After a 4-year-long wait since The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson has finally released a new film: the stop-motion animation Isle of Dogs. Set in a dystopian Japanese archipelago where dogs have been exiled to ‘Trash Island’ after an outburst of dog flu, the film follows Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston), a stray dog sent to the isle. Mistrusting of humans and a strong advocate for dogs’ independence from men’s yoke, Chief will gradually learn to trust and help the little Atari, who flew to Trash Island in a self-built air-plane to find and bring back his dog Spots. After all, as Chief’s spouse Nutmeg (voiced by Scarlet Johansson) wisely says “He’s a 12-year-old boy. Dogs love those.”

Counterpart of the whimsical adventure of boy and dog is the political thriller plot involving poisoning, investigations and conspiracy theories. Megasaki’s Mayor Kobayashi trumps any opposition in the upcoming elections with his anti-dog policies. His rival is the voice of science, Professor Watanabe, who found a cure for the dog flu, but is discredited and struggles to find consensus and be heard, as Megasaki’s polarised political climate where everything that doesn’t suit Mayor Kobayashi is labelled as essentially fake-news.

As in all his previous films, Wes Anderson demonstrates himself to be an attentive observer of today’s societal changes, but doesn’t let this steer him away from making these idiosyncratic, curious and quirky films. His eccentricity remains his trademark and his world-building ambitions reach their most elaborate heights in Isle of Dogs. What is most captivating about the film is the character and set design. Everything is arranged in the most meticulous of ways, no detail is left to chance. From the dogs’ expressive snouts to the Japanese writing, everything has been researched and made exactly how Anderson wanted it.

The same meticulousness and immersive experience was achieved with the Isle of Dogs exhibition in London. The free event displaying 17 of the original sets attracted a total of about 50,000 fans during the 17 days it stayed open between 23 March and 8 April. The 3,000 who flocked in daily also had the opportunity to eat at a ramen bar: a life size recreation of one of the sets. Part of the experience was also the 1 hour wait in line outside around the block under the rain and the overpriced souvenirs, like the £40 official white printed t-shirt.


Luxury is definitely one of Wes Anderson’s brand, as is his recurring cast of well known stars. In Isle of Dogs especially, he whipped out his address book and called in all his friends to voice the characters: Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, and the aforementioned Scarlet Johansson and Bryan Cranston. Absent from the cast this time are Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, long time friends and collaborators of Anderson’s and stars of most of his previous films.

With its catchy indie soundtrack (you will find yourself whistling the tune of “I won’t hurt you” by WCPAEB for the following week at least), and despite the controversy about crossing the line from loving homage to Japan to cultural appropriation, Isle of Dogs is a movie that you will want to re-watch in order to catch all the details you missed the first time around, when you were too hooked up with the story.