In many ways, the twin worlds of Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson always seem to have been destined to be aligned through the stars of creativity. There’s a sense of childhood innocence across both their back catalogues, and their mythic fables and beautiful narratives are adored by young and old alike.
Anderson had first turned to Dahl to create his own glorious pieces with 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is based on the English literary figure’s 1970 children’s novel of the same name. Anderson wrote the stop-motion animated movie in partnership with Noah Baumbach, and it’s arguably one of his best moments in cinema.
Fantastic Mr. Fox focuses on the titular character (played by George Clooney) who suffers the danger of being hunted and killed by three farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean, as he and his offspring have been stealing a rather excessive amount of food from their stocks. As well as Clooney, the voice cast features Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson and Michael Gambon.
Cast-wise, then, the 2009 film is typical of an Anderson film, but its stop-motion animation is a true thing of filmic beauty. Dahl’s novel had been admittedly small, so Anderson knew that he would have to stretch out the narrative in order to fill out a feature-length runtime.
But by employing his usual fare of teenage rebellion, strained familial relationship and their redemption, he delivered some of his greatest work, free perhaps from the constraints of a live-action visual style that can tend to become self-referential and forthcoming to the point of tedium.
There’s a deep love in Anderson for Dahl, and it shines throughout Fantastic Mr. Fox. In fact, according to a New Yorker profile piece from around the time Anderson was preparing to release his in the United States, following a London Film Festival premiere, the first book that Anderson ever owned was indeed Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel, which explains why he was so keen on adapting it.
When it came time to write the script, both Anderson and Baumbach set out for Dahl’s house, wrapping themselves up in what remained of his literary earthly presence. The fox runs and iconic locations in the film are actually based on Dahl’s garden, and Bean and his wife also physically resemble the author and his widow.
Anderson followed up on his first foray into the magical world of Roald Dahl with The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, the first of a four-part series adapted from the author’s short stories, also including ‘The Swan’, ‘The Ratcatcher’ and ‘Poison’. There’s no doubt that the legendary indie cinema filmmaker considers Dahl as something of a childhood hero, so the artistic relationship between the two is unlikely to end there.
Check out the trailers for Wes Anderson’s Roald Dahl adaptations below to get a taste of his profound love for the author.