cc I may be a bit of a novice when it comes to my own collection of Criterion films, but one must have for me is owning all of Wes Anderson’s films. When it comes to the fantastic special features each Criterion Collection film boasts, I love everything that comes with these movies. I’ll share with you some of the best features curated for each film.

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  • Illustrator Ian Dingman provided the artwork for the booklet that comes tucked in the case. Included in the booklet is Dignan’s 75-year plan that he shows Anthony at the beginning of the film, a reproduced essay that Martin Scorsese wrote in 2000 championing the film and its young director, and the introduction to the Rushmore screenplay that James L. Brooks describing his time producing Bottle Rocket. An excerpt of Scorsese’s glowing essay reads:

    Here was a picture without a trace of cynicism, that obviously grew out of the director’s affection for his characters in particular and people in general. A rarity.

  • Most informative feature: A making of documentary that covers the uncertain circumstances of Anderson’s first feature film with interviews featuring Anderson, much of the cast, James L. Brooks and other producers. Interesting parts include the film’s unexpected rejection from Sundance and James Caan’s experience with the naive filmmakers.
  • Most fun feature: The original 13-minute short film Bottle Rocket which was filmed in black and white in 1992 with the very young Wilson brothers fresh out of college. You think of the Wilson brothers very much in the sense of broader comedies, but they really came up with Anderson in these independent roots and more nuanced style.

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  • An illustrated poster by Wes Anderson’s brother Eric Chase Anderson. This poster called “The World of Max Fischer – A Map of “Rushmore” is a sketched out map of the schools’ campus, detailing and labeling the main characters, and space where the movie’s events unfold.
  • Most informative feature: Short making of documentary also made by Eric Chase Anderson that breezes through many of the main players, while giving more so a feel of the set. It seemed like a fun experience with a bit of a learning curve, with Anderson working on a more involved project that Bottle Rocket and Jason Schwartzman’s acting debut. Some fun moments include Bill Murray giving his interview while both he and Eric are receiving a shave, on Murray’s insistence and 17-year-old Schwartzman gleefully making up a song about all the crew members on the spot. Wes describes their hunt for the role of Max Fischer, but as soon as Schwartzman auditioned (wearing a blazer that he had attached an “R” to) he knew right away that he was their guy.
  • Cast auditions including the absolutely on point Jason Schwartzman (granted I already vision him as Max Fischer, but I can’t help but feel like he nailed it).
  • Side by side comparison of the opening scene of Rushmore with Anderson’s original storyboards. The interesting thing to me is how Anderson seems so meticulous and involved, yet most of the scene wasn’t storyboarded in advance. I really wonder how that compares to how much preparation he does in advance on more recent features.
  • Most fun feature: The shorts made by Wes Anderson, starring the “Max Fischer Players”, for the 1999 MTV Movie Awards. These adorable shorts are Jason Schwartzman in character as Max Fischer directing stage adaptations of The Truman Show, Armageddon, and Out of Sight, with the cast of Rushmore acting them out.

 

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  • Most fun feature: An extremely detailed illustration of the Tenenbaum house on a poster illustrated by Eric Anderson. These illustrations were made before filming so that Wes Anderson could keep track of all the ideas he had for the sets and props. A short introduction by Wes says “In the past, I have occasionally forgotten some of my favorite ideas until it was too late–for example, after the movie is out on video.” This was his way to remember. It covers everything, from Margot’s glove with the sewed up shortened finger to what board games should be in the closet to the radiators painted gold (“*except silver in the bathrooms). Many of these ended up on the mural in Richie’s bedroom.
  • Most informative feature: “With the Filmmaker” documentary following Wes Anderson specifically. This is one of the most interesting behind the scenes docs on these films, because it gives you the most insight into Anderson’s way of thinking and visualizing. It shows how meticulously he crafted the Tenenbaum house including the process of converting the Harlem brownstone into his vision where he says everything is exaggerated and a bit surreal. He acknowledges his obsession with production design and how much that interests him, but says what he really loves about directing is what the actors bring to life on the screen.
  • Interviews with the main cast about how they perceived their character and about their experience with Wes Anderson. Their attitudes ranged from Hackman’s distance from Anderson’s style and playing the character as he would in any other situation to Paltrow who thrived in the details of Margot and relished how particular everything was.
  • Various media originally created for the film, including the Margot portraits created by Richie, the numerous book covers by different characters (Margot, Etheline, Raleigh, Henry), along with behind the scene stills on the set.

