In Wes Anderson’s indie mega-hit Moonrise Kingdom, 12-year-old Suzy (Kara Hayward) packs an unusual set of items for her runaway adventure with her pen-pal boyfriend, Sam (Jared Gilman): A half-dozen (fictitious) storybooks she stole from the library, three of which she reads aloud over the course of the film. Anderson commissioned six artists to create the books’ evocative jacket covers, but initially the director wanted to take the artistry even further. “At one point in the process, when she’s reading these passages from these books, I’d thought about going into animation,” he says.
Anyone who’s seen the film knows Anderson ultimately chose to simply hold on the faces of his cast as they listen to Suzy read, but with his experience making the stop-motion animated Fantastic Mr. Fox still fresh in his mind, Anderson never quite let go of the idea.
So in April, the idiosyncratic filmmaker decided to animate all six books anyway, as a supplementary treat to the film itself. “I wrote passages for the other books that didn’t have any text [read aloud in the film], and we animated that too,” he says. “So we now have this piece where our narrator, Bob Balaban’s character, takes us through these little sections of each of these books.”
You can watch the result exclusively below. (They contain no Moonrise Kingdom spoilers, so feel free to check it out even if you haven’t yet seen the film.)
To pull off the animated shorts in just six scant weeks, Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox producer Jeremy Dawson worked to pair each of the cover jacket artists with professional animators. “We got the artist to do key drawings, and then someone else had to take those key drawings and animate them,” he says. “One of these guys I believe was in Sweden, one in Paris, and one in L.A. They were all over the world and we did it all by Internet. For instance, the one with the hydrogoblin, The Girl From Jupiter — that artist does his work in oil painting, so someone had to kind of emulate that oil painting look in the animation.”
After the cover jacket artists turned in their key illustrations, the animators, says Dawson, finished their work in only two weeks. “I think we all just pitched in and we pulled a lot of favors because it was not like we spent a ton of money doing it,” he says. “People got excited about it because it was a creative thing rather than if they were making a Snickers ad or something.”
The animated shorts and the stories they illustrate are strikingly evocative of an earlier era of children’s and young adult literature. “I think it’s kind of nice that rather than just doing one whole story, [we’re] doing these little snippets,” says Dawson. “They’re about imagination — it’s just more like a spark of this story.”
Would the stories hinted at from these books ever be completed? “I think that’s up to Wes,” says Dawson. “I have no doubt he’s capable of doing it.”
So, Mr. Anderson, would you? “Well, I’ll tell you one thing,” says the director. “I’m not gonna write them.”
Moonrise Kingdom will continue expanding into theaters throughout June.