Produced by Indian Paintbrush and Regency Enterprises, and released in the autumn of 2009, the film stars the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, and Owen Wilson. For director Wes Anderson, it was his first animated film and first film adaptation.
Development on the project began in 2004 as collaboration between Anderson and Henry Selick (who worked with Anderson on the 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) under Revolution Studios. In 2007, Revolution folded, Selick left to direct Coraline, and work on the film moved to 20th Century Fox. Production began in London in 2007. It was released on November 13, 2009 to positive reviews.
While raiding Berk's Squab Farm, Mr. Fox and his wife Felicity trigger a fox trap and become caged. Felicity reveals to Fox that she is pregnant and pleads with him to find a safer job if they escape. Fox rather reluctantly agrees to her plea.
Two years later, the Foxes and their sullen son Ash are living in a hole. Fox, now a newspaper columnist, moves the family into a better home in the base of a tree, ignoring the warnings of his lawyer Badger about how dangerous the area is for foxes. The tree is located very close to facilities run by three farmers: Walter "Walt" Boggis, Nathan "Nate" Bunce, and Franklin "Frank" Bean.
Soon after the Foxes move in, Felicity's nephew Kristofferson Silverfox comes to live with them, as his father has fallen ill with double pneumonia. Ash finds this situation intolerable; his soft-spoken cousin is apparently superior to him at almost everything, and everyone – including Fox and Ash's female fox friend, Agnes – is charmed by Kristofferson at Ash's expense. Longing for his days as a thief, Fox and his friend Kylie Opossum, the tree's superintendent, steal produce and poultry from the three farms.
Angered, the farmers decide to kill Fox. They camp out near his home. When Fox emerges, the farmers open fire, but only shoot off his tail. They then attempt to dig Fox out. After demolishing the site of the tree, the farmers discover the Foxes have dug an escape tunnel. Reasoning that the Foxes will have to surface for food and water eventually, the farmers wait at the tunnel mouth. Underground, Felicity is upset that Fox returned to his thieving ways. The group later encounters Badger and many other local animal residents whose homes have also been destroyed by the farmers. As the animals begin fearing starvation, Fox leads Badger, Mole, Beaver, and Weasel on a digging expedition to tunnel to the three farms, robbing them clean.
While the other animals feast, Ash and Kristofferson begin to reconcile after Kristofferson defends Ash from Beaver's son. The cousins return to Bean's farm, intending to reclaim Mr. Fox's tail. When they are interrupted by the arrival of Bean's wife, Ash escapes, but Kristofferson is captured. Discovering that Fox has stolen their produce, the farmers flood the animals' tunnel network with cider.
The flood forces the animals into the sewers, trapping them. Fox learns that the farmers plan to use Kristofferson to lure him into an ambush and heads to the surface to surrender, which would mean his demise. The animals are confronted by Rat, Bean's security guard, who attacks Ash and Felicity. Hearing his son's cries, Fox returns and fights Rat in an electrical room until Fox pushes him into an electric generator, electrocuting him. Before dying, Rat confesses Kristofferson's location. Fox asks the farmers for a meeting in town near the sewer hub where he would surrender in exchange for Kristofferson's freedom. The farmers set up an ambush, but Fox and the others anticipate it and launch a counterattack.
Fox, Ash, and Kylie slip into Bean's farm. Ash frees Kristofferson and braves enemy fire to release a rabid beagle named Spitz to keep the farmers at bay. The animals become accustomed to living in the sewers with others considering moving in (including Kristofferson's father who Fox and Felicity learn is getting better). Ash and Kristofferson settle their differences and become good friends. Fox leads his family, Kylie, and Agnes to a drain opening built into the floor of a supermarket owned by the three farmers.
Celebrating their new food source and the news that Felicity is pregnant again, the animals dance to "Let Her Dance" playing on Ash's new pocket radio.George Clooney as Mr. Fox, a red fox and bird thief who is now a newspaper columnist.
Meryl Streep as Felicity Fox, Mr. Fox's wife.
Jason Schwartzman as Ash Fox, the son of Mr. and Felicity Fox.
Bill Murray as Clive Badger, Mr. Fox's lawyer who works at the Badger, Beaver, & Beaver firm.
