He's done it again: Wes Anderson, the genius behind The Royal Tenenbaums and Fantastic Mr. Fox, has just released his latest feature film Isle of Dogs. Defined as a stop-motion, animated comedy, the film chronicles the events following the outbreak of a dog flu epidemic in the fictional city of Megasaki, Japan. In a desperate bid to prevent further spreading of the disease, the government exiles all dogs in the city to Trash Island, where they form their own colony among the city's waste and garbage juice.
Although humans make up a vital part of the story, it's the intricately detailed canine characters that steal the show. Behind the fantasy puppets are hundreds of talented artists, thousands of hours of work and a whole lot of whacky research in true Wes Anderson-style. Over 900 characters populate the world of the film, and an additional 1,000 facial expressions were carefully created for multiple characters. Rather than solely relying on 3D printing, the puppets are made by hand. Each underwent a rigorous preparation process before being approved for filming. For example, instead of sketching his ideas, Head of Puppets Andy Gent (we can only hope that’s on his business card) used clay to mould sample dogs to play around with. There were 70 artists in the puppets division alone, and that excludes the design team featuring the brilliantly-named Head of Hair and an entire department devoted to fur. It took 30 full weeks to get the fur perfect on Nutmeg – a golden-coloured dog voiced by Scarlett Johansson – Anderson was inspired by the golden hues inside a Gucci store he came across in his travels.
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Aside from Johansson, other familiar voices include Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Edward Norton – even Yoko Ono has a cameo. The dogs themselves are deliberately designed to be a touch fantastical, which Anderson says was no accident: “Finding that balance of dog anatomy versus what was more of a caricature, that was not preconceived. You sort of had to try it and see. Then try again and adjust.”
If it’s all a little confusing, the best way to find out is to see the movie; Isle of Dogs is currently in cinemas worldwide. You won’t regret it.