Wes Anderson has truly outdone himself with his latest project, Isle of Dogs. The film, also penned by Anderson, follows a boy named Atari through dystopian future Japan, where all dogs have been quarantined on “Trash Island” due to a rumored canine flu. Atari goes to the island to recover his dog, Spots, and gets assistance from a cast of eccentric canines along the way. The stop-motion animation film, done in a similar style to Anderson’s 2009 Fantastic Mr. Fox, marks the director’s second collaboration with animation expert Tristan Oliver. Isle of Dogs also reunites Anderson with a number of actors, including Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, F. Murray Abraham, and—of course—Bill Murray. The film released a brilliant promo earlier this month to introduce fans to its cast of critters.
The premise of the promo is simple, yet ingenious (and reminiscent of the classic “Creature Comforts”): the animators constructed scenes around cast interviews, so that the voice actors describing their canine roles do so as the canines themselves. Animators pause at every hem and haw, and even accommodate unlucky audio—Edward Norton kept bumping into his mic, so his character Rex does, too; Bill Murray’s windswept interview as Boss takes place on a sky ride. These dog characters uncannily replicate their human actor’s idiosyncrasies, from Bryan Cranston’s strait-laced analysis to Bob Balaban’s breathy excitement.
In fact, the interviews themselves are a big part of what makes this Easter egg so charming. This is an inimitable cast, and they talk about their roles with varying degrees of coherence. Jeff Goldblum, as Duke, slips immediately into a Duke Ellington impression. Tilda Swinton, as Oracle, frankly rattles off the Latin name for companion breed pugs. Wes Anderson newcomer Liev Schreiber is the hilarious highlight, as he apparently has no idea why he’s being asked about his dog role, or how to answer the question:
I liked, I liked, I—I admired spots. I thought Spots was a very, uh … was a very uh, was a very nice dog. He’s a really good—I would love to have a dog like Spots and it was uh, it was very strange to think about how to play him, I just, um. I just felt like he had a real sense of duty, and a real sense of honor, and, um … really cared about people. ‘Cause I, you know, I don’t normally get to play those kinds of characters.
Anderson vet Edward Norton, on the other hand, offers an in-depth backstory for his dog, Rex:
Rex describes himself as sleeping on a lamb’s-wool beanbag next to an electric space heater. He’s probably comfortably middle class, maybe upper-middle class, but he has work ethic. He’s scrappy. At the same time, psychologically, Trash Island is difficult for him.
Again: these renowned actors are talking about dogs. As dogs. It’s a riotously winsome video that you have to check out for yourself. If it doesn’t make you even a little bit excited for the Isle of Dogs premiere next week—yes, even if you’re staunchly anti-Anderson—you might just be dead inside.