Willem Dafoe as Rat, a black rat who works as Franklin Bean's security guard in his Secret Cider Cellar.
Owen Wilson as Coach Skip, an albino river otter who leads the school's Whack-Bat team.
Wallace Wolodarsky as Kylie, an opossum who is building superintendent of Mr. Fox's tree house and becomes his thieving accomplice.
Eric Anderson as Kristofferson Silverfox, an arctic fox who is the nephew of Mr. and Mrs. Fox.
Michael Gambon as Franklin Bean, a skinny turkey and apple farmer that Mr. Fox steals from.
Jarvis Cocker as Petey, Mr. Bean's employee.
Wes Anderson as Stan Weasel, a savvy real estate agent who sells Mr. Fox the home at the base of a tree.
Karen Duffy as Linda Otter, a secretary at the Badger, Beaver, & Beaver firm.
Robin Hurlstone as Walter Boggis, a fat chicken farmer that Mr. Fox steals from.
Hugo Guinness as Nathan Bunce, a dwarfish duck and goose farmer that Mr. Fox steals from.
Helen McCrory as Mrs. Bean, the wife of Franklin Bean.
Juman Malouf as Agnes, a fox who is Ash's school friend and also Kristofferson's love interest.
Garth Jennings as Bean's Son
Brian Cox as Daniel Peabody, an Action 12 Reporter.
Tristan Oliver as Explosives Man
James Hamilton as Phil Mole, a mole musician who helps Mr. Fox.
Steven M. Rales as Mr. Beaver, a beaver lawyer at Badger, Beaver, & Beaver who helps Mr. Fox.
Jeremy Dawson as Mr. Beaver's Son, the unnamed son of Mr. Beaver who is Kristofferson's lab partner.
Adrien Brody as Rickity, a meadow vole tailor.
Roman Coppola as Nelson Squirrel, a contractor who oversees the modification of Mr. Fox's tree house.
Mario Batali as Mr. Rabbit, a chef in Mr. Fox's community that helps Mr. Fox.
Rob Hersov as Pilot
Jennifer Furches as Dr. Badger, a pediatrician who is the wife of Clive Badger.
Allison Abbate as Mr. Rabbit's Ex-Girlfriend, a rabbit who works as an accountant.
Molly Copper as Rabbit Girl
Martin Ballard as Fire Chief
Joe Roth and Revolution Studios bought the film rights to Fantastic Mr Fox in 2004. In 2006, Mark Mothersbaugh stated that he was working on the soundtrack. Wes Anderson signed on as director with Henry Selick, who worked with Anderson on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, as animation director. Anderson stated that he signed on because Roald Dahl was one of his heroes. Originally, Cate Blanchett was prearranged to voice Mrs. Fox, but she left the role for undisclosed reasons.
The story the novel covers would amount to the second act of the film. Anderson added new scenes to serve for the film's beginning and end. The new scenes precede Mr. Fox's plan to steal from the three farmers and follow the farmers' bulldozing of the hill, beginning with the flooding of the tunnel. Selick left the project, to work on the Neil Gaiman story Coraline in February 2006. He was replaced by Mark Gustafson. 20th Century Fox became the project's home in October 2006 after Revolution folded.
In September 2007, Anderson announced voice work would begin. The director chose to record the voices outside rather than in a studio: "we went out in a forest, [..] went in an attic, [and] went in a stable. We went underground for some things. There was a great spontaneity in the recordings because of that."
He said of the production design, "we want to use real trees and real sand, but it's all miniature." Great Missenden, where Roald Dahl lived, has a major influence on the film's look. The film mixes several forms of animation but consists primarily of stop motion. Animation took place in London, on Stage C at 3 Mills Studio and the puppets are created by Mackinnon & Saunders, with Anderson directing the crew, many of whom animated Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Selick, who kept in contact with Anderson, said the director would act out scenes while in Paris and send them to the animators via iPhone.
