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Production Notes
Introduction & Origin

ISLE OF DOGS, writer/director Wes Anderson's 9th feature film and his second stop-motion animated film, is a grand adventure set in a near-future Japan in the grips of a canine crisis and mass antidog hysteria. Here, in a far-flung floating junktopia known only as Trash Island, a scrappy pack of exiled dogs who've banded together to survive makes an amazing discovery: the crash-landing of a little human pilot who will take them on a life-changing journey.

The resulting journey is packed with humor, action and friendship. But on its trek, it also pays homage to the epic scope and beauty of Japanese cinema, to the noble loyalty of canine companions, to the hopeful heroism of the small and the overlooked, to the rejection of intolerance and most of all to the unbreakable boy-dog bond that has launched countless escapades.

It all began with an unlikely, but potent mix of fascinations shared by Anderson and his story collaborators Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi Nomura: dogs, the future, garbage dumps, childhood adventures and Japanese movies. The latter was key. In fact, ISLE OF DOGS may owe as much to the storytelling legacy of Akira Kurosawa as the history of stop-motion animation. Says Anderson, "Kurosawa and his little teams of co-writers worked together to create his stories and shape his scripts. It's quite a common thing in Italian cinema as well: movies written in a writing-room. Like a TV show. We try to make our own version of that." The story's invention expanded from a dreamlike spark to the spectacularly detailed creation of Megasaki City, the rubbish-geography of Trash Island, and a cast of misfit but hopeful characters, both fur-bearing and human.

"We wanted to do something sort of futuristic. We wanted a pack of alpha dogs who were all the leader. And we wanted to live in a land of garbage," says Anderson. "The Japanese setting came entirely because of Japanese cinema. We love Japan, and we wanted to do something that was really inspired by Japanese movies, so we ended up mixing the dog movie and Japan movie together."

The story, with its chatty canines, furred femmes fatales, a boy aviator, an intrepid school reporter, mutant viruses, mythical isle and step-by-step unraveling of a big human mistake, developed over time and innumerable cups of tea. Roman Coppola explains the unstructured shape of the process: "There's banter, discussion, and then when something feels right, Wes will make a note of it in his notebooks. Jason will say something that'll spark off an idea, or a piece of dialogue. And then, sometimes, we'll assume the roles of the characters. We did this a lot in Darjeeling because there were three main characters and three of us. Then there's a gestation period of gathering materials, and then there's another phase where the writing begins, and because it is an animated film, the writing really continues through production."

Anderson likes the writing to be ever open to something new. He says: "It's just always changing and once we reach the end, we start reworking it."

Adds Schwartzman: "You're always creating and changing and rethinking. But there's always this pile of ideas that were there from the beginning that somehow have a truth to them."

The screenplay that emerged is, in some ways, an analogue of the classic yarn of an outsider (the little pilot) arriving in a new land (Trash Island), and an analogue of the timeless tale of ... well, in this case literal underdogs striving against blinded oppressors. But the magic of it all sprang out of the details - from the charm and texture of each dog's story, from the cluttered but artful architecture of Trash Island, from the idea that a child searching for his faithful pet might set off a world-altering chain of events.

Producer Jeremy Dawson notes that it was the film's extreme design challenges-even for Anderson who has a way with dizzyingly complex spaces-that led the director to think in terms of another stop-motion film. It just seemed the matching form for emotionally fluent, if down-and-out, dogs and a Japanese island lined with society's strange, funny and downright calamitous discards.

"If it were possible for Wes to do this live action, maybe he would have," Dawson suggests, "but it's not something that could have been done. It's a movie about talking dogs. Yet, it's not a cartoon-it's a movie. I think it pushes the boundary in terms of what people think can be done in this medium."

In fact, stop motion animation's century-long evolution has long been more creative than technical. Little has changed in the fundamentals. Though digital cameras and computers have smoothed the process, it's still a matter of shooting the infinitesimally small movements of 3D objects frame-by-frame, in a painstaking process that nevertheless generates palpable life. So the biggest changes in the form have come in the content, in the kinds of stories one might tell, in pressing the limits of imagination. For decades before the advent of CG, stop-motion was primarily a special-effects tool. From Jean Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST to 1933's KING KONG to George Lucas' first STAR WARS film, it was a means of making the impossible practicable. Only more recently have full-length stop motion features come to the fore, from Tim Burton's pioneering THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS to Anderson's FANTASTIC MR. FOX to the recent KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS.

