Fantastic Mr. Fox, opens with Mr. Fox, and his wife Felicity, caged while raiding a farm. Felicity reveals to Fox that she is pregnant. Mr. Fox promises that if they escape from the trap, he will find a safer job.
Twelve fox years later, the Foxes and their son, Ash, are expecting their relative Kristofferson. The Foxes are living in a hole; this makes Mr. Fox feel poor. He moves his family to a tree, ignoring the warning of his friend Badger who tells Mr. Fox about how dangerous the area is.
The tree is close to the farms of three mean men- Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Mr. Fox, who misses the exhilaration of stealing from farms, decides to raid Boggis, Bunce, and Bean’s facilities. This starts a war, which endangers his family, friends, and community.
Mr. Fox’s son, Ash, who craves his father’s respect and pride, becomes increasingly jealous after his cousin, Kristofferson, arrives. His father, and community, adores Kristofferson, who is immediately talented at everything that Ash is not. Ash’s jealousy swells into a rivalry as his father invites Kristofferson on his raids, but instructs Ash to stay at home.
Ash, who always saw himself as an athlete, as his father was his age, is told by his parents that he is different, and that that’s ok. Ash comes to term with this, as he realizes that his parents accept him for who he is. Ash then forgives Kristofferson for being so perfect, when he is so flawed.
This is an example of Anderson’s emphasis on how being abnormal should be embraced. None of Anderson’s characters, even the minor and supporting ones, are perfect. This very human aspect of his films creates a believable reality.
Throughout the film, the audience has been made aware that Mr. Fox has a phobia of wolves. He freezes even when he hear’s the word. On his return trip back from rescuing Kristofferson, he finds himself in the same clearing as a wolf. Though he is afraid, he attempts to communicate with the creature. When that doesn’t work, Mr. Fox raises his paw; the wolf returns the sign. This shared moment is reminiscent of Steve’s with the jaguar shark. It is a reminder that the world is much bigger than one person, and that it is very beautiful.
This film is the only animated movie that Anderson has directed. (Though he has created a few animated shorts for Moonrise Kingdom). It is also the only one based on a book. However, this does not make it an outlier. As Nick Flynn, my mentor put it, “The story that he eventually came up with for the movie is very much a Wes Anderson creation. The original story is really quite sparse, and much of what ends up on the screen is Anderson’s invention. Mr Fox is very much a standard Wes Anderson type protagonist who over the course of the movie changes and integrates into his extended “family” in a familiar fashion.”
There are reoccurring themes and occurrences in Fantastic Mr. Fox. It contains story-like explanations, “Master plan’s” (like Dignan, and Francis), cross-floor filming of the Foxes house (the boat in Life Aquatic, the train in Darjeeling, and the search for self (“Who am I,” Mr. Fox asks).
Mr. Fox wants to be a hero. Like most of Wes Anderson’s protagonists, he yearns to be the center of attention. Like Steve in Life Aquatic, who was consumed by the idea of being the “Zissou” in “Team Zissou”, Mr. Fox is fixated on being the “Fantastic” Mr. Fox.
Mr. Fox also shares the quality with the typical Wes Anderson protagonist of being an energetic, action-packed character. He feels like he’s not living up to his old glory after retiring from the raiding business. He cannot be the father and husband that his family needs and expects. He’s a wild animal, and can not contain his instincts.
Unlike most of Anderson’s films, there are three characters portrayed as being inherently evil. Usually, no Anderson character is evil- they are very dimensional; they have their share of faults and strengths. The farmers though, are bad to the bone. They are obsessed with killing Mr. Fox and the other local wild animals.