The score for the film was composed by Alexandre Desplat. Jarvis Cocker commented that he wrote "three, four" songs for the film, one of which was included on the soundtrack. The soundtrack also contains a selection of songs by The Beach Boys, The Bobby Fuller Four, Burl Ives, Georges Delerue, The Rolling Stones, and other artists. A soundtrack album for the film was released on November 3, 2009. It contains the following tracks:
The film had its world premiere as the opening film of the 53rd edition of the London Film Festival on October 14, 2009.
The film was released theatrically on November 13, 2009 by 20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises.
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 23, 2010 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The Criterion Collection released the film on Blu-ray and DVD on February 18, 2014.
Fantastic Mr. Fox received positive reviews from a vast majority of critics. The film currently has a 92% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 224 reviews, with the site's consensus stating "Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightfully funny feast for the eyes with multi-generational appeal – and it shows Wes Anderson has a knack for animation."
The film also became the second highest-rated animated film in 2009 on the site, behind Up. It has an average review score of 83 ("universal acclaim") from review aggregator Metacritic, which includes positive reviews from publications such as Rolling Stone and The New York Times.
Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, calling it "Excellent." A. O. Scott called Fantastic Mr. Fox "in some ways (Wes Anderson's) most fully realized and satisfying film. Once you adjust to its stop-and-start rhythms and its scruffy looks, you can appreciate its wit, its beauty and the sly gravity of its emotional undercurrents. The work done by the animation director, Mark Gustafson, by the director of photography, Tristan Oliver, and by the production designer, Nelson Lowry, shows amazing ingenuity and skill, and the music (by Alexandre Desplat, with the usual shuffle of well-chosen pop tunes, famous and obscure) is both eccentric and just right."
According to Time, the film is "both a delightful amusement and a distillation of the filmmaker's essential playfulness" and was one of the ten best films of the year. Cosmo Landesman of The Sunday Times said "having a quirky auteur like Anderson make a children’s film is a bit like David Byrne, of Talking Heads, recording an album of nursery rhymes produced by Brian Eno"; according to Landesman, "in style and sensibility, this is really a Wes Anderson film, with little Dahl. It’s missing the darker elements that characterise Dahl’s books. There you find the whiff of something nasty: child abuse, violence, misogyny. Gone, too, is any sense of danger. Even the farmers, who are made to look a touch evil, don’t seem capable of it. We never feel the tension of watching the Fox family facing real peril. The film certainly has Americanized Dahl’s story, and I don’t mean the fact that the good animals have American accents and the baddies have British ones. It offers yet another celebration of difference and a lesson on the importance of being yourself. But it does leave you thinking: isn’t it time that children’s films put children first?"
Amy Biancolli from the Houston Chronicle stated that "Anderson injects such charm and wit, such personality and nostalgia — evident in the old-school animation, storybook settings and pitch-perfect use of Burl Ives — that it's easy to forgive his self-conscious touches."
Ann Hornaday from the Washington Post calls it a "self-consciously quirky movie that manages to be The dictionary definition of twee at Wiktionary and ultra-hip at the same time, it qualifies as yet another wry, carefully composed bibelot in the cabinet of curios that defines the Anderson oeuvre." Peter Howell from the Toronto Star stated that "[i]n an age when everything seems digital, computer-driven and as fake as instant coffee, more and more artists (Spike Jonze and John Lasseter among them) are embracing the old ways of vinyl records, hand-drawn cartoons and painstaking stop-motion character movements." In 2011, Richard Corliss of TIME magazine named it one of "The 25 All-TIME Best Animated Films".
Despite its critical success, the film's box office receipts were overshadowed by other films, particularly The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Fantastic Mr. Fox grossed $21,002,919 in the U.S., and $25,468,104 outside the U.S., making a total of $46,471,023 worldwide.
The film was nominated for the 2010 Critics Choice Awards for Best Animated Feature, the 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film, the 2010 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and Academy Award for Best Original Score; but ultimately lost all the nominations to Up.
It was also nominated for the Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics. Alexandre Desplat won Soundtrack Composer of the Year and World Soundtrack of the Year at the 2010 World Soundtrack Awards On January 14, 2010, the National Board of Review awarded Anderson a Special Filmmaking Achievement award.
After giving his acceptance speech, the audio of the speech was used in a short animation of Anderson's character (Weasel) giving the speech, animated by Payton Curtis, a key stop-motion animator on the film.