ISLE OF DOGS is something different again, a world-building story that by its very nature breaks animation norms and, as Dawson notes, brings together all the themes, shots, emotional intricacy and adventurousness of perhaps Anderson's most ambitious filmmaking to date. From the intricate puppets and micro-sets arises this living, breathing realm of cold-nosed questers whose plight is intimately relatable. The feel is of a whimsical legend but the grounding is in the real concerns, big and small, of modern life: friendship, family, humanity's future and coming together to clean up our messes.

Anderson and team assembled a diverse multicultural voice cast consisting of artists, rock musicians, designers and of course, actors, all bringing their unique talent in breathing life into the citizens of Megasaki City and the canines of Trash Island. And as always with people and dogs, they may not understand one another's words but still enjoy deep, true blue friendship.

Says composer Alexandre Desplat, who marks his fourth collaboration with Anderson on this film: "This one is a huge, huge animal, there's so much going on. It's an even more ambitious film than FANTASTIC MR. FOX and it doesn't look like anything else you've seen. The animation is wild and the amount of detail packed into every frame is astonishing. It is a beautiful fable that takes you into a world of its own, a world no one else could have imagined." Influences

With its semi-fictional Japanese setting, its construction out of comic book-like chapters and its intercut themes of nature, heroism, technology, rescue and honor, perhaps it was only natural that the film would also reverberate with echoes of Japanese pop culture and some of Japan's greatest film directors, from Yasujiro Ozu to Kurosawa to Seijun Suzuki, as well as the Japanese monster films of the 50s and 60s, with their climactic disasters. "We think of it as referring to a whole range of Japanese filmmakers and Japanese culture, but Kurosawa is the main movie influence," says Anderson.

It's hard to even quantify Kurosawa's impact on cinema because he arced so gracefully through a huge pendulum of genres from noir, to Samurai, to Shakespeare, to melodrama. But for ISLE OF DOGS, Anderson was mostly focused on Kurosawa's contemporary (for their time), city-based movies: DRUNKEN ANGEL, STRAY DOG, HIGH AND LOW and THE BAD SLEEP WELL. Each of these kinetically charged films unfolds in gritty domains of crime and corruption. Each seems to transcend the dark side of the modern world with characters of the utmost honesty and humanity. And seen in each is the legendary Toshiro Mifune, whose expressive countenance inspires the look of Mayor Kobayashi.

Another branch of inspiration came from two 19th Century, Edo-period woodblock print masters: Hiroshige and Hokusai, whose emphasis on color and line deeply influenced European Impressionists. Their ukyio-e (translates to "pictures of the floating world") artworks capture fleeting moments of pleasure focusing on natural landscapes, far-flung travels, flora and fauna, geishas and kabuki actors. In preparation for the film, Anderson collected a wide swath of woodblock print images and the storyboard artists trawled through the extensive collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Then, by osmosis, the folkloric Japanese style began to merge with the tactile, handmade feel of stop-motion.

Recalls animatic editor Edward Bursch: "The first thing I received on this film, on April 12th, 2015, was the script from Wes, along with several reference images and a video. The reference images were just a few Japanese woodblock prints, a picture of a dog and a picture of a dog statue in Japan. The video was of three taiko drummers drumming this ferocious beat, and that set the mood."

For all the Japanese (and other) influences one might joyfully trace in the film, the world it conjures is decidedly like no other. Says the film's graphic designer Erica Dorn, who grew up in Japan, of how it all comes together: "The world of ISLE OF DOGS is kind of an alternative reality. It looks and feels like Japan, but it's a slightly dreamier version, a slightly more Wes Anderson version. That is the beauty of setting the film in a made-up city, in a made-up time: you get a certain amount of artistic license. The blending of old and new is very common in Japan. There are scenes in the film that are very minimalist and wabi-sabi; but then you switch over to the city, which is maximalist and very intense. So, there's that feeling of Japan but it's all filtered through Wes's own way of seeing."

While the sheer number of individual moving pieces, physical and thematic, that make up ISLE OF DOGS might be staggering, the paradox is that the prevailing core of the film is one of the most timelessly simple relationships on earth. Sums up storyboard artist Jay Clarke: "No matter what is going on visually, at heart this is an adventure film about a boy and his dog."

