“The most ambitious element of ‘Isle of Dogs’ was the scale of the whole production,” reveals Jeremy Dawson about the animated film he produced with Wes Anderson. In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above), he explains that “when you think of a stop motion animation it’s smart to keep it contained. You don’t want to have too many locations and too many characters. What’s not helpful is to have hundreds of characters, mass crowd scenes and a movie where a pack of characters travel across an island. So across the movie we had 250 different sets and over 1,000 puppets. Plus all the crowds. As a producer I had to tell everyone not to panic when they saw the to-do list at the beginning of the movie.”
“Isle of Dogs” tells the story of a young boy, Atari, looking for his Dog in a dystopian future where the politics of fear has been used to exile all dogs from Japan onto Trash Island. Dawson says, “It has so many different layers. It has a tenderness in the relationship between a boy and his dog. Another aspect that became more interesting was when all these different changes like the Brexit and Trump happened in the world. There was more of an ‘us vs. them’ dynamic. One of the themes in the movie is this idea of people being stuck in the way of using division to hold power. In the film it’s these kids who represent what’s optimistic. The belief that everybody can get together and connect whether they are dogs or people.”
One of the most interesting aspects of the film for Dawson was the use of language. He adds, “The idea that the dogs talk but can’t speak the same language as the people; Atari and Chief have these conversations. What’s clever is what the boy’s saying the dog can’t understand; and what the dog’s saying the boy can’t understand. But they are still communicating which is really special and original.”
“Isle of Dogs” is the sixth Anderson movie for Dawson. He started as the visual effects supervisor on ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ (2004) and has served as a producer or co-producer on each of Anderson’s subsequent films. He received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture in 2015 for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
On working with Anderson, Dawson explains that “whether it’s live action or animated he takes the same approach. He sets about creating an entire universe. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on a train, or a boat or in a world of dogs in Japan, he’s known for making amazing visual looking films. But if you think about his films, he’s as detailed about every aspect. And he brings, even in the humor, this nostalgic feeling of humanity that’s quite optimistic. I think that’s beautiful about him. He always centers in on these small moments of humanity everyone can relate to. And hopefully that maybe improves the world a little bit.”
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