Move along if you’re hoping for another identikit animation from the most classic Hollywood sausage machine. Anyone who saw 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox will already know about Wes Anderson’s taste for all things quirky, artsy, witty and wry.
With this year’s stop-motion masterpiece, Isle Of Dogs, the director’s calling-cards are all present and correct. Here’s your guide to the key characters and the A-list vocal cast behind them.
A bit about the story
20 years in the future, an outbreak of dog flu in Japan causes Mayor Kobayashi to banish all dogs to a rubbish dump called Trash Island: the ‘Isle Of Dogs’.
Desperate to bring his missing pet back home, Atari hijacks a plane and ventures forth on a perilous mission to the island. Teaming up with a pack of other exiled dogs, he searches for his old friend on an adventure that will decide the future of the country...
Rex, King, Duke, Boss & Chief
“We’re a pack of scary indestructible alpha dogs,” is how these Trash Island canines bill themselves – but scan the credits and you’ll discover they’re actually a troupe of A-listers.
Bryan Cranston (Walter White in Breaking Bad) plays Chief, a former stray who lives with the group of alpha dogs. Gruff and tough, Chief reluctantly agrees to help Atari Kobayashi find his dog, Spot. This is the first colloboration between Cranston and director Wes Anderson.
Jeff Goldblum (Jurassick Park, Thor: Ragnarok) plays Duke, a chatty alpha dog who loves hearing and spreading gossip. Goldblum has previously appeared in Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Edward Norton, another frequent Anderson collaborator, returns for Isle of Dogsafter appearing in both Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Norton will voice Rex, the leader of the alpha dogs. Rex is a house dog who is anxious to leave Trash Island and return to his master.
Bill Murray voices Chief, who was the team mascot for the Megasaki Dragons, a Little League Baseball team, before being sent to the Isle of Dogs. Chief is one of the five alpha dogs who helps Atari Kobiyashi look for his dog Spot.
Of course, no Anderson flick would be complete without Bill Murray, and here he snaps up the role of Boss. “I always say yes to Wes,” explains the deadpan star, “before I even read the script…”
Nutmeg and Oracle
A pedigree pooch amidst the mongrel rabble of Trash Island, Nutmeg is the sleek and svelte ex-showdog whose immaculate grooming conceals her hidden grit and ability to juggle flaming skittles. If you recognise the voice, that’s because it was Scarlett Johansson in the vocal booth.
Nutmeg certainly gets Chief and the pack hot under the collar, in scenes that are described by Variety as like “Lady & The Tramp as redirected by Raymond Chandler”.
Like Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton has previously collaborated with Wes Anderson on both Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Swinton voices a pug named Oracle, the only small dog with a major role in the film. Oracle is a mystic who lives with her wise friend Jupiter and both dogs appear to have names that come from Greek mythology.
Atari Kobayashi and Spots
You might not have heard of Koyu Rankin – this is the Canadian-born actor’s first movie – but the newcomer is note-perfect as 12-year-old Atari: the big-hearted kid who defies his terrifying guardian to hijack a plane and fly to Trash Island in search of his lost dog, Spots.
Hooking up with Chief and co, his mission leads them across a bleakly beautiful animated landscape, taking in broken-down funfairs and buildings made from discarded sake bottles. And when we finally catch up with Spots, it turns out he’s voiced by TV star Liev Schreiber (Scream, Spotlight). “I have to say that Spots is a particularly loquacious character,” says the Ray Donovan actor. “I’m very proud of this one.”
Tracy and Interpreter Nelson
It is clear how Anderson's films can be a magnet for A-list talent. Likewise, throw a stick on the set of Isle Of Dogs and you’d have hit a tinseltown megastar voicing a secondary character.
Listen out for Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig as Tracy Walker an American foreign exchange student who develops a crush on Atari Kobayashi as she begins to research his heroic attempt to rescue Spots.
Frances McDormand plays Interpreter Nelson, the translator for the Megasaki’s Municipal Dome. Nelson translates all of the Mayor’s pronouncements and struggles to stay emotionally detached from the Isle of Dogs. McDormand has previously worked with Anderson on Moonrise Kingdom and, if you don'k know, she recently won the Oscar for Best Actress for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.