Ash treats his cousin quite badly.

Meanwhile, we learn of Mr. Fox’s main motivation of moving to the tree and near the corporations. He is missing his old self and the ability to infiltrate, kill his food and steal. Thus immediately, Mr. Fox and his friend Kylie (voiced by Wallace Wolodarsky) along with an unwilling Kristofferson begin infiltrating and stealing from the farms successfully. But each of the farmers have had enough and will now do anything it takes to capture or kill Mr. Fox.

What became a fun getaway from Mr. Fox can now lead to the demise of his family and friends. How will the fantastic Mr. Fox get out of this predicament?

VIDEO:

“Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700” is presented in 1080p (widescreen 1:85:1). One thing that is important to emphasize that this is a stop-motion animated film. So, for those who are wondering why the animation is not as fluid as a Pixar film, that is because this whole film is based on miniature models and an unthinkable amount of photographic images to create an animated film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the film was shot with Nikon D3 digital cameras with Canon lenses, and the entire production was completed in a fully digital workflow.  The final color-corrected files were output to Rec. 709 high-definition color space for Blu-ray and DVD release.”

With that being said, I have to say that I was blown away by how beautiful this film is. I didn’t realize how much went into this film until I saw the special features because I knew it was stop animation but for something to look this good, I figured there was plenty of CGI-animation incorporated. But learning that every furnishing, every scenery was handmade and painted, each of the characters were about two feet miniatures and highly detailed was absolutely amazing. Great cinematography by Tristan Oliver (who has worked in several “Wallace & Gromit” films).

The Criterion Collection Blu-ray brings out the detail of the work of the staff as the fur of the characters come out in such glorious detail, the eyes of the characters/puppets to the detail of the ground and the tree. Absolutely fantastic work and very much appreciated through HD as detail is clear and reds, oranges and browns and various earthtone colors really showcase the vibrancy of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.   The majority of the film is dialogue and musically driven, there are sequences that begin midway from the film that begins to incorporate more action sequences and sound effects. Dialogue is crystal clear and understandable, music also comes out quite nicely through the front channels and then the moments of destruction from the humans towards Mr. Fox’s home and living areas are well demonstrated throughout the surround channels and even utilizing LFE.

Lossless audio is very well done and although not an aggressive soundtrack, a still a solid lossless audio presentation for the film. And also, what an an interesting but fun music soundtrack with The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Burl Ives and other artists featured in the film and wonderful music by Alexandre Desplat (who did a wonderful job with “Julie & Julia”, “Cheri”, “Coco Avant Chanel”, etc).

According to the Criterion Collection, “the film features a fully digital soundtrack.  The 5.1 surround audio for this release was mastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700” comes with the following special features:

  • Introduction by “Petey” – (1:11) A short introduction to “Fantastic Mr. Fox” by a minor character named Petey.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary featuring director Wes Anderson.
  • Animatic – (1:15:04) “Fantastic Mr. Fox” by Ronald Fox animatic featuring the sketched/storybook versions put together as a movie.
  • The Making  of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” – A fantastic documentary on the making of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” which you can play all or watch the following featurettes separately:  Featuring Recording the Voices; Puppet Tests/Early Animation; Refrences for Art Department; A Visit to the Studio; Time-Lapse Photography; Music and Minature Objects.  This “making of” is not the same “making of” that was featured in the 2010 20th Century Fox Blu-ray release.   This is a newer “making of” documentary, while the older version can be found under “publicity featurettes”.
  • Roald Dahl reads “Fantastic Mr. Fox” – (53:20) If you are a fan of audio books that are read, then you will love this audio feature with Roald Dahl reading “Fantastic Mr. Fox”.
  • Award Speeches – Featuring three speeches read by the puppets: The acceptance speech (1:17), the potential victory speech (1:22) and press statement (:27).
  • Set Photography by Ray Lewis – Featuring 50 photos taken by Ray Lewis during the making of the film.
  • Publicity Featurettes – A few segments featured on the original 20th Century Fox Blu-ray, these featurettes include: Roald Dahl (2:48), Adaptation (8:52), The Puppet Makers (8:19), The Cast (6:25), Designing the World (8:03) and Bill and His Badger (7:35). I loved the featurettes included in this segment and how it shows the crew creating wonderful miniatures of Dahl’s work from furnishings to even the silverware and animating the puppets.
  • Sony Robots commercial – (1:01) A commercial for “Sony Robots” (perhaps the crew worked on this commercial).
  • Discussion and Analysis – (11:26) Featuring two young students Jake Ryan and Jeremy Logan discuss the film.
  • “Fantastic Mr. Dahl” – (61:26) An in-depth documentary about Roald Dahl’s life, his work and his relationship with his family and friends and much more!
  • The Witch’s Tree – (1:43) Roald Dahl discussing the influences for “Fantastic Mr. Fox”.
  • Dahl’s Manuscripts – Featuring 18 pages of Dahl’s earlier draft of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and communication he had with his editor.

EXTRAS:

“Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Criterion Collection #700” includes both the Blu-ray and DVD version of a film which comes with a slipcase.  Included is a 34-page booklet featuring photos and sketches, the following essays: “Vulpine Nature” by Erica Wagner, “Welcome to the Dahl House” by Wes Anderson and “White Cape” comic book which was used as a prop in the film.

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As I revisit “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, how appropriate for the company to obtain the rights to distribute Wes Anderson’s animated film to add to his cinematic oeuvre offered by the Criterion Collection.

One thing that one can expect from a Wes Anderson film is intelligent and creative writing but also a beloved story from author Roald Dahl and see how the research by Wes Anderson and his staff paid off, by learning about the man behind the story and slowly developing this impressive world through stop-animation.

I really enjoyed “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and after watching this Blu-ray release, just in awe of how much hard work, creativity and detail went into creating this film. Originally, my first inclination was to believe that the film utilized  a lot of CGI implemented in this film but to find out everything was literally handcrafted and shot frame-by-frame was simply amazing.

Wes Anderson is a wonderful director and the fact that you have major talent involved in this film from George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and many others along with a talented crew to create this stop-animation film and make it come to life is quite impressive.

And while one can easily become captivated by this film for its story, its characters and its overall design, one must be wondering if they previously owned the 20th Century Fox Blu-ray release of “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, should they invest in this 2014 Criterion Collection version?

If you enjoyed and loved the film and if you are a Wes Anderson cinema fan, then my answer is “yes”.  You definitely will want to upgrade to the Criterion Collection version as Criterion Collection delivered in bringing more special features and also the Criterion Collection booklet.  There is much more included with this Criterion Collection release of the film than the 20th Century Fox Blu-ray release.

Granted, you lose out on a theatrical trailer and a one minute “Beginner’s Guide to Whack Bat” but considering the amount of special features included with the Criterion Collection release of the film, you get so much more with this release!

As for parents who wonder if they can show this film to their children, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is rated PG and with the fox characters being wild animals, they steal, hunt chickens and kill their prey. Granted, there is no blood shown and there is one scene where a rat pulls out a knife and tries to kill Mr. Fox and continues again further in the story where he goes after Ash. So, there are darker moments in the film. So, definitely parental guidance is suggested.

With that being said, my wife and I watched the film with our son who was seven at the time and we are typically strict of the programming he watches, but in this case, we felt “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was appropriate for him to watch because there was no visual violence.  And he enjoyed the film!

In the end, there is nothing that I can really complain about the film. I found it to be delightfully creative, smart and enjoyable!

Overall, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a wonderful animated film and the Criterion Collection took something that was wonderful and along with its title, released a Blu-ray that is for that most part “fantastic”.   Highly recommended!






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