“With a stop-motion movie, there’s a certain part that uses models. … And if you’re going to do it that way, you’re embracing old methods,” Anderson told a Berlin Film Festival press conference for his stop-motion animated feature Isle of Dogs ahead of its world premiere on Thursday evening that will open the fest.
Anderson fans will recall the miniature model of the pink and purple hotel that figured in The Grand Budapest Hotel. His latest movie also forgoes computer-generated effects for practical models.
“I don’t think there’s anything in the movie that’s CG. There’s things that are combined in the digital process. But they were elements we shot. Everything was miniatures,” said Anderson, who opened the Berlinale in 2014 with The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Isle of Dogs portrays a future dystopia where a group of dogs, exiled to an island made of trash, complain about the lack of variety in their diet, while a plucky young boy risks everything for the love of his pooch.
Anderson conceded that physical models appear to movie viewers as artificial when using CG effects, however hard he works with miniature handmade sets to create a real-word effect. “Of course, everyone can tell instantly it’s a model. You’re not fooling anybody. But it’s something that I associate with cinema history,” Anderson said.
Another example of a practical challenge for a stop-motion movie was realizing well into the production process that an Isle of Dogs puppet doesn’t smile. “That could be like two and a half years into the process and suddenly you’re faced with that,” Anderson told the presser. “You have no choice; you figure out a way. You add to the puppet, you modify the puppet, whatever.”
The animated feature did allow the director to assemble a stellar voice cast that includes a host of Anderson regulars like Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray, alongside Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe and Yoko Ono.
“One thing about an animated movie: You can’t really say you’re not available. We can do it anytime,” Anderson said. “We can do it at your house, at any hour of the day. There’s no excuse.”
His latest movie, which takes place 20 years in the future, is his second stop-motion feature after Fantastic Mr. Fox. The voice cast also includes newcomer Koyu Rankin, who voices Atari, the 12-year-old who defies his father’s wishes to go see his dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber).
Isle of Dogs, from Fox Searchlight and Indian Paintbrush, is produced by Anderson in association with his Grand Budapest Hotel production team: Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson. The movie will hit theaters on March 23.