arts

Inside the insane sets of Wes Anderson's 'Isle of Dogs'

Updated 26th March 2018
Credit: Jack Hems, The Store X, 2018
Inside the insane sets of Wes Anderson's 'Isle of Dogs'
Written by Malaika Byng, The Spaces
This article was originally published by The Spaces, a digital publication exploring new ways to live and work.
The hand-crafted sets of Wes Anderson's dystopian film "Isle of Dogs" go on show in London this month, giving visitors a chance to explore his vision of Japan in 20 years time.
Anderson's fictional city Megasaki has arrived at The Store X on the Strand, along with its autocratic puppet mayor Kobayashi: a man with an ancestral vendetta for dogs. In the stop-motion animation, Kobayashi exiles all canines to Trash Island -- on show in all its rubbish-laden glory -- where they form clans and fight for food. Meanwhile the mayor's 12-year-old nephew embarks on a mission to save his beloved dog Spot and turn around the fortunes of all his furry friends.
Some 17 original sets take over the ground floor of The Store X's brutalist building. These meticulously crafted visions of Japanese culture are a model architecture-lover's dream -- the towering metropolis has been created in extraordinary detail, down to pot plants and the requisite red lanterns. There's even a wood-paneled bar, stocked with medically enhanced sake. Meanwhile, you can almost spell the festering rubbish on Trash Island.
"Everything you see has been made -- there was no option to pop to a prop store," says cinematographer Tristan Oliver. "Even the lanterns have been hand-carved and painted in resin."
Photography: Jack Hems, The Store X, 2018
Design cues for some of Wes Anderson's sets came from beyond Japan. Adds Oliver: "I'm particularly fond of what we call the 'animal testing facility,' which we based on North Brother Island, a tuberculosis hospital off the coast of New York. It was abandoned once a cure was found and taken over by nature. We also referenced the nature-ravaged St Peter's Seminary in Scotland, particularly its semi-circular niches."
Filming "Isle of Dogs" was a huge operation: "We had between 40 and 50 film units running at one time," the cinematographer explains. "All the animators had to capture the language of Wes."
Photography: Jack Hems, The Store X, 2018
One of the sets has been recreated in life size for the exhibition. At the Noodle Bar, visitors can nibble on traditional Japanese Ramen by acclaimed chef Akira Shimizu (of Soho's Engawa restaurant) and sip on sake.
Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs" exhibition and noodle bar runs from 23 March to 5 April 2018 at The Store X, 180 The Strand. It's presented in collaboration with Fox Searchlight Pictures.