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  • Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson. Photo via Beetbox

Making the Isle of Dogs

by Sara Khan

Aside from a short Christmas campaign for H&M in 2016, the director Wes Anderson hasn’t worked on a film since The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014. However, last month he returned with his ninth feature-length film Isle of Dogs that was made using nearly 900 handcrafted characters and over 1000 facial-expressions.

Inspired by the Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas specials from the 60’s and 70’s, Anderson was set to make comeback to be remembered and has now produced a film that has been critically acclaimed.

Isle of Dogs was shot in the UK but the film is set in Japan. The viewer follows Atari Kobayashi, the 12-year-old boy who goes in search of his pet, Spots, after the city exiles all dogs to a garbage dump to mitigate an outbreak of dog flu.  An all-star voice cast was assembled to take part in the film that includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono and Tilda Swinton.

Production for the film started in 2016 “to say it was pretty ambitious would be an understatement” says Head of Puppets Andy Gent to AWN.  Gent has worked with Anderson on a number of previous projects including The Grand Budapest Hotel as well as the animated feature Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The 900 characters created for the Isle of Dogs were all handcrafted instead of using 3D printing and it’s believed to be the largest number of puppets created by hand for a stop-motion film. The puppets made were split fairly evenly between dogs and human and made in five different scales: oversized, large, medium small and extra small. The intricate process took almost 16 weeks to build each ‘hero pack’ puppet.

Check out the film below to see how the puppets were made and celebrate all things puppetry with us by hearing more from the skilled makers behind the scenes of other famous films or visit Real to Reel: The Craft Film Festival.

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