|early depiction of vested fox|
Foxes wearing clothes and walking on their hind legs have a long tradition in illustration. The Story of ”Reineke Fuchs” or “Reynard the Fox” dates back to medieval European folklore, with even older origins in fables. In these stories the fox is a sly trickster and successfully plays the other animal characters off against each other – which he gets away with in the end.
Especially in the German-speaking part of Europe Goethe’s poem about “Reineke Fuchs” is well-known and has inspired many illustrations. During the 19th century, illustrators like Heinrich Kley, Gustave Doré, John Tenniel, John Swain or Wilhelm von Kaulbach have drawn anthropomorphic animals.
|Wilhelm von Kaulbach (Reineke Fuchs, 1857)|
|John Swain (Punch, 1883)|
The black and white stop motion film connects episodes of Renard’s bad deeds by having the aggrieved victims tell the lion king of their suffering. Compared to what we are used to see in children’s films today it has a real wild story including a extra-marital romance of the lion queen with a singing cat. In the end, the fox is even able to talk himself off the gallows so that the king decides to make peace and elevate the fox to become his minister. It is on youtube in full length with English subtitles.
Its creator, the then-renowned Ladislas Starevitch (or Ladislaw Starewicz), was originally Polish. Seeing the animation style in Wes Anderson’s film, it is not surprising that a lot of key inspiration was Eastern European stop-motion animation, especially Hungarian.
|Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman|
|Two of the scenes accompanied by Burl Ives records|
|Jarvis Cocker as Petey|
Talking about vested foxes one cannot ignore Woolie Reitherman’s Robin Hood (1973). Anderson, born in 1969, must have seen this as a child and he uses its song “Love” in an idyllic scene outside the treehouse. It’s barely audible, but it’s playing like a piece of mood music.
|The record playing in this scene is from Robin Hood.|
“expressed reservations about the personality of the title character: ‘Well, our main character is a crook, and there’s nothing about him having the ‘Robin Hood’ angle. […] He’s not to be a murderer under any circumstances. He shouldn’t take advantage of anybody but a stupid individual.’”He further cited his problems with the Hays Office because of Cock Robin. Later, it was to be combined with "Chanticleer" and under discussion until the 1960s. Its later character design “provided a jumping-off point for the artists when they made Robin Hood” (Solomon).
|study for the Reynard feature (image lifted from 2619 Hyperion)|
|"Reynard attempts to woo a demure old hen", drawing for Chanticleer by Marc Davis (in Charles Solomon's "The Disney that never was", p.82)|
Musically, there is a wealth of references with Alexandre Desplat’s brilliant score weaving such disparate sources as Beach Boys, Burl Ives, Truffaut soundtracks and Morricone imitations together into one seamless fabric that is dominated by banjo and chimes.
As always with Wes Anderson, there is a Rolling Stones song playing during a key scene. Using songs of the late 1960s, early 1970s is one of the director’s trademarks. Here they fit perfectly, since the film seems to take place around the year 1970 when the book came out.
Mr. Fox’ confrontations with the farmers, Bean’s security rat and the wolf are successfully staged like Sergio Leone shootouts. Since these spaghetti western spoofs have become an annoying staple of so many comedies, it’s positively surprising when one is really working. A lot of its success is due to the perfect musical timing and scoring.
I have juxtaposed three of Desplat’s sound cues with Ennio Morricone’s originals they reminded me of.
Coming soon: Wes Anderson’s visual style