Tag Archives: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Creating new connections across Asia

Image: IMDb, Fantastic Mr. Fox

Last year we launched a total eclipse collaboration between students at Tadulako University (Indonesia) and Western Kentucky University (USA); we also set up an annular and partial eclipse collaboration involving Kobe Shinwa Women’s University (Japan) and the University of Mahajanga (Madagascar). Both these projects included remote teambuilding activities where we did online read-throughs of the science-fiction movie “Europa Report”.

This month we are excited to be meeting old friends and creating new connections! We are bringing together students from Tadulako University, Kobe Shinwa Women’s University and Amagasaki-Kita High School (Japan) for two online read-throughs of the stop-motion animation “Fantastic Mr. Fox”.

Students at Tadulako University preparing for this month’s read-through.

The goals of the project – which involve students from Indonesia, Japan, China and Vietnam – are for students to make new connections, practise English communication skills, and have fun!

As Mr. Fox himself says, in one of cinema’s most inspiring monologues:

I think it may very well be all the beautiful differences among us that just might give us the tiniest glimmer of a chance of saving my nephew and letting me make it up to you for getting us into this crazy whatever-it-is. I don’t know. It’s just a thought. Thank you for listening. Cheers, everyone.


We are extremely grateful to everyone who has made this collaboration possible, including Elisa Sesa, Darmawati Darwis, Marsetyo Marsetyo and Mohammad Zulfikar at Tadulako University; Ritsuko Anzai at Amagasaki-Kita High School; and Keisuke Tabata at Kobe Shinwa Women’s University.

Thank you also to Wes Anderson, who has given generously given us a copy of the original script for “Fantastic Mr. Fox”.

Got it.


How do you know if you’re watching a Wes Anderson movie? And what is our whack-bat challenge?

We’ve just had an end-of-semester* “Fantastic Mr. Fox” movie night at the University of Shiga Prefecture, which included a brief introduction to the world of Wes Anderson movies: perfectly centred shots, overhead shots, use of colour, Bill Murray, etc.

Also: fast, complicated monologues – which is the basis of our whack-bat challenge… With the (optional) help of a glass of beer (or two), students (and teachers) read Coach Skip’s high-speed explanation of the rules of whack-bat on page 28 of the script.


As always, we’re hugely and enormously grateful to Wes Anderson for giving us the script of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to use as part of our SkypeRead project.

* Actually, it wasn’t really an end-of-semester movie night – it was more of a ‘welcome back’ to Martin Stack, our former colleague (and my SkypeRead collaborator) who’s now based in the US, but is currently back in Japan for a few weeks :-)

An academic pow-wow, a pedagogical rendezvous…


“Er, guys, I think I’ve just deleted all our slides…” From right to left: Martin Stack, Shiho Matsumi and me at the 2015 ATEM National Convention.

Professor Makoto “Max” Kurata, the ebullient president of the Association for Teaching English through Movies (ATEM), called it both an “academic pow-wow” and a “pedagogical rendezvous”… My University of Shiga Prefecture colleague Martin Stack, our wonderful student Shiho Matsumi and I had a great time at the ATEM National Convention last week (7th August 2015, Kyoto Women’s University).

We were presenting “Fantastic Mr. Fox, and other heroes” (you can read the abstract here), which looked at how the framework of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” can be applied to the adventure of learning a foreign language. Shiho summed things up brilliantly with this perfect real-life example:

“In my case, I will leave the normal life to study abroad in five days at Northern Michigan University. I am going to start my journey. I believe that I can come back to usual life as a different person from now.”

Some of the 2015 conference highlights included:

  • Professor Tadayuki Hayashi, the president of Kyoto Women’s University, who gave a powerful opening speech, remarking on the significance of the conference being held in this month, of this year, with a large visiting contingent from Korea (the splendid folks from ATEM’s sister organisation, STEM)
  • Professor Koji Morinaga (Doshisha University), whose presentation on the development of reading materials covered no less than 15 movies – possibly an ATEM record!
  • Dr Mijin Im (Kookmin University), who used some highly entertaining clips from “Modern Family” to outline a three-step-approach for activating long-term memory (based on constructing-a-storyline activities)
  • Dr Carl Boland (Japan Center for Michigan Universities), who demonstrated how the work of the French film scholar Michel Chion – on textual speech, theatrical speech and emanation speech – can be applied to the ESL classroom
  • Professor Takahiro Ono, whose keynote address on the groundbreaking Bi-language Simultaneous Learning programme at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies was absolutely fascinating. (Yes, Bi-language Simultaneous Learning does mean learning two foreign languages at the same time!)

“Fantastic Mr. Fox, and other heroes”

Martin Stack (my co-conspirator at the University of Shiga Prefecture), Shiho Matsumi (one of our brilliant students) and I will be presenting “Fantastic Mr. Fox, and other heroes” at the national convention of the Association for Teaching English through Movies (Kyoto Women’s University, 7th August 2015).

The keynote presentation at the convention will be “Bi-language Simultaneous Learning with the Aid of Movies” by Professor Takahiro Ono, a longtime friend of the legendary Noam Chomsky. We’re also really looking forward to “Character Speech in the Movies: A Sound Design Perspective” by our Shiga neighbour, the amazing Dr Carl Boland.


“Fantastic Mr. Fox, and other heroes”

In 1949 Joseph Campbell published “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, in which he aimed to “uncover some of the truths disguised for us under the figures of religion and mythology by bringing together a multitude of not-too-difficult examples and letting the ancient meaning become apparent of itself. The old teachers knew what they were saying.” Campbell identified the fundamental stages in “the adventure of the hero”, and his work has been a huge influence on story-tellers – and movie-makers in particular – ever since.

In this presentation we will explain why we think the Hero’s Journey is a powerful model for the adventure of learning a foreign language. We will also explain how, with very kind support from the writer, director and producer Wes Anderson, we have gone about applying it.

We are involved in two projects that use movies and games as way to develop a range of “21st-century skills”. One of these projects is SkypeRead, which brings non-native speakers from all over the world together, via Skype, to do read-throughs of movie scripts; the other is the WoW-EPIC, which takes students into the language-rich world of a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (see “Developing Language and Cross-Cultural Communication Skills via Movie Read-Throughs and MMORPGs”, ATEM Journal, Vol 20).

This year we have re-designed these projects around the framework of the Hero’s Journey, using a 12-point cycle that begins and ends in “the ordinary world”, and crosses over into “the special world”. The 12 points of the cycle are: status quo; call to and refusal of adventure; assistance; departure; trials; approach; crisis; treasure; result; return; new life; resolution.

We are also very fortunate to have received support from Wes Anderson, who has given us the script for “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009) to use as part of the project. Based on the Roald Dahl children’s story, this stop-motion animation movie takes a uniquely fun and thought-provoking approach to the Hero’s Journey.

FOX: Who am I, Kylie?
KYLIE: Who how? What, now?
FOX: Why a fox? Why not a horse or a beetle or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more like as existentialism, you know? Who am I, and how can a fox ever be happy without a — forgive the expression — chicken in its teeth?
KYLIE: I don’t know what you’re talking about, but it sounds illegal.
FOX: Here, put this bandit hat on.