Character & Performance: The Dogs

Each member of the conversationally gifted Trash Island pack has a well-worn canine name suggesting they were once beloved as top dogs-Chief, Rex, King, Duke, Boss-which only serves to remind them of how much they miss their former human homes. Their descriptions follow below:
A wiry, wire-haired mutt with spiky, mottled coat and the eyes of an Arctic sled-dog. His ribs stick out like a cast-iron radiator. He is Rex.
A graceful, red-haired mutt with a sable snout and a handlebar moustache. He is dappled with scabs, scars, scuffs, and scratches. He is King.
A stout, liver-spotted mutt with black paws and a tail like a stubbed-out cigar. He wears a soiled, grimy, unraveling, striped, woolen dog-sweater with embroidered baseballs and the word Dragons scrolled across it in cursive. He is Boss.
A bohemian mountain-dog. Slender face, sleek ears, and a ballet-dancer's overly-nimble gait. He has seven missing teeth and a consumptive dry-cough. He is Duke.
A coal-black hound with long legs, black nose, a boxer's jaw, and floppy, black ears with white spots all over them. He has the sturdy frame of a middleweight, but the starved mass of a long distance-runner. He is Chief.

Voicing the role of Chief, the fiercely independent stray who takes an unexpected turn, is Bryan Cranston. "Chief is the odd one out, but he also has a great nobility," observes Cranston. Cranston sees a clear human allegory behind the dogs' banishment from modern society and their quest to survive. "This is a story of disenfranchised dogs, but that is also a very real experience for human beings in every country and walk of life. There are disenfranchised people, the throwaways. And the demagoguery of fear, the kind that leads all the dogs of Megasaki City to be put on an island to fend for themselves, is something humans are dealing with as well. I think it's a very timely theme."

In preparing to play Chief, Cranston had in his mind the 1967 Robert Aldrich classic THE DIRTY DOZEN, about 12 hardened convicts sent on an impossible mission deep inside Nazi Germany. "Those men were throwaways as well. They had no hope of a future so they took a sliver of a chance to stay alive. If you take someone, in this case a dog, who is down and out, and give them just a tiny bit of hope it sparks that desire to attempt something greater. Whether or not that greatness comes to fruition is almost immaterial. The important part is that you have the ambition, the will, the fortitude, the strength and the tolerance of life in order to put one foot forward in front of the other, and march on. What I love about Chief is that he represents the idea that with hope can come second chances."

Edward Norton voices Rex, who as the pack's industrious leader aims to keep the peace. Says Norton of Rex's origins: "Rex describes himself as sleeping on a lamb's wool beanbag next to an electric space heater. So, he's not some rich man's dog. He was probably comfortably middle-class, maybe upper middle-class. But he has a work ethic. He's scrappy, willing to be resourceful and to fight for what he needs. At the same time, he has had a certain baseline of comfort and so psychologically Trash Island is difficult for him. He can only take so much."

As Boss, Bill Murray plays a dog who once had a grand purpose: as a sports mascot. Murray says: "When there is the chance of a great success, you need a mascot, someone that's going to be with you when things get tough, but someone that you're really going to want to be there when things go well. That's Boss." A fan of canine kind, Murray says of the species: "They are the property of heaven, I think. And they're here for the purpose of enlightening the humans that are their caretakers."

Jeff Goldblum felt a kinship with Duke, the chatty, curious hound who has his ears to the ground for the latest rumors. "I believe Duke, in this time of great social crisis in the dog world, just wants what he's always wanted: a balanced diet, regular grooming and his annual physical check-up, which are roughly the same three things that I myself require," Goldblum says.

Ultimately, Goldblum found little difference between a Wes Anderson stop-motion film and a Wes Anderson live-action, of which he has done many. "It all feels like acting to me, no matter how you're doing it. I suppose with voice acting, you don't have to worry about your hair or the sun going down and things like that," he says. "But when you're working with someone like the brilliant cinematic genius Wes Anderson, it's really fun because you just get to do what feels like pure acting and try out every reading that you can think of and exhaust the variety of your imagination."

Spots has seen his share of trouble, danger and even the supposedly fearsome cannibal dogs on the island. Liev Schreiber voices the key role of Spots, the Short-Haired Oceanic Speckle-Eared Sport Hound, who was once the beloved assigned bodyguard to the Mayoral ward Atari, but is now lost to the winds on Trash Island. Schreiber describes Spots as "a highly trained, highly sophisticated animal who is not only the constant companion to Atari but also protects him. I think in many ways Spots embodies the ideals of loyalty, duty and honor. And he has a compassionate side, which was really nice, because I don't normally get to play those kinds of characters." Spots also finds romance amid the ruins with the steadfast survivor Peppermint. "Peppermint has been terribly mistreated and Spots goes from feeling bad for her to falling in love with her," says Schreiber. "He's really a dog who cares about other dogs."

