Fantastic Mr. Fox is a children’s book written in 1968 by famed author Roald Dahl. Its main characters are a number of personified animals, including the Mr. Fox of the title. The story follows his adventures as he tries to outwit the farmer who lives near him. It was published by Alfred A. Knopf in the United States and George Allen and Unwin in Great Britain.
Fantastic Mr. Fox was made into a stop-motion feature film in 2009. It was directed by Wes Anderson and starred George Clooney and Meryl Streep. Fantastic Mr. Fox has been made into two audiobooks. One was narrated by Roald Dahl and the other was narrated by Martin Jarvis. Editions of the book have featured illustrations by Jill Bennett, Tony Ross, and the famed Dahl illustrator Quentin Blake. The story has also been adapted into a play and an opera.
It is one of the shorter Dahl works, coming in at 96 pages. Fantastic Mr. Fox was inspired by Dahl’s house and surroundings in Great Missenden, a village in Buckinghamshire, UK. Dahl frequently took long walks in the countryside, and was inspired by one tree, known locally as the Witch's Tree. The Witch’s Tree was a 150-year-old beech. It unfortunately no longer stands. Dahl imagined that a family of very smart foxes lived in a hole beneath the tree trunk. From this, the whole story emerged.
When making the film, Wes Anderson was heavily influenced by Dahl’s novel. He lived in Great Missenden and stayed with Dahl’s widow Felicity while writing the screenplay. The art direction that he took is also clearly influenced by Dahl’s book and Blake’s illustrations. Many places in the actual area of Missenden show up in the stop-motion film. Many props from the movie are currently found at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Center in Great Missenden. A large number of the natural fauna of England are found in the text of Fantastic Mr. Fox. The main animals are all foxes. Other characters include badgers, moles, rats, and mice. The antagonists are all human. In typical Dahl fashion, the human characters are disgusting specimens of mankind. One is a dwarf, one is obese, and a third is grotesquely skinny. Also, their fates are left uncertain at the end of the book.