Yet Anderson doesn’t merely replicate the surface pleasures of his live-action pictures; he’s delving into similar thematic waters as well. Ash is a teenage outcast in the Max Fischer mold (voiced by the same actor, even); Mr. Fox is both insensitive to his son and blissfully ignorant of that insensitivity (á la Royal Tenenbaum); the familial rivalry between Ash and cousin Kristofferson echoes Anderson’s previous picture, The Darjeeling Limited. And the film is, on some level, a further exploration of the questions of masculinity that reverberate throughout Anderson’s entire filmography; Mr. Fox is, at his basest level, a wild animal, burdened by those instincts and desires, but he is also a husband and father, and those qualities are more vital to both himself and those around him.
In his introduction to The Wes Anderson Collection, Michael Chabon writes of the sneering dismissal of “artificiality” in Anderson’s works, “at times with the implication, simple-minded and profoundly mistaken, that a high degree of artifice is somehow inimical to seriousness, to honest emotion, to so-called authenticity. All movies, of course, are equally artificial; it’s just that some are more honest about it than others.” And when approached through Chabon’s insightful rubric, it may very well be that Fantastic Mr. Fox is Anderson’s most honest movie of all.