Featuring 240 sets and more than 1,000 puppets, the production of the latest film from writer/director Wes Anderson was a bit different than the rest of the movies that have come out in 2018.
No stranger to the stop-motion animation process — “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was entirely stop-motion while elements of it pop up in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” — Anderson crafts the world of “Isle of Dogs” in a way that evokes the Japanese folklore it is inspired by while also making it feel very “Wes Anderson-y,” if you catch my drift.
Set in an undefined period in a parallel-world Japan, the film follows 12-year-old Atari (Koyu Rankin), who goes on a rescue mission to retrieve his dog, who has been shipped off to a secluded island with the other canines after the corrupt and intolerant Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) marks the animals as carrying the deadly “dog flu” and decides to ostracize them.
No stranger to Anderson’s style, and a master of stop-motion in his own right, Andy Gent says there’s something special about seeing these puppets and sets in person, as most people don’t recognize the scale and craftsmanship put into bringing these characters and worlds to life.
“When you see them... they’re very special little things. They’re perfect miniatures of a world. They’re, of course, everything you want to see from a Wes Anderson scene — all the richness and details,” he said. “You probably don’t realize when you watch the movie, but the individual sets and puppets contain an enormous amount of extra detail.”
Gent has worked with Anderson before on “Life Aquatic,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” with a filmography that also includes work for Tim Burton on “Corpse Bride,” “Frankenweenie” and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”
Both “Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Miss Peregrine’s” would not be films that the average viewer would associate with animation — much less stop-motion animation — as both are live-action features. Gent said that with more and more studios clamoring for stop-motion artists and more avenues opening for both feature work and smaller projects, the time is as good as ever for an animator to be working.
“It’s easier now with digital cameras and capture software that can help to animate. You can do it on your iPhone; that’s the beauty of it all, it has become very accessible,” he said. Gent added that he recently spoke with kids with plans to show them how to animate and he was surprised at the number of them bringing LEGO movies and other short films they had already started on.
This accessibility has to be taken to another level with the students of SCAD, which features an animation department of its own. “If you’re a student, [the exhibition] is going to be a great thing to see, but it is also interesting all around, from fabrication to the art departments to product designers and architects, all the various other skills that can be brought to bear. It may be a useful thing globally for people to see,” Gent said.