Short of going out and adopting a dog (or two) at your local shelter (which I strongly recommend), the second-best way to give a dog a forever home is by picking up Wes Anderson‘s Isle of Dogs, now on DVD and Blu-ray. If you missed this stop-motion animated technical masterpiece in theaters, you can now enjoy the story of Atari (Koyu Rankin) and his search for his lost dog. The journey will take you from the clean, organized, and strictly controlled populace of Megasaki City into the dingy, dirty, and dangerous dumping grounds of Trash Island. You’ll sometimes forget that each and every frame of this film was painstakingly animated by hand, but luckily this Blu-ray focuses a lot on the big-screen magic that is stop-motion animation.
What it doesn’t focus on, however, is the cultural, historical, and socio-political background that is necessary to fully appreciate this film’s narrative, and quite useful in having a worthwhile discussion about its insights and oversights alike. I think that’s a missed opportunity to extend the conversation beyond the film’s impressive technical achievements. Another thing missing from this Blu-ray, which is odder still considering the quirky nature of Anderson, his films, and the fanbase who loves them, is any kind of commentary from the writer-director or the incredible cast. On the plus side, the Blu-ray’s rather lean bonus features do put the entire focus on the hard-working and talented creative team assembled to bring the puppet characters of Isle of Dogs to life. Oh, and some screen time is spared for the real-life pooches who were present for the production as well, which is always a treat.
Here’s a look at some cool trivia gleaned from the Blu-ray:
- 27 animators, 12 sculptors and 10 assistants worked on Isle of Dogs
- In total there are 800-900 characters, necessitating several thousand hand-sculpted and hand-painted puppets, courtesy of AMS’ puppet workshop
- This film features the largest number of handmade puppets (i.e. not 3D-printed) for a stop-motion film
- Tracy has 297 freckles on each face, over 20,000 freckles overall were hand-painted
- Real hair used from sheared animals, like mohair and alpaca used for dog fur
- The production was often shooting 12 things at a time on 12 different sets and with 5 scales of puppets and sets
- 9 real dogs were part of the production on set as inspiration
- Trash Island has distinct types of trash used to help distinguish different areas of the island itself and also to contrast it with the clean, organized look of Megasaki City
- Set-dressing crew, led by Barry Jones, would organically create sets and look for interesting materials to use.
- 240 total sets in the movie ranging from 6 to 8 meters, and up to 16 meters long.
- Most of the raw elements—fire, smoke, water–were created practically