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Pop & Hiss goes to the movies: Alexandre Desplat gets rootsy for 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'

December 8, 2009 |  4:20 pm

FANTASTIC_MR_FOX

Not quite Western and not quite orchestral, perhaps a better word to describe Alexandre Desplat's score for "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is "fragile." Like the meticulously detailed stop-motion creatures that populate the Wes Anderson film, Desplat's score is one that's finely drawn, with each pluck of a banjo or flicker of a harp clearly audible.

It's a long way removed from the moody, 80-piece orchestral score Desplat crafted for "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." For "Mr. Fox," Desplat was thinking small, so small that he wanted the music to sound as if it were being performed by the foxes, badgers and rats that inhabit the world of the film.

"I just felt that if we found a sound that would belong to these little puppets, it would make them come alive," Desplat said. "I suggested to Wes that we do a sort of puppet orchestra. I wanted to make everything sound like they were play- ing. I wanted little things -- the mandolin, the banjo, the whistle, the recorder and all these little families of instruments. They weren't toys but kind of toy-ish instruments."

At times folksy and often referencing rootsy Americana sounds, Desplat's score contains flashes of Ennio Morricone as well as playful riffs on hillbilly music. Yet it's not completely old-school either. Banjos and mandolins give way to a "minuscule orchestra" of five string players, and minimalist keyboard and percussive patterns throw off any sense of time or place.

"It's instrumentation you'd use in bluegrass or country music," Desplat said, "but I think I twisted it by adding instruments that would not be a part of the usual instrumentation for this kind of music."

--Todd Martens

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The above piece appears in the Dec. 9 issue of The Envelope. Click here for more awards coverage.

Photo credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

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