Word of Anderson’s enthusiasm reached Felicity ‘Liccy’ Dahl, Roald Dahl’s widow. ‘About nine years ago my film agent, Michael Siegel in Los Angeles, rang me and said, “There’s somebody who keeps knocking at the door for Fantastic Mr Fox,”’ she recalls. ‘I said, “Do you think we can really make a film of that?”’ Although successful adaptations had already been made of Dahl’s books Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach and Matilda, Siegel cautioned that Dahl refrain from meeting Anderson just yet - his films, lauded for their quirky characterisation, ironic touches, pop-surrealist plots and hip soundtracks, might not be to her taste.
First of all, the agent sent her copies of Anderson’s 1996 breakthrough, Bottle Rocket, and Rushmore. ‘I looked at them,’ Dahl remembers, ‘and thought, “Blimey, here’s somebody with a bit of talent.”’ Liccy Dahl and Anderson eventually met in New York, just as Anderson was preparing to start on 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums. Dahl was charmed by him, and persuaded of his passion for, and understanding of, her husband’s work. But it would take another two films (The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited) before Anderson could set to work in earnest on Fantastic Mr Fox. Even then, Dahl had concerns, not least when he told her that he wanted to make the film in stop-motion. ‘There were two risks involved with Wes,’ she says. ‘And they were risks - people thought I was a bit mad, I think. The number one risk was, this is a children’s book - would it become too adult? And number two was, Wes had never done stop-motion, and that was a big break for him. He had done a little in Aquatic…’ Anderson’s film about a Jacques Cousteau-like adventurer did feature a stop-motion underwater interlude, made with the help of Henry Selick, the renowned animator-director of The Nightmare Before Christmas whom Dahl knew from his having directed James and the Giant Peach. Indeed, Selick was part of the initial team assembled to make Fantastic Mr Fox. But then Coraline was greenlit and he left Anderson’s project.
Ultimately, Dahl says, ‘I just had such faith in Wes. I thought, “No, he wouldn’t be doing this [stop-motion] if he wasn’t pretty certain.”’ (via)