Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” won’t premiere for another two months, but the director is getting ready to give fans a first behind-the-scenes look, with the help of virtual reality: VR studio Felix & Paul, 20th Century Fox’s immersive media unit FoxNext and the Google Spotlight Stories team unveiled a first preview of their ‘Isle of Dogs’ VR Experience at CES this week, showing off a clever homage to the art of stop-motion animation and the animators practicing it.
“Isle Of Dogs Behind the Scenes (in virtual reality),” as the title is officially called, features the types of behind-the-scenes interviews that you’ve come to expect from a movie promotion — except, in this case, the cast are the stop-motion-animated dogs that populate the trash-filled island at the center of “Isle of Dogs.”
In the preview shown at CES this week, we get to hear from Jeff Goldblum and his character “Duke,” Scarlett Johansson as “Nutmeg” and Bryan Cranston as “Chief.” The full piece, which is said to premiere sometime next month on Google’s Pixel phones, will come with seven additional interviews featuring actors like Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Edward Norton and their respective dog characters.
While the dogs are on camera, viewers can look around and explore the rest of the set, which progresses at time-lapse speed. This was an idea concocted early on by Anderson himself to capture the two speeds of stop motion: real slow in front of the camera, much faster behind it.
Felix & Paul joined the “Isle Of Dogs” production team for four months on set to shoot the VR experience, and Felix & Paul co-founder Paul Raphaël said in a recent interview with Variety that Anderson was very hands-on about the piece. “He’s been involved with every single frame of every single shot,” Raphaël said. “I was incredibly impressed.”
The experience doesn’t simply feature the set during normal working hours, but instead captures what Raphaël called “a representation of what the background looks like” during a stop-motion animation shoot. Each interview features one or two animators, working on a dog model, drawing doodles on a chalkboard, playing chess or simply hanging out on set with a good book. “They are staging themselves, in a way animating themselves,” he explained.
There are even a few easter eggs for fans to discover, including video recordings that Anderson did himself of his own face, sounding out the script so that the animators can translate his facial movements into animations. Another camera view that shows animators manipulating the puppets.
“It’s a nod to all the hard work of the animators on set,” said FoxNext VR SVP Brendan Handler. “You are in an animator’s head with this piece,” added Google Spotlight Stories executive producer Karen Dufilho. “Isle Of Dogs” will be released in Q1, with Google getting an exclusive window for its Pixel phones and Daydream platform, after which it will be released for other headsets as well.