Wes Anderson is returning to the big screen after a four-year hiatus, and cinephiles are predictably over the moon with anticipation. For his first feature since “The Grand Budapest Hotel” became a box office hit and a four-time Oscar winner, Anderson is going back to the stop-motion style he perfected in “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” His latest is a canine-filled adventure called “Isle of Dogs” that set to be released on March 23 courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Anderson has only tried his hand at animation once before with “Fox,” but that gamble ended up being a huge success. Not only was “Fox” nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but it was also named the second best animated film of the 21st century by IndieWire. Can Anderson strike stop-motion lightning twice? The odds are in his favor.
Here’s everything you need to know about “Isle of Dogs” before its release.
Anderson first spoke about “Isle of Dogs” during a career-spanning talk at ARTE Cinema in March 2016. It was here where he revealed that both Akira Kurosawa and Rankin-Bass Christmas television specials like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” were the two primary influences for his new film.
“I really liked these TV Christmas specials in America,” he explained. “I always liked the creatures in the [Ray] Harryhausen-type films, but really these American Christmas specials were probably the thing that really made me want to do [“Isle of Dogs”].
Later in the conversation, Anderson added, “The new film is less influenced by stop-motion movies than it is by Akira Kurosawa.”
“Isle of Dogs” takes place in a dystopian future and is set in the fake Japanese city of Megasaki. The villainous Mayor Kobayashi has banished all dogs to an island garbage dump after an outbreak of “canine flu” threatens Megasaki’s human population. The protagonist of “Isle of Dogs” is Atari Kobayashi, a 12-year-old adventurer and pilot who sets out on a mission to find his banished dog, Spots.
Is Atari the Mayor’s son? They share the same last name and Anderson has log been obsessed with father-son dynamics, so we’re guessing yes, but this has not been confirmed as of yet. The young Kobayashi ends up crash landing his plane on the dog-ridden island, where he decides to team up with some of the canines in order to track down Spots.
Anderson has assembled his most star-studded cast yet to voice the characters in “Isle of Dogs.” Some of his returning favorites include Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, Bob Balaban, and F. Murray Abraham, while newcomers to Anderson’s filmography include Byran Cranston, Greta Gerwig, Ken Watanabe, Liev Schreiber, and Scarlett Johansson. Child actor Koyu Rankin voices the young Kobayashi, while Gerwig plays his human love interest. Cranston, Norton, Murray, Goldblum, and Balaban voice the five dogs who Kobayashi befriends on the island and help the explorer try and find Spots, who is voiced by Schreiber.
Anderson’s last stop-motion outing “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was rated PG, but the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has officially given “Isle of Dogs” a PG-13 rating for “thematic elements and violent images.” The rating suggests a more adult-oriented and edgier animated offering than the family-friendly “Fox.” “Isle of Dogs” will be the second Anderson feature rated PG-13 following “Moonrise Kingdom.” All of Anderson’s other live-action films have been rated R. Some of the PG-13 violence was teased in the first official clip.
French film composer Alexandre Desplat has is keeping his collaboration with Anderson strong following his original score work on “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Desplat’s “Grand Budapest” score won the Oscar in 2015, and he was nominated for his work on “Fantastic Mr. Fox” in 2009. Desplat has a total of nine Oscar nominations and is back in the race for Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water.”
When you’re making a stop-motion feature film, you probably want cinematographer Tristan Oliver involved behind the camera. The DP has worked on some of the most beloved stop-motion films ever made, including Aardman Animations’ “Chicken Run” and “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” which won the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Oliver has also worked with Laika on “ParaNorman” and was the DP on “Loving Vincent,” which is nominated for the Oscar this year. Best of all, he was Anderson’s cinematographer on “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” which means he’s already well-versed in filming the director’s stop-motion worlds.
“Isle of Dogs” has been selected to open the 2018 Berlin Film Festival on February 15, making it the first animated film to do so in the event’s 68-year history. Anderson has premiered many films at Berlin over the years, including “The Royal Tenenbums,” “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which won him the Silver Bear.
Fox Searchlight is expected to dominate the Oscars this year, thanks to “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and quickly after the March telecast the distributor is hoping to have their first 2018 indie blockbuster with “Isle of Dogs.”
The company is following “Grand Budapest’s” exact release plan, with a Berlin Film Festival debut in February followed by a a limited March opening and an expansion through April. Searchlight had massive success with this strategy for “Grand Budapest” in 2014. The film became Anderson’s top grosser with just under $60 million in the U.S. and $175 million worldwide. Despite its March release, the film also went on to earn nine Oscar nominations the following year and won four prizes. Searchlight is clearly hoping “Isle of Dogs” performs similarly.
Anderson often works with his friends in the early stages of development, and “Isle of Dogs” was certainly no exception. While Anderson is the sole credited writer of the film’s screenplay, he conceived the story for the movie with pals Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Kunichi Nomura.
Coppla co-wrote “Moonrise Kingdom” with Anderson, and the two earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Both Coppola and Schwartzman worked with Anderson on the script for “The Darjeeling Limited.” Nomura is better known as an actor, having appeared in “Lost in Translation” and “Grand Budapest.” He also has a voice role in “Isle of Dogs.”