Thursday, January 8, 2009

the fantastic mr. gustafson

in anticipation of one of the few stop motion animation features to be released this year, i thought i would take a little time to look at the director's previous work. of course, i'm talking about Wes Anderson's adaptation of the 1970 Roald Dahl children's classic Fantastic Mr. Fox and its animation director Mark Gustafson.

originally Wes Anderson had wanted Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, Monkeybone) to direct the animation, as he had directed the stop motion sequences in the Life Aquatic. however, when the company that was setup with the project (Revolution Studios) folded, Anderson took the project to Fox Animation Studios and Selick left to direct Coraline for Laika, the old Will Vinton Studio that was bought up by Phil Knight (the Nike guy). Anderson then turned to an old stop motion pro -- Mark Gustafson, the Emmy award-winning animator who got his start with the Will Vinton Studio beginning with Return to Oz all the way through The PJs, where he was nominated for an Emmy. here's an interview with Mark from that era when he was the supervising director on The PJs that shows the production process. it reminds me a lot of the Moral Orel production breakdown, but with a bigger budget.

lately, he had been doing a lot of commercial work with Laika. including this award-winning spot for Ben & Jerry's:

he won an emmy for directing Will Vinton's Easter Special for CBS, but I think his most endearing and impressive animation work thus far was a short he produced while at the Vinton studios called Mr. Resistor in 1993. its become a popular and enduring character, even used for the 1997 Oscars in a skit. the original has a kind of a Mad Max in a junkyard feel.

here's a little bit of behind-the-scenes on Mr. Resistor including a tv commercial for a local radio station that he created:

finally, in 2005 Coca-Cola commissioned a stop-motion spot for the 2005 FIFA World Cup in spanish. this is what followed:

its truly bizarre. Coca-Cola got such a great response that they commissioned six more stop motion spots from Gustafson and Laika. this one features a horseshoe, a lucky rabbit's foot, and a four-leaf clover:

at any rate, Fantastic Mr. Fox is being animated in London at the 3 Mills Studio, the same place where Corpse Bride was shot. very little actual information about the production has gotten out, as Anderson likes to keep a notoriously tight lid on his projects before they are released.

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