Bob Balaban's character, King, had risen to the heights of canine celebrity as spokesdog for Doggy Chop dog food, before he found himself deposited on Trash Island. "I imagine he felt a little special," says Balaban. "Like William Wegman's Weimaraners, I suspect King secretly liked wearing a hat or a costume, having 20 people focusing lights on him and having everybody care about what he's doing. And the occasional extra treat was just the icing on the dog food cake I guess you would say."

Among the most enigmatic of Trash Island's dogs is Nutmeg, the coquettish show dog with her femme fatale persona and curiously spotless coat of fur. She is played by Scarlett Johansson who has her own ideas about how Nutmeg stays impeccably groomed in a noxious world.

"Nutmeg is incredibly resourceful. She keeps her fur clean by collecting garbage ash in an old coffee bean can. Then she works the ash through her fur from root to tip. That's a very important part of the process. You have to work the ash through from root to tip. And then she shakes off the remaining ash and collects it in the found coffee bean can. Which she then stores for next time. Because as I said she's very resourceful," says Johansson.

Far removed from the life of tricks and wonders that were once her bailiwick, Nutmeg is a bit of a loner on Trash Island, but Chief changes that. Sparks fly at first sniff. "I think Nutmeg sees in Chief a survivor," says Johansson. "She knows what it's like to lose something and come back stronger. She might be more civilized than Chief, but she recognizes in him a fighting spirit and a leadership quality she admires. Plus, he has just the right amount of bite; and who doesn't like a guy with bite?"

Tilda Swinton voices the dog known far and wide as Oracle for her visions, and her understanding of television. Says Swinton: "How does The Oracle see the future? She understands TV. She reads the signs on peoples' faces-specifically the twitches of their noses and their mouths. She can tell their levels of anxiety this way." Swinton notes that there is just one big thing to keep in mind when portraying a dog: "The heart of a dog is a bottomless thing."

F. Murray Abraham greatly admires his character, the wise if Turpentine Brandy-lapping Jupiter. Abraham says: "Jupiter has chosen to live his life as though he's given himself over to a Zen existence. When I say he's the creature I would like to become I'm not kidding. I love that he has a barrel of spirits around his neck. I think it's very wise because you never know when you might need a little shot, or when you'll run into someone who could use one. And it's a communal, convivial thing: we're all going to drink from the same barrel; we're all going to enjoy this together; and we're going to find a way out of this mess. We would sure use Jupiter right about now in this poor old world of ours. That's how I feel about Jupiter."

Character & Performance: The Humans

Taking the primary human role of Atari Kobayashi, the heartbroken Japanese boy who makes a heroic flight to search for his lost dog, is Koyu Rankin, a young Canadian actor who is bilingual in Japanese and English. Only 8 years old at the time of recording, Rankin makes his feature film debut in the role. Says Rankin of why Atari risks everything to search for Spots: "Atari's dog was basically his best friend. Spots is all he ever had, and since he is an orphan, Spots was like his brother, basically. He's determined to find him, so that's why he takes the plane and runs away from home."

Atari's adopted guardian, Mayor Kobayashi, is the authoritarian who outlaws dogs from Megasaki City, though the consequences hit closer to home than he ever imagined. Voicing the role, unexpectedly, is co-story writer and longtime friend of Anderson's, Kunichi Nomura. He didn't know he was being cast until Anderson told him he liked his voice. "Wes said, 'Well, Kun, you've got a really low voice. You sound like a mayor, even though you are much younger than the actual Mayor Kobayashi.' And I said, 'All right.'"

Nomura was delighted to see that his character resembles Kurosawa's celebrated artistic partner, the magnetic screen idol Mifune. "I didn't know how my character looked at first, so when Wes showed me, I just laughed, like, 'this is me?'" As for Kobayashi's pet-intolerant actions, Nomura notes Anderson left a hint of room in the character for redemption. "Kobayashi is a good example of how power corrupts," he observes. "But I'm glad he isn't 100% a bad guy. He has some humanity."

Mayor Kobayashi's greatest nemesis proves to be a feisty young foreign exchange student and editor of the Megasaki Senior High Daily Manifesto: actor and filmmaker Greta Gerwig as Tracy Walker. Says Gerwig: "The Megasaki Senior High Daily Manifesto is a paper that stands for transparency and truth. And Tracy believes that's what all newspapers and news outlets should stand for. Even though it's a student publication, they hold themselves to a very high, rigorous standard."

