Fantastic Mr Fox
First edition cover
|Illustrator||Donald Chaffin (original)
Jill Bennett (first 1974 UK Puffin paperback edition)
|Publisher||George Allen & Unwin (original UK)
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (original US)
Penguin Books (current)
Fantastic Mr Fox is a children's novel written by British author Roald Dahl. It was published in 1970 by George Allen & Unwin in the UK and Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S., with illustrations by Donald Chaffin. The first UK Puffin paperback edition, first issued in 1974, featured illustrations by Jill Bennett. Later editions have featured illustrations by Tony Ross (1988) and Quentin Blake (1996). The story is about Mr Fox and how he outwits his farmer neighbours to steal their food from right under their noses. In 2009 it was adapted into a film by Wes Anderson.
The story revolves around an anthropomorphic, tricky, clever fox named Mr. Fox who lives underground beside a tree with his wife and four children. In order to feed his family, he makes nightly visits to farms owned by three wicked, cruel, dimwitted farmers named Boggis, Bunce, and Bean and snatches the livestock available on each man's farm. Tired of being outsmarted by Mr. Fox, the farmers devise a plan to ambush him as he leaves his hole, but they succeed only in shooting off his tail.
The farmers then dig up his burrow using first spades and then Caterpillar tractors. The Foxes manage to escape by burrowing further beneath the earth to safety. The trio of farmers are ridiculed for their persistence, so they decide to surround Mr. Fox's hole and wait until he is hungry enough to come out. Cornered by his enemies, Mr. Fox and his family (along with all of the other families of underground creatures) begin to starve.
Suddenly, Mr. Fox devises a plot to acquire food. He and his children tunnel through the dirt and wind up burrowing to Boggis' henhouse, just as he had planned. Mr. Fox kills several chickens and sends his eldest son to carry the food back home to Mrs. Fox. On the way to their next destination, Mr. Fox runs into his friend Badger and permits him to accompany him on his mission, and the group proceeds to tunnel to Bunce's farm and then to Bean's cider cellar (where they are nearly discovered by a hired woman named Mabel who enters the room to collect a few jars of apple cider for Bean). The animals carry their loot back home, where Mrs. Fox has prepared a great celebratory banquet for the starving underground animals and their families. At the table, Mr. Fox invites everyone to live in a secret underground neighbourhood with him and his family, where he will hunt for them daily and none of them will any longer need to worry about the farmers. Everyone joyfully cheers for this idea, while Boggis, Bunce, and Bean are left waiting for the fox to emerge from his hole.
The book was adapted into a film by director Wes Anderson. It was made using stop-motion animation and features the voices of George Clooney as Mr. Fox, Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox, Bill Murray as Badger, Hugo Guinness as Bunce, and Michael Gambon as Bean. The movie's plot focuses more on Mr. Fox's relationship to Mrs. Fox and his son, which is pitted against Mr. Fox's desire to steal chickens as a means of feeling like his natural self. The movie adds scenes before Mr. Fox attacks the three farmers and after their bulldozing of the hill, as well as a slightly altered ending and more background on Mr. Fox's past life as a thief of food. The Fox's three children are replaced by Ash, a small and insecure fox who seeks his father's approval, and Mr. Fox's nephew Kristofferson, who excels in athletics and is a source of jealousy for Ash.
The book was adapted into a play of the same name by David Wood and was first performed at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry in 2001. The play is licensed (in UK only) through Casarotto Ramsay Ltd. for repertory performances and Samuel French Ltd. for amateur performances.
Tobias Picker adapted the book into an opera (the only adaptation with origins in the US) which had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Opera performing 9–22 December in 1998. the Opera starred Gerald Finley as Mr. Fox and Suzanna Guzman as Mrs. Fox. A specially commissioned new version of this opera by Opera Holland Park was performed in the gardens and natural scenery of Holland Park in the summer of 2010 staged by Stephen Barlow. This version starred Grant Doyle as Mr. Fox, Olivia Ray as Mrs. Fox, Henry Grant Kerswell, Peter Kent and John Lofthouse as Farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean.
- "Fantastic Mr Fox – Adapted for the stage by David Wood". Davidwood.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-02-19.
- "Larmore, Domingo to Open L.A. Opera Season". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 May 2012
- "The Los Angeles Opera's Fantastic Mr Fox". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 May 2012
- Fantastic Mr. Fox at Holland Park Theatre. Time Out London. Retrieved 30 May 2012