Books / Features

Book Review: The Wes Anderson Collection: Isle of Dogs by Lauren Wilford and Ryan Stevenson

Isle of Dogs is the fourth book from Abrams impressive The Wes Anderson Collection and like the predecessors in this series, this new release is an earnestly in-depth and insightful assemblage of information that invites us in behind-the-scenes with all the major players involved to reveal the unique, stop-motion magic that created the film.

Compiled and created by film critic Lauren Wilford and filmmaker Ryan Stevenson, the book features a forward by critic Matt Zoller Seitz plus an introduction from Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou. Seitz’s introduction offers us an absorbing look into Wes Anderson’s career from the early day’s right through to the build up to the release of Isle of Dogs, it also tells us of the kinds of cinematic inspiration for Anderson and how his films endeavour to reflect the love he feels for the medium.  Ramos and Zhou then delve into Isle of Dogs more and discuss the relationship between the art of stop-motion and how ‘every choice of composition and production design is a negotiation between the desire of the filmmakers and the elements of their craft.’

After the intros, we’re instantly summoned into a warm discussion between the interviewer with Anderson, Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola that drifts between a number of topics but also shows us, very clearly, how much they care about the project they’re creating. This might sound obvious but it’s always refreshing to hear about the love and thought that goes into anyone’s work, and when it’s animation of this quality that includes the huge inspiration from Japanese cinema on the outcome, you get a substantial understanding of what they achieved.

The book is broken down into three Acts, what else would you expect from a Wes Anderson collaboration, Act 1 covers ‘Telling The Story’, Act 2 delves into how they designed the world with Act 3 going even further into ‘Making Things Move’ and the sheer, outstanding scale of the world of Isle of Dogs and Megasaki City. The meticulous detail of Anderson’s work is faithfully reflected into the entire book, so if you’re interested to learn more about every single decision, well then, you really do get everything you want here.

It would be disingenuous to say I’m an expert on Japanese cinema, so in-depth summaries for Akira Kurosawa, Hayao Miyazaki are like an appetising taster beckoning me towards their worlds and creations. Whilst I know ‘of’ them, I’ve never entirely explored their important works and, if anything, the book has made me want to sort out that faux pas. Furthermore, the guides list their filmography and with it suggest a course of action for anyone wanting to discover more. We also learn of the exceptional work of Kunichi Nomura, a man that Anderson relied on working with for the story, translation, the casting of the Japanese voice actors and even his involvement as the central villain, Mayor Kobayashi.

In truth, it’s difficult to completely clarify how much material and how deeply the whole team have gone to create The Wes Anderson Collection: Isle of Dogs because there’s nothing they don’t highlight. From the difficultly and excitement of the model creations to their movements, from cinematography to animation, ‘Planet Anderson’ is also particularly fun and how the sets are all built. You’ve got previously unpublished behind-the-scenes photography, concept art, handwritten notes and storyboards, and candid interviews… to give you just a slice of the action.

The Wes Anderson Collection: Isle of Dogs will teach you so much you don’t know, it’s fascinating throughout and so whether you’re a fan of the film or just intrigued about the process of how it all came together; you cannot fail to be captivated by this stunningly impressive collection.

The Wes Anderson Collection: Isle of Dogs is released on 10th October from Abrams Books.

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