The actors in Wes Anderson’s latest film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, are twelve to eighteen inches high, but they travel much like taller Hollywood stars. Jetting in from England, where they were made and where the movie was filmed, the cast of five foxes, a badger, a rabbit, and a possum showed up at a Dumbo photo studio for our cover shoot with a sizable entourage: a prop stylist who fashioned their tiny gifts specifically for us out of extra wallpaper from the movie set; an acting coach (okay, a puppeteer) who hunched shoulders, arched eyebrows, directed gazes, and painstakingly gave each character personality; and a hairdresser who tamed unruly eyebrows with a toothbrush and hairspray—and, when needed, added some eye sparkle with Vaseline. “They don’t need a lot of craft services,” says producer Jeremy Dawson. “But they don’t like to look bad on camera.” The movie’s cost for such verisimilitude: £50,000 per animal, each of which took up to ten months to design and build. Under their furry faces are a mosaic of moldable metal paddles that can be shaped into smiles, frowns, or contemptuous glares. Their metal skeletons have ball-and-socket joints, and to ensure that their coats wouldn’t bunch at the joints, puppeteers glued individual goat hairs onto a backing made from ladies’ nylon stockings.
At our shoot, it was six hours before the puppets were positioned, properly lit, and camera-ready. On a good day during filming, working on multiple stages, Anderson and each animator took 40 to 50 stills; at the end of a good week, they had ten seconds of film per animator. The loving assemblage of foxes you see on our cover appear to be enjoying a well-honed holiday ritual—the endearingly awkward posed family snapshot—which made us curious about their maker’s own cherished Christmas Day habits. “Frankly,” says Anderson, “we tend to go to the movies.”