That standard pushes her to discover the truth about the dog virus and Atari's trip to Trash Island, and perhaps also ... the first hints of a crush. "Tracy just admires Atari's bravery," Gerwig demurs. "And she thinks he has a nice face. He's the only person standing up to the madness that's going on in Megasaki City. And he's doing it on his own for the love of his dog, which she thinks is noble."

When Gerwig first saw the Tracy puppet, it further inspired her. "I love the way this puppet looks," she says. "I think probably my favorite part is her hair and she has a very resolute face. It's really great and it makes me very happy. I wish I looked like this puppet all the time. She's very charming."

Frances McDormand portrays Interpreter Nelson, who translates all that happens in Megasaki's Municipal Dome, including the Mayor's dire pronouncements. After MOONRISE KINGDOM, this marks the second time McDormand has worked with Anderson. "I found working with him really liberating because I trust his vision. As an actor, I really like serving filmmakers who have a complete vision like Wes does," she says.

That trust proved a collective experience among all the actors-who also include Akira Takayama as the henchman Major Domo, Akira Ito as the virus-hunting opposition leader Professor Watanabe, Fisher Stevens as the canine Scrap, Nijiro Murakami as the Daily Manifesto's Editor Hiroshi and Yoko Ono as a scientist named Yoko Ono--as they came and went in the vast process of recording. Sums up Bryan Cranston of working with Anderson: "What's great about Wes is that he is specific, but not rigid. And those things aren't contradictory. You can know what you want, and yet the pathway to get what you want doesn't have to be pre-destined. You don't have to have it mapped out, because art doesn't work that way."

Language, Barks & Translation

With a film set in Japan and among chatty dogs, a question arose early on: how will this disparate set of characters communicate with the audience? Ground rules were set that Japanese-speaking characters would speak in Japanese unless speaking through a human translator or translation devices. Dogs, on the other hand, have their innate barks, yips and howls automatically translated into English. Subtitles were used minimally only for signs written in Japanese or an occasional word or phrase.

Says Wes Anderson: "Subtitles didn't seem that fun ... when you're reading subtitles, you're really focused on the subtitles all through the movie and you don't listen to the language as much. The language part of your brain is focused on the text. By having them speaking Japanese without translating it, I just feel you listen to them speaking Japanese. You don't understand the words, but you understand the emotion. But it did mean having to come up with different devices. For some scenes, like in the Municipal Dome, it made sense to have an interpreter, a UN-style thing. We also have Tracy Walker [Greta Gerwig], an American exchange student, so there's somebody there who only speaks English."

What at first seemed risky came to make perfect sense in the universe of the film. Says art director Curt Enderle: "The whole bilingual storytelling-which is an audacious idea-worked really well. I think it's really clear. You get to know the stuff that you need to know at that moment."

To assure authenticity in the Japanese language-and all things Japanese-Anderson worked with Kunichi Nomura, who was one of the story collaborators, but also became a consultant and portrays the imposing voice of Mayor Kobayashi. "Kun, who we've all been friends with for some years, helped us keep a variety of details authentic and to make it feel more Japanese, because we were all writing from the point of view of non-Japanese people," says Anderson.

Nomura admits that translating Anderson's very particular kind of understated yet emotionally bare yet poignantly romantic yet funny characters wasn't always straightforward. "I've done some work with subtitles for American movies. But translating Wes's script was something so different. I know him well. I know what kind of a sense of humor he has. But it isn't easy to translate that," he says.

Anderson also tapped Nomura's knowledge of Japanese culture, especially the post-War period that comes so alive in Kurosawa's films. "Wes was sending emails asking for very specific references, like: 'Can you find a traditional department store uniform in Japan from the early '60s?'" recalls Nomura. For Nomura, part of the joy of ISLE OF DOGS is seeing Japan reflected back so dreamily through Anderson's outsider eyes and the universe he creates for the story. It isn't a real Japan seen in the film, but it also isn't a faux Japan. "I think what Wes captures is the beauty of mixing old and new. He brings in the imagination of Japanese comic books and Kurosawa in his heyday in the '60s. And he did lots of historical research for all the film's background elements. But I also feel that everything doesn't have to be perfectly matched with Japanese history or completely accurate for it to be right for the film. I'm grateful to see his creation, especially since it's based on my own country."

The Next Stop in Stop-Motion

Once the decision was made to make ISLE OF DOGS in stop-motion, Anderson knew what he was in for, the requisite patience, the craftsmanship needed, the way to manage the workflow, from his experiences making FANTASTIC MR. FOX. That said, every element of this story was quite different. The design of this film's constructed world, not based on source material, was going to be more immense and complicated. It would involve a different, desaturated palette and photographic style. Even the animals live under different rules in the film, moving on four limbs rather than two.