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  • Insert with an illustration by Eric Chase Anderson of the side view of the Belafonte ship, with a transcribed conversation between the two brothers about all the Criterion illustrations Eric has a done for Wes’s films.
  • This Is An Adventure behind the scenes documentary. It is just capturing the filmmaking on set without as much insight a the docs for The Royal Tenenbaums or the artistry of The Darjeeling Limited. That’s okay though, because the next one on this list makes up for it.
  • Most fun feature: Matthew Gray Gubler’s Life Aquatic Intern Journal, a documentary made on the set by “Intern #1″, played by actor now best known for the show Criminal Minds. He captures the set as such a fun place, with all kinds of Bill Murray being delightful, cast members hanging around, playing foosball (which Owen Wilson bought the cast). Gubler’s obviously incredibly humbled and excited to be there and it shows.
  • Most informative feature: Interviews with production who discussed how fun it was to create the sets and how intense it was to find the perfect ship for the Belafonte. They described how singular his vision was–it’s not a period piece but nothing is modern and it’s not quite Europe but it’s European. 
  • A little feature on how Anderson directs actors in a scene. He says he never really learned the “right” way to do things on a set, so he likes the actors who can sort of fly by their seat of their pants like he does. Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray share some funny bits about throwing out options to Anderson on line deliveries and such until he cherry picks what he likes and tosses the rest.
  • Behind the scenes look at the stop motion animation sea creatures created for the film. You get a good look at the props and process.
  • Interview that Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach did on an Italian talk show called Mondo Manda. It’s hilariously 70′s looking and the language barrier makes for a very amusing interview.
  • Full performances by Seu Jorge of the Portuguese David Bowie covers featured in the film.

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  • Insert with Eric Chase Anderson’s illustration of memorable props, including the Whitman luggage, along with a transcribed essay by the New Yorker film editor Richard Brody. It’s a deep look into the filmmaking, themes, and influences on the film.
  • Every documentary on these Criterion special features has had a different focus or style. This one is of the cinéma vérité variety. There are no interviews or narration, no real overall message. It is just a camera on set capturing all kinds of moments. From the set up of the Bill Murray’s scene at the beginning, navigating a busy city street in India to crafting the train to scenes being filmed. It doesn’t necessarily have any particular insight, but it’s awesome seeing India in some more candid moments and be a fly on the wall during the cast and crew’s process.
  • Most fun feature: Very interesting interview interspersed with clips from the Indian films that Wes borrowed songs from. He talked to James Ivory, one part of the Merchant-Ivory duo about the the films they both love and the amazing music used.
  • Most informative feature: Matt Zoller Seitz (who wrote the pretty looking The Wes Anderson Collection) made a video essay that beautifully delves into the themes of control and chaos with the relationship between the Whitman brothers. It made me want to get that book ASAP.
  • The tongue-in-cheek American Express commercial that Anderson made in his own style, while slightly mocking his own style.

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  • Booklet with original artwork from the film (like Mrs. Fox’s paintings), behind the scenes photos, and essays about the original book by Roald Dahl.
  • Most informative feature: In lieu of a behind the scenes documentary, there were several features that covered the main aspects of the film. They go very in depth into the making of film in these categories: Recording the voices (they recording most of the dialogue on actual sets, and it’s sort of hilarious seeing these actors act like animals in real life), Puppet tests/early animation (very cool to see all the variants in size of all the puppets depending on the framing of scenes – tiny puppets for wide shots, life size puppets for close ups), comparisons of images for the art department to create props and sets, footage from the animation studio, time-lapse photography of creating scenes, Alexandre Desplat creating the music with various methods, and a compilation of the miniature objects made. Whew, it’s a lot but it’s incredibly interesting. One of my favorite things was seeing footage of Wes Anderson’s animation references, acting out specific movements and deliveries, such as the Rat’s finger snapping.
  • Most fun feature: Stop motion animated award acceptance speeches, including a potential victory speech if they were to win an Academy Award. They have the same humor as the film, with appearances by the characters. A bit presumptive potentially, but would have been adorable if they had won and aired during a ceremony (damn you, Up!).
  • 5-10 minute promotional featurettes on: Roald Dahl (specifically Anderson capturing both his book and the character of the man himself as Mr. Fox); the adaptation of the source material; the puppet makers; the cast’s contribution; creating the world inspired by Dahl with Anderson’s sensibilities; “Bill and Badger” segment specifically about Bill Murray (he gets his own featurette just because he’s the best person on earth, probably).
  • Themes and analysis discussed by two young boys. It’s endearing and silly, seeing what they specifically pull from the story, the details you might never think about, and the random things that come to mind.
  • Sony commercial that Wes Anderson directed with stop motion animation.
  • Special features on Roald Dahl including “Fantastic Mr. Dahl”, an hour long documentary about the author and images of his original manuscript of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

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I had a blast watching all the special features for Wes Anderson’s Criterion films, and I still get to go back and watch all the films with commentary. Overall, these features provide such a unique and in depth look into his work that any fan should have a blast checking them out. I can’t to get my hands on the Criterion Collection releases for Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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About Jess

Jess can be spotted in every corner of FTS - chatting every week on the podcast, contributing to the blog page, and running day to day site activities.

4 thoughts on “Wes Anderson’s Criterion Collection

  1. This is a great article Jess. Wes Anderson is the only director I know that can get a Criterion release right away for it’s home video version. I love reading about these special features.

    • Thank you! It was so worth going through every single special feature. They did a great job finding really insightful and informative stuff with random or silly features.

  2. Love this write-up. I live for DVD special features, and I love the treatment Criterion gives Anderson’s films. They’re always packed with, as you pointed out so well, informative and fun features.

    So many to comment on, but those Rushmore cast auditions are pretty great. Schwartzman is such a little killer.

    • Thanks! There are SO many features, but well worth visiting them all. Yeah, his audition is so good and I didn’t even mention the other well done auditions on there. The boy who played Dirk, Mason Gamble was really great as well.

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