Every Wes Anderson Film: A Visual Production Design Retrospective

Wes Anderson’s production designers speak his unique visual language to bring his highly stylized worlds and unique brand to life.

Wes Anderson is one of the most influential filmmakers of his generation. With storybook-like imagery, and highly stylized production design, costume design, and cinematography he is the definition of an auteur and certainly one of my favourite filmmakers working today. Wes Anderson films are told with dialogue and plot as fun and exciting as his visual flair. It isn’t hard to see why Wes Anderson production design has become the stuff of legend.

“Material synecdoche- showcasing objects, locations, or articles of clothing that define whole personalities, relationships, or conflicts.”

While I feel I have a natural predisposition for visually bold filmmaking, I’ve also fallen in love with Anderson’s aesthetic due to his wide variety of influences which uniformly affect his work.

Peanuts, Orson Welles, Louis Malle, Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Martin ScorseseRichard LesterMike NicholsHal Ashby, and of course, J.D. Salinger, as discussed in this excellent essay from The Museum of the Moving Image, penetrate the breadth and depth of his work. As a cinephile and pop culture junkie, it is that kind of attention to detail in all of Wes Anderson’s films that make him stand out in the crowd.

What fascinates me most, I suppose, is what Matt Zoller Seitz refers to asmaterial synecdoche—showcasing objects, locations, or articles of clothing that define whole personalities, relationships, or conflicts.” This alone cuts to the core of what production design is and why Anderson’s films are so well-designed despite being logistically ambitious and overtly in your face.

We have been taught to believe that for production design to be successful, it must be invisible. I think Wes Anderson production design proves that visible, bold production design can also be successful in moving a story and character forward.

Some may not like Wes Anderson’s singular vision of quirky worlds none of us will ever know, but thankfully that has never stopped him. In a cinematic landscape often overloaded with over-rated cookie-cutter films made to sedate a seemingly unaware public, Wes Anderson’s films are a welcome breath of fresh air in my books.


Director Wes Anderson sits in chair on beach

Director, Wes Anderson


The Wes Anderson Production Design Aesthetic


Bottle Rocket (1996)

Bottle Rocket (1996)

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Bottle Rocket focuses on a trio of friends and their elaborate plan to pull off a simple robbery and go on the run.

Director: Wes Anderson
Production Designer: David Wasco
Art Director: Jerry Fleming
Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco


Rushmore (1998)

Rushmore (1998)

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The king of Rushmore prep school is put on academic probation.

Director: Wes Anderson
Production Designer: David Wasco
Art Director: Andrew Laws
Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco


The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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An estranged family of former child prodigies reunite when one of their members announces he has a terminal illness.

Director: Wes Anderson
Production Designer: David Wasco
Art Director: Carl Sprague
Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco


The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

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With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son.

Director: Wes Anderson
Production Designer: Mark Friedberg
Art Director: Stefano Maria Ortolani
Set Decorator: Gretchen Rau


The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

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A year after their father’s funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with each other.

Director: Wes Anderson
Production Designer: Mark Friedberg
Art Director: Adam Stockhausen
Set Decorator: Suzanne Caplan Merwanji


Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

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An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers’ retaliation.

Director: Wes Anderson
Production Designer: Nelson Lowry
Art Director: Francesca Berlingieri Maxwell


Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

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A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.

Director: Wes Anderson
Production Designer: Adam Stockhausen
Art Director: Gerald Sullivan
Set Decorator: Kris Moran


Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.

Director: Wes Anderson
Production Designer: Adam Stockhausen
Art Director: Gerald Sullivan
Set Decorator: Anna Pinnock


Isle of Dogs (2018)

Isle of Dogs (2018)

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Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog.

Director: Wes Anderson
Production Designers: Paul Harrod and Adam Stockhausen
Art Director: Curt Enderle



Wes Anderson production design is one thing to love but which of his films is your favourite overall?

Posted by Rose Lagacé

Rose Lagacé is a production designer for film & television by day and an emerging filmmaker by night. Rose is also the creator and editor of Art Departmental where she celebrates the art and craft of production design.

  1. Martha Camarillo February 4, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    Congratulations Rose! You are very pro and accurate. Great work! Regards from Mexico City. (I also love and enjoy all what he does, but let’s say The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom are my faves.

    Reply

  2. […] PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN: Wes Anderson […]

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  3. I have a reason for every one of his films to be included in my top movies of all time list. I love the colour story and production design for all his films (Moorise Kingdom and Life Aquatic being my fav for that). I guess it’s safe to say that Wes Anderson is one of my favourite directors. I am really excited for the Grand Budapest Hotel. Great post!

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  4. Reblogged this on Aural Visual Reviews and commented:
    Wes Anderson is one of my favourite directors and I came across this lovely article from the Art DepartMENTAL blog. If you are a fan of great production design and Wes Anderson movies, check this out!

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  5. I love Wes Anderson films so much-it was a production designer’s dream come true

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  6. […] any set from any of wes anderson’s movies […]

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  7. […] Lagace, R. (2013). PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN: Wes Anderson. Art DepartMENTAL. Retrieved 2 May 2015, from https://artdepartmental.com/2013/01/31/production-design-porn-wes-anderson/ […]

    Reply

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