That is why, though he surrounded the production with experts in their fields, Anderson's approach was to ask each team member to strip away their experience and start all over again, with a kind of beginner's mind. The idea was to go back to the roots of stop-motion animation, to think anew of all the inherent possibilities of giving the inanimate life, of building something that no matter how farfetched, would feel tactile and rife with the tiny emotional details that summon the fervor of real life.

Says one of the lead animators Jason Stalman, who was a key animator on FANTASTIC MR. FOX: "FOX became a touchstone of stop-motion animation, but now that Wes established that, I think he felt this time he could kind of freak out and do his own thing. Maybe it's a natural evolution for stop motion."

Co-producer Octavia Peissel observes: "This being Wes's second stop-motion film, I think he's now much more comfortable and at ease within the medium, and the ways in which it's radically different from live action. So he's able to play within that more, and maybe break the codes in the same way he does in live action. He is looking at what you can you do within the medium that you can't do anywhere else-what can you do with the story, with the design, with the cameras and lights?"

Adds animation director Mark Waring: "This story is a completely new thing with the number of levels that it is playing at, with all the themes of leadership, authority, animal cruelty, the treatment of individuals and groups, and more. All those deeper levels are there, but it also works perfectly on the level of just being a really lovely journey of a boy and his dog. It's fascinating how Wes has built so many layers into this and yet made it feel so consistently whole as an adventure."

A two-year journey of its own, production of ISLE OF DOGS involved more than 670 crew, including more than 70 manning the puppet department and another 38 in the animation department. Stop-motion is of course among the most time-consuming and labor-intensive of all cinematic forms. All the heart, humor and inventiveness of ISLE OF DOGS had to be stitched out of 130,000 stills that create the illusion of immersive action. In recent years, the process has been streamlined by specialized software and digital cameras-the film utilized Canon IDX digital cameras and the software package known as Dragonframe to be able to manipulate and instantly preview the frames-but it remains the kind of thing that tests the endurance of even the most focused filmmakers.

Since film typically moves at 24 frames per second, for the action to be maximally lifelike, a puppet must be moved into twenty-four distinct postures for every second of screen time. This is called animating "on ones"-one position per frame and 24 positions per second. But Anderson has cultivated an affinity for animation "on twos," which gives the motion a slightly more uncanny, crunchy, imperfect feel that evokes a certain kind of aesthetic and maybe even carries its own distinct emotional atmosphere. Even animating on twos, however, only a few seconds of animation can be shot per day. Time, and how to work with time, is simply a different creature on a stop-motion feature.

Unlike most CG animation, stop-motion also dispenses with the aim for an exacting facsimile of reality. This is especially true under Anderson's direction. ISLE OF DOGS spotlights that its characters are fuzzy, flawed, with more internal than external dimensionality.

Says animation producer Simon Quinn: "Wes enjoys animation for what it is. He's not trying to hide the fact that these are made objects. He's celebrating the art form. He's not trying to compete with CG. He's actually saying, 'Okay, this is a model set. So how can we play with that? What sort of visual gags can we use in that?' You end up doing things like using cotton wadding for smoke or carving soap to make candle flames. All of these things are joyous. They're the things that make the work exciting."

One of the great paradoxes of the film is that even as Anderson and the entire crew were approaching their work with fastidiousness, they were creating a fantasy land overflowing with the icky, sticky stuff of prodigious human refuse. But the trash of Trash Island is also a kind of map, tracing a past filled at once with nostalgia, unjust cast-offs and history's overruled ideas. Says Anderson: "I always loved the idea of a story in a garbage dump ... but I will say, this is probably the most neatly organized garbage dump...if it was all just continual garbage together, then it would turn into nothing, so we had to create identities for the different kinds of garbage."

Perhaps the film's most complicated single sequence proved to be the preparation of the sushi delivered to Professor Watanabe, which required literally going down to the detail of a grain of rice. That one moment had its own Animation Director, Brad Schiff, who worked with 3 animators, Andy Biddle, Tony Farquhar-Smith and Tobias Fouracre, over two months. Anderson sought an authentic aura of sushi chef perfectionism. "It's partly invented sushi, it has a sort of fantasy element to it," Anderson notes, "but at the same time, I felt if these puppets are not using the knives properly or approaching the fish with the meticulousness of a real sushi chef then to me, it's silly and it's not interesting."

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